Hot Button Archive for February, 2008

The SAG Missive Crisis

I was not in favor of WGA going out on strike when it did.  I felt it was premature and poorly timed.  Nothing about the settlement has changed my perspective on that.  I feel that the AMPTP gave WGA almost exactly what they were always willing to give up.  And WGA, by striking, gave AMPTP an extra gift that they may not have had to give AMPTP… force majeur and an excuse for in-house “layoffs.”

Truth is, we will never know for sure whether the strike was necessary.  The contract WGA got, and DGA before them, is fine.  It was not a great step forward… but it was not a step backwards either.  The elephant in the room remains the $100 million-plus a year in DVD residuals in the life of this contract that came off the table and more than paid for any concession that AMPTP made, at least in the life of this contract.  And the house cleaning opportunity made this 100 day strike a likely money maker for most AMPTP members.

That said… the growing wave of pre-contract civil war at SAG is making the WGA guys look like a bunch of unmitigated geniuses.

There are three fronts in the war.
1. We Don’t Want Another Strike This Year
3. Qualified Voting

The biggest problem facing SAG leadership right now is trying to separate the three issues… a problem made harder by questions of who might be lurking behind some of the maneuvers.  But first, a brief primer on the three fronts.

1. We Don’t Want Another Strike This Year
This is where I am willing, at least until proven otherwise, to give Clooney, DeNiro, Hanks, and Streep the benefit of the doubt in this situation.  They took out this ad in Variety:


The does not speak to any of the major issues facing the Guild, internally or as a part of the AMPTP negotiation.  It simply asks that there be forward motion.

One of the problems, again, with this situation is that the Guild’s internal issues – which may be much more dangerous than the AMPTP – have the most political members of the Guild wanting to open those issues to debate in the same period as the AMPTP contract is being negotiated.  Why?  Because that is the time when membership is most likely be willing to listen to the debate over these issues.

Having had the chance to speak to Clooney about the WGA strike in November, he was pretty confident that the town would be shut down until the end of summer.  That is not the case.  And I am completely willing to believe that he simply wanted to take a position that the tone that precipitated the WGA strike should not overtake SAG.

However, there are a few problems with this ad.

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Keep Your @(&$*ing Chocolate Out Of My Mutha@&(#&(ing Peanut Butter!

I just keep wrestling with this …
How do Traditional Media and New Media match up?  Just what in God’s name is going on in the battle?  Is anyone winning?
Every once in a while, I have an epiphany.  And this is the one this month …
Traditional Media is already well into its unfortunate morphing into New Media and, in the process, is failing both its traditions and its future. 
I’m not saying that many on TM will not come out of the tailspin and find endless innovative ways of using the prestige of the past to dominate the future.  The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal have already been leading the way in that regard.  But right now, it’s pretty iffy.
The circumstance that inspired this bubble to burst in my mind was reading, ongoingly, Brookes Barnes’ attempts to cover the film industry and, by unavoidable extension, the television industry in the New York Times.  Clearly the guy is bright and capable of doing what Traditional Media has always done, none better than the NYT.  He gathers facts from strong sources, stronger than almost anyone because of the cachet of the NYT.
But Barnes is the first reporter on the movie beat to really start in the era of the blog.  For Sharon Waxman and Laura Holson, unfortunately tasked with the melding of forms, they were way over their heads and it was truly a disaster.  Both came onto the beat as solid reporters.  But in the desperation to find footing against New Media, they jointly screwed up a majority of their stories, either by overreaching, underreaching, or sheer arrogance.  All that said, that’s in the past now.
Barnes came to the table as a fresh, younger face, presumably more in touch with how things in New Media worked and thus, offering a hope for a better transition.  But sure enough, his coverage has gotten worse and worse and worse as he thinks he knows more and more and more. 
This is not a syndrome unfamiliar in the entertainment media.   But here is where I see a shift … in the New York Times, your opinion as a reporter could shape a story, but your opinion remained subtext.  It didn’t really matter whether you were right or wrong because the facts led every story.  Nowadays, inspired in all the wrong ways by the New Media boom, stories are led by and headlined by a lot more opinion. 
Now … that could be interesting too. 

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The Races – Presiential & Oscar

There is a tendency towards self-loathing in our industry, whether entertainment journalism or the various areas of the film business.  After all, they are only movies … right?
But the basic notions of human behavior apply to all endeavors, whether they seem more or less trivial.  Rich oil men can be as self-absorbed and disappointed with the world as movie stars.  The publicists at the White House have pretty much the same job to do as the personal and studio corporate publicists, albeit with very different stakes.  And the wide range of coverage in the movie world, from gossip to hard news, is reflected in the Washington Press Corps, who deal with personality as often as policy these days.
And so, reading more coverage of the last few weeks of electioneering and the internal arguments in the Clinton and Obama campaigns, I also recognize the desperation on the part of journalists to put a bow on it ASAP.  Things are redefined week by week, yet every week, there is a search for "The Answer."
What it really reminded me of, in my bi-focalled myopia of these last few months, was how the Oscar season presents itself. 

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Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon