Sunday, October 26, 2008

Dana Stevens' Obtuse review of Charlie Kaufman and his Film, Synecdoche, New York

Apparently Ms.Stevens, in Everyone Sucks, her review of Synecdoche, New York , doesn't understand the difference between a value judgment and an objective criticism. She finds this movie "disappointing". Yet she says, "The movie's sense of temporal dislocation is profound and pervasive and very skillfully done..." Then, in the most self contradictory statement she could ever have written, "Synecdoche contains moments of beauty so aching, you find yourself mentally scrambling to fill in the movie that should have existed around them...."

Does it have beauty or not, Ms. Stevens? You rant on in your little audio log about the great things about this movie. Then you descend into how depressing it was and how down it made you feel and how you wished so much the character had something more, in terms of some kind of uplifting cliche Hollywood ending, I can only guess. How obtuse of you.

If you didn't like it, that's a matter of taste. As you say, there are beautiful aspects. That fact that the movie has you in a quandary coming to this bizarre ambivalent conclusion that's it fails in some way because Kaufman directed it, but is yet so beautiful, is absurd, ridiculous, but most of all ignorant and immature.

What if the film is supposed to make you come to some higher plain of awareness that people do trudge through their lives, secretly believing that something great will happen, that someone special will someday come along and redeem them or make them whole in some way? What if that is all the film is about? A fat dumb and happy Hollywood ending would kill it. It has to be what it is. It is genius and apparently beyond your intellectual grasp.

Sure it wasn't as cinematic as Eternal Sunshine. But that was that, and this is this. Appreciate this film for what it is. It is tremendous. I feel this film (were it not for self infatuated reviewers like yourself or for audiences with the same limited intellect) could change people to a higher level of self awareness, to motivate them into doing something real with their lives instead of just trudging onward toward death with false hopes and dreams.

And then you have the disdain and condescension to tell people to give Charlie Kaufman a hug.

Friday, October 10, 2008

How to Fix the Economy: Get Out of Iraq

One of the major economic indicators that the government and Wall Street depend on, especially to tell us whether the country is in a recession or not, is the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). However, there are many who feel this indicator is inaccurate in reporting the real effect of the economy on people, especially people's happiness. The GPI (Genuine progress Indicator) was developed as one better and more accurate alternative, among others.

If you look at these two indicators, assuming that a steady decrease in the GDP for two consecutive quarters indicates a recession as Bush defines it, you'll find that even now, despite the terrible state of this economy with it's massive foreclosures and record unemployment, the GDP does not yet indicate we are in a recession, or even a downturn Looking at the GDP, we are steadily growing our economy at a healthy clip. Two things stand out for me in this distinction.

  1. The GDP includes Crime as a indicator of economic growth (as explained in World Changing online magazine)
  2. The GDP includes war and defense spending and it's industries

The GPI includes neither of these. Without defense spending, along with a few much lesser expenses like crime, we see the real picture of the downturn our economy is taking while boosting the military laden GDP, shown in this chart from Redefining Progress a public think tank.

Redefining Progress notes that the GPI has been flat since the 70s. Some charts, like The Progress Report, show a downturn in the GDI.

So what does defense have to do with it?

Defense spending goes into weapons that are expendable. When we go to war we take massive stocks of equipment and basically throw them away, or blow them up. What production or constructive result comes out of war that benefits U.S. citizens? Nothing. Certainly not anything that would warrant the massive expense of the Iraq war. Any of this equipment recovered after the war is pretty much beyond it's useful life. Time to order the new models. In fact, the defense industry is notorious for, not only overspending with inflated budgets, but also for having state of the art equipment. All of this expense is more or less for stuff we trash.

That doesn't even get into the extravagance we see in defense spending on contractors like Halliburton and Blackwater who exploit the government for outrageous sums, as documented in a film called Iraq For Sale, which depicts Iraq as a sort of cruise ship like luxury resort for contractors in the middle of the surrounding war.

CBC News examines the relevance of the U.S. GDP compared to Canada, which exposes the use of the term GDP for what it really is. a political tactic:

Even as a measure of economic output, however, GDP has its limitations. Take a look at the first quarter of 2008, when the Canadian economy contracted at an annualized 0.3 per cent that quarter and the U.S. economy grew by 0.9 per cent.

That leaves the impression that the Canadian economy was doing worse than the U.S. economy, which was struggling with rising unemployment, slumping auto sales, and one of the worst housing downturns in decades.

"Without resorting to hyperbole, this understates the relative performance of the Canadian economy by a country mile," said BMO Capital Markets economist Doug Porter in a report he titled "Does GDP Matter?" (He says yes, but not as much as usual.)

The article goes on to note numerous other better indicators like the GPI. It would seem then that the GDP is simply a tool of politicians and not an indicator of any substance.

We don't hear Bush, McCain or any of the other neocons talk about the fallacy of the GDP, or that war spending keeps it on the rise, while our balance sheet minus war spending looks a whole lot more like a recession. But we do hear Obama talking about getting out of Iraq and how this immense expanse is draining our economy. In the second debate at Nashville, Obama said:

....So one of the difficulties with Iraq is that it has put an enormous strain, first of all, on our troops, obviously, and they have performed heroically and honorably and we owe them an extraordinary debt of gratitude.

But it's also put an enormous strain on our budget. We've spent, so far, close to $700 billion and if we continue on the path that we're on, as Senator McCain is suggesting, it's going to go well over $1 trillion.

We're spending $10 billion a month in Iraq at a time when the Iraqis have a $79 billion surplus, $79 billion.

And we need that $10 billion a month here in the United States to put people back to work, to do all these wonderful things that Senator McCain suggested we should be doing, but has not yet explained how he would pay for.

If we want to fix this economy we have to get out of the Iraq war.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Larry Flynt: The Right to be Left Alone

Did you know that the military's inclusion of embedded reporters as war correspondents was due solely to a law suit against the Pentagram by Larry Flynt? In this upside-down country of lying presidents, and corruption diseased politicians it seems almost natural that the one true champion of real American values is a world class pornographer. After all Larry Flynt went to the Supreme Court and won his counter suit case against Jerry Falwell who sued Flynt for a satirical cartoon he published showing Falwell having his first sexual encounter with his mother. Ironically Falwell copied the Hustler ad giving Flynt the opportunity to counter sue for copyright infringement.

That was all great fun and games, especially when Flynt won his case in the Supreme Court, also dramatized in the film, The People vs. Larry Flynt. Now we have this incredibly corrupt federal government and Flynt is again championing the banner of free speech winning his suit against the Pentagon to allow his reporters to cover the war in Afghanistan, and paving the way for the media to cover the war in Iraq. Incidentally HBO is running a very true to life miniseries called Generation Kill, written by front line reporter Evan Wright, based on a book he wrote on his exploits. No doubt, if not for Flynt, this exposé of the war in Iraq would not be possible.

More irony abounds when you find that Flynt's court case with Falwell was coined "God versus the Devil", considering Flynt is the one standing for truth and justice against the warmonger driven, lie telling, Pentagon trying to cover it's lawlessness and fascism with a media blackout. So which one was God and which was the Devil? Even Falwell ended up becoming friends with Flynt.

All of this comes to the fore when you look at the recent IFC release of Larry Flynt: The Right to Be Left Alone. I caught it's cable premier on IFC and was amazed at what Larry Flynt has done for our country. Besides the landmark court cases he's won, you may recall his career killing exposé of Congressman Robert Livingston during the Clinton impeachment debacle, leading to Livingston's resignation and probably the cooling of the impeachment proceedings. In 2007 Flynt offered a million dollars to anyone who could show they had a sexual encounter with a member of congress. He did this in retaliation for the government's years of investigations into his own life, and found numerous good leads to information.

You can still find God, truth, and justice in this country. They are just in the most unexpected of places.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bank Runs, Federal Seizure, Mortgage Meltdown? This is America?

The big news in the business world today was the fed’s seizure of IndyMac Bank, due to a recent run on holdings by depositors. It’s not everyday you get to see a good old fashioned bank run. When was the last one? Back in the depression? Oh, I forgot, we’re in a depression, more politically correctly known as a mild recession by this administration’s White House spinsters.

What was that I heard last week the government was going to do for homeowners? Oh yeah, the Senate passed a housing bill.

Under the Senate bill, the FHA could insure up to $300 billion in new 30-year fixed rate mortgages for at-risk borrowers in owner-occupied homes if their lenders agree to write down their loan balances to 90% of the current appraised value of their homes.

So why did IndyMac fail? At-risk borrowers.

Sort of a band aid for a slit throat? What geniuses in our government come up with this stuff? Economy experts? How about White House P.R. guys?

I worked at IndyMac bank as a computer programmer until two years ago. I can tell you it was a very politically charged environment. Though many companies are. But IndyMac was especially a network of people who hired friends and gave out favors. My Information Technology head was the company president’s good buddy from college, who admitted he knew nothing about technology, nor even mortgage lending. But his old roommate called him in and taught him everything he needed to know in just a few hours. Impressive, isn’t it? Either this guy was a genius who could pick up all the knowledge anyone could ever need to be a bank vice president in a few hours, or he was full of crap and his true expertise was being a bullshit artist.

I actually walked into his office and asked him to address a personal situation I had with my supervisor and co-workers who couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t conform to my department’s standard policies in writing programs. The fact that there was no standard, written or otherwise didn’t seem to be of consequence. Their take was that I should just look at the code of my coworkers and use that as a standard. I guess they didn’t put much stock into all the Microsoft white papers on what’s well known in the industry as best practices, which are the standards I’ve always tried to follow.

Anyway his response was that at IndyMac they don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole, but they do expect you to take that square peg and make it roll. I swear that was exactly what this guy told me. Make the square peg roll. That was what had been working for IndyMac all these years and that was what they wanted from their employees. So much for rolling square pegs. I think it was the cave men that came up with this new wheel concept, a little too late for IndyMac Bank, I guess.

If this is any indication of the rest of the banking industry, we’re in deep trouble.

Monday, June 30, 2008

The 2008 LA Film Festival

It was a blast. I worked the Red Room a few times and the Hellboy reception, which was cool. They let us party a lot. I did something like 12 shifts and got a free ticket for each one.

I met and spoke with Lori Petty. That was a highlight. I thought her film, The Poker House, was by far the best film there, although I haven't seen them all. But this would be hard to beat. With it's unique female writer-director's voice, it's original, powerful and has a surprise ending that knocks your socks off, something like No Country, but this one leaves you in tears instead of confused, and it's equally thought provoking. I swear the whole audience at the premier was in tears by the end of the film. It was a bit of an emotional roller coaster with comedy and heartfelt drama. Yet this film has yet to get picked up for distribution as far as I know. That's a crime.

I asked Lori about the distribution obstacles she has to face with this kind of subject matter, similar to Hounddog, which disappeared from the limelight after it's Sundance acclaim, until it's upcoming limited release this month, no make that September 2008.

This kind of thing is exactly what sets Lori Petty off. She's a very nice person and the cast was so happy to have worked with her. They kept saying what a family atmosphere it was. But when someone in the crowd asked her why Jennifer's character, Agnes, was so smart and yet could allow something like a rape to happen, Lori went off on him and then Jennifer chimed in to her defense.

Young girls are not sexually mature, she said, despite their academic and physical development. That's why there is a separation between adults and children, she explained. Jeniffer added something about her character and how it wasn't a choice to be raped, I think she said. Anyway, this is the hard hitting theme and obviously it's over some people's heads, which makes for some great material for people to see.

To my question on distribution, her response was, 'fuck 'em' in no uncertain terms. She's incredibly strong on this point and I hope she can find a distributor with HBO or something more widespread than a limited release. Her film deserves it. But I think she shouldn't have to defend her position and that the film stands on it's own merit. I threw out the idea of getting a publicist. She didn't seem to think she'd need one.

You might remember Lori Petty as an actor in A League of Their Own, a great film.

The rest of the festival was pretty cool too. I saw an awesome Russian dark-wave comedy horror called Cargo 200. I'd say it falls into a genre like Pulp Fiction, if that were a genre. It hits on cops and returning war veterans, or their bodies (as opposed to underworld figures). It's completely off the wall. I doubt it could be made in the US depicting US cops or US troops. There would be a huge backlash. But that would be cool.

Another wild dark wave film was X-Cross, a Japanese horror about young girls disappearing at a remote resort. That's typical horror fare. But there's nothing typical in this film. Everything that happens is completely unexpected. It was fun.

Another cool film was Medicine for the Melancholy, which begins with a one night stand and progresses from there. It's a nice rom-com of sorts but not a chick-flick. It's more heavy, like real life. Not a fairy tale. I think it got a jury award. It was very well done on a shoestring in San Francisco, which was something of a character.

The Prince of Broadway was really interesting too, about a New York man dealing with his street trade as a fashion knock-offs vendor when he's confronted with a kid he didn't know he had. The mama drops the kid on him and takes off and his world is turned upside down. It was great.

I saw The Wackness with Ben Kingsley, who was cool to see as a stoner shrink that takes payment in pot from his young drug dealer client played by Josh Peck (of kid's TV show Drake & Josh fame). I wasn't too impressed with this story. It's a coming of age sordid rom-com and probably a good millennial marketable film. Although, it does have some witty dialog, the actors are all great, and the premise isn't bad. It just doesn't go anywhere. But millennials will like it.

Speaking of millennials, that term is the current incarnation of Gen-X, which I found out about at a film financing conference there. The big theme of the conference was the failing independent distributors like Warner Independent. This conference impressed me with some good knowledge on what it takes to make a film and get it distributed, and I realized that a lot of filmmakers work to see their films make it to a festival and get that IMDB credit. But if they don't have distribution, and only 1 out of 9999 filmmakers do, that's the end of the line. So what's the point? I wrote up a blog on it called The Film Distribution Gamble: 9999 to 1.

Anyway a big point made was that you need a film to be marketable if you want to find financing for it. But my contention is that these guys don't really know themselves what is marketable, hence Goldman's 'no one knows anything.' One even admitted that distributors put out trailers that lie about what the story really is, just to get people into theaters, proving they don't know what they're doing. But we all knew that.

There was another very interesting doc called Finishing Heaven, about 70s era filmmaker and NYU Scorsese student, Robert Fineberg, who is just now getting around to finishing a film he started back then with his girlfriend Ruby Lynn Reyner, who was the driving force behind making the original film and getting it back on track now.

The film had no script. It was just a set of scenes Fineberg had in mind and a lot of improve, which Ruby is like so awesome at doing. She even wanted writing credit and I think she deserves it.

They ran the film he now has almost finished, Heaven Wants Out. It's very funny and a throwback to the 70s. They added her narration to tie the scenes together, which they cross cut throughout. It's amazing.

It was also very emotional for them and they were in tears talking about all the changes they've gone through over the years, how they regret blowing it the first time around, and now finally getting this thing together. HBO picked up the doc.

And that's just the highlights. I missed some other great ones. I met a lot of very nice people. It was a very cool festival.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The Film Distribution Gamble: 9999 to 1

I attended a Film Financing Conference on Saturday and learned what it takes to finance your film.


But more importantly how to get millions of dollars from perfect strangers to help you make your film.

The answers are actually quite simple, and you don't have to spend the $200 (or $150 for FIND members) for the seminar, nor can you. It's over. But I can tell you everything I learned that you need to know. Though you probably won't take it seriously coming from me, because I don't have the years of experience of the industry panelists of lawyers, producers, casting directors, and distributors represented at the conference.

Anyway these are the elements you need as I understand them:

  • A damned good (no make that great) film ( or script. It doesn't have to even be started, just written.)
  • A film that has a clearly defined audience
  • A film that has a defined audience meaning you didn't just make it for yourself
  • Marketable roles
  • Marketable roles that name actors will want to play
  • A film that is low budget, though that could mean up to $10M now.
  • Names
  • Credibility - who are you?
  • A damned good (no make that great) film.
  • Your own money ( to the tune of tens to hundreds of millions)

Doesn't this all sound too familiar? Us high and mighty altruistic indie filmmakers, in service to humanity, don need no steenkin marketable shit, do we?

Well, ah, yeah. We do if we want people, beyond the cast, crew, their friends, and family, to actually see and get something out of our films?

Now you could make that script of yours and it could get seen and even win some festivals. Then you have your world premier, and the cast and crew would be there, and your parents would be there, and you'd be happier than a pig in shit along with all your cast and crew.


But, would you get a distribution deal? The chances as put on the table at the conference are 99.99%, no you won't.

So don't bet the farm on making your film unless you have no problem losing it. You see it worked for Kevin Smith because he had an audience. He had a great film. It was unique. It hit home with people. But did he know who his audience was in advance? Maybe. But that's easy to say in hindsight. He certainly didn't have any distribution or marketing until way after the film was completed and Weinstein decided to pump some cash into marketing and post, something like $300K.

How many filmmakers went out and had similar films targeted (or not) to a similarly undefined audience, but failed?


Getting into a festival is great. Winning there is great. But how about a year or two down the road when you still haven't had a distribution deal? You go straight to DVD and no one ever hears about you or your film again. That sounds so useless. Why even bother going straight to DVD? So you can tell people, "I made a feature and it's on DVD?


That and the lack of marketing that goes along with it, plus another $4.55, will get you a nice Grandé at Starbucks to celebrate. Then you'll never be heard from again. Why bother? You'd do better to hold out for a deal with marketing, like at least an HBO run. I don't care if no one ever sees it, because they won't anyway.

Still I think it's not wrong, or even a bad thing, that filmmakers don't necessarily have a defined market. Distributors often don't either. They just have the money to make people think they do. One of the conference speakers mentioned that when distributors don't really know what they're doing, or can't define a market, they just lie. They just put out marketing that makes the film seem like something it's not, to get people into the theaters. They'll pick a market and go after it, even if it's the wrong market.

See, a lot of these guys are aware of this stuff and not happy with it either.

Well, No shit. Isn't this the rule and not the exception? So if they don't really know what they're doing and they have to lie about the film content and make like it's for some certain market segment of people, why then do they demand that filmmakers have to figure this out before making a film? I'm talking about those trailers you see that get you all hyped to see a film. Then when you see it, it's a big let down. It's something completely different than what the trailers lead you to think.

When a filmmaker goes to a distributor, what's the first question asked?

Who is your target audience? Where's the market? How can we sell this film?

They want filmmakers to do the legwork for them. Know your audience and you'll have a shot at getting s distribution deal. But it has to be an audience beyond cast, crew, family and friends. The film has to have universality. That's a screenwriting term that means masses of people will relate to the story and want to see it. Sounds reasonable. See, you have to do this part before you make the film, while writing the script. If you have a great film, a great story, but no universality, your film ain't going nowhere.

On the other hand, what is universality? Some think it means having a solid genre. Eht! I don't think so. That's just a smoke screen, a trick to get people in the theaters.

I think universality simply means that people have to relate to the subject. But people are sophisticated and complex. They aren't all 16 year old teenage boys trying to get into their date's pants by taking them to a horror flick that scares them into their arms, the epitome of genre.

No. People can related to those abstract weird unusual concepts, and they wll, if the story is great and the execution is excellent. You need to make a great film. You need to have a great story. Those are really the only two things you need before you start. But you do need them. You can't forsake them for a deadline. You make a film with a half baked script because you want to make the Sundance deadline. That's a waste of everyone's time and money.

So the distributors' and the filmmakers' definitions of universality are very different. Still, that element is necessary.

Now, not only are all these factors at play, but the indie industry is in a downturn. These industry pro guys say this because three major Hollywood indie subsidiaries are folding, the biggest being Warner Independent.

Here's where I really differ with them.

I say any indie company affiliated with a big studio isn't really an indie company, I don't care what's in their name to tell me it is. These companies tried to jump on the indie bandwagon when they saw indies taking off. So yeah, they bought some real indie films at the festivals. But they aren't truly independent. They bought films that they think fit into their predefined marketing strategies. Indie films, good indie films, aren't bound by that narrow definition.

David Lynch is independent. He distributes his own films. If any of these guys were really indie, they'd distribute David Lynch. But they won't touch him. They're too hooked on the whole conservative business model that requires them to make well educated decisions based on marketing factors. Yet, their failure rate is astronomical. Duh. Even the .o1% of films that get distributed films have a very poor rate of success, something like 30% t0 50%. They just don't get it. Guys, the business model you use doesn't work. Do you need to be hit over the head with a sledge hammer to see this?

They still think you have to hit a certain market. Well I guess I agree. It's works in theory. It's just I don't know if they can ever know what that market is in advance, because the film market can rarely be defined before the film finds it after it runs a few weeks and word gets around. Markets are not really sp clearly defined as 18 to 35 year old males or whatever. No, they are dynamic and change with the wind.

This comes back to Goldman's statement that no one in Hollywood knows anything, meaning no one can predict what film, what story, what genre, or what concept will be a hit. Subsequently, they can't accurately define a market or target audience. They can try, and they do, and they fail a lot. They go out of business.

It's the nature of filmmaking. This isn't a widget business. That is, film is art first, business second. You can't market concepts. You can't market art before it's been completed and before you know what it is that you're marketing, and no you don't know what it is. You can't know this stuff until audiences have seen it and decided with their wallets whether it's worthy or not. Because art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, not the marketing depatment.

Goldman was right. No one knows anything. It is an unknown. Why can't this fact be accepted. Do they have to be so self centered and pompous to believe that there can't be a thing, like this, that they can't grasp? I'm sorry, but all the experience, MBAs and education in the world will not give you the ability to know or second guess the markets, or see the future. Accept it. Admitting this is the first step.

"Hi, I'm Jon and I'm a filmmaker. "

"Hi Jon."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Poker House: This film is amazing

I caught the world premier tonight at the LA Film Festival. Not a dry eye in the house. The audience went nuts. Standing ovation. It has a hard hitting ending that actually hits home in the credits, similar to how No Country for Old Men did but this one doesn't leave you guessing. It just leaves you in tears. What an incredible cast. But I'd have to say the real star of this film is the director, Lori Petty.

I do think it will be hard to sell. I predict it will go to DVD as do most festival features. It's a shame because this film deserves a theatrical release. Like I expected, the woman's perspective from writer-director Lori Petty is so original and refreshing.

The big problem with distribution is the same thing that makes this a great film, it's subject matter; that being the story of three young girls growing up in a poker house with a hooker mother and an abusive pimp along with their seedy associates. People don't want to hear that films like this are playing at the cineplex. They don't want to know what really goes on in America.

I was discussing this film with someone who mentioned Memoirs of a Geisha in comparison, which got me to thinking about how Geishas are highly respected and trained as in a profession. But in the US people in this business deal with drugs, guns, pimps and violence. It's one of the most outrageous saddest state of affairs that plague American society, and the reason is because it is illegal in most every state, forcing it into the hands of underworld unscrupulous characters.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

New York, the 70s, Pot and Women: The LA Film Festival starts Thursday 6/20/08

Update: See my review of the entire festival here.

There are a number of promising films at the LA Film Festival this year. I say promising because I have yet to see them. But experience tells me most films at the festival are good and some are even great. Here is my list based on my personal pretenses (make that preferences). So I may be overlooking some and others may not appeal to me. That doesn't mean they aren't good films too.

The festival kicks off with just one film on Thursday, Wanted, with Angelia Jolie, and ends the day after Guillermo del Toro's comic book film, Hellboy II, next Saturday. Some of the best films are sold out and I haven't covered them but they look awesome, including Choke with Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, and Kelly Macdonald of No Country for Old Men fame. But it will be in theaters soon enough (limited release September 2008), along with Wanted and Hellboy II.

The Poker House

Set in the 70s, a young girl struggles to survive, with two younger sisters, in a home overrun by gamblers, thieves, and johns. Written and directed by Lori Petty. Right there you know a film about this subject matter written and directed by a woman (look at her intense eyes) has got to be good.

Lori Petty, writer-director,
The Poker House

There are too few woman directors out there but when they succeed they have a refreshing, interesting and compelling voice. This film is first on my list. Strangely there are three shows still available. People just don't know what's good. Of course I'm speaking without having seen it yet. But I seriously doubt I'll be disappointed.

Update: See my review of The poker House here.

This brings to mind another great overlooked HBO film by a woman director, Mira Nair,.Hysterical Blindness (not at the festival), with Uma Thurman, Gena Rowlands, Juliette Lewis. Films like these give you a woman's perspective and insight that are so lacking in the world. Uma Thurman also produced.

The Wackness

The 90s in New York City, a teenager struggling with growing pains and from a family going through hard times, a long haired pot smoking therapist played by Ben Kingsley. How could you go wrong?

I read an interview article with the writer-director, Jonathan Levine. He said without Ben Kingsley the film wouldn't have been made, meaning of course, that helped find financial backers. But his biggest ambivalence was meeting Ben Kingsley after he had read the script. Apparently the meeting went well.

Two best friends help out a deported Mexican pal get back into the US and decide to go into the people import business. Thriller, comedy, drama. They just keep crossing these genre lines these days. Cool.

Mamma's Man
A man is unable to leave his parent's New Your home. New York is hot this year. Another writer-director project. This one by Azazel Jacobs, who cast his own parents in the film. it's also touted as "a tribute to the waning bohemian wonderland fast disappearing not just from lower Manhattan, but the larger landscape of American culture." This has got to be good. Two shows still available.

(Criss-Cross) One of those cool Japanese horror thrillers, featuring a "remote hot springs resort" with "bizarre locals, blood rituals, and crazed harajuku girls brandishing frightfully large pairs of scissors." The Japanese horrors are so much cooler than the cheap American date-night teen horrors. I have yet to see it. But I know this will be good.

Cargo 200
A Russian film touted as having "classic '70s American horror motifs—city kids lost in the country, a dark house in the woods, killers with mother fascinations—with the peculiar frights of the '80s-era Soviet Union." I can't describe this better that they did at the fest:

The hills have eyes, and a few very antisocial socialists, when the cutesy daughter of a local party member and her boyfriend leave their New Wave club one dark night and car problems force them to take refuge in a house whose inhabitants make the Texas Chainsaw family seem normal. That's nothing, however, compared to the terror that awaits the daughter when a psychotic police captain eventually takes her for “his own.”

Made in America
Stacy Peralta of 70s skateboarding fame and the doc filmmaker of Dogtown and Z-Boys now brings us a hard cold documentary of East LA where war rages on just as real as the one in Iraq, but completely ignored. This is a free screening in downtown LA. I've seen Peralta talk about making this film and the trailer will give you a good hint. He got into the neighborhood and talked to real people. He had to get "permission", not from any city film authority, but from the local pins.

A Girl Cut in Two
A French film about a young TV weather reporter pursued by two men, naturally. It's French. Apparently she's torn between them, one a cultured jaded womanizing novelist and the other a wealthy eccentric heir. Combining elements of the psychological, thriller, melodrama, social satire, and dark humor, plus good acting. Sounds like a winner. One show is already sold out.

Medicine for the Melancholy
A one night stand in San Francisco turns into something more. Check out the trailer. This film has been picked up by IFC.

The Pleasure of Being Robbed
A young amateur thief in New York. Does she want to steal from people or just meet them? Chosen in Cannes' prestigious Directors Fortnight section, shot in 16mm, and lauded as a sweet-natured ramble, it looks very promising. One show is sold out.

Heidi Fleiss: The Would-Be Madam of Crystal
She moves to Nevada to open a stud farm. But the apparent controversy is now about servicing a women clientèle. It continues to amaze me how sexism and racism still run so rampant especially in government and authorities' circles. I expect there's some beefcake in this one, so it might be a good screening to pick up hot chicks. I'm there.

Finishing Heaven
This is a film about making a film, or more accurately, the failure to make a film. Naturally I'm into it. I suffer from the same sort of disease. It's a documentary about a 70's Warhol scene filmmaker, Robert Feinberg, who started making a promising feature under his film school instructor Martin Scorcese, and Feinberg's hot girlfriend star, Ruby Lynn Reyner, photographed in the film by famed photographer Francesco Scavullo who put her in his coffee table book. It interests me because I'm about the same age and in recent years came out of my own filmmaking hiatus, having attended film school back then as well. Yo, Robert, dude, we should hook up and smoke a J; maybe even finish Heaven.

As the festival pitch reads:

In this fascinating collision of past and present, Feinberg and Reyner's explosive romantic history intertwines with their ongoing artistic collaboration, and their viewing of the frozen-in-time celluloid in the editing room stirs up long-lost yet lingering dreams. Part nostalgia trip, part cautionary tale, Mark Mann's documentary sympathetically relates the timeless plight of struggling with the pressure and weight of one's own lofty expectations.

They are also screening the film he started, Heaven, a work in progress.

Heaven Wants Out — A Work-in-Progress Screening
The film Robert Feinberg never finished. So the question on everyone's mind now: Will he finish it? Here's the festival plug for the film:

A cabaret singer stuck working in a crummy nightclub wanders through the lives of the men who desire her on her misguided quest for the big time. Subject of the Festival's documentary competition feature Finishing Heaven, director Robert Feinberg has spent almost 40 years trying to complete Heaven Wants Out after shooting in New York City in 1970.

Poolside Chat: Back to the Stoner Age
This isn't a film but a poolside chat with filmmakers including Jay Chandrasekhar (Broken Lizard), Jenji Kohan (creator, Weeds), Cheech Marin, and others TBD. Moderated by Shirley Halperin (author, Pot Culture). It's a discussion of a recent trend in films to show people smoking pot. Are the 60s coming back? God I hope so.

What the hell kind of title is that? It's a teen film title. I guess they talk that way. Anyway, this one is almost sold out. It's about the awkward growing pains of a teenage boy in pursuit of the girl of his dreams. It looks like a possible Juno kind of thing. Successful innovative films like Juno will do that; create a new wave of similar films. Not that this one isn't as unique and interesting. It would certainly be hard to match Juno. But it looks like probably a good try.

I'm a volunteer at the festival this year and that will get me like ten free tix. If I'm not keeping the waiting lines straight, I'll be in them.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bleeding Heart Conservatives: Why McCain is Unfit for Office

When people show public concern over the homeless or those without health care or the unemployed or the innocent victims of war, there are plenty of conservatives around to quickly label them bleeding heart liberals, as if any type of concern for your fellow humans is some sort of character weakness. Yet the same people will whine about their new candidate, John McCain, and the horrific suffering he endured as a P.O.W. Somehow shedding tears over war heroes isn't a weakness while shedding tears over innocent women and children killed in a war is.

So why was McCain a P.O.W.? He was a war criminal. He killed thousands of people, innocent women and children. Many people suffered at the business end of the weapons he deployed from his fighter jet in Vietnam. Did I get the facts straight? We know so much about his P.O.W. war record. How about his kill record? How many kills did he have? How many innocent people died at his hand?

Now you may say, it was a war. He is forgiven for being a patriot and fighting for his country. But what the hell does that rhetorical bullshit really mean? Are we not global citizens? Is this not a global economy? Is not the world getting smaller as technology bridges the cultures of the world and makes us one human race?

If you can accept that those innocent victims of war died out of circumstance and therefore you need not shed any tears over them, can you also accept that McCain's stay in a P.O.W. camp and his torture was also a circumstance of war and therefore you need not shed any tears for him or feel sorry. Has he expressed any remorse or sorrow for the death and destruction he rendered upon a civilization? No. He is proud of his war record and is more than willing to continue war in the middle east. He is a war monger. How effective can a president of our country be in a global community if he considers people of certain other cultures as subhuman?

In order to accept concepts like collateral damage or bleeding heart liberals you have to think of yourself as above those you demean. You have to think of other cultures as subhuman. They are not worthy of your tears. But somehow, so called, war heroes are. And so the last thing this failing democracy needs in the global community is a bigot in the white house.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

White Rabbits or At Least Hitler was Honest

Genocide. It's so neat and clean to use one simple word to encapsulate the vast intense black hole of evil that pervades a certain strain of perverted human garbage, a.k.a. Nazis, racial supremacists, right-wing extremists, or more politically correct, Republicans. Perhaps it's not hereditary. There are people (using the term loosely) of all ethnicities, I think, that are prone to find joy in death and destruction. The killing of the innocent. The power of ending life. Perhaps it's a God complex. Power. Greed. Self esteem. Things lacking in one's life that can easily be had by the prostitution of one's mind and body to this nebulous evil. This abstract concept of genocide, death, destruction; the antithesis of life and love, also quite abstract and nebulous concepts. There's a fine line between love and hate, life and death, construction and destruction. It's a cycle. A ying and yang. A rebirth. A rationalization.

But I think heredity has something to do with it. The pure bread, though non-existent, believe such things. Things like the concept of being pure bread, or at least a breed above the rest, an elite. Do these terms ring a bell? You'll find them used in military circles. There are elite companies, squadrons, groups of men known by these terms. They may even admit a few token women, or persons of other ethnicity. I supposed if a person can group-think it can work, regardless.

Then there's the psychological profile of a killer. The child who kills a small animal and finds joy or satisfaction in it; who grows up to find greater joy in killing people. There's the satisfaction in killing the innocent. They don't expect it. They just stand there in awe while you slaughter them. Part of my military training was to watch our instructor kill a rabbit and then cook it. Actually he had one of us kill it, whack it on the head with a blunt object. Quite disgusting. I didn't have to take part in it. I made a fishing line and pole and successfully caught a fish. There's something less evil about fishing. My instructor couldn't understand why I just threw that filleted fish into the stew with the rabbit. I guess after watching them kill and disembowel that rabbit, I didn't have a appetite for fish. That's military training.

The military is by definition the epitome of evil. Militants. Trained killers. Life takers and heart breakers. They say those words with a chuckle as if it were something acceptable to be proud of instead if the sick twisted perversion that it is. Is it really cool to take lives and break hearts?

All species evolve and then die, except maybe roaches, and I understand Cher may be an exceptional mutation. If ever there were an indication of what human traits could lead to extinction it would be the military. Almost every nation has a military. It's perhaps considered a "necessary evil". Now there's an interesting concept, the necessity of evil. Even Pavlov's dog isn't capable of learning the concept of negation. meaning dogs can't understand what things they should not do. They can only comprehend what they need and want, kind of like Republicans.

Hitler openly killed six million Jews, give or take. You see how easy it is to trivialize such an atrocity when it can be boiled down to a sentence like that. Even the word atrocity hardly touches the intense perversion of this black hole in humanity. But back to my point, Hitler was upfront and honest about it. He labeled Jews, herded them openly into the slaughter. He was proud of it. His armies were proud of it. Their descendants and present day human decay remnants are proud of it.

Then come the Republicans. Corn fed, lobotomized, Virginia farm boys with the intelligence of an amoeba. Vietnam. Iraq. Genocide. Baby killing. It's not just babies it's all people who happen to be in their way. All communists. All Asians. All Arabs. All Muslims. They label people first, then systematically blow them into pieces of bone, flesh, and disemboweled internal organs. It's hardly any different than what Hitler did, except for the fact that they lie about it. They cover this pile of steaming corn speckled dinosaur shit with a pink satin silk sheet of lies and deception. It's for oil. It's for freedom. It's a liberation, a democratization.

More encapsulating words that hardly define the vast complex of death and destruction they represent. And so it's no surprise that Bush has been compared to Hitler. But Bush is a Yale man. He studied history and learned from Hitler's mistakes. He goes to the head of this class of human waste. The best of the worst. Killing for the sake of power, control, self-esteem, and greed. Anything and everything that could possibly define evil is what this really is. But the world is held captive by these dregs of humanity that have studied over time and learned, like Pavlov's dog, how to play with fire, how to touch the stove and not get burned, how to reap life from the world like death, and like death, how to bask in the glory of the power of the anti-Christ.

Be honest about who you are. Vote Republican. Good dog.

References: Sir No Sir!
Genocide defined

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grade School: Learn How to Bullshit Expertly to Secure Your Productive Place in Society

You spend 12 years in public school and finally you get out and have a real life. Then you have kids and you’re back in school. You help them with homework and dealing with those school things that you hated. Sure there are some good things about school, like having friends and doing stuff with them. But you don’t need school for that.

The things that are school are things that really bother me. Things that make me think are the reason for what’s fucked up in society. Things like percentiles, grade point averages, and grade levels. School people think that every child should be performing at a certain grade level for their age, no matter who they are, where they come from, what their family life is like, or what they do after school.

So all ten year olds should be performing at a fourth grade level. And if they don’t? They go to the back of the bus, take special ed classes, or even get filed away in a special school. They’re separated from the “mainstream” kids. That’s no different than segregation. It is segregation. Why? Because they aren’t keeping up to their grade level?

The thing is if you have the resources, and that means money, you can send your kids to pre-school, after school tutoring, special help classes, or summer school. All these things are geared to make sure your kids are up to their grade level. But they can also make them exceed their grade level if you’re willing to drive your children to work overtime. You have to beat out the cmpetition right? Have to strive to be at the top of the class, no matter the cost.

Over the years strange things happen. Kids get smarter faster. What is fourth grade level now was once sixth or eighth grade level. Kids get driven to work hard and compete and suffer stress and tension that was traditionally reserved for adults in the competing work world.

So what happens when kids fail or can’t cut it? Drugs, suicides, nervous breakdowns?

It’s interesting that there are an incredibly higher number of children diagnosed with autism now than there were just ten years ago. An alarming increase. Is this because more kids are actually autistic now than there were? Could it be that stress in their lives drives them into some kind of mental refuge? Could it be that the clinicians who operate in schools are doing more testing and somehow their criteria or the fact that there is more testing simply categorizes more kids as autistic now than was done before?

So if you can’t cut the mustard in the fast paced rat race grade school classroom you can always have a mental breakdown. It’s ok. We have plenty of psychologists, occupational therapists, special ed classes and drugs available to deal with it. Just ask any pharmaceutical company.

I walked into the I.E.P. meeting. Right there you know that since there’s an acronym this is going to be corporate bullshit. I.E.P. Individual Education Program. So the individual needs are so unusual of a thing to consider that they have to have a special program for it with its own acronym.

You have been alerted to the fact that your kid is not keeping up with the joneses. She’s not spending an extra three hours after school with a tutor. She’s not reading at grade level. She’s not performing at an average percentile. She’s in danger of growing up and not getting into an Ivy League college or becoming a doctor or lawyer or other big business bullshit artist. My God, she might end up in a junior college to catch up with what she couldn’t grasp in that high school rat race highway with bodies of suicides and drug victims fallen to the gutter. She might have to go to some less than Ivy League college or maybe, heaven help her, learn a trade on her own. As if good grades are all you need to succeed in life or even a minimum requirement.

What if she wants to be an actor? I guess none of the school stuff matters much. Actors just need to play in front of a camera. In fact, the worst thing an actor can have is bad nerves. So learning to be a nervous wreck, a major side effect of the public schools, would be a career killer for an actor, or an artist, or a number of other professions that don’t involved fierce completion and bullshitting language skills. Of course she could never be management material, thank God.

Did you ever observe managers or supervisors and wonder what the hell they do all day? They attend meeting after meeting and give a lot of lip service (that’s bullshitting 101 – language skills) to how great they plan to make things work. They draw charts and schedules and assign jobs. So then what? Are those plans and schedules followed? I don’t think so.

Shit happens. The project currently on the priority list has run over. It will require more resources. All those plans and schedules that management drew up to show off how great they are at managing things will have to be shelved for a while, until the priorities are dealt with. Of course, management will spend more meetings with more charts and schedules to show how well they have the situation under control. Well, until another critical project runs into problems and then they’ll have to have more meetings, more schedules and more new assignments. That’s what managers do. They bullshit. It’s an art and it’s learned by acquiring great language skills, dealing with competition, and becoming a nervous wreck.

No thanks. My kid can learn how to be a kid, a human, someone who doesn’t rely on bullshitting to be successful. Call me crazy.

Anyway, I walk into this stupid meeting; and of course meetings in grade schools always take place in a classroom where there are only small kid sized chairs to sit in around kid level tables, two feet off the ground. We have to remember that schools have tight budgets and could never afford something like a grown up conference room. You see this will make you feel guilty for not pulling you weight and having to rely on the poor school system to teach your kids how to expertly bullshit.

It’s your fault as a parent. Somehow you failed to keep you kid up to grade level. Maybe it’s your genes. Your whole bloodline is full of stupid people who couldn’t bullshit their way out of a paper bag. They're terrible liars. That will never do.

Maybe you’re not rich. You can’t afford to send your kids to tutors or preschool or after school homework classes. Maybe you work all day and can’t devote two hours to each child to make up for what their teachers couldn’t do for them. After all, if your kid needs an Individual Education Program, you can’t expect the teacher to have the time to help them. They have to keep the high pace rat race bullshitting lessons going for all the nervous wrecked kids that haven’t yet gone mental from it.

We talked about percentiles and grade levels and special education.

Then I just had to ask, “Why do you expect all children regardless of who they are or where they come from to perform at a certain grade level at a certain age?”

I don’t think they ever answered that one. Just some nebulous bullshit.

“We want your child to be a productive member of society. They need these skills.”

“Yeah, but what does that have to do with being at a certain grade level at a certain age? I mean, so what if some kids are behind other kids the same age. By the time they’re 26 none of it will matter”, unless they’re planning to be competing for the youngest corporate executive of the year. Come to think of it, the richest man in America, Bill Gates, dropped out of grad school. Einstein was a C student. A lot of great people sucked in school. There’s something to be said for just doing it.

I know. Because I went to two colleges and grad school and ended up in a career field that had nothing to do with anything I studied. I became a self taught computer programmer. I have a huge college debt and none of it contributed to my well paid career. School is bullshit, mostly.

I agreed with them that my kid needs to learn to read and write well. It’s just the rate of learning and the rat race pace that I have a problem with. Kids will learn in time if you let them and treat them like individuals that have a special purpose in the world. But I guess such foreign concepts would require astronomical funding and lots more acronyms.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Nobody Messes with the Composer or the Cinematographer. Why the Screenwriter?

The screenplay is the one single most important elements of a movie production. Everything depends on having a great screenplay. Great actors are attracted to great screenplays. Directors are attracted to great screenplays. The screenplay is so important that some directors are writer-directors. So what's the problem with giving screenwriters a fair deal?

William Goldman
Famed screenwriter, William Goldman has said, and as seen in this clip, the following:

There is undeniably an adversarial relationship between writers and directors. in movies. Nobody messes with the composer because not everybody can write songs. Nobody messes with the cinematographer because nobody knows how to light things. [But] even producers know letters and alphabets and directors and everybody like to fiddle [with the screenplay]. [It] makes them feel creative.

One of the reasons there are no happy screenwriters is because you have all those people who think they can write better than you can and many of them can and many of them cannot and things [screenplays] get altered. There is this lunatic myth... that the movie is the director's, and that is about as much sense as the flat earth society, and everybody in the business knows it. I'm not saying it's [all] the writer's God knows it. I'm saying that movies are a group endeavor.

Oh I get it. If you can pass 2nd grade writing class, you're a writer. I guess it's ok to pay these people in lollipops.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Meaningless Numbers: 2% of Nothing, 92.5% of 35%, and the SAG 0.75%, aka 900

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

- attributed by Mark twain to British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli

(Yeah, he said it before The West Wing used it as an episode title)
The WGA-AMPTP deal resulted in this tentative MBA agreement: Although the official version is currently available for members to read here. But early review of the terms raise a red flag concerning new media and internet streaming.


Statement by Kristen Stavola

Two Percent of Nothing is Nothing

....I ran this window by a web entrepreneur with 3 name brand technology/internet start ups on his resume. “You will lose nearly 90% of the property's value in that window. Just look at LAZY SUNDAY — a piece of entertainment content that created a 1.3 billion dollar company(YouTube). I’m not saying people made money. It’s an example of the kind of traffic a good piece of entertainment content can generate in a 30 DAY window. No one cares about it now, but in its first 10 days, seven million people checked it out. Why would you guys give up that much real estate so easily and quickly?”

Think about it. Why are we?

Two percent distributor’s gross in the third year of the new contract? Initial streaming window? I hope by now you’ve realized that the 2% (the AMPTP has forced upon us) is meaningless. The big traffic numbers have already come inside of the promotional, Residual free zone -- and we’re left with 2% of the stragglers.

Don’t be fooled because my LAZY SUNDAY example above was a 3 min clip and not an entire episode of a broadcast series. Your episode will only get promoted from prime real estate like a network homepage for 1-5 days— TOPS!

Traffic is about promotion and virality. You need to hit that first 100k- 200k viewers in the first 1-3 days if something is to catch on virally with regards to original content. Think of that Sarah Silverman/Matt Damon video just last week! Its audience was on the decline within 3 days. However, its viewers online eclipsed Kimmel’s nightly ratings in 2-3 DAYS! Again, these are examples of how traffic views content. Something was promoting this content -- probably an email from your Striking writer pals. If there is no promotion -- viewers have to dig for your content -- and those numbers are not very sexy!

....We may even be told that because of the erosion of traditional broadcast viewing audience there is no ad-based money being made by the media congloms on streaming media — that they’re giving away streaming media to advertisers to make up the difference! C'mon! I just spoke to three web producers who are making more money PROMOTING our content in the first 3 days then we'll see in the first three YEARS of this contract. I’ve listed many links to research at the bottom of this email, use them. By 2011, in-stream advertising revenue is expected to reach $3.89 billion dollars and revenue for downloads will contribute $850 million according to the Yankee Group.

....And you better hold your hats because the number of sites that offer revenue sharing models (YouTube, Break, MetaCafe,Vio, Revver) will be on the rise this year and those deals are going to be about placement on their homepages in the first 1-7 days. If you think the episode of SAMANTHA WHO that debuted online 24 days ago is going to be getting any promotion from ABC/DISNEY....

Full Article....

34% (92.5% of 35%) of Writers Agreed to end the Strike

No, omission does not equal approval. The recent WGA vote to end the strike was touted as "92.5% voted in favor of ending" the strike. What was not reported anywhere is that 65% of the membership did not vote, which means the 92.5% is really 92.5% of 35% or 34%. What was that about statistics?

Why did only 3,500 of some 10,000+ members vote? I conjecture there are numerous reasons, possibly as many reasons as their are non-voters. But here are some generalizations on possible writer categories:

  • They're homeless due to the strike and the AMPTP's greed, which left them too poor to hold out for 3 months and now leaves them without even the means to register a vote. I know of one homeless writer's family personally. Their kids go to school with my kids.
  • They don't want to make waves with their employers.
  • They're in a quandary, tired and worn by the strike and want it to end but still can't honestly vote against their conscious to stand up for what's fair.
  • They've taken the attitude that they've been forced to end the strike given so little time to understand the deal (24 hours) being offered which would require legal interpretation.
  • They've decided the strike isn't an issue and they won't be vilified by the press for standing in the way of the Oscars.
  • They've decided to vote down the contract and don't care about the strike.
  • They don't give a shit. It's all a crap shoot business anyway, like William Goldman says.

Hey, without qualification, the numbers are meaningless.

The SAG 0.75%, aka the SAG 900.

Then there's SAG and the 0.75% member petition. 900 sounds like a lot don't it? Bull. It's 900 out of 120,000 SAG members. That's less than 1%. Zero point seven-five percent (0.75%). Yet this tiny little minority has the union split in two to discuss this issue and possibly vote on it, and the issue itself is about who should get to vote. No doubt the 900 feel they are first and perhaps the only ones in line. Not so strangely, AMPTP blog commenters support this 0.75%. Well, it's easier to buy off 900 than to give the 120,000 some decent money.

Arguments on both sides of the 0.75% proposal can be found here.

News flash! This just in (2/28/2008)! The pro-SAG disenfranchisement contract now has 1000 petition signers. This means 0.83% of SAG members are on board with elitist disenfranchisement. Bush must be proud. Anyway, before you know it they might actually have a full one percent of SAG on their side. Any month now.

Monday, February 18, 2008

SAG Splintered Just in Time for AMPTP Contract Talks

Here's the irony of it. Do you see the irony of it?

There is a debate on, apparently fueled by a 900 signature petition by SAG members to change eligibility for SAG members to vote on issues, things like I suppose, whether to go on strike or agree to a new contract with the AMPTP. Sound familiar? All of this comes on the heals of the forced WGA contract by the AMPTP, and with SAG about to go into early talks with the AMPTP on their contract. which expires in just a few months.

Of course, if the voting membership changes then the outcome of the vote changes. So if you were in the AMPTP, a business group bent on marketing and statistical analysis, what would be in your best interest here? Suppose you ran a few numbers and found that if the eligible voters happened to be restricted to a certain few who had a steady and healthy income, the chances of those voters going for your AMPTP deal would greatly increase. After all, the real deal with union contracts is to look out for minimums, which really only affect new and soon to be new members.

Yeah, I see the irony of it.

The irony of it is that proponents of the 900 (with ranks diminishing) claim that limiting voting rights to a select few will make the union more cohesive with less splintering and results more effective, since those select few are the ones most likely affected; while what this really does is splinter the union into voters and non-voters. This breeds animosity as can be seen with the comments in reaction to Nikki Finke's blog post featuring the pro-0.75% argument, championed by actor Amy Brenneman.

That's the irony of it.

On the other hand, if you read the rational view by actor Ron Livingston:

The strength of our union is not just the actor who says 'I really want this job, but I’m not doing it anymore until you pay me what I’m worth.' It’s the ten actors next to him who say 'I really want that job, too, but I’m not doing it, either, until you pay him what he’s worth.' And that’s a sacrifice, too.

You'll find comments there largely in favor and in support of his take on it. It's hard not to argue that everyone in the union deserves a vote. They pay dues, they should vote. Besides anyone involved with Swingers has to be way cool.

The real kicker for me is, who decides who gets to vote and who doesn't? Ms. Brenneman says:

"We are NOT asking for an earnings threshold. The number of days workednot amount of money earned—is the common test for 'affected' members. For work like ours, it must be averaged over a time span long enough to accommodate the inevitable 'ups-and-downs' of our business. The Equity standard is one job (typically at least 6-8 weeks) within the previous 6 years. I believe SAG should consider something similar – perhaps an average of 5 days of principal work and/or 15 days of background work per year, over the previous 6 years. (Three background days has been used as an equivalent of one principal day for union entrance.) Of course, the 6 year period would be prorated for newer members.

"A standard like this—for contract voting only—will broadly include members with working knowledge of the contract and some concrete stake in it. And because it eliminates the influence of those without such a stake, it will give the 'affected' members—those who depend on the contract and know it best—an effective voice. This gives maximum credibility to the vote and strengthens our hand in negotiations, which results in better contracts for all members, present and future.

So who says it's " perhaps an average of 5 days of principal work and/or 15 days of background work per year?" How about perhaps an average of 6 days of principal work and/or 16 days of background work per year. Anyone for 7/17? Maybe 4/14. 1/11 might be nice, for the AMPTP anyway. Less people to bribe.

Depending on the numbers selected, whole different groups become voters or non-voters. What the real question here is, 'how can we get away with disenfranchising voters?' So much for democracy, or even the illusion of it. At least the WGA had that.

But here's kicker number two. Before Ms. Brenneman states the above, she first must rationalize her logic with this gem:

"The SAG constitution requires that contracts be ratified by 'the membership affected thereby.' It doesn’t say 'the entire membership' or 'all members in good standing' as it does for voting on officers. Nor does it refer to 'potentially affected members'.

So my question to her is, "What is the distinction between 'the membership affected thereby' and 'potentially affected members?' " There can't be one because anyone who falls into either category could just as well fall into the other category depending on the time of day you make the determination. Someone doing just extra work could get booked and suddenly become voter eligible within a week or two. What about someone just coming off a gig and finding they haven't worked the required time as of a day ago? A decision is made and they aren't eligible. Then what if they book something the next day that makes them eligible after two weeks?

They have a word for this kind of faulty logic. It's called bullshit.

So what you end up with is going back to square one, where you have people voting on things that may not affect them, and other people not able to vote on what does affect them.

Now of course we all know no one would even do this, but what if a studio decided to book or not book actors based on how they expected them to vote on something like a strike? This would certainly put them is a good position to manipulate elections invisibly. Criminal genius

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Writers are Sheep?

From Variety:

WGA, studios hammer on details

Scenario emerges for strike's end

As the lawyers work overtime to hammer out the details, scenarios are emerging that could -- underline could -- bring an end to the WGA strike as early as next week....

....Given the high esteem that Verrone and Young enjoy among rank-and-file members, even as the strike enters its fourth month, insiders say they ought to be able to shepherd the pact through the votes by the boards and membership.,,,,


But wait, what do writers have to say about all this:

A formal letter to WGA members reads in part, "Regardless of what you hear or read, there are many significant points that have yet to be worked out. ....As the talks proceed, never forget that during this period it is critical for us to remain on the picket lines united and strong. We are all in this together."

Nikki Finke says, "...So now is the time for everyone to back off. That's right, BACK OFF. And to let the WGA leadership talk to its board and also its membership without outside interference. ..."

You mean outside influence like news media articles saying that the Oscars are expected to go on if only those pesky writers will just roll over and stop all this pay me nonsense?

Writers commenting on Nikki's blog aren't acting very sheepish...

Then there's this from Verone

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Yellow Journalism: Serving Corporate Moguls in a "free" Society

How else would you expect to control the people of the world, without bombing them to oblivion?

OK, maybe Yellow Journalism is a nebulous term. But it sure ain't responsible journalism and it reeks of AMPTP propaganda.

Leaks are all over the media about a tentative agreement with the WGA. Yet the media blackout is still on. The WGA has made no announcement to members yet. The WGA members have yet to consider, discuss, or vote for any agreement. They don't even know what it is. So how can the media possibly responsibly report that an agreement has been reached, unless all the WGA terms have been met. Even so, it's a low AMPTP tactic to pressure writers to accepting whatever it is.

The word is out in supposedly responsible media, like th NY Times (an AMPTP related subsidiary no doubt) that an agreement has been reached.

What happens now if WGA members don't like what the terms are? They have now been put into a pressured position by the media to agree to end the strike. This release makes it all appear on their shoulders, even before anyone knows the terms, even before formal talks have resumed. They're still in informal talks, right?

What a load of AMPTP propaganda media agenda setting bullshit.

This could be a news release that went out over a news service and got picked up, or maybe AMPTP people affiliated with big media planted the stories. The story itself is one of all rumors. There are no credible people making statements. No names at all. Just "sources".

So the act of publishing this before writers have a chance to even look at it will create lots of hope which will then be dashed once writers see what the deal really is, or if there is one. That will demoralize writers and stack public opinion against them, especially public opinion of people being hurt by the strike.

Like they say, there isn't anything legal on paper yet. There is no fine print to examine and check for loopholes. the talks are still informal. Until there is something legal on paper, there is no deal. It is wrong to print anything about a deal until that point. These media stories are pure propaganda and the lowest form of yellow journalism.

Here's what has to say about it:

It's Not Over 'Til It's Over -- And It Isn't Over

Mark Evanier provides some very wise precautionary words on his blog News From Me, putting what's happening in negotiations in the context of past strike experiences. Here's an excerpt:

... it's a fine, even prudent idea to not get one's hopes too high. It is a not uncommon negotiating technique to get the other side into the mindset that the deal is done, and then to throw in a last second demand. In past WGA-AMPTP contracts, negotiating has even continued after the deal was made and ratified. Weeks, even months after the '81, '85 and '88 strikes were settled and work resumed, reps from the studio side were still arguing over what had been agreed to, insisting that their notes said we'd agreed to X when we were certain we'd consented to Y. And even when we all agree on what we all agreed upon, we can't always agree on the interpretation of some clauses and codicils.....


From Nikki Finke's

UPDATE: Is WGA-Mogul Deal About Done?

....United Hollywood, the unofficial website for WGA info, says: "UH has confirmed from off-the-record sources that progress is indeed being made in the informal talks, and that creative solutions to the biggest differences between the AMPTP and the WGA have gotten the tentative and cautious approval of both sides. This does not mean there is a deal in principle yet. It means we may, finally, be very close to one -- as close as days away. And while we're cautiously optimistic about what we're hearing, it comes with a real caveat.

Skip to the comments to find the following, apparently from a pro screenwriter. Regardless of who it's from, it makes a lot of sense. Most of the other comments are likely from anonymous studio shills.

Anybody else notice that nobody is posting under real names here any more? I am a journalist turned TV/screenwriter and now a strike captain in the East and I am trying to buck the trend (please be kind).

I know this much is true: anyone leaking information to Nikki, or Michael Cieply, or anyone is guilty of violating the media blackout. They might just really want to be the Selfless Citizen (or Important Source) who Gets The Real News Out First, but my experience as a journalist tells me that — even if they DO have the insider information they claim — they have an AGENDA.

To me the situation is simple: You can’t be “almost” settled, any more than a woman can be “almost” pregnant. And dangling these kinds of rumors may get some people’s hopes up to make them more desperate to settle. That is at least one agenda here. Especially with stories like the LA TImes’ focusing on below-the-line workers’ anger.

If anything has been consistent during the strike, it has been the efforts to divide and conquer the guild. And the way the press works, they’re excited by squabbles, so they will publish an op-ed by a one-man political party ( John Ridley), or pick up on an email from John Wells and turn it into an official reaction to try to stir the pot. This site, for all its intentions, has also fomented flaming and bitchiness, much of it under the cloak of anonymity. And it was, conveniently or not, on hiatus when the plan went down that everyone predicted — the quick deal with the nonstriking DGA as a slap in the face to those of us on the picket lines.

The United Hollywood site has provided writers a forum to voice their support when rumors of schisms were touted, and to voice honest caution in the face of rampant email, blog, and even print journalism all rushing to be the first to say the deal is done.

I am certainly not in favor of anyone being out of work any longer, but it would be asinine and suicidal for the writers to now explode their just quest for a fair deal thanks to some mind-fuck of an endgame.

Comment by David Handelman

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