Monday, December 24, 2007

Have a Yellow Christmas

I was compelled this morning to write about the writers strike going on in Hollywood. A report came out today saying some $350 million have been lost from the local payroll. All due to those poor, starving writers who aren't making enough for their creativity.

I hope this whole thing has been worth it to those striking writers. I should mention, if I haven't done so before, that many other Hollywood unions have not endorsed this strike. The editors guild (for film, not writing) maintains their position against this strike and advises its members to not honor the picket lines.

Striking writers, meanwhile, have voluntarily walked off the job, forcing thousands of working individuals —— many with families to feed, vacations to pay for, weddings and honeymoons to fund, car payments to make, mortgages to keep up —— to go without a paycheck.

Did these unfortunate bystanders —— from production folks to dry cleaners to janitors to craft services to technicians to actors —— have time to prepare for this strike? Probably not. I mean, how do you prepare for unemployment?

I'm still on the fence how I professionally feel about this strike. Personally, I'm appalled. Professionally, I know how the studios will take advantage of any and all loopholes to not pay people for using their content or talent. They've done this throughout history, and will do it forever more. Give them a way to make free money, ala DVDs and home video, and they will take full advantage of it, all the while saying that these media are experimental.

On the other side, I don't think most screenwriters own their material. If you work for a TV show, you obviously are just a minor player in the process. If you're the creator of the show, you already have your stipulations written in the contract. If you adapt a novel into a film, you don't own it, nor does the director. You're just a partner in something that an author originated.

I don't care how big the actors, director, producer, screenwriter are for the movie, Atonement, the author of the novel is the owner of this story. Ownership stops, however, if the novel inspires a movie, a song, another novel. That sucks, but that's also how it goes.

I'm still not sure how actors will benefit from supporting this strike. Actors are merely pawns, in my opinion. Unfortunately, actors are also lousy at writing and most have owned up to this fact. Many more, however, will continue to tap away at their computers in denial. Many of my close actor friends have tried to write scripts —— and they all suck.

I went to a party at my assistant director friend's house last weekend. He had some noticeably unfestive individuals in attendance there: PAs, makeup artists, actors (well, they acted festive), producers. The consensus? They don't seem to like having their fates decided for them by a small group of people. And they miss their work, because working in entertainment was something they wanted to pursue.

Basically, they're all having a piss-colored Christmas this year. And that just stinks.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I always cringe when I see the words "worldwide unlimited rights" in a commercial or print contract. I mean, how much is something like that worth? And, why aren't they paying me that much?

So I get this call yesterday from someone at the production company that made my last commercial. This is the one for a company called Orange, which I think is based in France. I'm still not sure what this company does. At first, I thought it was a bank. But then I looked it up and I think they're some sort of AT&T-like company.

The company, through their ad agency, Publicis, wants to add on some territories such as Europe, Africa, and also the ambiguous designation, "worldwide." They try to give you numbers for how much each of these territories are worth. I'm glad that they're willing to pay me for these extra territories, but there's some other verbiage I'm not liking in the contract.

These words make me cringe even more, in fact: non-commercial use. Now, what could that possibly mean in the age of YouTube, I wonder? Before, it may have meant that the production company wanted to use the commercial in their directors' reel at a trade show or on their company website. Now, non-commercial means anything the ad agency hasn't directly paid to air.

That's where I think SAG has failed us actors. When a union-made spot suddenly starts to air on YouTube or some other video site, the actors make nothing, and the company gets a lot of free publicity. If SAG knew better, they would've made a stipulation that if a commercial becomes viral, and beyond the company's control over its distribution, then the company is liable for paying its actors a lump sum, based on number of overall downloads or views.

Let me put it this way. Let's say a company used your image, paid you money, edited in some video of a naked Paris Hilton, and then let that spot be uploaded and downloaded millions of times, worldwide, without any additional compensation to you. Would you enjoy all the free public use of your image?

Well, maybe you would. I wouldn't. I'm in this for the money, not the fame.

Now, I know that some say money comes with fame. If that's the case, I'd rather walk away from this industry altogether.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Blogging/Partying in the Bay Area

I'm in San Francisco right now, staying at the Triton Hotel, just across from the entrance to Chinatown. Had a pretty good night's sleep after partying it up with the SF office of our ad agency last night. Our two offices took over a place called Bruno's, which is funky and eclectic with several small lounges on the premises.

All I can say is I'm surprised I don't have a hangover right now. I drank about 10 Grey Gooses with various mixers: tonic, cranberry, grapefruit juice, or Rockstar. For my last drink, however, I forced down a 16-ounce bottle of mineral water.

At about 11 pm, I hopped onto our designated shuttle back to the hotel. Then I called the fiancé and she directed me, ala The Matrix, to the nearest ramen shop. I don't know this city very well as it's been about 8 years since my last visit here. Well, that's not counting my recent training session at the company's interactive agency here in SF last month.

On that visit, I spent over my per diem amount of $75-$100 and got in a little bit of heat over it. How much did I spend? Well, the bill came to $111. That got the accounting folks in a bit of a tizzy. The IT guy, who regularly travels between LA and SF and stays at the W Hotel in LA, says he can stay at the nicest hotels as long as he doesn't overspend his per diem. Go figure, huh? But in his case, he often goes to Quiznos, which tends to make the accounting folks very pleased.

So, next time I do some sort of business travel for the company, I'm opting for the W Hotel, but either eating fast food or expensing only a small portion of my bill. The IT guy, by the way, sits right next to the accounting department in the office. I ended up brown-nosing the accounting folks last night and I think everything's all smoothed over now.

Anyway, this isn't the most interesting entry I've ever written. I ended up at Katana-ya for ramen last night. I highly do not recommend this place. It's packed, but tiny, and I have my suspicion that Japanese folks go there regularly to cure their homesickness. But they probably don't go there for the ramen. It hit the spot, though, and probably cured any potential hangover.

Today, I'm going to walk through Chinatown and grab some tea before stopping into the interactive agency and possibly doing some work. Then it's back to LA before sunset.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

It's Getting Rough in My Neighborhood

It's bad enough that transvestites can be seen selling their wares just a block away from my home. Now, just down the street on Hollywood Boulevard, the superheroes are starting to get violent.

I see these guys all the time, dressed as Superman, Batman, Johnny Depp's character in Pirates of the Caribbean, even Freddie Kruger. I don't know if they're actors or just people trying to make a buck. I don't know if they're employed by the Hollywood & Highland complex or the City of Hollywood. All I know is that, while they may be fun to tourists, they're annoying as heck to the locals.

Super Heroes Get In Street Fight - Watch more free videos

This, apparently, is a street fight involving Spiderman and Batman. Where Superman was, I have no idea.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Another 'Speechless' Video

I viewed a few more of the "Speechless" videos and this one works for me, too. It's creative, makes a point, and here I am sharing it with you.

And now they allow me to embed them.