Friday, March 28, 2008

Wouldn't Ya Just Like To Smack Some Sense Into Them?

At least one of them is happy.

I'll give that marriage exactly five minutes after the baby is born.

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen, one of the role models for our young daughters.

Go to the nearest tower and lock 'em up now!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Sky Is A Little Less Bright

The world has lost another of its greats: Paul Scofield

1922- 2008

He was one of the finest actors of our time, and he will be greatly missed.

Here is just a minute example of his acting prowess. It is from "A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS", in which he portrays Sir Thomas Moore:

If you haven't yet seen this film, I urge you to as soon as possible. Not only is the great Scofield in it, but also the late great Robert Shaw, Leo McKern, Orson Wells, and Wendy Hiller. A stellar cast in an incredible portrayal of King Henry VIII's open defiance of the church to divorce his wife in order to marry Anne Boleyn.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Fair Market Value Bill

Reposted (with permission) from Ken Levine's blog:

"Thanks to the Writers Guild for organizing a recent MASH writers reunion. It was great to see everyone, I’m honored to be in their company, and I still have notes on all of their drafts.

The purpose of the reunion was that the WGA is trying to get a “Fair Market Value” bill passed through the California legislature (Bill #1765 if you're scoring). Here’s why:

A studio like 20th Century Fox produces a big hit like MASH. Some of the members of the creative staff (in this case Alan Alda and Larry Gelbart) have an ownership piece of the series. 20th offers the show for syndication. There’s a bidding war. They take the best offer – a huge windfall. Alan and Larry share in the largesse. And since residual rates depend on the deal – actors, writers, and directors receive nice royalties. Everyone wins.

But now these studios are all swallowed up by mega conglomerates. And agendas change.

20th becomes the property of News Corp. News Corp. wants to start a cable network (FX). They need programming. MASH would be perfect. So instead of renewing a rich syndication deal, they sell it essentially to themselves for nothing. Now the profit participants get nothing. News Corp. receives all advertising revenue from MASH and uses the show to lure viewers and build their cable network. Ultimately, the cable network will be more profitable to the conglomerate than the syndication sale. Residuals are smaller and the creators get screwed.

That’s what News Corp. did with MASH and X-FILES, and Universal did with WILL & GRACE. In all three cases the profit participants sued and each received a giant settlement. The congloms have done this with other series and have gotten away with it because the cost of litigation is so high.

So the Guild is trying to prevent this practice in the future. And this bill would go a long way towards that end. Over the next couple of months we MASH writers will be going to Sacramento to plead our case to state legislatures. We might even get to see the Governor if we promise to say we didn't hate AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS.

What does it say when we have to get an actual law passed because “everyone wins” just isn’t good enough for them?

Note: A number of readers have asked how they can help. Bless you. We need people to send letters to state senator Sheila Kuehl in support. I've provided a sample letter in the comments section. Thanks."

Here is a copy of that letter plus the good Senator's email address:

State Senator Sheila Kuehl
Attn: Tam Ma
State Capitol, Room 5108
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Senator Kuehl,

I am writing in total support of Senate Bill 1765 – the Fair Market Value bill.

It is not secret that the media companies in the United States have concentrated their control over the airwaves by consolidating and vertically integrating. Whereas two decades ago there were several companies producing content for television and the big screen, today there are only a mere handful.

With this consolidation has come certain affects that the State of California must mitigate. Among them is the ‘self dealing’ which now happens in our industry. Because the large media companies now have density in both broadcast and cable markets, they are able to license television shows to a subsidiary company that is owned by the same parent company. For example, 20th Century Fox may air a show for its first run on the Fox broadcast network. They then may sell the license to the show to the FX cable network. Sometimes, when such self-dealing occurs, the companies do not pay the fair market value price for the content.

Over the last several years several profit participants have sued the studios or the production companies for ‘self dealing’ and for failing to pay the fair market value for the content. Creators and other profit participants from such hit shows as M*A*S*H, Will & Grace, NYPD Blue, The X-Files, among others, have filed suits to recoup money they should have been paid had the studio encouraged a competitive bidding process and secured the best possible deal for the show. These cases take several years and tremendous resources to wage.

For the actors and directors and writers on television shows, we have a stake in the sale price of a show, because the formula used to calculate our residuals for reruns is directly related to the license transfer fee. Residuals are critical to creative talent and help insure that writers, actors, directors and others are compensated for the work they do, and are able to sustain themselves and their families from the rigors of the often unpredictable job market of the entertainment industry. When television shows are sold for less than the fair market value, all of the creative talent are adversely affected.

Furthermore, when the studios practice ‘self dealing,’ the below-the-line crews such as truck drivers, grips, and others are adversely effected. In some cases, members of the below-the-line unions rely on the value of the transfer price to determine contributions to their health and pension funds. With health care costs constantly rising, the health funds desperately need to insure that the fund is compensated fairly.

For all of these reasons, I humbly ask for the California Legislature to support Senate Bill 1765. This bill is necessary to protect the creative talent and the below-the-line crews that work in the entertainment industry.

(Your Name Here)


Monday, March 10, 2008

Fabulous Advice from my Unmarried, Middle-Aged, Unemployed Sister - Part 1

My sister. How shall I describe her? A pain in the ass? Good, but not quite descriptive enough. Meddling, to be sure, but it goes far beyond that. Perhaps, because she's older that I, she feels entitled to giving me advice from a more..."mature" perspective, because I am so terribly flawed.

Yep, that must be it.

Lately, she's been ragging on me to get a more "environmentally-friendly" car, as the one I have now is a disgusting display of over-indulgence, capitalism, and irresponsibility.

Apparently, my 1995 Jeep Grand Cherokee really offends her.

Well, excuuuse me! I bought my car 5 months before I gave birth to my first child, knowing it would soon be filled with juice boxes and soccer equipment.

My environmentally-conscious (and did I mention unemployed?) sister was one of the very first Americans to purchase the new Smart Car from France. Cute, isn't it? It holds 8 gallons of gasoline, gets up to 60 miles per gallon, and seats two people. Just two.

That means every time my deranged beloved sister wants to spend some quality alone time with her niece and nephew (yes, I have two kids), she has to swap her wondercar for my planet-killer.

(Sigh) That's my sister.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Rideshare Thursday

Here in Los Angeles, the land of liposuction, Lakers, and lattes, we have a nifty little thing called "RIDESHARE THURSDAY". On this day all the commuters who normally ride solo to and from work are supposed to buddy up to save gas, time, the environment, etc.

A great idea. Really. Except it doesn't work.

Without looking at a calendar I always know what day of the week it is by how crappy the traffic is. If my normally 20-minute 5-mile commute to my daughter's middle school takes longer than it did for the Ice Age to melt, then I know it must be Rideshare Thursday.

And yet we in L.A. are still being brainwashed into believing this to be a good thing.

I swear, whoever thought this up must be working for:

1) A tire company
2) Some oil company
3) Eli Lilly

You'll have to excuse me now, because I must go and pick up my 91 year old father for an eye doctor appointment. If I leave now, I should be able to get to his place sometime around Easter!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Patrick Swayze has Pancreatic Cancer

Patrick Swayze is being treated for pancreatic cancer but is doing well enough to continue working, his representative said Wednesday.

The "Dirty Dancing" actor has a very limited amount of disease and appears to be responding well to treatment, according to Dr. George Fisher, Swayze's physician. Fisher's prognosis was included in a statement released Wednesday by Swayze's representative, Annett Wolf.

"Patrick has a very limited amount of disease and he appears to be responding well to treatment thus far," the statement read. "All of the reports stating the timeframe of his prognosis and his physical side effects are absolutely untrue. We are considerably more optimistic. Patrick is continuing his normal schedule during this time, which includes working on upcoming projects. The outpouring of support and concern he has already received from the public is deeply appreciated by Patrick and his family."

The New York Post and the National Enquirer, however, reported that Swayze is losing his battle to cancer and only has a few more weeks to live.

The Enquirer reported that the actor, 55, has been undergoing chemotherapy at Stanford University Hospital, but the treatment has had little or no effect on treating the cancer.

The actor has two projects in the works: the movie "Powder Blue," and a television movie titled "The Beast," according to the Web site Both are scheduled for release this year.

Damn! Double damn! My sincerest wishes for full remission.