Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Golden Globes will be a "press conference," to deal with WGA strike

The Golden Globes has announced that it will air only a scaled-down program in “news conference” format from the Beverly Hilton Jan. 13, so that SAG actors receiving awards do not need to attend and cross WGA picket lines. A typical story appears in Hollywood Report, by Steven Zeitchik, “Unglued Globes Give up Gala,” here. Apparently, as of this writing, NBC will air the reduced show on Sunday. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association had pressed hard for its plan not to televise the ceremony so that (somehow) the stars could attend. Zeitchik writes “NBC and the HFPA settled on a plan Monday to air the Golden Globes without, well, actually airing the Golden Globes.” But the airing will be in a very abbreviated, one-hour form, with much of the advertising revenue lost.

The Washington Post has a story by Lisa de Moraes, "Writers' Strike Forces the Golden Globe Awards to Roll Up This Year's Red Carpet," link, page C7, today, Jan. 8.

First, let me mention that I have covered the WGA strike before in a few places: on Dec 9 on my main blog: Nov. 4 on my TV blog Oct. 23 on the movies blog. I put this latest posting in the movies blog because it deals with the Golden Globes (which does include TV films, whereas the Oscars do not), but I could have put it in any of these three.

Paul Farhi has some stories in The Washington Post Monday January 7, 2008. The headline is “Striking Distinctions: Writers’ Work Stoppage Will Soon Have Quite an Impact: What’s at Stake”, link here. There is a transcript blog here.

Lis de Moraes has a preview of a Washington Post Jan. 11 online debate "Reality, Non-Reality and Everything In-Between." On Monday Jan. 7 she had a column (complementing the stories by Farhi) "As Scripts Run Out, Reality Kicks In", here. And Hank Stuever has the column (p C2) "Just Pull Yourself Down To the Far End of the Cable," here.

There are a number of points of contention. On the basic idea that writers should get a fair piece of re-distributions (whether on reruns, the Internet, DVD’s, PDAs or new technologies) that makes sense, and in the long run it is the best business model for studios, distributors and production companies. The National Writers Union was making a lot of this perhaps even ten years ago. Writers do get considerable income from reruns, but these are decreasing, where as Internet viewing is becoming more important with consumers. I used to wonder, why not just expect the writer to negotiate a fair “salary” or wage, but that sort of model can reduce opportunity, the number of jobs, and can even interfere with projects getting funded. I’m surprised that corporate interests are not more willing to see this model as best for their own long term stability, especially when due diligence is done for mergers. It can create issues, to be sure. If writers get a mathematically tiny piece of every DVD rented from Netflix or every “free” trailer viewed on the Internet, that could seem to increase costs to consumers. However, revenue sharing information technology and automatic payment mechanisms (as with advertising) have been well developed now (by Google and other companies) and ought to be used here. Obviously, the film industry will say that this os one reason to aggressively fight piracy.

It is reported that writers do not like some changes in the production credits. There is a lot of ambiguity in Hollywood in the assignment of credits, which seems surprising given all of the legal intellectual property issues. The Wikipedia link for “producer” pretty much explains the terminology if the links are followed. However, writers should get precise credit for the work that they actually did. They should get credit as producers only when they individually did “production” work beyond the writing of spec or shooting scripts. Giving people “titles” for work they don’t do can set up legal problems or conflict of interest problems down the road.

It is also reported that the guild wants more jurisdiction, in animation and reality TV. There may be a real issue with animation, since scripts are written and many films are a mixture of animation and real action (“Beowulf 3-D”). Many small films are produced outside of the jurisdiction of major guilds, and I would be concerned that eventually demands of increased jurisdiction could make it harder to distribute independently produced films. SAG, as we know, has low budget agreements at various levels with reasonable rates; but generally, if a film uses one SAG member it must be entirely SAG (what if the producer acts in his own small film?)

There is a cultural question, too, on the whole demand for solidarity. There are widely varying reports on what writers make. When people make their own films independently, they make what they can sell – raw capitalism. New artists may find this all right, if they want to get into the business; why should they be sympathetic to people who make six figures now? Or perhaps they don’t make that much. You can’t live forever in LA on $60000 a year. But, then, why should all of the service industry workers who support the studio go without income to benefit those who make much more? Is that union solidarity?

Just for the “record,” no, I’m not a member of anything. I’ve never walked a picket line. I have scripts to promote. In another way, I’ve experienced the idea of “solidarity” in my own private way. The United States military says that my wearing a uniform would be incompatible with good order an discipline in the ranks. Does that mean it’s wrong for me to work for the Pentagon as a civilian? The military says my presence would invades the privacy of other soldiers. Does that mean it’s wrong, if I’m a teacher or health care worker, to provide custodial care to someone who can’t give consent? Is it wrong to fend for myself and let others with similar issues be discriminated against? I think it is. It is a way to look at solidarity.

The Critics' Choice Awards (link) is a non-union event, and it went on as scheduled, broadcast on VH1. The link for the 2007 awards is here. "No Country for Old Men" won best picture. Nikki Blonsky (Hairspray), winner of the "Best Young Actress" award said that canceling the Golden Globes is like canceling the senior prom. "That's what I went to high school for." Even Zac Efron would probably say that.

Update: January 13, 2008

The Golden Globes results are here. The best motion picture drama was "Atonement" (no surprise, but "There Will Be Blood" had a shot); for musical or comedy it was "Sweeney Todd". I guess "Juno" was too small and too gentle. I like Julie Christie's award in "Away from Her."

Personally, I think NBC made the evening interesting. They interviewed the stars off-line with film excerpts for a couple hours, and then let Billy Bush ("Access Hollywood") do his thing. It looked good.

A good blog making fun of NBC's press conference coverage is "defamer".
There is a lot of talk tonight on whether bloggers undermine the "establishment's" attempt to use hired hands to fend off public access to the "stars." It's all pretty silly. Is this "reputation defender" in Hollywood?

As for the Oscars, we'll see. It's like waiting to see if you can really fail a grade.

No comments: