Saturday, December 8, 2007

Fair Trade Media

With the talks between the WGA and the AMPTP evidently at a stand-still (and I wonder how much of this is just people not wanting to "deal" during the holidays??) United Hollywood has posted the WGA's response to the AMPTP in halting the negotiations.

My thoughts have turned to how I continue to pursue my career in a way that works for me not only as a producer but as a content creator as well. How do I blend these two sometimes competing segments of my business? How do I "play fair" and value the creative contributions of my colleagues while also generating a revenue stream for myself? What should we do? What should we charge for our services when our creative output is now able to live on in seemingly endless iterations, in perpetuity throughout all media known and unknown, in the universe? (And you may laugh at that statement but it's paraphrasing a clearance form that 20th Century Fox has used for years in it's film and television productions) What is fair to pay for the fruits of someone's creativity? How does the concept of collaborative media with many "authors" become monetized? How do we make enough money to live our lives off of an "open source" paradigm?

I'm inviting another blogger, the Urban Ichthyosapien to join me in this discussion and also open it up to anyone else who wants to put their 2 cents in. (In Euro or Canadian only please, they're worth more than US now, since even drug dealers have abandoned the greenback dollar.)

There's no immediately forseeable end to the strike. But let this be a unique opportunity to think about the future of the business of creativity. I'm eager to engage in that discussion.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


I've been thinking a lot in the past 72 hours.
Monday night my mother had a heart attack.
She survived it, but remains in intensive care.
I went tonight after work (yes I am working again, more on that in a future post) to see her and I climbed in the bed with her and lie there, just talking to her.
I told her about my day, about my plans, about my friends. I told her many things that had been hard for me to say to her before and she was very clear-headed and she listened to me. She looks better than she has in weeks.
But in case anyone is reading this, it's why I haven't posted in a few days.

It's exhausting to deal with all this and really depressing to see how the elderly are discounted in this country. After leaving Momma back in intensive care, I was waiting for the elevator and I struck up a conversation with a man in a white lab coat who had silver insignia bars on his lapels. I asked him about them and he told me he was an army nurse. I suggested that he was probably glad to be in the US and not in Iraq or Afghanistan. No he replied, he'd prefer to be back there, with his guys. I wasn't surprised, this is a common sentiment amoung the military to want to get back to their unit. The bonds are very strong. He then elaborated, telling me that he felt he was doing more good overseas, tending to the wounded there. He was helping his "guys". I nodded, I could relate to that. Then he said, "Because you know, here, it's mostly old people in hospital. And they've already lived their lives and had their chance." The elevator arrived and I got on. I thought to myself, he has no idea what he just said, but I had to admit his comment really hit me hard. This is how America views the elderly; as useless objects that take up space. Schrecklich.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Here's what I'm grateful for:
-dear friends
-getting to know some great colleagues
-the opportunity to travel
-having the chance to work on some great projects
-being able to meet new people and see old friends again
-that I am here, now, in a fascinating time to be in the business

A vast ocean of opportunity lies before us.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

WGA rally in Hollywood

M and I met down at Hollywood and Vine's metro stop and he signed in at the WGA table. I signed in at the SAG table since there was no official IATSE table and SAG was happy to have me sign in along with members of other labor unions, SEIU specifically. It was very crowded. At some point we started moving as a group towards Hollywood and Highland. It was a slow march, terminating in a rally in front of the Chinese Theater which was festooned with a rainbow of balloons (in honor of the Munchkins from the Wizard of Oz who finally got their star on the Walk of Fame).

The Teamsters had parked a big semi in the middle of the boulevard and that's where we stopped for the rally. Several people spoke, though I could see none of them (I'm on the tall side of short). We marched along side Mike White for a little while (which was ironic since M and I were talking about his script for "Chuck and Buck" the other day) There were lots of people there whom I recognized but couldn't place, maybe they'd worked at Fox or CBS Radford or I'd seen them on set or at a party. There were some really clever signs, one in particular on one side invited people to spend Thanksgiving with the Chernins and had their address. On the other side it encouraged people to drop Sumner Redstone a holiday card, also listing his address.

Randall Bobbitt has some great photos of the march on his blog including some of the more notable people/creatures of the day. I loved the CAA Scone Guy, he's my hero! I hope he represents me one day.

As to how may people showed up, well I saw nothing on the TV news to indicate that, though the United Hollywood site had a comment left by someone saying there were 10,000 people in attendance. Would like to hear from anyone who has heard any other estimated numbers.

Here's an interesting article in the LA Times about the changes happening in our industry. I have to agree we are entering a time where the content creators (not just writers but us creative producer types too) can -- and have begun to -- take a more entreprenurial stance to our work.

It was a great event, I realized I hadn't been to a rally in years since my DC days (when there was always one about something or another). The march and rally was just the right length, maybe AMPAS should take note when planning the Oscars? I especially liked that I didn't have to drive down there, could all events be Metro close? Here's a Howlywood dog...

Here's hoping the talks on Monday actually get us somewhere.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Will Amazon Kindle the flame of reading?

This is a little OT but I am a gadget girl these days and the latest thing to catch my eye (or ear actually since I heard about this on NPR this afternoon) -- is Amazon's ebook reading device, Kindle.

I was a little skeptical after hearing Jeff Bezos talk about it, but after I watched the video it seemed like it could be a good thing to have. I liked that you could read Word documents on it, and I wondered if Amazon weren't trying to horn in on the Ipod/Iphone market since there were clearly audio plugs visible on the device. I often listen to music while I read (or type - I'm listening to our latest CD now) and you can apparently do both on a Kindle. If it can check my email, access the Internet, take my calls and allow me to read call sheets and production reports at a glance as well as tell me where the closest Indian restaurant is to set or what the traffic is like then I'd say -- SOLD!

Amazon are hitting a good price point. I'll be curious to see how well it sells this holiday season. I can see indulgent grandparents and desperate to get their teens to read something parents shelling out the cash for this. Or as my friend G commented, "Add porn and it will sell MILLIONS."

Now, back to showbiz...
I'm meeting M tomorrow at a big strike rally in Hollywood. I think it will be the last big action before the holiday and before the AMPTP goes back to the table. They might be sweating since the New York Times is reporting in this article that the Studios are concerned about their public image. Remarkably, they have no online presence to present their point of view. A perfect example; the Studios are buying full page ads in newspapers while the Writers are blogging, Youtubing, Twittering and sending out emails -- all of which are FREE and environmentally friendly as well.

(Thanks to mrtwism on flickr for the pic)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Monkey Mind + Quarterlife

Remember that scene in "Ghostbusters"?

Harmless pop icon turns to evil in mere moments? It's those times when you know you shouldn't think about something, try and not think about it, but oops! There it is.

That's what I'm talking about. That's how my brain is working right now. The Buddhists call it "monkey mind" and the monkeys in my mind have been quite busy typing out their nonsense transmissions.
whatifthere'snopilotseason?WhatamIgoingtodoaboutChristmas?Howmuchlongerwillthis goonhowquicklywillstufframpbackuponcethestrikeisovershouldIleavethebusinessWTF?

And then: I remember what M said to me once: "Remember, we can't really DO anything else. We have to stay here." He's right. Yes I can do other things, but I've done other things and not liked it. Creative people need to "follow their bliss", tempered by economic necessity of course.

He and I have a date to meet at the big rally on Tuesday afternoon in Hollywood. It's supposed to be as large as the one at Fox. I'm going to ride the subway so I don't have to drive, sit in traffic and pay to park.

But sometimes monkey mind is what gets me thinking creatively and passionately as well. If I don't absolutely love a project, my heart isn't in it. If I'm not suffering from a type of limerence, not thinking about it, visualising it, replaying it in my mind: then I have a much harder time doing it. I want to be intoxicated by what I do because that brings work much closer to a state of flow.

This caught my eye yesterday a piece in the New York Times about "Quarterlife". The producers Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz are AFI alumni too.

I just watched Episode 3 and was pleased to see Barret Swatek, an actress I've worked with before, playing idea-stealing co-worker Brittany.

As far as I can tell, "Quarterlife" is the second scripted series that is utilizing a social networking site. I believe Showtime's "The L Word" was the first to do so. This is where television is going, and going quickly. It's Television 2.0

Monday, November 12, 2007

Week 2 begins

Well, it's official. Fox's temp company, Ultimate Staffing, told me this morning that they are NOT hiring temps due to the Writer's Guild strike.

No doubt everyone else in town will be using the same excuse...{sigh}

But pragmatist that I am, I keep scanning the horizon for my next gig.

There are reasons we have unions, though people seem to have forgotten. The best bumper sticker I've seen in sometime said simply:
The Weekend - Brought to you by your local Labor Union

I've got cabin fever being in the house for so long, I've got to get out of here.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

4 cents

Today I heard from a colleague who was told by their employer (one of the CSI franchise) to start looking for another job. So it looks like the small pool of jobs available is only going to get smaller. And right before the holidays too when it's already a slow time. Yay.

If there are no pilots, no series and no features, what are the alternatives?
1. Reality TV (I'd consider it)
2. Working abroad (Yes, I am available, passport in hand)
3. Leaving the business (No, I'm velcro'd in)
4. Teaching (Yes, I've done it before)
5. Temping (It's saved me more than once)
6. Commercials (I wouldn't know where to begin, but I'm game)

Then I came across this on YouTube...
Why we Fight

It's created by the WGA and illustrates their points pretty well. Some may call it propaganda but one person's propaganda is another's truth.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Strike Has Begun

What's the impact so far?

Well I can only speak for myself here but I've gotten calls and emails from friends and colleagues overseas asking me if the town is "shut down". My answer: No, unless you consider day time talk shows and late night talk shows the entire industry.

Since I am not the audience for either (though admittedly I have watched Ellen and Jay Leno now and again) I haven't noticed much. EXCEPT...suddenly yesterday afternoon my mailing lists started posting up production jobs. In 4 hours I found 4 jobs I could submit my resume for. Maybe that sounds like nothing to people outside of this business, but generally, I'm lucky if I find one job a day I can apply for (most of my work comes from referrals or re-hires by people I've worked with before).

Then I spoke with my friend who is a WGA member. He shared with me some of his experiences. He's been on the picket line, they are required to serve for 4 hours a day. He described it as being in "a high school version of a Clifford Odets play". He and some of his neighbors (other writers) all meet up and go down to do their time on the picket line. He's not writing, but happily he still has an income from teaching which he can still do. Many of the WGA members are not so fortunate.

I asked him if the WGA was going to extend membership to those not in the guild who logged so many hours on the picket lines. This actually happened the last time SAG went on strike, confirmed by someone I know who was on the SAG board at the time. He said he would ask. Stay tuned, I'll report back on that and if so I predict the picket lines will become thick with enthusiastic non-members. Someone else I spoke with today said they could hear car horns all day long near CBS Radford in Studio City. Presumably people are honking in solidarity with the strikers.

So far my local hasn't asked me to do anything but I was forwarded an email that was sent to SAG members (Screen Actors Guild) encouraging them to join in the picket lines and SAG has set up a telephone hotline for actors.
Screen Actors Guild WGA Strike Information Hotline:

All in all - writers rely on their residuals (much like actors do) to get them through those lean times in between jobs. Whereas the "producers" (and I mean the Studios here because that is what we are really talking about - they make up the AMPTP). The Studios rely on DVD sales to break-even and in some cases make a huge profit from. The digital download model can't really be profitable to any but the larger companies like Apple's Itunes and or to the Studios themselves since they already have the infrastructure to deliver content directly or the financial capability to build it. For most independent, self-distributing film-makers that's a business model that is presently out of reach. Though, people are trying -- by putting stuff up on Youtube and a neat site I just discovered called Jaman.

We'll see where this all leads in the coming weeks. Hopefully it doesn't drag on, but I'm not optimistic.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Or is it?

I've been trying to figure it out. Talking with friends in the Writer's Guild, reading posts on mailing lists I belong to. We'll know in a few days how this will all shake down.

What I do know is that if one guild goes, so too will the others. And this might eventually put the IATSE membership in the position of joining in a work stoppage.

And selfishly speaking, that is not a good thing. We need the work. We all have our bills to pay.

If you want to study this further; here's a few links that you might find helpful (thanks to Stephen Marinaccio for posting this to the LAProducer Yahoo group).

Here's where you can go to read more about what the WGA is asking for:

Here's where you can go to learn more about the AMPTP:

Here's the AMPTP package offered to the WGA (pdf link)

Here are some FAQ's from the AMPTP regarding the strike:

Compare the AMPTP to a PGA member, with the following site:

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wiki Woman

I have been on a job now for 2 weeks and have begun using a wiki on the project in an effort to make the already collaborative process of film-making even more so. (And to save some trees along the way.)

This is an experiment which I am eager to see the results of. I debut the whole thing to our production team tomorrow morning.

For now, I have been learning the basics of the wiki world and so far, liking it. I only hope that it is well received by my colleagues.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What's next?

Things seem very slow in town work-wise. Makes getting on a pilot look like a cake-walk. The TV shows seem to be staffed with everyone but PA's. I'm waiting to hear on a few features, but in the meantime the bills keep coming, so pragmatically speaking it looks like temping is in my imminent future.

Of course, there are the strike rumblings, but I don't think that it will actually happen. In 2001 we had the defacto strike simply because the threat was enough to panic the studios into stockpiling scripts. This trickled down and really hurt us wage slaves. I know I was out of work for a time as a result.

It may yet happen again, unless it has begun already. Or is it just part of the bell curve of the changing face of media? In 2001 the promise of TV on the internet had failed, now 6 years later we have YouTube and the Director's Guild is signing deals for internet broadcast webisodes.

Look at the Fall line-ups, so little scripted material in network TV. More reality and very few half hour comedies. More spin offs of hour long franchises. In my opinion, cable continues to stand out as the superior product generator. Maybe that's what's happening? It's been two camps, cable versus network -- each trying to eat the other. Only now there's the internet and it's gnawing at them both.

Will the internet eat the networks? Will cable eat the internet? Will the internet eat everyone and the phone companies too? And where does that leave us? The content creators and workers - those of us who actually do the things that get the stuff out there? If everyone can create content, where does that take us?

Monday, May 21, 2007

Making it happen

A recent conversation with a producing partner got me thinking about how I "brand" myself in this business. One thing they don't really teach you in art school (or film school for that matter) is how to set yourself up as a business and market yourself as a creative person.

The ironic thing is that I do know how to do this, I just have never applied it to myself.

Thus, after some pondering, I've set up this blog. Admittedly I am a bit late to the blogosphere - but rather than look at myself as a day a day late and a dollar short - I see it as having taken the time to think it through.

The things that I would like to accomplish this year with this blog as a catalyst, and in no particular order:
  1. Get another feature made (the second one is the hardest I hear)
  2. Meet VC people!
  3. Be a resource to others for making ones' way in this mercurial business
  4. Be more diligent about writing and generating my own content
  5. Do more travelling
  6. Join the PGA
  7. Form an LLC
  8. Continue to explore how internet social networking can build on the already collaborative nature of film and television production. In other words, expand my collaborators base and meet those people that I didn't know I didn't know.

So as I put this blog out into the world, I invite your feedback and I leave you with these questions.

  • What happened to the smart and funny half hour sitcom? Am I missing something here or was the last good one Seinfeld?
  • Is it really true that being accepted to a high profile film festival "makes" your career?
  • How do we define success for ourselves? Is it money? Awards? A sense of achievement? What milestone moments have you had?

At the intersection of art and new media, a place where the convergence emerges.