Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #174: It Doesn't Just Rain, It Pours...

If this stuff keeps up there's a chance, albeit slim, that I might begin to pity Harvey Weinstein, despite the words "horrible human being" popping up in just about every account people have of dealing with him. First a judge puts the kaibosh on his rather sneaky move of Project Runway from Bravo to Lifetime, MGM is reported as dumping his films from their release slate, then he puts his foot in his mouth offering a million bucks to charity if Nikki Finke can produce an e-mail outlining his antics at Sydney Pollack's deathbed, which she does, which then makes him a target of cruel mocking by internet louts like me, and, as the cherry on top, producer Scott Rudin confirms not only the existence of the e-mail, but the veracity of its content.

Now what does this tell us, not about Harvey Weinstein specifically, but the situation that he's in?

Well, it tells me that he is in a truckload of trouble, with a few more truckloads lining up to dump on him. And this goes beyond simple karmic realignment, with all the abuse he's dished out coming back to haunt him like a tainted burrito.

While the animosity against him is the root of all this, fact that it's all happening now is that no one in show business, who isn't under his direct employ, is scared of him anymore.

There once was a time, during the glory days of Miramax, when he'd stomp and scream, and howl like a sasquatch with road rage, and all would kowtow before him, because he was Harvey-fucking-Weinstein and he wasn't going to let anyone forget it. Academy Awards just couldn't happen without him, and everyone had to kiss his ass and call it ice cream.

Then came the string of stinkers, with only the occasional modest money-maker, stripping the sheen off what was once indie film's golden boy. Couple that with exponentially increasing numbers of actors, writers, directors, producers, and investors expressing their displeasure not only with the company's poor performance, but also its business practises.

Then came the shenanigans over Project Runway, which put Harvey in the sights of the massive NBC-Universal conglomerate.

That was the ultimate nail in the coffin of Weinstein's power. In a way, Hollywood is like a wolf pack, a fat and relatively slow moving wolf pack, but a pack nonetheless. In this pack the major studios are the alphas and the smaller independent producers the betas. When Harvey pulled of that Runway stunt, his beta swiped a piece off of NBC alpha's deer carcass.

Do you know what an alpha wolf does to a beta wolf that pulls a stunt like that? The alpha pins down the beta, and pisses on the beta's head. It's essential to establish dominance in the pack.

In Harvey Weinstein's case, not only will NBC-Uni seek to re-establish their dominance, the other "alpha" players will get in on the act, to make sure that the incident doesn't inspire similar shenanigans. In order to preserve the movie business food chain, Harvey Weinstein is going to be on the receiving end of the business equivalent of a golden shower party.

And any man with a target that big on his back, will not be able to bully and get revenge, being too busy trying not to drown.

So, what sort of lessons can we glean from this whole brouhaha:

1. Act with integrity: While you might think you're being clever by backstabbing people, it's an illusion, an intoxicating illusion. If you get away with it for any length of time, you will get drunk on the illusion of your own cleverness, and you will do something stupid. Something like pissing off someone much bigger than you. And then you'll discover that you have no allies, because no one trusts you enough to watch their back to watch yours. Having your word as your bond, and being a person that honours their commitments, will save you a fortune in both litigation and frustration and make you a more appealing partner.

2. Be Diplomatic: I'm not saying that you should take shit from people, but a certain level of tact and people skills can take you a long way. Especially in a business where image is everything, and if you have the image of being someone who, while not a doormat, is not an exercise in frustration, you can get a lot more done with less hassle. Bullying people is a self-defeating strategy, because it requires a level of paranoia that no one can really maintain. You guard will stumble eventually, and that's when your past victims will pounce.

3. Remember That Like Attracts Like: You set the attitude of your company. A dysfunctional company will not only attract dysfunctional people, but turn normally functional people into dysfunctional wrecks as long as they're in your sphere of influence. A healthy, happy workplace, where pride in work and success takes precedence over fear and treachery, is more productive, and more profitable for everyone involved.

4. Remember, It's Business, Not War: While the strategies of Sun Tzu and Macchiavelli are helpful when dealing with hostile entities, you can't forget that you are in a business. The purpose of business is that everyone is supposed to walk away with what they want. That precious "double thank you" moment is what you are aiming for. It's not about grabbing your piece of the pie out of the mouth of the other, it's about getting the right ingredients together, and making a fresher, bigger pie with the filling of your choice. For you to win it is not essential that the other person much lose. With reasonable business people there is always a win/win option somewhere. It just takes a little imagination and work to find it.


  1. Domestic Total as of Sep. 29, 2008: $7,215,000 (Estimate)
    Production Budget: $500,000
    Hollywood Wonders Why 'Fireproof' Did So Well When Other Christian Pics Don't

    Sherwood Pictures

  2. Okay, while the film's success is worthy of discussion, and might just be a topic of a future post, it really doesn't have much to do with Harvey Weinstein, or the death of Paul Newman.

    You remember, the topic of this post.