Monday, 6 October 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #177: The Pickets Are Flying

The Writers Guild of America (West) is picketing Tyler Perry's studio complex outside Atlanta, and the folks who write and produce pretty much every other show made in America even wrote him a "shame on you" letter about his treatment of the writers in question because he happens to be the only TV producer who is fighting the WGA's minimum basic agreement.

As I've said before I think this was a bad
business decision that appears to be tainted by the most dangerous combo in any business, but common in the movie biz, greed & ego. It looks like Perry has let his success go to his head, causing him to believe that not only did he do it all himself, without the contribution of others, but that he is the only person with any right to profit from the project.

I'm going to make a prediction here, and I'm going to say that Perry's days as an independent powerhouse are numbered. His company will, within 5 years, most likely either fold, and/or be bought up by one of the major studios, and he'll join the ranks of other independent and mini-major producers who came and went, never to be seen on screen again. The sort of shenanigans with these writers are just a symptom of problems that go farther, and deeper, than what people are talking about, and usually marks the beginning of the end.

One day you're on top, the next, you're wondering why no one will work with you, and why no one comes to parties at your mansion anymore.

Now that won't happen right away, but it's as inevitable as the tides, and the fact that it's a slow process is keeping Perry from seeing it. You see, right now he's on a hot streak, his films and TV shows are cheap to produce, he owns 100% of them, and their profit margins are the sort of things that make major studio bosses drool all over their Armani lapels.

However, Perry seems to have forgotten one unquestionable truths about hot streaks.

Hot streaks always end.

Right now, when he's hitting his peak of power and profitability, Perry should be fostering the sort of relationships with other writers and filmmakers to take his company beyond his personal brand. You see right now having Tyler Perry's... on every title sells tickets, but that's not a guarantee that it still will put ducats in the piggy bank a year from now. Audiences can be fickle, extremely fickle, and the second they find you annoying rather than endearing, you are out on your ear.

Which is why any filmmaker and producer who enjoys a hot streak, has to bank away not only financial capital, but inter-personal capital. Which means actively seeking out fresh talent, to not only pass the torch to when tastes change, but also to keep money coming in. It's also a solid business decision, because when people trust and respect you, because you trust and respect them, things don't cost as much.

However, getting on the shit list of a major industry union may save pennies, but in the long run it's going to cost you pounds. (I'm talking pounds as in currency, not weight) Because once you're on the shit list, folks aren't going to work for the lower up-front fees the way they used to. Costs are going to go up, slowly at first, but they will, they always do.

And the unions are going to casting their eyes askance in your direction, leaving you unable to fart without having a grievance filed against you. Because there's a hard and fast rule when it comes to dealing with showbiz unions, IF YOU DON'T WANT UNIONS INVOLVED, DON'T GIVE THEM A REASON TO GO AFTER YOU. If no one is complaining to bring in a union, then the union cannot legally get involved, especially in a work to rule state like Georgia. And while the WGA, SAG, and the other unions cannot legally compel Perry to go union, they can make it very unpleasant, and expensive to do business, especially when he doesn't sign on.

And with costs going up, it'll become harder and harder for Perry to maintain his independence, because no one can just ignore these sorts of problems unless they're part of a major corporate conglomerate, which Perry's company isn't, yet.

And the irony of it all will be, that probably making a reasonable residual deal with those writers would have saved Perry a lot more money and hassle than what he's going to get. Now you know why I call most of Hollywood's business practises a self-fulfilling idiocy.

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