Friday, 17 October 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #182: Perry's WGA Reunion

According to the always effervescent Nikki Finke, indie movie mogul Tyler Perry has settled his dispute with the Writers Guild of America. The writers he fired for wanting residuals will be reinstated, and be henceforth working under WGA protection.

Now some are saying that all the unpleasantness will be over, and that it will be all sunshine and unicorns at Perry's media kingdom in Atlanta, but I think this is just the beginning, and how Perry's really screwed himself worst of all. While I've talked about this before, I think it is appropriate to reiterate those points because it's a perfect illustration on how Perry came close to running what I call a New Independent film company, but will most likely blow it through a mix of greed and ego.

1. THE WRITERS WILL NOT BE PLAYING THEIR A-GAME ANYMORE: And since I tried watching some of an episode of House of Payne, and found the part I could bear to watch to be a hackneyed retread of old 80s family sitcom tropes and jokes, their B-Game doesn't bode well for Perry's next series project Meet The Browns. Writers are the key to TV success, they are the ones that keep things moving week after week, episode after episode, and to ensure that they're going to be doing their best work, the kind of work that gives a show longevity in reruns, they have to feel that they have a long term investment in the success of the show. If they are just there for a paycheck, and are assuming that they will be screwed over in the long run, they're going to do as little as possible, and nothing more.

2. THE UNIONS WILL BE WATCHING PERRY LIKE A HAWK: The days when Perry could put together a deal outside of the interference of unions are over. From now on he will have to do everything under their watchful eyes, and they will not let anything, no matter how minor, slide. It doesn't matter that they have a settlement now, they will not forget his time on their shit list. If Perry so much as farts in the direction of a writer, he'll be getting the stink. As I said before, if he didn't want unions to get involved, he shouldn't have given them a reason to get involved.

3. PERRY'S PRODUCTIONS WON'T BE AS INEXPENSIVE ANYMORE: One of the keys to keeping costs down is a sense among the people working that when the time of profits come, they will get their fair share. Soon everyone will want everything up front, and with contracts signed, sealed, and delivered by a legion of expensive lawyers. The involvement of lawyers makes everything cost more and more, and once that ball gets rolling, it's next to impossible to stop. His profit margins are going to shrink, and potentially disappear.

4. PERRY TAINTED HIS OWN BRAND: When Tyler Perry first emerged as a major movie player, he looked like he was going to do things different than those who came before him, and carve himself a new niche in the industry. His family-based melodramas and comedies targeted a previously ignored segment of the audience, they were efficiently made, and sharply marketed. However, his brand was based on a certain facade of moral righteousness, a moral righteousness now tainted with petty greed and inflated ego. He went from being a Hollywood outsider, in both style and attitude, but then he turned into Harvey Weinstein, and we all see how that's working for Harvey. While the general public may not be necessarily interested in such business shenanigans, it will have an effect, subtle at first, and that all important emotional connection will be lost.

5. PERRY BLEW HIS CHANCE TO EXPAND BEYOND HIS OWN BRAND: Perry is at very important stage in his career. His personal brand, which marks everything he does, is probably at its peak, but as Perry should know, whatever goes up, must come down. It's the essential law of show-biz gravity. Perry should be taking the resources and cachet earned from his success and using it to recruit other creators into his fold, teaching them his methods, philosophy, and building important relationships. Then he can expand beyond being just Tyler Perry, to Tyler Perry and Company, and be prepared for that day when just being Tyler Perry doesn't sell as well anymore. But who is going to sign on with him now that he's ruined his own reputation and forcing himself into an adversarial relationship with large segments of the entertainment industry.

I'm predicting the Perry's empire will either implode, or be absorbed by a larger company, looking get their hands on his library within the next five years. And it's a shame, yet another opportunity to reform Hollywood, blown.


  1. Aside from the silly 'Elect me to become the head of your Mega Corp' shtick that pops up every once and then. Your insight into the machinations of hollyweird are always enlightening.

    Have you ever thought to put all this down and get it published? I believe that tome will further your reach into the minds of America and make you a tidy bit of green for it. Despite my penny pinching days around me, I'd squirrel away a bit here and there to buy it. I'll be your first purchaser!

  2. I've thought about it, and I might put a collection of my ideas for bringing common sense to the world's most nonsensical industry, but I think I'll need a bigger, or at least influential audience, to get a publisher interested.

  3. Should you do a book about your views on Hollywoodland I would review it in English and French for my humble but solid number of visitors.