Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Hollywood Babble On & On #199: Moguls, The Gift The Keeps On Giving...

The folks who run the major studios continue to amaze me. Every time I think they can't make themselves look any greedier, or more incompetent, they find a new low to sink to.

The latest instalment in the ongoing shenanigans that keep this blog going (ht-Nikki Finke) is that the AMPTP has confessed that they have been negligent in living up to their side of their contract with the Writers Guild by not paying the residuals for on-line sales. Now while the non-payment is old news, and about as predictable as the tides, the real sinker is their reason why...

The say it is
too complicated for them to pay their bills.

Is it just me, or does it sound like an arsonist complaining that it's too hot in the building
he just set on fire.

These are the people who can waste twelve legal sized pages in a contract to determine the number of breakfast bagels an actor can get from the craft service table during a shoot, and they're complaining about something being too complicated!

I'm not sure if the correct description is chutzpah or bullshit.

This is the natural result of Hollywood's self-fulfilling idiocy.

If you're a new reader, a self-fulfilling idiocy is like a self-fulfilling prophecy, except it's about doing something that someone thinks is a solution that can only make things worse, and obviously so.

For decades the studios have been able to screw just about everyone from screenwriters to shareholders by using a "bullshit baffles brains" strategy when it came it writing contracts. If they could make the contract so convoluted, complicated, and constipated, then they could get away with anything they want. It would all be legal, because paragraph 69, of subsection 44 of clause 89, says it's legal, perhaps, it's sort of vague, and there's no point in fighting it, because you'll go bankrupt from legal fees before the studios do.

Now the studios think they're clever by doing this, but that's only because they can't work up the effort to ask themselves exactly what they're accomplishing. Sure, they're avoiding paying their bills, but where exactly does that money seem to go?

It's certainly not going to shareholders, major media companies are black holes when it comes to stock value, and that goes far beyond the market's current problems.

It's not saving money, production, distribution, and marketing costs all have inflationary levels similar to Weimar Germany. Which everyone expecting a financial fisting, they're demanding bigger and bigger money up front, which will essentially price the studios out of business.

In fact, the only real winners in this issue are the law and accounting firms who rake in millions in fees every year composing these contracts, trying to find ways out of them, and bankrupting anyone who challenges them in court.

So maybe the moguls should remember the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. It'll probably save them millions in the future.

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