Friday, 27 February 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #240: Hollywood's Real Drug Of Choice

According to Nikki Finke recently ousted NBC exec Teri Weinberg has a sweetheart golden parachute deal as a "producer" with NBC Universal, courtesy of her former boss Ben Silverman. To boil it down, she's getting to develop projects for NBC-Universal with financing and freedom that no other producer can get, even though she was fired for a mix of inexperience and incompetence. In fact, she seems to have this deal because she got fired for inexperience and incompetence.

Now I'm not going to bad mouth her, because I don't know her. She might be a good person at heart, and the reasons she was fired probably had more to do with covering for her boss than her own personal failings, but it does illustrate a problem with the way Hollywood is managed. When senior people screw up, costing millions of dollars in losses, they are supposed to get fired, except in Hollywood, executives are like herpes, you never truly get rid of them.

Instead of a get out and don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya, Hollywood's executives are instead reborn as "producers." They get sweetheart deals from their friends that cost even more millions of dollars, and the majority of the time, they accomplish very little except picking up the occasional starlet with a "I'm a producer" line.

Why does this happen?

Part of it is the fact that Hollywood is an Old Boys/Girls Club. When you're part of the clique in power, you are forever in that clique unless you commit some grievous, expulsion worthy crime, like getting convicted of murder, or caught voting Republican.

It doesn't matter if you cost the company millions, because the folks that run Hollywood are all high on the most addictive drug in La-La-Land.

No, I'm not going to join the gossips who accuse Silverman of being on some illicit chemical, what I'm talking about is different from anything like cocaine, heroin, or extasy, but is even more addictive and brain addling than all of them combined.

I'm talking about OPM.

No, not opium, OPM-- Other People's Money.

Spider-Man always said that with great power comes great responsibility. Obviously Spider-Man's never had to run a studio with investor's money and no possible way for those investors to either prevent or punish incompetence, corruption, or just plain bad luck. Studio/Network bosses have tremendous power, but no responsibility, no accountability, and even if they do get tossed as a sacrificial lamb, there's no harm done to them no matter how much was done to the company.

And remember that these are the same executives who can't make a decent contract deal with the unions, or even follow the ones they actually make, yet they can feather their own nests quite lavishly, no matter how many feathers they take from everybody else's.

Here's my advice: Shareholders, film investors, and the unions should join together, force these boondoggle contracts to be rewritten, make the companies more responsive, and maybe bring a little real capitalism to the movie business. Because it definitely needs it.

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