Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #439: A Question of Ego?

Welcome to the show folks...

My last post about the ongoing travails of the Weinstein Co. and its creditors sparked a question from a reader.
Nate said...D, I'm curious how it even gets to that point? While I'm sure I missed your fabulous explanation, just going by say... this post, it seems like the Wiesteins went from smart business to insanity. Were they replaced by pod people or what makes successful businesses just stop doing what works?
My short answer to that question was "Ego."

But here's my long answer.

One of the greatest threats to an movie mogul's career is

Don't go clicking away to Perez Hilton, I have a point to what seems like an inane little maxim.

You see when you are a movie mogul, and you have some hits early on, that success can cause a severe case of head inflation. This head inflation can cause you to say things like: "Of course I'm right, I'm rich!"

The problem is that the whole decision making process then gets twisted from being based on the betterment of the company to the betterment of the mogul's ego. They start making major mistakes, but cannot see that those mistakes are theirs and put the blame on the idiocies of others who were just following
their orders.

Now you are probably wondering how one can avoid this...

Well, legend says that in ancient Roman when a general was bestowed a triumphal parade, there was always a wizened old man sitting next to the man of the hour, periodically whispering in the fellow's ear: "Remember, all fame is fleeting."

A good mogul needs someone like that. Someone who can, discreetly if need be, tell the mogul that their idea is as nutty as a squirrel turd, and just as fragrant.

Also a good mogul cannot fear disagreement, in fact they should encourage it. You see any boss worth their salt hires people as smart, or smarter than they are. They also make those people feel that their contributions are valued, even if they're not used. There should be rules of civility in place when disagreements occur, not just to help people avoid saying things they shouldn't, but because it makes a person compose their arguments based on their merits, and not on how loudly they yell.

From just about every source I've ever seen, there is nothing like that at the Weinstein Co. or at their previous home at Miramax. Employees are terrified to disagree on mere trivialities, let alone anything major, and if they do poke up their heads to offer any alternative to the imperial fiats, reports say, it only serves to get those heads bitten off.

Now this bullying and melodramatic style could work for the short term, even a broken clock is right twice a day, but it's not going to work in the long term. It relies too much on being right all the time, and no human is right all the time (except me) and you need someone to let you know when you're about to drive off the cliff.

Also this management style makes a lot of enemies, and relationships that could have been profitable, end prematurely with a lot of bad blood and vitriol.

This is true for any business, but it's exponentially more troublesome in the movie biz where those who enjoy early success are kissed so hard on the ass, it rattles the brain. Also the glamor that a mogul gets from early success, tends to linger on as their "track record." This buys them a lot of forgiveness for future fumbles. I mean Jeff Zucker's still crowing about having the surviving members of KC & The Sunshine Band play on the street outside of the Today Show studio. Sure he's destroyed everything else the network has, but by golly look at that crowd doing the wave.

So you end up where TWC is now, bordering on a full flat-line, with more enemies than friends, and creditors having to take a lot of crap to see some sort of return on their investment.

I hope that answers your question.


  1. Oh largely (after reading it I started to remember your more ancient utterings master), but I'm also partially interested in the Weinstein specifically. Does anyone besides Xenu know why they just buy movies to sit on them?

    This is true for any business, but it's exponentially more troublesome in the movie biz where those who enjoy early success are kissed so hard on the ass, it rattles the brain.

    I could swear there's a joke about Thai prostitutes in there somewhere.

    p.s. I should clarify that I am your frequent fan, Nate Winchester. Still smoothing out my google profile.

  2. Sitting on movies is by most reports an accounting trick. When they buy a film they can claim it as an asset for the amount that they paid for it.

    But if they release the film, the movie's status as an asset changes to what it makes at the box office in relationship to what they paid for it.

    Since they have a lot of jokers in their deck, TWC is alleged to prefer sitting on the films rather than running the risk of losing money on a release.

    The whole thing is a logical fallacy, because if an asset isn't put to some work, to me it's just money spent. But much of the world of accounting is a mystery to mere mortals like me.

  3. Good morning Professor:

    My best friend lives in Los Angeles, as does my sister's brother in-law. What did you want to know about the geography?

  4. Ironically, I was talking with a friend recently who is planning on going back to school for an accounting degree (computers are not working out as well for him). I asked (partially in jest) that "why do you have to go to college for that? you know basic math". Laughing some as well, he didn't really have an answer except for "well it is more complicated than that."

    Hmmm.... D, get out your detective cap, I think we have a clue to this mystery...

  5. Slcard: My best friend lives in Los Angeles, as does my sister's brother in-law. What did you want to know about the geography?

    I'm working on a science fiction project that involves people going in and out and around the Los Angeles area, and I need some idea of the layout of the city so I can extrapolate the conditions of LA circa 2068-2070 from there. So I'm looking for recommendations of books or websites that have that kind of info.

    And Nate-- Blame the US tax code. It's designed to create confusion rather than collect revenue.

  6. Okay, Professor. I'm on it.

  7. Have you played with Google Earth at all? 3D terrain mapping and a lot of the buildings in major cities are rendered in 3D as well.

    I ignored Google Earth for a long time, assuming it was just a variation of Google Maps. Well, it is and it isn't. It uses the same sat imagery but the 3D really makes things interesting. Plus you can zoom in as close as you like even if you're looking at a location that doesn't have the high-res imagery. It'll get blurry, but at least you don't get the error that google maps throws up if you get zoom closer than they want you to. The navigation is a lot smoother as well. You can twist and turn the map around to look at it from about any angle you can imagine.

    I waste a lot of time "exploring" cities that I'll never get the opportunity to see in person. It's also fun to explore places like the Himalayas and the Rocky Mountains.

  8. I thought Google Maps & Google Earth were all the same too!

    I'll give it a shot.

  9. Hi guys,

    As to Google Earth: it is amazing. I can zoom in on my house. The image is a few years old, but there it is.

    I've a note off to my friend in LA, D, but she keeps a rather busy schedule so it may take awhile to hear back. In the mean time I thought this link might be helpful:


  10. Irony of ironies, I just stumbled upon La Almanac literally just a little over an hour ago.

    Coincidence...or conspiracy!

    And don't pester your friends on my behalf. All I need is some general layout info about neighbourhoods and such, which I should be able to find on my own. But thanks for offering.

  11. Great minds, my friend. Great minds....