Thursday, 14 October 2010

Hollywood Babble On & On #613: Cuts & Labels

Welcome to the show folks....


The venerable British Broadcasting Corporation has begun cutting 16% of their Drama Department. That means 22 out of the Drama Department 140 member staff are getting their pink slips. Now while I don't like to see people lose their jobs, I have to agree with many of Britain's independent producers that it's long overdue.

There was a time when the BBC needed such a large drama department because they literally were the only network providing dramatic entertainment for the whole country. However, that time ended over 40 years ago.

During those 4 decades it went from being the only game in town, to one of several games, but with the mindset that it was still the glorious state fueled monopoly it once was. They made gestures to being more welcoming to independent drama producers with a new "sharing" system. Under this system the in-house producer clique got 50% of the time-slots and resources available, 25% went to independent producers, and both the in house club, and the outsiders got to fight for the remaining scraps.

Anyway, the in house production staffs got really big and bloated. Where a private company would have 3 or 4 people on any given team set on any given task, the BBC equivalent would have 10-20 people.

That's the nature of bureaucracies. Those who get control of any taxpayer financed operation seeks to increase their budgets, and their power by expanding and inflating their personal fiefdom beyond any legitimate operational reason. With too many people doing nothing but justifying their immediate supervisor's existence/salary, things tend to get ossified, hard to navigate, and next to impossible to properly manage. You have producers, operating on full salary, who don't actually produce anything. A public broadcaster is supposed to be a vital alternative, not a retirement home for the British equivalent of ward heelers doing 'no-show' jobs.

In an age of media consolidation, one of the things that a public broadcaster can do is be an open door to independent producers with fresh blood and fresh ideas and give them the means and methods to grow and develop so they can eventually challenge the big boys in the open market. Massive in house production bureaucracies that sound wonderful in theory to bureaucrats are counter-productive in reality.


The Producers Guild of America want to stick their initials (PGA) next to the names in the "Produced by" credits, the way the American Society of Cinematographers (ASC) does with Directors of Photography.

Now you're probably wondering why they want to do this.

The answer is simple: Too many people call themselves producers these days.

You see we all know the definitions of the other jobs, they are very specific. The writer writes the screenplay, the director makes the film, but the producer is the person who gets the film made.

There are many ways to contribute to getting a film made, and not all of them are created equal. They range from putting together the financing, organizing the hiring, firing, and development of the production, to just investing in the movie in question, those are what I call 'productive' producers. However the title can also be bestowed upon the future son-in-law of a studio vice president so he can tell the folks at the country club that his daughter didn't marry a barista from a failed all-vegan fair trade coffee shop in Santa Monica.

I'm not completely kidding here, the title of producer has gone to teenage children, wives, ex-wives, mistresses, and bookies.

Now the PGA knows that it can't completely expel the 'non-productive' producers. Sure they are dead weight, and you have to share your Best Picture Oscars with them, but the studios treat them as the necessary grease for the gears of Hollywood. The PGA label will hopefully show who is a productive producer, who meets the membership standards of the guild, and who just got the title because their daddy was owed money by someone at the studio.

1 comment:

  1. Lets hope they consider whether they really need to continue with miserable shows like EastEnders then!!