Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #844: Good Idea / Bad Idea

Today I'm going to take a minute to talk about what I think is a good idea, and what I think is a bad idea.


TNT, or Turner Network Television, a cable facet of the Time-Warner empire is ordering a movie based on Patricia Cornwell's novel Hornet's Nest.  But that's not the good idea I'm talking about, just part of it. The overall good idea is that TNT is expanding their weekly mystery movie features based on popular book series.  

I think it's a good idea, because if these TV movies are done right, it can be a win-win-win for the channel, the publishers, and the writers.

Here's how...

THE CHANNEL:  Mystery novels and thrillers are a lot cheaper to produce than special effects heavy comic book movies, and they don't need big stars to sell them, because they have a built in audience among the fans of the original books, and all they ask is that the movies be well done and relatively faithful to the books they love.  If they are, then you'll have positive word of mouth to spread beyond the core fans to others who can tune in.

THE PUBLISHERS: First there's the money, they get a piece of the fees paid for the movie rights, but it goes beyond just that.  A popular and well done series of TV movies based on a book series they publish can attract new readers and boost sales.  It also makes the publisher's "mid-list" titles look more attractive, because the network's going to run out of books by the major sellers to adapt, and will have air-time they need to fill.  If the adaptations have a good reputation with audiences, they will give those mid-list authors a chance, and thus create potential new readers and sales.

THE WRITERS:  First, like the publishers, there's the money.  While not as generous as a big money movie deal for a monster Harry Potter level best-seller, it's still better than nothing.  Plus, when the network a series of TV movies, and needs to keep fresh content coming to maintain ratings, the odds of it actually being made, and producing royalties grows exponentially.  That's because in TV they don't spend 2-10 years debating first if they're going to adapt a novel they bought an option, then waste more time on how they're going to adapt it.  The development time in TV is a lot shorter than in feature films, and with it, the odds of it being butchered into something almost completely unrecognizable go way down.

And that's if you make the sale in the first place, the major studios are aiming more and more towards youth oriented blockbusters, and not of crime thrillers unless the project already has a big star attached.

And let's not forget the other opportunities this can offer authors interested in screenwriting. They can work on adapting their own books, adapt the works of others, or write original scripts. It's all about speed, cost, and convenience when you're making television, and an author who can present all three can do pretty well.

So let's hope that this all works out, and that it pleases the audience, because without them, there really isn't any point.

Personally, I'd like to see the idea spread to other genres, like horror, fantasy, and science fiction.  I'm sure there are lots of works out there that can be adapted for television in a way that can work for all parties involved.


NBC is committing even more to the reboot of the 1960s sitcom The Munsters.  They have Bryan Fuller, the creator of Pushing Daisies adapting the show into a one hour drama, and have brought in another Bryan, X-Men director Bryan Singer, to direct the pilot and produce the show.

Now I know that I'm being cynical, jaded, and a smug know it all bastard, but I just can't see this becoming anything more than a boondoggle.  Yes, Fuller did Pushing Daisies, a show that blended darkness and whimsy, but I found it a tad too precious and wrapped up in its creator's own cleverness. And let's not forget that those who loved the show were neither numerous enough, or loud enough to get it past its second season where it went from the middle of the pack, ratings wise, to pretty close to the bottom.

Then there's the source material.

It was shit.

A bad sitcom, created as an excuse for MCA/Universal to market new versions of their old movie monsters that ran for two seasons before before it was finally cancelled.  The only reason it's even being considered is the fact that NBC/Universal already owns it, and baby boomer nostalgia.

I just don't see it having the sort of Battlestar Galactica style revival that Universal wants.  At least BSG had lots of dramatic possibilities that went beyond the original show.   

The Munsters looks to me like it's going to have a really eye-popping pilot, followed by episodes loaded with forced whimsy that the audience will find extremely grating after a while. The network, in an attempt to recoup the millions spent on it, will try to keep it going hoping that it will eventually catch on.  It will end with the network finally declaring surrender in the second season and pulling the plug.

I'd have preferred seeing the people and the resources involved put to work on something original and different.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #843: Dear Billionaires


Dear Billionaires.

I recently read how one of your brethren, a chap named Ron Burkle loaned $200 million to Relativity Media's gadfly in chief Ryan Kavanaugh so he could start releasing movies again. Something that Relativity needed badly because Kavanaugh drove away his other big investor, Elliot Associates' Beverly 2 investment fund.

Now that news got me thinking.

Why can't I have some of that sugar?

Sure, at first glance it looks like a really stupid idea.  I'm as far from being a Hollywood insider as you can get and still be part of the same continent. However, if you look at it from another angle, it's a strangely brilliant idea!

Dealings with the major studios are a pain in the ass, and far too many of them wind up in court.  Also dealing with independent producers who are "movie business insiders" are rife with traps of their own, and usually wind up enriching the lawyers more than the investors.

If you look at it that way, putting your movie investment money with a complete unknown quantity like me doesn't really sound so crazy after all.

Let's face it, you tried the so-called best, it's time to try the rest.

Here's what I will do with your money:

1. I will not waste money on myself.  I don't like boats, and I'm a terrible driver, so you won't have to worry about me wasting your investment money on big yachts and fast cars. As for loose women, they will handled out of my salary, which will be indexed to the performance of the films I make.

2. If the money being spent does not impact what's going up on screens, it will not be spent.

3. I won't hire stars for more than their actual worth to the project.

4. I will pursue every avenue that could help our films make a profit, whether it's the increasingly lucrative VOD, or internet related opportunities.

5. I won't deliberately piss off partners and investors.  No one is asking to be anyone's friend, but there's no point or profit in making enemies, enough people will do that all on their own without my help.

6. I will keep all business practices simple and straightforward. The sort of funny accounting that dominates Hollywood makes my eyes bleed and can lead to all sorts of trouble that I don't care for.

7. If a profits are made, profit shares will be paid.  Naturally investors get first crack.

8. I will not invest your money in movies unless there is an audience out there for them, and even then, I will invest in direct correlation with the size of that potential audience. 

Now I'm not going to ask that every billionaire who reads this post give me $200 million. I have a very reasonable scale for billionaires of all sizes to participate.

If you're net worth is $1 billion to $1.49 billion, then all I'm asking for is $50 million from you.  If you're worth is $1.5 billion to to $2 billion, then let's make it an even $100 million, and the richer you are, the bigger the investment, and the bigger the share.

I'm keeping individual investments size in proportion to the wealth of the investor, because I'm not going to lie to you, movies are inherently risky.  You could have all the best people, the best script, and the best marketing campaign, and still wind up losing money.  So I will only ask that you risk what you can easily afford to lose.
I promise I won't let your money go to my head.

But enough about that, let's look at another up-side to this plan.


Face facts, billionaires like you have been getting a bad rap lately. You got protesters pooping outside your office, the politicians you bought and paid for are blaming you for everything, and the movies are always casting you as the bad guys.

Well, how can anyone dislike people who risk tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars of their own money to make some complete unknown guy's dream come true, and make some movies that people might actually want to see.  Hell, I'll even make a few with a billionaire hero in it if you want.  Can't let Iron Man be the only one, eh?

So come on down and give me your money. I prefer small, unmarked, bills and you can drop them off at my place.


Furious D

Monday, 28 November 2011

Cinemaniacal: Ken Russell Is Dead Is Edgy Dead Too?

British director, photographer, writer, and occasional actor Ken Russell passed away at the age of 84.  But I'm not going to offer an obituary for him, there are professionals doing that.  What I am going to talk about are his films, and what they meant to me.

Now Russell's oeuvre cast a wide net, but were best known for their then daring explorations of madness, sexuality, and spirituality. 

Many of his films were the definition of edgy, tackling controversial subjects in bold new ways.

They were also wildly uneven.  Some were cleverly constructed films that challenged the narrative conventions and mores of his times. Others went past simple surrealism into the realm of the incoherent mess.

However, I never got the sense that they were unnecessary.  

I'm not an expert on Russell or his work, but I do remember getting a sense that for the times they were made, they were needed, they were necessary, even if only to shake things up, to make people go: "You know, his direction may not be for me, but it's made me think of finding my own direction to make things fresh and new again."

I don't really get that from the so-called "edgy" filmmakers that followed him.  Challenging an audience the way Russell did has been replaced with insulting the audience by rehashing some of the things Russell did, but with a heavy layer of elitist condescension.

Russell's "edgy" work always seemed to be looking for something that lay beyond the films' obvious style and subject matter. Today's so-called "edgy" artists don't strike me as looking for anything beyond cheap attention, and pats on the back from their circle of peers for their "courage" in "speaking truth to power" against those who can't and won't do any harm to them in the first place beyond simply ignoring them.

Essentially, it just all seems so unnecessary to me.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Cinemaniacal: FAQ Over The New Q?

After an absence of two movies the word is out that Q is making a comeback to the James Bond franchise, and a lot of the kerfuffle is over that 31 year old actor Ben Whishaw is taking over the role.

As with any and all Bond related casting news the world was loaded with speculation, consternation, and condemnation. Folks were griping that he was too young, that his haircut was too douchey, and other random snipes.

While I agree that the haircut in the picture of him that pops up the most is pretty douchey, that can be fixed with a pair of scissors and a comb.

As for the main issue, his relative youth, let's ask the ghost of Desmond Llewellyn who dominated the role for most of the Bond series what he thinks of a younger Q:
Good point ghost of Desmond Llewellyn.  So let's take a moment to look at the nature of the character.  Like so many things about the Bond franchise it starts with a grain of truth.
Geoffrey Boothroyd

Q's origins belong in a letter Ian Fleming got before Bond movie series began. The letter was from a Scotsman named Geoffrey Boothroyd who was a firearms expert who wrote several books of his own on the subject.  

He enjoyed Fleming's first Bond novels, but didn't care for Bond's use of a .25 caliber Beretta automatic pistol*.  He considered it too weak and too unreliable for Bond's active lifestyle and recommended that Bond use the equally compact, but more lethal and robust Walther PPK.  Fleming not only followed his advice, giving Bond his signature gun, but added a character of "Major Boothroyd" from the MI6 armory to give him his new sidearm.

In the movies things got a little more complicated, they cast one actor in Dr. No to play the movie's Boothroyd, but he wasn't available for the second appearance, in From Russia With Love, and was replaced by Llewellyn.  He wasn't referred to as Boothroyd or "Q" in this film, because they were uncertain if they were going to make him a new character or not, and was simply called the man from "Q" or "Quartermaster" Branch.

Llewellyn's "Q" character evolved more in Goldfinger, where Guy Hamilton cemented the character's relationship with Bond by directing him to act like a schoolmaster dealing with the naughty schoolboy who plays too rough with the toys. That was the foundation of the role which grew and evolved over the years, to an almost kindly uncle to ageless Bonds.

John Cleese stepped into the role as a new head of Q Branch following Llewellyn's retirement.  He was a very different character, and had less than a fraction of the time Llewellyn had in the role.

Okay, that's a bit of the history of the character over the years, now let's look at how the image of him in popular was created, and how casting a younger actor can still fit the character.

You see Q's origin was from the concept of "the boffin."

Boffin was British army slang for anyone who works in a highly technical and/or arcane field of expertise.  Legend say it originated just before WW2 and comes from Boffin's Restaurant in East Anglia where scientists working on radar would congregate.  It spread quickly through the lexicon and became part of British parlance like using "steak and kidney pie" as a euphemism for botulism.

Now the term boffin had an image associated with it.  It was of a balding middle-aged or older man, in a rumpled tweed jacket and tie, toiling away in a lab studying or inventing obscure scientific minutiae who doesn't care to be interrupted, or his inventions meddled with.

Does that sound familiar?

Sounds a lot like the image of the original Q.

However things have changed.

Nowadays when we think of someone on the cutting edge of technology we think of young men in the their 20s-30s, poorly dressed, socially awkward, whose only distraction from their work are their little pet obsessions and hobbies.

That sounds a lot like the direction they're going with the new Q.

So I'm willing to give young Mr. Whishaw a chance, because there's the same grain of truth in him getting the role that Llewellyn had when he started, even if that truth is built around the film's makers using a social preconception. 

Now let's see how Mr. Whishaw is preparing for the role:
Hmmm.... needs some tweaking....


*If that had happened today, Boothroyd would probably have done it on a fan forum in an instance of constructive trolling.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #842: Sexy Dames & Plenty Of Them!

(President & CEO of Casting Couch Productions of Chatsworth CA.)

Yo there, everybody, it's Thanksgiving, that special time of year when Yolanda, my significant other du jour, and I break out some turkey loaf and a fresh box of wine and have ourselves a real holiday feast.

And despite being Canadian, a pack of weirdos who had their Thanksgiving a month ago, Furious D, the guy who regularly runs this blog is taking the day off.  So I "borrowed" his blogger password to make sure you good folks didn't go a night without something to read.

My name's Al Manatee, I'm an award winning movie producer* but you can all call me Duke.  Especially all you lovely ladies out their.... you are out there, right?

Anyway, speaking of the lovely ladies, the dames, the twists, the gals, the broads, the chicks, and the honeys, it seems that some folks at the University of Southern California** have put their thinking caps on and have figured out that Hollywood over-sexualizes women.

Okay, I think we can file that little tidbit under "Well D'uh!"

Of course Hollywood sexualizes women, but it ain't only because "sex sells." I ain't denying that sex sells, it's helping pay for my sweet one bedroom apartment, but I am saying that the constant sexualizing of women by Hollywood has its good parts, and no, I'm not talking about body parts, though some of them are pretty good.

I'm talking about inspiration.

Hollywood's use of women as sex objects provides vital inspiration to the people of the world, both men and women.

They inspire men to become rich and powerful athletes, movie stars, world leaders, and businessmen so they can have a chance with hotties like that.  

They also inspire women to develop the right combination of eating disorders, plastic surgery, and self-esteem issues to become the over-sexualized object of male fantasy that Hollywood, and mankind in general, wants them to be.  You think America's got an obesity problem now, just think of how many fatties there'd be rolling around the country without Hollywood giving them near impossible ideal bodies to live up to.  

You wouldn't be able to walk a foot without stepping on some fat bastard's extra chin! 

If you ask me, and if you're reading this, you are, the whole thing has more positives than Wade Davis' taking a drug test.

Of course, the smarty-pants at USC refuse to see the good side of this issue have their smarty-panties in a twist and are placing the blame on their not being enough chicks behind the camera.

Putting more chicks behind the camera can only start trouble. If they're behind they camera there's the deadly combo of not having to worry about their appearance, and nothing between them and the snacks on the craft-services table. That's a recipe for frikkin' disaster people!

Anyway, in contusion, as the smart folks say, I don't think there's anything wrong with the way things are now.  In fact, if I had my way, there would be a lot more sexualizing going on, if you know what I mean, BOO-YAH!
Anyway, I gotta go, Furious D is getting suspicious...


* Casting Couch productions first and only film release to date Yolanda's Big Bad Bikini Bust-Out was winner of the Special Honorable Mention for Audacity*** at the 2008 Newark Municipal Film Festival.

** USC had some fine honeys roaming the campus the last time I visited in 1999. I don't know how things are now, because I'm sort of banned for life from there, and every other campus in the state of California.

*** The Special Honorable Mention For Audacity came in the form of a court order barring the company from participating in any future film festival.  Anywhere in the USA, in perpetuity.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #841: Sometimes Being Clever Is Being Really Stupid

A short while back a trailer was released for the Relativity Production Mirror, Mirror, directed by Tarsem Singh.  Here's the trailer....

Now some sites that posted it got flooded with all kinds of comments about how cool it looked, and how they were going to see, and that everyone else should see it to.

Well, it seems that exuberance might be fake, because some intrepid internet investigators have found evidence that the comments are coming.... FROM INSIDE THE HOUSE!

Oh, sorry, it was the creepy phone calls that were coming from inside the house, some of the fulsome comments were coming from the same IP address.

Now some are accusing the movie producer's marketing department for the questionable commentary, and if that turns out to be true, then someone was being stupid by thinking they were being clever. 

Here's how it works. Someone working to pimp the film tells an intern to go visit sites showing the trailer and post comments saying how wonderful the trailer and the film are. They think this will create a cascade of positive buzz for the film, make it a blockbuster hit, and then everyone will say that the executive who came up with the idea was really smart.
Here's where the stupid comes in. The semi-farcical trailer doesn't really strike most people seeing at as particularly deserving of such exuberant praise.  This makes people suspicious.

Suspicious people snoop, and when it comes to stuff done on the internet, trails are left behind.  Snooping people who know how to follow those trails will then promptly expose this bogus comment stunt.

That makes the film look really sad and desperate than the trailer already does, and creates negative buzz that can grow and hurt the film when it's released.

A really clever person would have seen these traps, and figured out another way to market the movie that wouldn't make the film look particularly sad and desperate.  But someone who thinks they're more clever than they actually are would easily blunder into turning their ad campaign into a boondoggle.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #840: Cashing In, Selling Out, Screwing Up?

Bill Condon, the director of such award winning and critically acclaimed films as Gods & Monsters, Chicago, and Dreamgirls, just had probably the biggest opening weekend of his career with part 1 of Breaking Dawn, the extended conclusion to the often critically maligned Twilight saga.

Now some have criticized Mr. Condon for taking a dip into the world of vampires that sparkle and angst-riddled moony girls who always seem to look like they've just took a rip off the bong. Some people have even used the phrase "selling out," in their criticisms.

I won't do that.

I don't think he's selling out by doing the film, I think he's cashing in.

True there are better ways to cash in, but this strategy does have a "beggars can't be choosers" quality when it comes to getting hooked up with a franchise that a guaranteed money maker.

But I think I should explain the difference between cashing in and selling out.

It's all about motives.

I get the sense from Bill Condon is that his motives behind doing the film, despite my teasing in the picture to the left is using the project to create security.  And I'm not just talking about the financial security that comes from a nice fat paycheck. 

Condon's commercial track record is pretty good, his films don't cost too much, and for the most part have made money. However, having a blockbuster franchise pic, or two under his belt, makes his record great.

This gives him a form of insurance for his future projects. Studios will give him more leeway, and trust for his next project, because he's made such a monster hit.

He's basically using his talent and reputation to create a secure base for the rest of his career, and hopefully be able to enjoy greater creative freedom. That's what I call "Cashing In."

So what constitutes "Selling Out?"

Well, that's fairly simple, and again it boils down to motives.

A filmmaker who is "selling out" does not care to use commercial success to create the security their career needs to pursue creative opportunities in the future. Commercial success is not a means to an end, but an end in itself, creativity be damned.

Ironically, selling out usually decays a filmmaker's commercial appeal, as they waste all their energy chasing trends, and things that have succeeded for others in the past, instead of creating the new and novel ideas that audiences need to see, even if they don't know they need it.

Now could Condon have done better than the Twilight saga?

Possibly, but the next Bond movie was already taken, and Christopher Nolan has Batman all sewn up, so like I said earlier, beggars can't necessarily be choosers.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Who Does What? #6: The Editor

Film editors are among the more unsung heroes of the film business. The job is not glamorous, the odds of traveling to exotic locations, doing red carpet strolls, and having hot young starlets willing to have sex with you are pretty slim when you're an editor. 

Early moviola editing machine.
Directors get attention as "auteurs" and for their "vision," cinematographers get kudos for making people and places look good, and even writers get the occasional pat on the back when they're particularly clever.

Editors though, work mostly unknown to the outside world, in cramped little offices doing some of the most important drudge work in the movie business.

That drudge work is to take all the footage shot by the director, and put it together in a way that the film makes sense.

You see, shooting a film, taking out the reel or videotape out of the camera and sending it directly to the theaters as some sort of finished product will probably get you laughed at.  To make a professional quality narrative film pretty much requires things be shot out of sequence for sheer practicality. All the scenes shot at one setting have to be done together if you can, then shoot all the scenes done at key locations, and even then you have multiple takes of every shot, etc... etc...

Once shooting is done you literally have a mess of what used to be film, but now digital data, that has to be sorted, put together, and then trimmed, adjusted, and just plain fiddled with to create a coherent and entertaining film.

Back in the wonderful pre-digital age, of which my film school education caught the tail end, you actually had to review the film on either a moviola or Steenbeck style editing machine.  Then you had to physically cut the film with a razor shop cutting device, and then tape or glue the film of the shots you want to keep together to create a first cut of the film.

The first cut is not a finished film.  It's just a beginning of the post-production process.  The work print is a base to begin working from.  It's then reviewed by the interested parties, the director, producer, studio executives, and the executive's aromatherapist, to see what changes will be made from that.

There will be changes, that's inevitable. The editing process is not considered finished until the person who is contractually blessed with the power of "final cut" decides that it's finished.

Eventually, sound effects, special effects, titles, and all the other elements are put together to create something called "the work-print."

But even then you are not finished.

In the pre-digital days the reels of work-prints are then taken to the film lab where the "negative cutters" take the original film negatives of all the elements of the film, and puts them together.  This edited version of the negative is then used as a master, creating prints to be released into theaters.

Nowadays things are much simpler for the editor.  They no longer have to wrestle with strips of fragile film and constantly jamming equipment.  Everything is now digitized, and computerized, and now all the picture & sound editing, and special effects, for a pro-grade feature film can be done on a single computer running off the shelf software.

However, while everyone can edit, and everyone who wants to direct films should have a hand in editing, not everyone should be a full time editor. The job still requires incredible patience, a nit picker's attention to minutiae, and strong sense of narrative structure.

The Steenbeck film editing table.
Now you might think that directors should do all the editing on their films, and while it may sound lovely in a perfect world, in our imperfect real world, you need an editor. You see sometimes when you're a director you may feel compelled to keep something that made you feel oh-so brilliant while shooting, that just doesn't gel with everything else while you're editing.  That's why an experienced, impartial, professional editor needs to convince the director to kill their own darlings for the good of the finished film.

And that's my glib and superficial explanation of what film editors do.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #839: Acknowledging Half A Problem Is Still Something

CBS Boss Les Moonves
There was a rare moment of executive honesty that was captured for posterity by the LA Times.  During a public talk about the TV and film business CBS honcho Les Moonves admitted that he was not proud of the movies put out by CBS Films, the media conglomerate's under-performing theatrical feature film division.

Here's some of what he said:
"I don't think it was the wrong strategy; it was the wrong films," Moonves said.  "Our corporation hasn't missed many. [CBS Films] is in the very early stages. We've only released five films and three of them have broken even. But they aren't movies that I'm proud of. I am proud of the content on CBS and I'm proud of the content on Showtime. I often say this, the TV business is a much better business than the movie business."
I can agree with most of what he said. There is a huge gap in the film marketplace between the mega-blockbusters aimed at teens and kids, and the smaller fare aimed at the indie-art-house crowd, and it's growing everyday.

The strategy of filling that growing gap with modestly budgeted genre films is a solid one.

However, tactically, there have been some blunders that go beyond their choice of films.  I've written about this before.... twice, but I think I should at least give you the gist of them again in case you're too lazy to click the links.

First there's the name:

Now I don't normally put much weight on the effect a studio's "brand" has on movies, usually putting said weight on the films themselves.

However there is an exception to this rule, when that "brand" conveys a specific message.

Let me give you some examples:

Fox Searchlight is an example of successful studio branding, because it conveys the message that they are using the vast resources of the Fox media empire to find the best independent films in the world and bringing them to you.

Fox Atomic was an unsuccessful brand, because the message it conveyed to its target audience of teens was that they were just an afterthought who are dumb enough to fall for something like "Atomic" which was last viewed as hip and futuristic in the 1950s.

Fox Searchlight is still chugging along, while Fox Atomic has gone the way of the dodo.

So let's look at the "brand" of CBS Films.

The message conveyed by the "brand" of CBS Films is "What on TV?"

That's not a good message for a company releasing theatrical feature films.

So kudos to Mr. Moonves for acknowledging the first half of the company's problem.  We'll have to wait and see if he'll do anything about the other half.

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Hollywood Babble On & On #838: Community Conundrum

Okay, I will start with a confession.

I love NBC's sitcom Community.  In fact, it's the only American sitcom I watch with any regularity.  It has the smartest writing and the sharpest cast on American television.

However, it doesn't have a very big audience.  Chiefly from a combination of NBC's poor marketing and decision to slap it up against the more established Big Bang Theory on CBS, and from the fact that it's stuck on NBC.

Sadly this combination has combined to convince NBC to bench Community in mid-season to make room for their new sitcom Whitney, and the long running but perennially ratings challenged sitcom 30 Rock.
Community co-star Alison Brie.

Now this is another one of a long line of questionable decisions made by NBC recently.

Let's look at this partial list....

1. Making a pilot commitment with penalty with Roseanne Barr, to rehash her long retired sitcom. This with a star better known as a walking ad for psychotropic medication, who couldn't even carry a reality show on cable.

2. Making a put pilot deal with comedian Sarah Silverman, after a very pricey bidding war. Think about that, a bidding was for someone who couldn't even carry a show on cable even when it was shared by two different cable channels. She's big in L.A., New York, and among select hipsters, but in flyover country, where most TV viewers live, she's pretty much only known for her guest spot on Star Trek: Voyager.

3. Making a pilot deal with comedian Dane Cook, who while a big name in stand up, has a string of failed movies that doesn't bode well for his career as an actor or leading man, even in a sitcom.

And last, but not least....

4.  NBC has commissioned a pilot for a reboot of The Munsters.

Yes, I said the fucking Munsters.

Now I thought that when Comcast took over and ended the Zucker reign of error things would change at NBC.

In a rare instance it looks like I turned out to be wrong.

Now you're probably sitting there going: "Hey D, you're always talking about the importance of numbers, well, if Community's numbers don't add up, shouldn't it be okay to put a fork in it?"

Well, if NBC was going solely by the cold hard truth of numbers, I suspect 30 Rock would've been cancelled years ago. It's been an under-performer since its debut, and I suspect that it costs a hell of a lot more per episode to make since its cast is stocked with expensive heavy hitters like Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, and Tracy Morgan.

Of course that's probably why the show hasn't been cancelled. The creators and stars are all big within Hollywood, making it the show Hollywood needs to feel superior to the peasantry, which is why they keep it on the air, showering it with awards and celebrity guest appearances.

Community doesn't have stars with big movie deals, piles of Emmys, or a never-ending parade of celebrity cameos, even though none of that have really helped 30 Rock, so NBC feels okay benching it instead of burning the calories needed to actually sell the damn show.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Who Does What? #5: The Publicist

It's that time of the year again. The day when People Magazine announces the winner of the title of Sexiest Man Alive, or as we call it at my house: Passover.  This year it goes to...
 Actor Bradley Cooper.

Of course if there was any fairness in the whole process the cover would look something like this....

Damn, who is that handsome bastard?  

Now if People Magazine was to be more accurate in their reportage, the cover would look more like this...

If you're furrowing your brow in a feeble attempt to understand what a publicist does and how they influence something as transparent and democratic as the People Magazine Sexiest Man Alive competition, then you're in luck.  I going to pour ladle-fulls of rich creamy learning into your brain-pan.

The short answer is that a publicist is a person hired to manage publicity.

The long answer is that publicists manage the relations between their client and the media, and tries to control the media's image of said client. A publicist's client can be an individual, a group, or a corporation, basically anyone or anything who wants to world to see their best side.

Now unlike agents and managers, publicists do not normally earn a percentage of their client's income, and are usually paid a monthly fee.  It's not uncommon for celebrities to have their personal publicists included on the payroll of their latest movie as one of the "perks" of stardom. 

Some publicists are specialists in handling different types of news for their clients. Some specialize in the right ways of presenting good news, like weddings, births, and the winning of awards, especially when it comes to "cash for exclusives" deals for their clients. Other specialize in handling bad news, especially scandals, like ugly divorces, arrests, and private sins becoming public knowledge. When it comes to scandal management, the name of the game is damage minimization, which means putting enough of their spin into the story to mitigate the damage it will do to their client's career.

Either way, the key to picking publicists is "Clout." Clout in this case is defined by the amount of influence a certain publicist has with the various media outlets.  This can come in three most common ways, or combinations thereof...  

1. PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS: The publicist in question has many long-standing relationships with figures in the media, and those same figures trust said publicist to give them good copy.

2. HEAVYWEIGHT ROSTER: The publicist has a bounty of clients in both quantity and quality.  That means that if a media outlet wants an exclusive with a big star that will get them higher ratings or sales, then the publicist will say: "If you want that, then you better put this spin on it," and maybe get a little sugar for someone a little lower on the client totem pole.

3. TACTICAL THINKING:  This is a publicist that not only knows how to properly balance the first two forms of clout, but also knows how to spin any given story in a way that it is completely irresistible to the media.

Now when something like The Sexiest Man Alive pops up, the publicists all start jockeying for positions for their clients. Meanwhile the magazine, and its big media parent company, jockey to get something that they think will help, not only sales of the magazine, but whatever project the candidates are involved with. Once all that jockeying is finished, a winner is picked, and once again I, and my raging sexitude, is unfairly ignored.

Publicists tend to stick with clients as long as they're getting their fee, and it's usually a sure sign that someone or some company is in serious trouble, when their publicists dump them for being either beyond saving, or beyond spinning.

Okay, now that you know what publicists do, let me introduce my publicist, Mr. Seymour Buttes of the firm of Kess/Mah/Buttes.

Yep, it really is that pathetic.