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David Poland

By David Poland

Did You Hear The One About…

… the Hollywood union that screwed the foreign journalists?
By the time the AMPTP/WGA negotiations go official later this week or early next week, the deal will be very close to done. Only some form of insanity on one side or the other will keep that from happening.
Today, the WGA waiver for The Grammys was made official… though the decision not to picket last week made this a fate accompli.
I am happy the strike will soon be over and that the WGA’s deal will not be embarrassing. But someone should probably be willing, against political logic, to point out how grotesque some of the attitude that still comes from the WGA in deigning to allow the recording industry its awards show.
To wit, ” ‘Professional musicians face many of the same issues that we do concerning fair compensation for the use of their work in new media,’ WGA West president Patric Verrone said Monday. ‘In the interest of advancing our goal of achieving a fair contract, the WGAW board felt that this decision should be made on behalf our brothers and sisters in the American Federation of Musicians and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.’ ”
Yeah. Bull.
The AMPTP deal is around the corner and pissing off more people is not in WGA’s interest… period. The WGA is most aggressively trying to make sure that TV and film writers don’t get their guts ripped out in the new media era the way that songwriters have.
But more importantly, there is something so arrogant and petty about lording it over a bunch of frickin’ awards shows. How many millions of dollars did WGA take out of the pockets of union members by shutting down The Golden Globes? And not just union members, but union members – like hotel staff and tv production personnel – who aren’t the ones on camera… aka the ones who actually need the money.
Let me say it again… I support the WGA’s goals in this labor action. 100% But when this is all over, we ALL need to consider what happened. It’s all too easy to say, “Fuck HFPA,” which now appears to be the only awards show that will actually pay a price – a steep one – in this strike. Isn’t the basic idea of democracy and the core of morality the embrace of the freedom and respect of the least popular?
(And by the way… John Ridley isn’t any hero. I agree with some of his concerns, but cutting and running is not any better than a group of thoughtful people having their daily discourse devolve into a fascist disinterest in a wider range of ideas. A thinking adult fights the fight until the fighting is done. And then you fight for a better future so the next fight is less bloody.)
The awards season can be an endless bore. And for most people in the media and industry, this kink at The Golden Globes was more invigorating than the show going on as usual. Plenty of people would be just as happy to see all the awards shows go away. (Others are con artists who scream about how inconsequential awards shows are, but then announce their awards intentions months early in search of ads and then return from their alleged sick beds to “cover” nominations. But I digress…) But if we start basing our moral notions on what we like then most of the WGA members shouldn’t bother to go back to work after the strike ends. (And yes, that applies for all artists across the industry in all arenas.)
Let’s take the lessons that have been learned in this strike – especially the ability to mobilize the independent media – and work a lot harder next time to avoid having a strike at all. Let’s start discussing the real issues months before the deadlines and not weeks. Let’s see the kind of effort made by the creative community to make its points – like Speechless – before the money clock starts running on everyone who lives off of this industry.
Maybe shutting down The Globes and striking in November were key to the settlement to come. Maybe 100%. Maybe 70%. Maybe 40%. Maybe not at all. What we do know is that the men and women of the negotiating committee moved forward with the most honorable intentions and belief that action was absolutely needed in order to get a decent contract. What we also know is that AMPTP didn’t flinch, doing almost exactly what was expected from early on.
The water under the bridge should wash away much of the angst… and hopefully, create a reservoir of thoughtfulness about how to do it better next time. And I hope that when push comes to shove again that the first idea is not, “First, let’s kill all the awards shows.”

8 Responses to “Did You Hear The One About…”

  1. BTLine says:

    question for everybody:
    what do you foresee happening between the writers and the crew when we all go back to work?

  2. IOIOIOI says:

    BT, what happens after every strike or anything devisive between two different groups who have to co-exist. You feel uneasy around one another for a week or two, then it slowly goes back to normal. Sure resent still lingers in the back of your mind in case anything sideways happens, but you simply go on as everything is normal.
    Of course the TV season may be called off after this deal is signed. Leaving the crews and the writers to wait for months to pick up things again, but that should not be a problem. Nah. Not working for almost 8 months should be great for some of these crews.
    Oh yeah Heat; a create a reservoir of thoughtfulness is a great phrase. It could either title a self-help book, or be used on a really innovative condom. Either benefitting Humanity. So it’s all good.

  3. Josh Massey says:

    If I’m the HFPA, I don’t give out a screenplay award next year.

  4. IOIOIOI says:

    If I am the HFPA. I move the awards to Monte Carlo and do not comp ANYBODY! “TAK’ES THAT VILE IMPERIALIST WRI’ERS!” The no writing award thing could work as well.

  5. waterbucket says:

    I’m so over the WGA strike. Their image at the beginning was that of an underdog fighting against the big machine. Now they’re seemingly elitists who pick and choose which show they want to ruin and which show they want to keep. Next!

  6. Skyblade says:

    If I’m the HFPA, I don’t give out a screenplay award next year
    They barely do anyways–they only have one category for screenplay while having two categories for movies. And they basically use it as an excuse to invite Aaron Sorkin. I don’t think they even have a writing category for television.

  7. grandcosmo says:

    If I’m the HFPA I keep my head down and go about business as usual. Anything to keep the whole scam going.

  8. jeffmcm says:

    How much interaction is there typically between the writers on a show, ensconced in their little rooms, and anyone else on a crew?

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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin