Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Friday, November 23, 2007

And so we wait...

“The waiting is the hardest part...”
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

First, a word of explanation: Rejuvenated by a couple of days off and a splendid Thanksgiving dinner, I’m posting early this week, and yes, this post concerns the strike. I know, I know, you’ve already heard more than enough about the WGA strike -- and believe me, I’m as tired of thinking and writing about this labor stoppage as you are of reading about it-- but at the moment, it remains the proverbial 900 pound gorilla on the loose in Hollywood, and is thus impossible to ignore. I’ll return to my slow exploration of below-the-line Industry life soon enough. Meanwhile...

If your livelihood depends in any way on the Industry – whether you produce a hit show, write a hit show, peel spuds for the caterer or studio commissary that feeds the crew of a hit show, haul sandbags and C stands or cable and lights for a hit show (or even some steaming pile of digital dung that never should have survived pilot season in the first place, but still pays your rent) -- you are, like it or not, a participant in the WGA strike. You might be walking a picket line and chanting “More Money, Less Moonvies!” (as the writers did at CBS Radford two weeks ago), or sitting home staring at your dirty, tattered work gloves and wondering if the job phone will ever ring again. Either way -- you, me, all of us -- are suddenly at the mercy of forces far greater than ourselves, human corks being swept towards God-knows-what-and-when on the waves of a tsunami generated by this head-on collision of writers and producers.

And every last one of us is wondering just how long it will drag on.

For the most part, working below-the-line means being so far out of the loop we may as well be living on the dark side of Pluto. Like those hapless oar-pullers chained below decks of the Roman slave ships, we have no idea which the direction the boat is heading – we just keep pulling the oars (and getting blisters) to the cadence of the Great Drum until it finally stops beating. All we hear are trickle-down rumors from above, a constant whispering buzz of wishful thinking and doomsday scenarios from distant voices no closer to the truth than we are. With the inner machinations of the AMPTP and WGA invisible to outside scrutiny, we sit with the rest of the great unwashed staring at the citadel and awaiting the first telltale puff of smoke – will it be white or black? Has an agreement been reached, or are both sides still punching each other in a blind, futile rage, each desperately trying to land the knockout blow?

So when my well-meaning civilian friends ask me how long the strike will go on, I don’t know what to say. Right now, I’m not sure anybody has a clue – and I’m increasingly weary of worrying about things over which I have no control. When asked, I simply shrug my shoulders and quote the words of Doris Day, noted American actress/singer/philosopher: “Que Sera, Sera.”

(Those of you under a Certain Age will just have to Google it...)

Still, there’s a growing sense that we’re approaching a critical juncture, a moment at which things could go either way, and fast. The writers and producers have promised to sit down at the table Monday the 26th and resume talks. If progress can be made, and essential compromises agreed to – both sides giving a little – then this thing could be settled before too much damage is done. But if these talks break down, and this last, best chance to reach a deal degenerates into another bitter exchange of verbal gun fire, then we may be in for a painfully interminable siege of trench warfare. And in that event, we’ll all be the losers. Just as the baseball strike back in the 90’s turned many fans away from the game forever, an extended WGA strike could drive more viewers away from the habit of watching scripted dramas on network television. People will flip through the dial seeking other ways to waste their time: “reality” crap and game shows, or perhaps the growing realm of Internet-based entertainment – or maybe they’ll just turn off their television sets in disgust every night after watching the dismal and depressing evening news. It’s hard to argue that the latter might not be a good thing for society as a whole, but it would be very hard on those of us whose livelihoods depend on the Industry as it has currently evolved. Big Change invariably means Big Trouble -- and this time, the writers will not be immune.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned “Martini Shot”, a weekly four-minute commentary about the Industry on KCRW (FM 89.9 in Los Angeles) by Rob Long, a television writer and producer for nearly two decades. With a sharp wit and stinging sarcasm, Long serves up an illuminating and always entertaining peek into inner sanctums above-the-line. As a working writer and WGA member, he too is on strike – but he’s also a producer, and thus sees both sides of the issue. With this week's commentary (Nov 21), Long tackles the Big Question in his uniquely sly, tongue-in-cheek, heart-in-one-hand and bullwhip-in-the other manner. If you work in this increasingly absurd business, you really should check it out. It won’t take long – just four minutes. Two hundred and forty seconds. You won’t even miss them when they’re gone.

Go, listen, and if you feel like it, tell me – what do you think?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


It has never been my intent to "break the fourth wall" here (however flimsy it may be), but in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I'd like to thank all of you who have sent comments and e-mails to this blog in the past three months – fellow industy work-bots and their spouses, cyber-tourists, thespians, civilians, cinematic gadflies, and film students straining at the leash to start their own Hollywood careers.

As the new kid in town (the blog – not me), “Blood, Sweat, and Tedium: Confessions of a Hollywood Juicer” is very much a work in progress, and I really appreciate all of your encouraging words, as well as those few that have been less-than-encouraging. Unzipping the soul in public doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’m particularly grateful for the kind words and links to my site on the part of other industry bloggers, all of whom are seasoned veterans of the blog-o-sphere. I know none of you personally or professionally, but you've all made me feel right at home. “Totally Unauthorized”, “Dollygrippery”, and “Burbanked” are smart, pithy blogs, each offering a uniquely fascinating and entertaining perspective on life and work in Hollywood. To any readers who haven’t yet visited those sites and plumbed their archives, do so. You’re in for a treat.

Thanks for stopping by. And do come back – the door is always open.

Michael Taylor

PS: Marste -- your astonishingly candid blog is so well-written -- if you can act half as well as you write, your future on the silver screen deserves to unfold in spectacular fashion. I’ll lift a glass of wine in your direction Thanksgiving Day in the hopes your mystery man turned out to be Mr. Right...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Forever and Throughout the Universe

(photo courtesy of NASA)

"The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

Dick the Butcher, from Henry VI, Part II, by William Shakespeare

Back in those sweet, sunny days before the WGA strike, I spent three days working on what was, by the standards of most below-the-line workbots, a dream job. Those familiar with this blog aren't accustomed to hearing such talk from me. I generally tend to lean on the horn whining about how bloody hard the work is -- and as a rule, it is very hard indeed. But every now and then a little gift from Heaven drops into some lucky guy’s lap, and this one landed in mine as the proverbial exception that proves the rule.

Even a dream job has a downside, though, and the bad news here was that the work would take place on a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, thus obliterating my weekend. I’m not sure why weekends still seem sacrosanct to me – if thirty years of living and working in Los Angeles has taught me anything, it’s that weekdays are the best time to have off, leaving weekends better suited for the drudgery of work. (Assuming you don’t have a spouse and/or kids – and in that case, working weekends will only bring you grief.) With all the other twenty million inhabitants of Southern California taking the weekend off, trying to do anything out in the world on a Saturday or Sunday means fighting through a veritable tsunami of traffic on the streets and highways, and vast milling herds of people everywhere else. The beaches, malls, Laundromats, movie theaters, Home Depot, grocery stores – even Trader Joe’s – are jam-packed with fellow citizen/consumers desperately striving to cram themselves into the same narrow space. Trying to make headway through all that is like swimming upstream with the rest of the spawning salmon – an exhausting, draining ordeal that invariably leaves me gasping for breath, with a sour outlook on modern life and humanity in general.

Sometimes, the neutron bomb doesn’t seem like such a bad idea after all.

Still, working weekends just feels wrong. The upside of this particular job, however, would make up for that: the workload promised to be light. Very light. Lighter than air, actually, and after several long weeks wrestling heavy cable on the rigging crew -- “picking it up and laying it down” – a truly cush job was just what the doctor ordered. As the acting studio Best Boy, I was to baby-sit a grip crew rigging a sound stage for a reality show in the early stages of construction. My sole assigned task was to arrive at the stage on time each morning, make the long, sixty-step climb up a steep wooden stairway to the catwalks high above the stage floor, clamber over an obstacle course of electrical lines, power distribution boxes, ropes, and steel cables, then pull the massive bull switch energizing Circuit 2. Having thus delivered power to the chain motors used by the grip crew to fly the lighting platforms, huge metal trusses, digital projectors, and massive LCD screens that would eventually hover over the set, my work for the day would be half done. When the grips finally called it a day -- ten, eleven, or twelve hours later -- I would retrace my steps to the catwalks and slam that big switch off, cutting the power.

That was it -- the sum total of my responsibilities. How to spend the hours between those two mirror-image tasks was up to me. In the studio world, this qualifies as a dream job. Very sweet indeed.

The miracle was that it actually turned out to be just that easy. On Day One, I brought books, magazines, and an Ipod to help pass the time. After meeting the crew, I went up high and hit the bull switch, then ran an extension cord to plug in the big five gallon coffee urn – hey, keeping the coffee hot for my hard-working grip brothers was the least I could do -- then I found a chair in a corner of the stage and settled in to read while everybody else began working.

It felt weird, though. I’m used to working as a part of the crew, not being paid to sit in a corner reading a book while others do the heavy lifting. That’s the trouble with developing a serious Work Ethic -- it dies hard. But there was no place for me on this crew – I’m was a juicer and they were grips, now and forever separated by tradition and union rules. With no lighting to do or power to be run, I just had to suck it up and do... nothing.

Six hours later, the grips broke for lunch. I wandered across the street for a leisurely mid-day meal at an Italian restaurant (Pasta ala Vongole, Caesar salad, and a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio) – then returned to the library, er, stage. When the crew finally called it quits early that evening, I headed up high, slammed the big bull switch off, and headed for home never having broken a sweat. Tough day, that.

Days Two and Three were more of the same, although I opted for a much cheaper lunch at a nearby Subway. By Sunday afternoon, extreme boredom had set in. As a juicer, I generally enjoy watching grips work -– it’s a bit like observing the progress on a construction site, except grips work a lot faster -- but a little goes a long way. At this point, I’d finished one book, plunged deep into another, and had plowed through most of the magazines. My eyes were getting fuzzy, so I decided to stretch my legs and go for a walk. On the way back, I spotted a sign taped to the door of an adjacent sound stage, where another reality show was in the process of being taped. The sheer quantity of verbiage on that sign drew my eye -- and the content held it. Note the second sentence:


This area is being used for the taping of a television program. By your entrance into this area and your presence, you give unqualified consent to the producers to record, use, broadcast, and publicize your voice, actions, likeness, and appearance in any manner in connection with the program and all exploitation of the program including, without limitation, the marketing and promotion of the program, forever and throughout the universe, in any and all media whether now known or hereafter devised. Further, you agree to release Do You Trust Me Productions, Inc. and its successors, licensees and assigns from any liability resulting from such use. If you do not wish to be taped as part of the program, please exit the area until all taping has been completed.

Forever and throughout the universe? In any and all media whether now known or hereafter devised?

Wow. I’ll bet it took an entire room full of pinhead lawyers to come up with that. Those guys really do know how to cover their collective corporate asses – which, I suppose, is their job. After re-reading that sign, I could only conclude that were I to wander on stage in front of the cameras -- and if in a hundred years, the “successors, licensees and assigns of Do You Trust Me Productions, Inc.” decide to pipe interplanetary re-runs of their fabulous show directly into receptor microchips surgically embedded in the brains of the slave work force toiling deep in the frozen methane mines of Uranus – then any of my still-surviving relatives will be shit-out of luck when it comes to squeezing a few extra bucks from the production company for exploiting their long-dead ancestor’s “voice, actions, likeness, and appearance.”

Lawyers. Increasingly, they’re running – and ruining – this business. But what else can we expect from an outfit that calls itself Do You Trust Me Productions?

I'm thinking maybe Dick the Butcher had the right idea after all...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Crossing the Rubicon

Those of you weary of my typically long and rambling posts will be happy to know this will be very short, by my standards, thanks to the end-of-the-world, ALL STRIKE, ALL THE TIME! frenzy currently gripping Hollywood. On this, my one day off this week, I'm one whipped puppy, with very little time or energy to post.

After working four days at CBS Radford (thanks to the tender mercies of the studio rigging gaffer), I took a job on Saturday juicing for a crew shooting movie promos. It was a very long day (nearly 15 hours) doing the “two minute drill”* from dawn until deep into the night. This was a non-union job on a 12 hour rate, as will be the work I’ve accepted for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week. Working 12 hour rates Sucks the Big One for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it means we’ll work at least 12 hours, and maybe more -- but with shows shutting down all over Hollywood, the pool of work is rapidly drying up. Thanks to the WGA strike, most of us will soon be unemployed, possibly for a very long time, so we’re all frantically making every last dollar we can before the door slams shut.

Something of note did happen last week, though – for the first time in 30 years, I drove across a picket line to go to work. It felt awful to cross that WGA line – to be forced to cross – and I was surprised by the depth of my emotional response as I drove into the parking structure. It felt all wrong, but I had little choice in the matter. To honor the picket line would mean turning around and driving home. No work means no pay, and unlike the members of the WGA, I can’t afford to go on strike. Few of us who work below-the-line can. Although I support the writers in their struggle against the AMPTP, that support must be limited for the moment to the cheap, if heartfelt. sincerity of lip-service. I’ll continue to cross those picket lines as long as there’s work to be had on the other side.

A cyber-skirmish of sorts erupted on a few websites this week between below-the-line workers angry to be facing unemployment, and WGA members who have taken this very gutsy road of going on strike. Those below-the-liners throwing grenades felt that the writers (who they see as knowing nothing about doing actual work) are being incredibly self-indulgent in shutting down an entire industry, thus throwing thousands of people with no dog in this fight out of work for what could be a very long time – and all over the issue of residuals, payments above and beyond the already fat fees writers receive for turning in a screenplay or television script in the first place. The writers, meanwhile, fired back that without their writing skills, there would be no scripts to film, and thus no work at all for below-the-line crews.

To which I say: Stop, you’re both right. Most writers have no idea just how physically punishing working below-the-line can be. They simply have no clue. Sitting behind laptops all day, spinning their brains in circles, many writers go to the gym at day’s end to work out and relieve some of that self-generated stress. Most of us who toil below-the-line have no need to work out, since we’re physically exhausted at the end of each day. We’ve done quite enough heavy lifting by quitting time, thankyouverymuch

Most writers don’t understand -- and thus can’t really respect -- the work done by the crews who turn their words into images on the screen. On the other hand, we who work on set have no inkling of the seven circles of Hell found in that writer’s room. We don’t know what it’s like to stay up until 5 a.m. with a dozen other highly-competitive and deeply insecure individuals trying to “punch up” a sit-com script and make it funnier 12 hours before the cameras roll. True, any writers good enough to make it into that room, or be commissioned to write a movie script, are paid far beyond the wildest below-the-line dreams – but that’s the way it’s always been. Creative brain-work is rewarded more than craft and brawn – or as I heard one sound mixer quip, “the bigger the cable, the smaller the paycheck.” Then again, that’s the kind of pithy needling I’ve come to expect from sound guys, many (most) of whom are major league smart-asses.

The truth is we’re all part of the same machine, which cannot operate smoothly without all the gears and wheels in place, spinning away. The writers were motivated and smart enough to find a way to make a good living without breaking their backs in the process, and for that, more power to them. But theirs is a high-wire act without a net – and once they fall, there’s often no coming back, which is why they’re fighting so hard for those residuals. That they’re taking us down with them is not a comforting thought – personally, I wish they hadn’t gone on strike at all, that they’d been able to sit down and work things out with the AMPTP. But from what I understand, the producers are playing the hardest of hardball, giving not an inch and demanding concessions on all fronts. Right or wrong, the producers feel their power, and see no reason to compromise. It's as much their fault, if not more so, that Hollywood is now grinding to a halt.

When all the work is finally gone, maybe I’ll go down and walk one of those picket lines myself. But until then, I’ll be crossing them – and hating it – every chance I get. Such are the absurd realities of life in Hollywood these days.

* The “two minute drill” refers to the sudden and uncharacteristically efficient offense that often erupts during the last two minutes of a football game, when --after doing nothing interesting for nearly four full quarters -- one team finally wakes up and marches right down the field to score as easily as Godzilla strolling through downtown Tokyo. In the Industry context, doing the two-minute drill means working at a very rapid pace, slamming through each shot ASAP, then jumping right on to the next – and doing it all day long. Generally, this happens when a producer has been overly-optimistic (read: cheap) in drawing up the shooting schedule.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Collateral Damage

When elephants fight, only the grass is trampled.
African proverb

The hammer finally dropped late Friday afternoon, when word came that the writers have voted to unplug their laptops on Monday, Nov. 5. At long last, the subject of so much discussion on sets, executive suites, coffee shops, restaurants, and bars throughout Hollywood the past few months has made the final, fatal turn. Until a month ago, it looked as though the writers might kick the can down the road to next Spring, then join their SAG and DGA comrades in grabbing pitchforks and torches to march on the Evil Empire, also known as the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.) But the wind shifted a few weeks ago, and the nervous fretting began. That’s all over now. War has been declared, and the strike is on.

Nobody’s quite sure what this means yet. Frantic negotiations are doubtless taking place throughout the weekend, so it’s possible we’ll all wake up Monday morning to headlines announcing that a deal has been cut, and Armageddon averted. But given the heated rhetoric thus far, it seems entirely likely this is could be the beginning of a long and bloody siege. The last WGA strike lasted 22 weeks, and this one could too.

I don’t know enough about the issues to judge those in the Writer’s Guild leading this jihad. They claim the AMPTP has pushed them into a corner and left them no other options, and maybe they're right. Those able to make a living at the keyboard are generally pretty smart, so I can only trust (and hope) they know what they’re doing here. I’m just a juicer, a tiny, squalling, easily replaceable, cable-hauling cog in this vast Hollywood machine. After a day of work, everything hurts -- my back, feet, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands – and I’ve never seen a residual check, ever. But you don’t have to sip chilled champagne in the executive suites above-the-line to understand how bad things are between the writers and producers these days. Tensions have been simmering, the pressure rising, ever since the WGA got screwed the last time around. Thanks to that benighted contract, a writer receives the munificent sum of four cents on every DVD sold -- a DVD made from a movie that would never have graced the silver screen nor earned a dollar of profit for the production company if the writer hadn't sweated bullets to turn in a finely polished script. A script is the essential blueprint for making a film. No writer, no script. No script, no movie. And for creating that blueprint out of nothing more than his own sweat and imagination, the writer receives four cents. Not even a nickel.

Of course they deserve more, a lot more. So how much do they want? Four additional cents, that’s all, to bring the total residual payment to eight cents per DVD. Less than a dime. That doesn’t seem like too much to ask, not when the multi-millionaires crowding the top floors of the Industry pyramid continue to rake in truckloads of cash every year. But this unholy alliance of producers and the Devil claims they can’t afford such an egregiously outrageous hike in residual fees. Four cents. Even a blind man can see those bastards of the AMPTP have no shame at all.

Granted, WGA members are very well paid upon turning in their work. I don’t know the current rates, but twenty years ago, one of my apartment building neighbors – a barely articulate, dese-and-does kind of guy with no real interest in writing or being a writer – managed to sell a movie-of-the-week script for the then-standard fee of forty thousand dollars. Feature film writers make a lot more: at his peak in the 90’s, Joe Esterhaus (“Flashdance,” “Basic Instinct,” “Showgirls,” “Jagged Edge,” “Sliver,” “Jade”, “F.I.S.T.”) was making three million dollars per script. Successful writers do very well indeed here in the shadow of the Hollywood sign, but for every sit-com scribe and Joe Esterhaus, there are thousands of writers working their tails off for scale, if they’re lucky, and on spec (read: for free) if they’re not. And of those that finally do make a sale, it’s often a one-shot deal. This is a fast-paced town in more ways than one, and it’s not so easy to stay on that Merry-Go-Round if you get there – one has to be very nimble and equally tenacious to avoid being flung off into the slush-pit of has-beens and one-hit-wonders. Sooner or later it happens anyway, and at that point, residual payments come to mean everything to the vast majority of WGA members. As far as I’m concerned, the WGA has every right to kick the AMPTP as long and hard as they can – and kick them where it hurts -- until they get their eight cents per unit fee.

There are other issues of course, some of which involve the internet -- everything has to do with the goddamned internet these days -- which may indeed eventually morph into the much-ballyhooed Cosmic Pipeline reaching down from the sky to pump an endless cornucopia of “content” into our homes. TV dramas, sit-coms, movies, infomercials, football games, reality crap, American Moron, er, Idol, the juicy, jiggling young flesh on Sabado Gigante! – all of it flowing to your big screen TV, on demand, via the internet. For a price. And on that golden day, the producers and corporate-owned networks will indeed begin to reap yet another harvest of billions.

Or not. Nobody knows what’s really going to happen, but whatever it is won’t be coming tomorrow, next year, or anytime soon. Having been fooled once by the producer’s claim that the VCR was an immature, unproven, and not-yet-profitable technology, the writers this time want to have their fair percentage of future profits indelibly tatooed on the forehead of emerging internet sales. To paraphrase the angry, prophetic words of “The Who”, they won’t get fooled again. With technology evolving at an incredibly rapid pace, nobody can say for sure which platforms or internet distribution technology will win out in the end – or even if the golden era of All Internet All the Time will ever come to pass. Personally, I have a hard time believing that significant numbers of people will ever pay to watch Hollywood blockbusters on their minuscule cell phone screens. But I'm from a generation that can't quite grasp the whole "texting" craze in the first place, so who knows what new technologies will be warmy embraced by future generations?

Again, I side with the writers. If the AMPTP had any sense of justice or propriety, they would simply offer the WGA a reasonable percentage of those future (possibly phantom) Internet profits. Then everybody can wait with their fingers crossed to see what happens. If internet sales turn out to be huge, everybody wins. If not, then nobody really loses. So why won’t Evil Overlords of the AMPTP do this? Because they’re cheap, miserable, greedy bastards. They have all the money in the world – more money than anyone could ever possibly spend – but like Johnny Rocco, the reptilian gangster so brilliantly portrayed by Edward G. Robinson in “Key Largo”, they just want “more...”

So I support the strike, right? March on to righteous glory, WGA, and with you I shall be?
Yes and no. The WGA is clearly in the right here, and if this is their last best chance to make a stand, then they’ve gotta do what they’ve gotta do -- but unless the AMPTP is pulling off the biggest bluff in Hollywood history, I’m not sure the writers stand a proverbial snowball’s chance in hell of winning this thing. The power has shifted too dramatically in the past twenty years. Last time around – when the writers got screwed – the producers and networks were much smaller entities far more vulnerable to any labor action. Now each network is owned, lock-stock-and-barrel, by mega-corporations with the deepest of deep pockets – these once-proud networks are little more than bright shiny pimples on the massive warty ass of Corporate America. Should they so desire, the network's corporate overlords have the financial torque to starve the writers into submission without breaking a sweat. That could effectively break the WGA once and for all – and at the moment, the AMPTP has every reason to go for the jugular. With the contracts for actors and directors coming up next year, what happens now will resonate down the line. Any concessions the AMPTP yields to the WGA will in turn be demanded by those other guilds. But if the WGA can be beaten to a bloody pulp and left for dead, the echoes of that mugging will reverberate through negotiations with every guild and union for a long time to come. The worst case scenario is grim indeed.

Much was made by the WGA this week of an announcement of support by the Teamsters. At first, I too thought it was great news -- if the Teamsters refuse to roll, the Industry will fall to its knees, putting an almost irresistible pressure on the AMPTP to yield. But the Teamsters aren’t refusing to roll. According to the LA Times, Teamster leadership merely “encouraged” its membership to honor the strike, leaving it up to each individual driver to decide whether or not to cross the picket lines. This is hardly a “union” action – all for one and one for all – in a situation that cries out for total solidarity. If one teamster stops his truck at the picket line only to see the next one go through, it won’t be long before that picket line is shredded by truck traffic. Teamsters believe in labor solidarity, but they won’t play the fool for anyone.

Still, that's between the Teamsters and the WGA. My problem with the strike is that the writers who have made this admirably gutsy decision won’t be the only ones to get hurt. Even a relatively short strike will do tremendous collateral damage to tens of thousands of below-the-line workers – set construction, props, set dressers, grips, juicers, sound, camera, hair, and makeup -- people who never have and never will see a residual payment in their entire careers. The last couple of years haven’t been good for those of us who work in the sit-com world. More than a few gaffers, best boys, and many of my fellow juicers have struggled to make ends meet since the networks lost interest in multi-camera sit-coms a couple of years ago. These people have the experience and skills to work in other venues – episodics, features, reality, or commercials – but most of those jobs are already taken. Some face the added burden of struggling back from extreme low points in their personal lives, people for whom every day represents another battle to fight, another hill to climb. I know and work with some of these guys -- they're good people who just want go to work every day and get on with their lives, but through no fault or decision of their own, all that will be put at risk as of tomorrow morning. If this strike turns out anything like the last one, many of these people will lose their medical coverage, and some may lose their homes. The human and economic cost of this man-made (and thus totally preventable) disaster could be devastating to the film community in Hollywood and throughout the country.

Few of us who work below the line have any idea what it’s like to be one of those elephants in that African proverb, but we know all too well what it means to be the grass.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Finally, an e-mail address...


 Hollywood Boulevard and Highland -- You're in Tinsel Town now...

For those who have something to say about what you've read here and -- for whatever reason -- would rather not hang their comments out in public, the blog now has an e-mail address:

Let me know what you think, good or bad, and if you have any questions I can answer, fire away.

Any of you who landed here from J.R. Helton's website are probably wondering why you're staring at a post written in 2007. Me too. JR and I have tried to fix this, but every time I check his site's link to mine, I always end up here. It's like Ground Hog Day -- another ride down the Moebius Highway.  But since I'm updating this post in June of 2012, the least I can do is help you find something more interesting than this rather tedious post.

 Try this one, which will take you to the current home page whenever and however you happen to click that link. If you're new to his blog (and you probably are), you might want to try this link first, which will take you to a post containing a list of direct links to twenty or so "greatest hits" (for lack of a better term) over the past five years. The first post on that list is a bit long and wordy -- as it happens, that was my very first post back in September of 2007 -- but I leave it there as an introduction to what this blog is all about. If you don't much care for that one, join the club... but the next five or six are a lot better. And if you don't like any of those, then maybe this blog is not for you.

Right from the start I've been hoping to post an occasional story from some of my fellow Industry Work-Bots, but thus far none of those promised posts have materialized. But I will not give up on this. If you're in the Industry and have a good story of Hollywooden absurdity -- or just want to get something off your chest -- then send it along. I'm not interested in slander, libel, or tabloid gossip -- I really don't care who is sleeping with whom this week -- but if you send me a good, true story, I'll post it. Although this blog mines the dank and dirty underworld below-the-line, I'll consider above-the-line stories as well. White-collar Industry Droids get to keep their hands clean, but we all suffer in our own special ways...

Any such posts will be subject to my own editor's eye, of course, but I won't impose my stylistic tics on your writing. If I can make your post better, I will, but I promise to keep a light hand on the reins. All posts will go up anonymously or under a screen name unless otherwise directed.

Anybody who marches through the minefield of Hollywood has collected a few good stories. Let's hear them...