Friday, December 12, 2014


"I'm not saying he's a whore, but he's a whore." Screen Gems President Clint Culpepper wrote of actor/comedian Kevin Hart.

Of course Kevin Hart is a whore, Clint. I’m a whore too. We’re all whores in Hollywood, and the current structure of the entertainment business made us that way.

This was said, for Hart wanting additional compensation beyond his acting salary to tweet in support of one of his movies, in an email to Sony heads Amy Pascal and Michael Lynton that was part of a group of stolen documents posted on the Internet by a hacker group. While I feel this criminal act should not be rewarded with attention, I also think this labeling cannot pass without further scrutiny and discussion.

Most of the people employed in the TV and film business as crew and talent work as independent contractors, for fees and/or commissions, living from job to job.

Actors, producers, directors, writers, crew members and other service providers don’t have salaries or benefits like studio executives. You hire them when you want them, when you’re ready for them, they provide a service and then they go away. That’s a whore-like work structure to me. 

If you choose to pay 'ala carte' for all your services, then you should expect extra fees for extra services. You paid Hart to act in a film because he is a huge, popular star with a track record that will draw people to pay to see your movie. But you want more.

What else does Kevin Hart owe Columbia Pictures now? Is he supposed to do the job of the publicity and marketing departments as well? How about craft services too?

Press junkets, talk show tours are the norm, but now Kevin Hart is supposed to use his personal, authentic,  connection to his 10 million+ fans on Twitter for studio business purposes, for free?

And the best part is how you claim in your email that he should do this help himself, not your product. Yeah, right.

Once upon a time Hollywood had a “studio-system” that kept the majority of Los Angeles employed year round, producing filmed entertainment for the masses. They did this while working for “The Studio”. Actors, writers, crew; everyone had “day-jobs”. The studio was home and took care of its workers, while also exploiting them in every way possible.And yet everyone felt vested in the studio's operations.

This system built the middle class suburbs of the San Fernando Valley and others areas surrounding Hollywood. Television changed things but compensated the change with employment on TV series that ran for 32 episodes a season.

Cable TV changed things again so now actors and writers work part time on a cable series for 13 weeks a year that the studios, not independent production companies, own because media companies paid legislators to get rid of Fin/Syn rules years ago.

This year Warner Brothers cut approximately 1,000 jobs globally as part of a company-wide belt-tightening. The layoffs amount to more than 10% of the studio’s roughly 8,000-person workforce.

Meanwhile Time Warner’s 3rd quarter of 2014 reported earnings of 97 cents a share on revenue of $6.24 billion. Analysts had estimated earnings of 94 cents a share and $6.16 billion in revenue. Revenues and profits are up.

Sony, Disney, Paramount, and Fox have all cut thousands of jobs over the last few years while their revenues and stock prices climbed but we’re the whores here? Please.

As the new Hobbit film opens, the Tolkien estate is fighting with Warner Bros./New Line. Despite the Lord of the Rings trilogy netting $2.9 billion in global box office sales, the studio said a profit wasn't made when counted against the production and distribution costs of all three films. All hail the bean counters, for they rule the world.
The studios have built a system that has no “net” for the players.

The studios, through their hardball contract negotiations with SAG/AFTRA, the WGA, and DGA, have structured this industry exactly the way they want it run and the people who used to have day jobs in the past know what the changes mean. More job insecurity for everyone.

Fortunately for the workers, every now and then, some get the power to protect their personal brands in the way Kevin Hart is doing now. There’s going to be more of this going forward in the digital age as technology and distribution pipelines advance and evolve.

This is what happens when workers feel like they are prostituting themselves for another's exclusive benefit. Extra Twitter fees are just the beginning. Get used to it. 
It’s your brothel Clint. If we’re the whores here, it’s because the studios are the pimps.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Top Ten Things I Learned in 2014

Top Ten Things I Learned in 2014

#10 An "Ariana Grande" is not an order at Starbucks. But if it were, it would be a bone china cup of weak tea with milk and sugar that thinks it’s a big mug of steaming black coffee, to go.

#9 The FIFA World Cup, they still hold it every 4 years, Americans still don’t care.

#8 Perennial teenager Archie Andrews was shot and killed in his comic book. It was shocking because he wasn’t black and a cop didn’t do it.

#7 Colorado legalized recreational marijuana and the daily commute from Denver has been harder than I thought.

#6 Ask Eli Manning to pass the salt at dinner and someone will intercept it.

#5 There aren’t a lot of great Ebola jokes. Plus, you need to speak loudly when telling them because people have trouble hearing you through the isolation tent.

#4 Jay Leno ‘retired’ as host of The Tonight Show. I’ve learned this before, but I think it will stick this time.

#3 No matter how famous Beyonce’s sister gets, I’m never going to remember her name. Also, don’t get in the same elevator with Jay-Z’s sister-in-law.

#2 We landed a rocket ship on a comet speeding through Outer Space, but nobody’s passwords on Earth are ever going to be safe again.

#1 Kim Kardashian is only famous when she’s naked.

Monday, April 7, 2014


I will miss David Letterman very much after he retires in 2015.
His legacy will stand as one of the most talented and influential late night hosts in TV history, second only to Johnny Carson.

Letterman's retirement puts CBS in a tough spot unless they absolutely, completely believe Craig Ferguson, the host whose whole show is based around breaking the conventions of the late night format, can move up to 11:30 and win over a mainstream audience. To do this Craig will have to either convert the new viewers to his unconventional style or "evolve" his act to win them over and potentially risk alienating his core following. That puts CBS in a position to make the hard choice of promoting from within or bringing in a new man.

Forget the arguments about race and gender surrounding this issue in the press written to fill column space online. CBS should have only one goal in choosing a replacement for Letterman: Do not pick any man or woman (regardless of race) who will have to retire before Jimmy Fallon.
That's it.
That's your only goal CBS, apart from picking a decent name that can entertain people during that time. You need him or her to outlast or tie Jimmy Fallon in duration for the next two decades or more.

Here's the facts: Jimmy Fallon is 39. And that's the only fact that matters.
Jimmy Kimmel is 46 so he's already the old guy at 11:30 as of 2015.
You need to beat that CBS.
So that means Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Louis CK, Ellen DeGeneres,
Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and any young Baby Boomer are all out of the running.

If CBS has to name a another new host for the Late Show in ten or twelve years because they are turning 67, like Letterman now, while Fallon is in his prime - it's over.

The competitive balance maintained during the Leno/Letterman years needs to continue into the new generation and NBC went for a long term solution in Fallon like they did with Carson back in the 1960's. That's why I think CBS should try to plant the smartest, youngest flag possible in the late night ground.

Neil Patrick Harris and Chelsea Handler are both 40 so they should be considered contenders. Harris seriously due to his level of popularity, skills and wit and Handler for political and public relations reasons because I'm not a fan of her work. Tina Fey is 43, super busy and doesn't need this job.

I think Kevin Hart, 34, would be a perfect choice to win the new generation but with his film career blowing up in an Eddie Murphy in his prime kind of way I don't think he's a contender anymore either.

Here's my out of the box, free, no-cost, pay as you exit pick for CBS and the Late Show job:
Jason Segel, 34, former star of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER.

Segel is funny, smart, a screenwriter and performer with musical talent.
His work re-launching the Muppets as a film franchise for Disney shows that he understands and appreciates a beloved franchise like The Late Show. Like Fallon he has a group of cool Hollywood insiders as his best friends to call on and do fun viral activities that will carry his TV brand to the internet. The CBS audience already loves him as a member of their TV family. CBS brass may or may not love him due to his tough contract negotiations during the HIMYM series but at 34 years old, 5 years younger than Fallon, he's a guy who can run 25 years or more on the show for the network. By hiring him CBS gets to promote from within and bring in a new man at the same time.

The late night market is segmented so heavily that a decent "name brand" can compete and make it close in the same way Leno and Letterman ran for decades. A network can be happy with either the young demo or total numbers. It's hard to win both but a performer like Segel could be the answer that CBS so desperately needs to its most important question right now.

P.S. to CBS, if you don't pick Jason just pick Neil Patrick Harris and you'll be fine. The next real big late night question is what are you going to do to compete with Carson Daly and Later?