Thursday, January 11, 2007

No Future...No Future...For Youuuuuu!

...still reeling from the implications of Global taking over Alliance Atlantis and its impact on the Canadian television industry - reeeeeling - so while we're on the subject, go check out what the very smart and clever John Rogers and the very smart and clever Craig Mazin have to say about the future of entertainment.

More from Jenn Kuzmyk at C21 on the AAC aquisition...
The worst kept secret in the Canadian entertainment industry has been confirmed as Winnipeg media conglom CanWest Global officially acquires Alliance Atlantis as part of a C$2.3bn (US$1.95bn) takeover that will also see CBS pick up international distribution rights to the CSI franchise. The C$53-per-share deal, which is subject to shareholder approval and that of Canada's media regulator, the CRTC, was carried out by CanWest in partnership with New York-based investment bank Goldman Sachs.

The deal is expected to be completed by summer 2007 through a new subsidiary company owned by CanWest. Upon receipt of CRTC approval, Alliance Atlantis's speciality television business and CanWest's Canadian television operations will be managed on an integrated basis by CanWest, with a formal combination of the broadcast businesses slated to take place in 2011. The deal includes AAC's 13 speciality channels such as HGTV, Showcase and The History Channel, as well as its stake alongside CBS in the CSI crime drama franchise and a 51% interest in Canadian movie distribution outfit Motion Picture Distribution.

My brain hurts.


Heart Of Darkness said...

My foot hurts...

Callaghan said...

I was pulling for Astral to make a last minute purchase. Bummer.

By the way, what's C21? I went to school with Jenn Kuzmyk...didn't know she was writing.

CAROLINE said...

C21 is a British-based industry publication. She's their Canadian bureau chief (cook and bottle washer, too). Good read ..., I think, but to read the full stories you have to fork out for an online or print subscription (online better ... print takes weeks to arrive from London).

Jenn's awesome.

wcdixon said...

it's a media news website

Callaghan said...

All these darn publications that actually expect me to pay for their service! Don't they know that I'm very very poor?

It's as if they need to make a living themselves or something.

And Caroline, I think this was asked in another comment do you know everything?

Good for Jenn, I haven't seen her since University, eight years ago. But she was a good egg.

wcdixon said...

I think we'll all be working for Caroline very soon. Or maybe, we already are and don't even know it...woooo...

CAROLINE said...

Callaghan, you don't wanna know how I know stuff. Trust me. Let's just say it's all been learned the hard way.

As for C21, talk the Centre into getting a subscription online that everyone can use. It's like $100 or something for the year and well worth it.

Dix, I wish I was in a position to hire you and DMc and Jim and Mark. What a kick-ass bunch of show that would produce. Ah, to dream.

Jenn's married with kid (I think), lives in the country somewhere and seems blissfully happy. I'm seeing her at month's end at Real Screen if you want me to pass along a message.

blueglow said...

like you I have a hard time thinking about all this without my brain hurting.

there is, of course, "a what does this mean to me" interest in all this consoladating etc but right now I don't think anyone knows much past the fact that, as Canadians, our assumption is "this is gonna be bad".

that assumption is largely correct if only becuase all this merging etc increases the element of "facelessness" with regard to the people we (the content creators) have to deal with. Success in this business relies on "gut instinct" more than focus groups etc and as the major players shrink to a handful, mavericks get squeezed out and replaced with drones who must, for their own self interest, do their best to have a career without ever making a decision that they can be held accountable for.

It's hard to pitch in this environment because the fear to "take a flyer" on something is so pervasive. there still are a few of those people left and I thank my lucky stars that I know some of them, without them my career would be over.

I've had a number of breaks doing this gig and they have all been a result of someone making a call that took guts. This attribute is not one that corporate culture values highly, certainly not among the ranks of middle management the people who, for the most part, we have to initially deal with.

the tale for today goes back to the glorious times when there was both an "Alliance" and an "Atlantis" -- two fairly vigourous production houses who competed for projects -- I'd worked for one but not the other so when Atlantis called I thought, hey, this'll be fun.

the show was, at the time, their flagship drama. it starred the bosses wife. it was the only drama on the Canadian network it aired on. it was, for this market, high profile.

in short, if any show was going to be under a microscope, this was the one. if any show was going to be subject to focus groups and attention from people within the organization this was the one. if any show was going to drive a writer/producer crazy this would be it.

It didn't. It didn't because the boss was a person you could talk to, a person who had the confidence within an organization to make decisions based only on gut instinct. That was, of course, Seaton McLean. If you had a problem you could talk to Seaton, if you needed something you could talk to Seaton. If you made a call, he'd be behind you, and if that called turned out to be wrong. he'd still be behind you.

What happened for/to me on this show probably wouldn't happen today. They contacted me about doing the gig cause they'd seen some work I'd done on a half hour show. Offered me a showrunner credit. I was happy. then I learned they were also going to hire another producer (I wasn't so happy) becuase the job I was being hired to do had always been done by two people. I knew I couldn't do what I wanted with another person so I turned down the gig -- more money than I'd ever been offered in my life, more exposure, more prestige etc -- and threw up in my mouth just a little.

And they came back to me. OK, sport you got it. The other producer is off the table.

Holy cow.

Next. they said it would be a good idea if'n you kept the story editor. I said sure. We were now gonna start shooting in about ten weeks so that made sense to me. But can I bring in another one? sure.

but then both of them became unavailable for various reasons and there was just me sitting in the office trying to figure out WTF I was gonna do. I'd gotten the biggest gig of my life, I knew absolutely nothing about the "world" of the series and I had no writers and now I gotta have a "production script" for the first episode in about six or seven weeks (and of couse, twenty five more each week after that) as well as find replacement cast members for series regulars that had gone off to the greener pastures of the US.


so the calls went out to the experienced writers. I talked to a bunch of them but soon realized that becuase of their experience i was actually gonna have to convince them that my ideas were right. and I didn't have either the time or the rhetorical skill to do that.

so I interviewed newbies. one had never written a script, one had written half a script (the show intern the year previous) and the third had written a half hour show once. but I liked the cut of their jibs and I knew that they would sweat blood for me (the magnanimous provider of the "big break') so I figured these people were gonna be "my team".

there was now only a production company and a network to convince.

Seaton had a Springsteen poster in his office.

that was my in.

I went in and made my pitch. there was some talk about the fact that I'd never run a show of this scale and my staff had a sum total of one hour of produced Tv experience behind them and we were still shooting in six or seven weeks but, at this point, I figured what the fuck -- "if we succeed it'll be magnificent, if we fail the crash will be spectacular"

the "last chance power drive" the working metaphor in all of this.

Seaton laughed and said "what the hell" and called the network and the deal was done.

We made it through that season -- got a handful of Gemini nominations and got a bonus season after that.

I don't know what the point is. I just know that we did something special that year. something that in the "check and double checks" and "caution" that is a natural condition of a big corporate machine would never happen again.

CAROLINE said...

blueglow, that is awesome! truly.