Friday, November 30, 2007

Poorly Chosen Words...

Could either be some of the studio's insulting offers during the most recent round of WGA negotiations, or Arrested Development's Tobias and his inadvertent potty mouth.

I'll let you decide.

Because David Cross makes me smile, (the AMPTP, not so much)...

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Good On You...All Of You

Kudo's to all those Canadian writers and creatives (and others around the world) who took to the streets today in support of our WGA brothers and sisters south of the border.

From, whilst on the line in Toronto, McGrath speaks:

Canadian TV and film writers joined writers in Paris, London, Berlin and other entertainment centres around the world in a show of support for their U.S. colleagues.

"As Canadian writers, what happens in the U.S. desperately affects us," said Denis McGrath, a Canadian screenwriter picketing outside Toronto's Sony Centre.

"We already make a lot less money than American writers do, and we still have it better than writers in other countries," he said. "So all around the world today, in six, seven cities around the world, different members of their national writers guilds are marching in solidarity with the WGA for their deal on internet rights."

Jill Golick posts pics. And then, of course, DMc reports. It's all about the weather indeed.

Well done, everyone...

...even where it was cold.

Baby It's Cold Outside

Just like that, temps plummeted yesterday...and the six months of hell that is not spring, summer, or fall officially begins.

Minus 26 C.

Minus 39 C with the wind chill.

Frakin' freezing.

You know about wind chill, of course. That's the feels like in, it's 26 below zero, but it "feels like" 39 below.

Sorry...doesn't feel just is.

Plus more than two inches of snow. Saskatchewan in the winter...not so awesome.

Dreaming of warmer climes...y tu mamá también.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Pick A Target

Some good posts last week from L. Klink and A Epstein about the art and craft of giving (and receiving) notes on your screenplay.

Alex focused on mechanics with some nice analogy:
Sometimes it's a matter of taking an event or a scene and moving it sooner, or later, or trimming it out. Move a single scene, and everything may fall into place.

All of these notes are really about the mechanics of the story: how the engine of the story works. It's the difference between a driver saying that the car tends to fishtail, and the engineer saying the center of mass of the car is too far forward.

These are the kinds of notes I most like to get because they make the fix easier. If you think the problem is that the car fishtails, your "reader" response is to drive the car more slowly around corners. Your "writer" response is to move the center of mass, or to throw on a spoiler to push the rear of the car down onto the road. Then your story corners nicely at high speed.

And Lisa pointed out that it's smart to determine the objective of the notes:
When someone asks you for feedback on a script, first ask what kind of feedback they want. Is this a very rough, early draft, and they’re still working on the structure? Or is is nearly finished, and they’re doing a last polish? This should guide, but not limit your note-giving.

If someone asks for small, final draft notes and you spot a huge plot hole, by all means, bring it up. But if they’re still working out story issues, don’t sweat the dialogue - it will probably change as the story does.

In many ways, they're both talking about 'targeting' your notes at specific problem areas. But once the story's working and the structure's sound, there's a new target to focus on...where you want to sell it.

I was recently story editing yet another Canadian feature...a good script with a nifty hook, but a mixed genre picture (e.g. like an action/comedy, or a historical/horror). We were down to the small points of the deal, as it were, in terms of character/story/structure/dialogue/ pacing/logic notes, but with a little nudge in one direction or another, this particular screenplay could be sold to either a Lionsgate or Maple Pictures, or to the CBC. Two very different animals to say the least. It seemed the script was trying to be appropriate for both, and thus ended up not quite right for either.

So my last big note was for the writer to pick a target destination - be it company, studio, or network. Decide where he wanted to sell it, and then hone every detail to appeal specifically to that particular entity.

Trying to be everything to everybody when taking it to the marketplace can spell a quick death for a promising screenplay.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Go, You Riders?

David Mamet's acerbic look at Hollywood descending on a small town in Waterford, Vermont was a sharp biting satire that's been circling around my brain of late. But I couldn't pinpoint why exactly I was thinking about this story of small-town residents initially all too ready to give up their values for showbiz glitz. Then it clicked. In the film, the townspeople greet each other with "Go, you Huskies!", in reference to an upcoming football game between their beloved Waterford Huskies and another team.

And everywhere I've gone this week...every coffee shop, every store checkout counter, even just walking down the street, all I've heard is: "Go Green Go!"

The Saskatchewan Roughriders are Regina's team (or depending on which ad campaign, Saskatchewan's team...or even Canada's team)...yes, the 'ol green and white.

"Green is the colour
And football is the game..."

Like Henshaw at the Legion, I was a huge fanboy of the team in my youth. And my heart was also broken when Tony Gabriel made that game-winning catch for Ottawa in '76. But then, as the era of Reed and Lancaster and McQuarters and Baker came to an end, my interest and enthusiasm started to wane. The Riders couldn't win to save their lives, and even with their small comeback and Grey Cup win of '89, they slid right back into doldrumville.

I moved away from Regina, and the Riders were dead to me.

Then, after spending a dozen or so years away from small city Saskatchewan, I returned....and was shocked when paying a visit to an old high school friend to have him (and his wife and his kids) greet me at the door with their faces painted green and white. And wearing Rider jerseys. Because you see, it was game day.

The town was still crazy about their team, and full of what's locally known as Rider Pride. Win or lose (and mostly lose), you'd still see pep rallies and tailgate parties and stadium sell-outs week after week after week. To the casual observer, this kind of devotion might seem kinda sweet, or quaint...but there's devotion, and then there's blind devotion.

This is a team that two weeks ago hosted their first home playoff game since 1988; who prior to this year was only able to put together one other season with a record above .500 record since 1994; who during that twelve year stretch missed the playoffs 6 times (in a division with only four teams and the top three make it into the post season).

And that was on the playing field. Off the field, it was even worse.
Marty Rosen (Producer): What's with you and 14 year old girls?
Bob Barrenger (Movie Star): Everybody needs a hobby.

Here is a publicly-known list of some of the more recent indiscretions (from Bruce Arthur's article in today's National Post entitled: 'Riders Now Worthy Of Fan's Love'.
In 1999, it was defensive back Terryl Ulmer, and cocaine trafficking. Defensive back Davin Bush was convicted of assault in an incident outside a nightclub in 2001; defensive lineman Shont'e Peoples was charged with marijuana possession in 2003; running back Saladin McCullough and receivers Jamel Richardson and Emery Beckles were charged with assault in 2004. And then came Smith.

That case was the storm, as the defensive lineman was charged and later convicted of having sex with two women despite knowing he was HIV positive. It turned out that the Riders had known Smith's medical status for more than a year, but had not only not disclosed it -- they were barred by medical privacy laws --but let him continue to play.

Smith was eventually sentenced to six years in prison. It was a betrayal of trust.

There were more incidents --a bar fight involving running back Kenton Keith, and an arrest for troubled running back Hakim Hill, who was released by the Riders last February.

Believe me, having done a little digging myself...this article is only scratching the surface of a big ugly scab.

It all added up to players and coaches with primarily selfish agenda's: play mediocre football, make a little money, and take advantage of the 'rock star' treatment they all received. And a town that year after disappointing year was willing to put up with it.

When I confronted my old high school mate (and many others) with this reality, the response was pretty universal: "Oh, it's not that bad. Just a few rotten apples, that's all...", or, "Well, let's see about next year...give 'em one more chance."

Bob Barrenger: Only second chance I know, is the chance to make the same mistake twice.
Marty Rossen: If your memory was as long as your dick, you'd be in good shape.

And I found myself wondering: what's worse...the players that took advantage of their undeserved 'celebrity'? Or the townspeople who let 'celebrity' rule the roost?

This year, under new management, the Riders find themselves in the Grey Cup against Winnipeg. So congrats seem to be in order for an 'on the field' turnaround. As for off the field, it appears somewhat cleaned up by all accounts. But what's interesting is the call for change didn't seem to come from the fans, or even from the community (who actually own shares in the team). Unlike the town in State And Main, who eventually rise up and fight back with principles and morals and values and integrity to shame and show up the big movie in town, Regina and its Rider fans seem instead to have adopted some sort of a 'good or bad...we'll take whatever we get' attitude. And as for the teams tawdry recent past? It seems already forgotten.

Now, a few of my more reasonable friends who aren't so quick to forget, still claim that a Grey Cup victory this weekend should erase the embarrassment of the past decade and provide redemption for the ol' green and white. And at least on paper, the Riders should win. The Bluebombers are a decent squad but not a powerhouse, not to mention they lost their starting quarterback to a broken arm last week. The Riders are also beat up, but not to the same extent.

Nevertheless, I'll be pulling for Winnipeg on Sunday. Rider redemption shouldn't come so quick. Or be so easy.

Go, you Bombers.

Friday, November 23, 2007

What Jack Has To Say...

Jack Myers at MediaPost's Think Tank today provides some interesting strike-related info and some even more interesting commentary and forecasting.

First, the info:
Fifty three percent of 300 media, advertising and entertainment executives believe writers should continue to “hold out for everything they want,” with 47% voting for them to “pick up their pencils and get back to work.” According to the poll conducted by, a slight majority of a group that should be expected to be more sympathetic to the networks and studios express support for the Writers Guild of America.

This surprising result suggests underlying acknowledgement that digital assets represent an important and growing revenue stream for the industry and, although it is impossible to assess the long-term incremental value represented by digital, writers indeed deserve a slice of the pie.

Okay, not a landslide but fair enough. Now some commentary:
The ironic reality of the writers’ strike is its irrelevancy. Digital media is disrupting the economic models of an industry whose models have been broken for years. Today, fewer than one network television series in twelve breaks through to profitability. This one program in twelve has to support the enormous operating overhead of those who risk capital to develop and produce the programs. It is a business of failure, not success. The Writers Guild of America wants a piece of that American Dream — the ability to fail time and time and time again, and ultimately have a profitable business. Networks and studios prefer to hold onto their right to fail upward for as long as they can.

Writers are rewarded now for their failures; they want a bigger slice of the action in those rare instances they succeed. Whether the strike ends soon or continues into the new year, there’s a new business model in town.

Okay, interesting perspective, though not sure I exactly agree with writers being rewarded for failure...compensation for reuse or residuals is an artists right, regardless of how much is being made on the back end. And it's a mutually benefiting formula dependent on use and not necessarily success...the more it's 'used', the more compensation. If it ain't used, no compensation.

And finally, the forecast:
In the post-strike digital world, thousands of concepts will be cheaply produced and scattered across the digital landscape, much of it by members of the unionized Hollywood community who are being disenfranchised by the established economic models. Broadband and mobile video Web sites will eagerly offer distribution for this content, and ad sales networks such as Broadband Enterprises and Tremor Media will help fund it through advertiser support. A few will find their way to cable and broadcast series that make up the best of the Web, and ultimately networks and studios will acquire development rights to the best, in a reversal of current windows. Studios and networks will increase their production of online content and significantly reduce their investment in script and pilot development.

At the end of the strike, whenever that is, writers will need to become more entrepreneurial if they hope to benefit from digital income. I can’t envision any scenario where writers get to simply sit and write and expect to benefit financially whether or not their scripts are ever developed.

I don't know if anyone will disagree with this last one. And I hope the Canadian networks, companies, and creatives are taking notes...we always seem to be about three years behind the U.S. curve, and don't want to get left in the dust.

Start donning those different hats now.

Read the entire post HERE.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Is That Coffee Or P*ss?!

More from the UK's Screenwipe series, hosted by the deliciously caustic Charlie Brooker.

Tonight's episodes: The Talent...

and The Log (as in making TV's so easy it's like falling off a log...or is it)

"I'm going to talk to you like this for an hour because that's what you deserve!"


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

But Instead You Nod Like A B*tch

Still continuing my WGA strike-inspired TV and Hollywood Movie fast...feeling a little 'peckish', but I'll be fine. Their fight is our fight. And so to to help us through these wafer thin days of entertainment, I'm going to be posting several segments from the UK's hi-larious Screenwipe series starring Charlie Brooker.

Tonight's episodes: The Idea! (this one should win an award)...

and So You Want A Career In Television?

One might ask if this is what most of us are working toward and even striking for, is it worth it...and the answer is still, sadly, yes.

Because that's exactly how TV works!

Tip of the hat to Stephen Hall

Monday, November 19, 2007

Brain Drain Pain

No, I don't mean anguish over the exodus of Canadian creative talent down to the Hollywood Hills...I mean brain drain pain as in how my head head feels whenever I think I'm pretty smart and on top of all that is possible in the brave new world of making movie and TV entertainment, and then I read this forward-thinking post by John Rogers, followed by this post by Bill Cunningham (both inspired in part by this post by Marc Andreessen).

Wow. Me not so sharp as these dudes.

Go and immerse yourselves now, especially the students and may experience brain drain pain, but if you are the future, and what they're discussing will be the future, then ultimately, the headache's well worth it.

Getting The Axe?

As the WGA writers strike heads into week three, but with the promising news that talks are scheduled to resume, some frivolous food for thought fun.


Men's body spray.

First launched in France in 1983 by Fabergé which was part of Unilever, it was created as a male version of one of Unilever's other brands, Impulse, which was a fragranced deodorant bodyspray for women that promised wearers male attention. Although Axe (apparently called Lynx in the UK? guys...pick one) launched as a deodorant bodyspray, it soon moved into the broader male grooming category by launching successful anti-perspirants, aftershaves and shower gels, as well as less successful shampoos, razors, and skin care products.

Consistently targeted at the male 18-24 age group, all products promise in one form or another to give guys the edge in the mating game.

"Boom Chicka Wah Wah"

Has there been a more annoying ad campaign this year? But subtle Axe is not, in ad after ad after ad. And by most accounts, the overall overtness seems to be working.

This USA Today article from earlier this year touts some pretty impressive sales numbers for Axe and it's products, and predicts them to only keep rising. And Ad Age had this to say:

The brand has risen remarkably with edgy creative and a marketing message to unleash your inner animal magnetism in a category where efficacy is normally the selling point. Axe has climbed the category by turning its back on other traditional tenets, eschewing sports tie-ins and programming; using online and content integration plays; and defining its competitive set not as deodorants but as PlayStation and Nike.

Now I for one can't imagine anyone falling for the hype, but what do I know...and I'm old.

So a question for any younger men in the house...does it work?

But more importantly, to the ladies in the house...does it work?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

What Some Wrote This Week...

If the studios really believe they can't share a sliver of profits with the people who create what they sell, they'll be the losers. If you don't believe in the future, you shouldn't be in show business.
Patrick Goldstein at the LA Times trying to get to the bottom of the AMPTP's reluctance to negotiate and be reasonable leaves him cold and confused....

$204,000 dollars....this number was chosen specifically because CNBC and the studios on whose behalf they're arguing want you to believe that most writers are spoiled brats whining about their six-figure incomes.
Greg Saunders at the Huffington Post neatly explains the difference between 'average' salary (of WGA members) and 'median' salary, which is far more applicable...

If the writers' strike continues, and ultimately causes the collapse of the traditional TV development, pilot, upfront and fall season continuum, it would not necessarily be a bad thing for the industry.
And MediaPost's Jack Myers theorizes and speculates about the bad, and the good, that can come from the strike...

I didn't write much at all, read a lot instead...took some meetings...did some video-conferencing...watched more sports...marked some students screenplays...wondered aloud why the Victoria Secret Runway Christmas show, even with some Spice Girl spice, looked exactly the same as last year, and the year before (find some new looks, ladies)...

Maybe tonight I'll take in a play, as in theatre, or a foreign film.

And so it goes...

Friday, November 16, 2007


It's Friday, and fun has been kinda hard to come for the musicians in the house, here's little shredding action.

For the uninitiated or misinformed, shred guitar is a style of electric guitar playing in which rapid passages are performed using sweep-picking, hammer-ons, pull-offs, and other techniques. While shred guitar is mostly associated with hard rock and neo-classical metal, it is also used in some subgenres of fusion and bluegrass. Well-known shred-style guitar players include Eddie Van Halen and Steve Vai.

So now some dude on the internets has overdubbed some rather lamish guitaring over Eddie and Steve. The clips go on a little long, but any wannabe lickster or even serious strummer should find them hilarious.

The Carlos Sanatana number tops them all though.

At the end of the day, however, it's still about supporting the WGA strike right now. We kind of knew it already, but the information that's come out this past two weeks has shown us all we're truly at a crossroads.

Their fight is our fight, and it's a showdown with the devil (of sorts).

And like the Crossroads movie, may the most deserving and honest and true to his self player come out on top.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

WGA Strike Still A Boon For Canada?

After enduring a couple of weeks of the press trying to spin the strike as a golden opportunity for Canuck producers and shows, this Globe & Mail article tells a slightly different tale.
British Columbia's television industry is in crisis as repercussions from the U.S. writers' strike make their way north. One show has already shut down and at least five more are expected to prematurely stop production in the coming months.

NBC's Bionic Woman, starring Michelle Ryan, was supposed to run through to Dec. 12, but it shut down last Friday, said veteran publicist Bill Vigars, whose Canadian production, Search and Rescue, is unaffected by the strike. Meanwhile, the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica is stopping production tomorrow, and will remain out of commission until further notice, because it ran out of scripts, a source close to the show said. At least 200 people will be laid off in the aftermath.

"It's a crisis," Mr. Vigars said. "Each one of those shows is probably [losing] 150 people," not including the ancillary industries that will be affected as a result.

And those Canadian writers in LA racing back to work on shows up here and show us all how it's done?
Maureen Parker, executive director of the Writers Guild of Canada, said there have been a number of requests from Canadian writers living in the U.S. for a long time to come home to work on productions here.

But to do so, the Writers Guild of America requires Canadian writers to get a waiver of working rule No. 8, and they're not granting them at this time, Ms. Parker said.

Golden opportunity? Meh...not so much.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Name Of The Game Is Getting Paid...

For some mid-week smiles, watch this WGA strike-related clip but do understand what you're viewing is "NOT The Daily Show".

Ah, The Daily Show and its Moment of I miss thee.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Fools Gold

First go read the Henshaw's post on ways you can help support the WGA. What I can say is all I've been watching is a lot of sports this past week.

Now, even though Denis has already been posting better and faster and more often, in fact, waaay more often than all of us north of the border combined, I still feel the need to chime in on the WGA strike as 'golden opportunity for Canadian writers or producers' topic.

I can't tell you how much these articles from Playback, Variety, and Canadian Press (which is now a dead link for some reason) about how the strike could mean a boon for Canuck producers/shows/etc. TOTALLY make me mental. It's just such bullshit.

First, any writer with a backbone won't even go there. Count on it. So I don't know what's more insulting...the reporters asking the questions in an effort to spin a story? Or the Canadian producers actually taking the time to answer the questions seriously. Perhaps the reporters don't know any better, but the producers should know better.
Canadian producers are quietly salivating at the prospect of U.S. networks buying their strike-proof shows during a prolonged WGA strike.

"The longer the [writers] strike lasts, the more likely that those kinds of shows will get picked up by U.S. broadcasters. The odds are good, and continue to grow in our favor -- if you develop a show outside the U.S.," says John Morayniss, chairman and CEO of Blueprint Entertainment.

Morayniss insists a producer with the right "strike-proof" property with the right talent can possibly entice a U.S. network to take a flyer on a Canadian show -- but only if it can air on either side of the border.

And then this:
Mary Darling, executive producer of Little Mosque on the Prairie, says a decision to delay a U.S. sale of her series, despite a host of offers from stateside broadcasters, will pay off "now that inventory of quality programming is sure to be in higher demand" in the wake of the U.S. writers strike.

"A prized location has always been our goal for the series," Darling said from New York, where she and fellow producers of Little Mosque on Tuesday night received a Common Ground award.

Sales of existing finished series are one thing (though you'd still be ultimately hurting the WGA's cause), but producing shows to fill the holes? C'mon.

The solidarity and the morality issues aside (though they're important too), anyone who's worked in North American TV for more than 5 minutes knows how seriously Hollywood takes their show business, and how little merit and credibility they give our industry.

It ain't gonna happen...not a chance in hell.

How do I know?

Well, I know I'm not a serious player, but I do have over ten years experience of trying to get major U.S. network execs to read my Canadian-made scripts, or watch my Canadian-made shows, or buy my Canadian-made pitches...and have always been met with indifference, disinterest, and even disdain.

So maybe it's just me. Fair enough. But I also know a lot of way more serious players who have experienced the exact same reaction. Players who went on to be showrunners on U.S. series, but not in any way based on their Canadian work.

For the most part, Hollywood thinks our shows and our industry are a joke.

And if history counts for anything, best I can recollect there's only been one, count 'em, ONE Canadian initiated and made TV series that's aired in prime time on a major U.S. network over the past twenty years. The company was Alliance. The network was CBS. And the show was Due 1994/95.

That's the reality.

But you want to know the real reason why the 'right' Canadian series (that generally take a year to a year and a half to finance) with the right mix of cast and writers (that don't want to offend and insult their striking brothers and sisters in the States) doesn't have a shot at making it onto any US channels in the near future?

They LURVE their own shows.

And they like to make them...lots of them. Take a look at this article from Variety about all the U.S. pilots written or already shooting....
But thanks to the recent trend toward year-round development, webheads aren’t completely lacking in material for 2008-09.

That’s because a few months ago, as a strike became more and more likely, pilot development kicked into overdrive. Nets started handing out put pilot commitments, and even series orders, like they were candy.

The result: All of the networks have completed scripts in hand for projects they put into motion before the scribes skedaddled.

That means the TV studios won’t be entirely quiet over the next few months. As scribes march the picket lines across Hollywood, writers rooms are dark, latenight talker sets are collecting dust, and several series sets have already shut down — with many more to come in the next few weeks.

But there may still be work for TV thesps, helmers and below-the-line crew during the writers strike, as some pilots are ready to be shot (and others already have been).

To be clear, most scripts in development haven’t been turned in yet, or aren’t polished enough to be filmed. But NBC’s Ben Silverman boasts that he’s got more than a half-dozen pilots ready to lens, with big-name helmers attached.

Fox has already started shooting one drama (“The Oaks”), while another (“Hackett”) is wrapped. ABC already has its Cedric the Entertainer sitcom in the can, and CBS has begun production on one of its big hopes, “The Kingdom.”

Other projects could begin shooting within weeks.

They list dozens of shows. DOZENS. And if there's any possible way the studios and networks can force even some of them through the machine, they will put them on air long before they consider getting involved with a 'Canadian' production...even if their shows are shit.

You want a more 'realistic' possibility? Aaron Barnhart at the Kansas City Star posts this fax he received last week for a new reality show pitch: Conjugal Prison Visits.

He jokes about it not having a chance in hell of getting on the air...maybe. Well, take it from me, it'll get on TV (God forbid) before any one of 'our' series makes its way to the American airwaves.


Monday, November 12, 2007

This Ain't Your Teen's O.C. ...

...or Gossip Girl, or Degrassi, or The Best Years for that matter.

I'm talking about offbeat UK teen angst drama series that aired earlier this year on E4 and then Channel 4....and it's definitely more Trainspotting than 90210. There's a great deal of swearing, drug use, nudity and sex...but you know, it's also actually pretty entertaining.

It stars a number of fine young actors, including the terrific Nicholas Hoult (you know, the kid from About A Boy), who portray a group of Bristol friends, each at sixth form college. I watched the first two episodes and found it funny, dark, honest, harsh, twisted, even surreal, yet still not afraid to tackle teenage issues. I'm looking forward to the remaining eight eps, and it apparently did well enough across the pond to receive an order for a second season.

So where did I catch this 'new' series to Canadian TV? Super Channel.


But before the comments start flooding in charging I'm just selling out to 'the man', let me add that I also saw the pilot to another Super Channel Canadian exclusive...the new Flash Gordon series.

Meh...not so good.

Check out Skins won't be disappointed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Always Notify The Proper Authorites...

Nearly 2,000 visits to this little hobby of a blog yesterday via Metafilter Community Weblog who linked to the piece I wrote a while back on TV writer extraordinaire Darin Morgan. And to show my appreciation, I present a snippet from Morgan's classic X Files ep "Jose Chung's From Outer Space."

I think he likes the tall, lanky one.

Mr. Morgan still has his fans, I must say. That post has been getting an average of 10 googles a day since I wrote it...seriously. And one cool bonus from all the traffic was discovering Morgan is now a Consulting Producer on the new 'Bionic Woman'. There may be hope for that show afterall.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Perchance To Dream, Ay There's The Rube...

No, that's not a typo...the Rube, as in Rube Goldberg machine.

From Wikipedia: a Rube Goldberg machine is a complex apparatus that performs a simple task in an indirect and convoluted way. The term also applies as a classification for a generally over-complicated apparatus or software. It first appeared in Webster's Third New International Dictionary with the definition "accomplishing by extremely complex roundabout means what actually or seemingly could be done simply."

Rube Goldberg's inventions can be seen as a unique commentary on life's complexities. They provide a humorous diversion into the absurd that lampoons the wonders of technology. These send-ups of man's ingenuity resonate in modern life for those seeking simplicity in the midst of a technology revolution.

Rube Goldberg evolves the simplified pencil-sharpener. Open window (A) and fly kite (B). String (C) lifts small door (D) allowing moths (E) to escape and eat red flannel shirt (F). As weight of shirt becomes less, shoe (G) steps on switch (H) which heats electric iron (I) and burns hole in pants (J). Smoke (K) enters hole in tree (L), smoking out opossum (M) which jumps into basket (N), pulling rope (O) and lifting cage (P), allowing woodpecker (Q) to chew wood from pencil (R), exposing lead. Emergency knife (S) is always handy in case opossum or the woodpecker gets sick and can't work.

Stick with me here.

The simplified pencil apropos. You see, I am a WGA member, but I presently live and work in Canada. Fortunately, the work I'm doing now doesn't require me to pick up a pen, or I'm able to put my pencil down, as it were.

So as an insider outside looking in...

Negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP broke down on Sunday. This week, as scribes were joined by actors on the picket lines, we saw via blogs and the internet (ironically) testimonial after speech after testimonial from writers, performers, showrunners, old pro's, and newbies clearly and succinctly explaining the issues at hand as to what we are seeking with this strike, and why.

"It's all about the Internet, it's the big Kahuna, and both sides know it," says writer/director Josh Pate, whose credits include Friday Night Lights and Surface. "The deal that's made this year is the most important for both sides in decades."

But the studios and AMPTP leader Nick Counter would have you believe we're being completely unreasonable and Sunday's talks breakdown was all the writers fault. And Variety seems to be backing the studios. Though others are calling them on it. Fortunately, via the internet again, opposing arguments and opinions and (gasp) even the truth has been able to gestate, circulate, and hopefully, take hold.

And the solution to this messy contraption is relatively simple. It comes from Artful Writer's Craig Mazin.

When you look past all the whining and posturing and Kool-Aidy yammering from both sides, here’s one unemotional, inarguable, immutable fact.
If they’re saying “We don’t want to give more than .3” and we’re saying “We don’t want to take less than 2.5” then everyone in the world knows what that really means is:
“We’re starting at .3”
“We’re starting at 2.5”

There’s got to be a number between .3 and 2.5 that will satisfy both sides.
Has to be.

He's right you know...when it comes to compensation and residuals for entertainment being delivered over the internet, it's that simple. But like a Rube Goldberg invention, it's all being made way more complicated than it needs to be. The WGA and the writers they represent really aren't out of line with their requests (the studios have to know this) and we would probably agree to 2.0, and the AMPTP probably already has a number in the middle they'd give, let's say 1.5 --- split the diff and we settle at 1.75.

But that's only if the studios want to settle. Now. Today.

The sad thing is, everything seems to point to the studios actually wanting a long, drawn out and potentially devastating work stoppage.

Ay, there's the rub.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

I've Been Slashed

I know I have every reason in the world to really dislike the Guitar Hero video game series...but the new commercial for Hero III with Slash is still pretty cool.

Because it rocks.

Note: the version currently airing goes to the logo card while Slash is still playing, as opposed to swishing away and back again to reveal the college student at the end as per the above spot. Interesting...I wonder if it was just a timing issue, or did it test better to go out on the real deal.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Super Channel Dream Team

Okay, it's official and I've also been outed...doing some work for the new Canadian movie network Super Channel.

So far so's another side of the biz for me, but should be fun and I'm actually really looking forward to the experience. And interesting because have reconnected with several people I met when first starting out in the industry (my first ever real 'development deal/contract' as a freelancer writer was with the original Superchannel in the late 80's). Plus am joining a great group of colleagues who were enlisted to run the development end of things --- who I'm sure will all be happier once the mad scramble to get offices up and running is behind us.

More when things settle down.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Every Cover Tells A Story?

Presently in Toronto...busy busy meeting meeting for a new that means coming at the biz from a slightly different direction (for me at least). All very interesting and exciting, but still digesting and absorbing and trying to sort what I can or can't (or should or shouldn't) blog about. More on that when I figure it out.

Caught up with some old pals and blogger friends, good times. And while many I know hate the Toronto, I personally love it. And so it was with some sadness I drove by the hole in the ground that was the Molson Brewery building on Lakeshore Blvd., once home to a TV series I did for several years. The times, they do a change.

So in the meantime, album covers. As in, those slim square cardboard sleeves that protected our vinyl records, and the artwork that decorated them. Records?...wonder the kids.

A few years ago I visited the home of a writing colleague and up on his living room wall he had the covers of his four favourite record album arranged in a square, then mounted and framed.

It was very cool. It was art.

Just staring at it brought on a flood of know, when music was good and meant something...and buying a record meant listening to it constantly while turning the cover over and over in your hands...studying, memorizing, interpreting, discovering.

But while he put up the record jackets of his fav albums, I just went with some of my fav album covers. He went for classics, I went for colour.

The website Sleevage has a nice collection of lp covers on display, Best Article Every Day has a good piece (and clever title: 'Wearing Your Art On Your Sleeve') about covers that changed everything, and David Byrne's blog/journal has a post with lot of interesting thoughts on some cover art and the artistry behind (or not behind) them.

I'm sure Byrne's much an artist has to do with the artwork or how much the pictures actually mean is probably pretty negligible and really more about marketing.

But I still enjoy gazing upon my little creation, and it covers a little crack in the wall...what else do want from a piece of art anyway?

Friday, November 02, 2007

My New Phone and On The Bus

Friday Fun comes via animations of two bits from deadpan comedian Steven Wright...his new phone:

And on the bus:

I'm not sure who first came up with doing this sort of thing (I know I've seen some done of Woody Allen bits), but it's an interesting notion. Words and Pictures juxtaposed with Audio.

Because it makes smile (a little bit)...

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Abt Natural Because I Have A Gub...

Watching with fascinated trepidation the WGA/AMPTP negotiations go down to and then past the wire...primarily reading Artful Writer and Deadline Hollywood Daily. The comments are going up as fast as you can read and refresh.

The key stumbling block seems to be DVD and now New Media/Internet reuse compensation formulas (aka residuals) for writers. Scribes got a crummy deal way back when for home video, and it hasn't increased since. They want a minuscule bump in percentage for DVD's, and, anticipating the future, at least the same for downloads.

But AMPTP leader Nick Counter dashed any hopes of a quick resolution with this statement at the end of today:
"…no further movement is possible to close the gap between us so long as your DVD proposal remains on the table. In referring to DVDs, we include not only traditional DVDs, but also electronic sell-through — i.e., permanent downloads. As you know, we believe that electronic sell-through is synonymous with DVD."

Um...yeah. Didn't go over too good with the writers/WGA, as you can well imagine.

So kudo's to Ken Levine for telling it like it is, with lots of his usual vim, wit, and vigor. And he points to the very problem at the root of all this...writers have been generally taken for granted, stepped on, and bullied, getting little or no respect. And as anyone who's been picked on at school knows, once word gets around you're a pushover, it's real hard to make anyone to believe otherwise.

The other problem he notes is the biz tends to only slow down when writers strike, whereas directors and actors striking makes more of an immediate impact. So if the WGA hits the picket lines, expect it to be a long least until some of the other unions and guilds join rank.

What does it mean for us writers up in Canada? Not a whole lot. We signed our IPA deal quickly and quietly last year...and we're a different know, take our production advances and run. But I do know what it doesn't mean - this Canadian Press 'crock o' shit' article - trying to spin the strike into having a positive effect on the Canadian TV industry.

The spin:

But others suggest a lengthy strike could present golden opportunities for all sorts of players in Canada, from the private broadcasters to CBC and homegrown production companies. Both Global and CTV have long been criticized for a dearth of homemade programming on their airwaves, and some suggest a long strike could provide them with a captive audience for made-in-Canada shows.
"Gosh, do you think they might actually have to start creating some Canadian product?" Ken Ferguson, head of Toronto Film Studios, a film and television production company, said of Global and CTV. "This should be an opportunity - it should be the opportunity for Canadians to produce product that would probably find a ready market in the United States as well.

The reality:

While Global said it had no plans to trot out any Canadian programming in the event of a prolonged strike, Cosentino said CTV had plenty of Canadian shows that were slated to air in the months to come - from "Degrassi: The Next Generation" to "Robson Arms." He added that the network was committed to producing Canadian programming regardless of the strike.

"Is it our intention to run Canadian programming to replace American content? Not exactly. Our strategy with Canadian programming is to run it in the best possible slot we can to deliver it to the right audience," he said.

Not exactly? Try never. There's some other offensiveness in there, but I'll let you find it for yourselves.

Anyway, however it shakes out let's stand by our writing brothers and sisters to the south...and for fun, I present a reason why we (and the studios, and the networks) need to keep scribes happy and pay them what's fair:

Go HERE (if embed is funky)

A producer, director, or actor might have forgotten to hit spellcheck and ended up with the above scene by mistake...but only a good writer can turn misspelling on purpose into comedy gold. That's a talent worth paying for, because it all starts with the words on the page.

Nevertheless, as long as a writer's talent and the value of that talent isn't recognized and respected, negotiating better terms will be a long, uphill battle.

Right now it's like the WGA has a gub...but looks like they might need a gun.