Clawing to escape the belly of the beast here in Hollywood. To commiserate, email my name assistantatlas at yahoo.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Jeff Zucker, Quitter: 5.43

And you know what they say about quitters. That's right. They never win. Ergo, Jeff Zucker is a loser.

So if you haven't heard, Jeff Zucker has ordered a slashing of staff at the venerable Peacock network.

And if you haven't heard, check out this LA Times story entitled "NBC Quits at 8: A Dark Hour for TV?"

It basically describes how the Zuckmeister and NBC-Uni Chair Bob Wright are saying that NBC was giving the kick-off primetime hour over to game shows and reality programming. Then NBC programming chieftain Kevin Reilly almost immediately reaffirmed that this was not, in fact, an accurate representation of NBC's programming strategy. Oops.

Personally, I think there may be a bit of powerplay going on here: the corporate honchos-- Zucker and Wright-- are concentrating on the basic bottom line. You know, the one that affect the millions in bonuses inevitably written into their contracts. Reilly, on the other hand, is looking at a longer-term strategy for NBC. Well, longer-term in the TV biz, anyway. This means he's looking at a 2-3 year plan of action to dominate the other networks by building new hits, supporting aging ones, and sending off the old ones with appropriate fanfare.

Currently, you can see the fruits of such a network master strategy over at CBS, where Les Moonves has created a CSI-fueled procedural and scripted juggernaut (with occasional reality hits like Survivor and The Amazing Race) that has been a consistent winner for a number of seasons. You know, right about the time NBC was imploding thanks to the loss of Friends?

But Zucker and Wright can't seem to look past their Christmas bonuses at this point. Which is why hundreds of NBC employees have gotten an early pink slip in their stockings.

Fortunately, Zucker and Wright have adopted a failing strategy. Deal or No Deal and the new Bob Saget-astic 1 Vs. 100 can't keep the network afloat forever. Even hugely-popular game shows fade-- anyone remember Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

Successful Hollywood honchos know the secret to success is that there is no secret to success. Everyone's stated goal should be to produce good programming that people will watch. Cutting costs should be secondary at most, and probably much lower on the list. Spend money to make money, guys.

Theoretically, that's what your salaries are being spent on, too.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Incentives for Filmmakers: 5.42

Today I turn again to my increasingly useful inbox-- that's assistantatlas AT yahoo dot com-- for a rather interesting topic. Well, it's one I haven't covered...and after five seasons and many long months, I have covered quite a lot. Today, it's all about location, location, location.

I'd like to announce I'm no longer naive enough to think that most studio film projects won't be influenced by financial incentives. Just how big of a role they play is the debate we'll wade into today, kids. Wheee!

Here's the email I received:

I discovered your blog in the course of research for a project I am working for the Illinois state legislature regarding state incentives to filmmakers. Since you've spent a good bit more time working in the industry than I have spent reading about it, would it be possible for me to get your take on the following questions?:

1) What do filmmakers look for when choosing a location? What are the most decisive factors in deciding where to shoot outside the 30-mile zone?
2) From your perspective (and what you have heard in your circles), which states or countries are particularly attractive to producers, and does this have to do more with the location itself or with targeted incentives?
3) Can you think of any less conventional incentives (other than tax credits, cheap/free permits, etc.) that could sway filmmakers toward a particular location?
4) Is there anyone else I should talk to?

Thanks so much for your time and consideration.
Jonathan C. Eastvold, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Illinois General Assembly
Legislative Research Unit

It even had his phone number. Interesting, eh? I just had to write back:

Dear Sir,

While I'm rather surprised you've chosen to reach out to me, I must admit that I am charmed enough by your attention to answer your questions to the best of my perhaps limited ability.

1) While there are multiple types of filmmakers, I assume you're looking for bigger-budget studio productions: indie guys will mostly film where they can. The most decisive factors are the availability of tax credits, skilled crews, ease of use (which means: clear/transparent procedures easily obtainable online), and the one you can't control: suitability of the location for the project. Do be advised that this suitability one usually comes last on the list. After all, if they can make Vancouver look like "Smallville, Kansas" week after week, they could probably make Chicago stand in for Tokyo.

2) The locations with the most buzz seem to be Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, Vancouver (British Columbia, generally), Mexico (especially Baja), Louisiana, with a lot of interest in India, but relatively little Hollywood filming as of yet. For the most part, tax incentives are a big factor, especially in the largest, most high-profile studio projects where the bean-counters have a lot of control. Oh Can't forget the weather. Or at least, well-loved location scouts won't.

3) Less conventional incentives? Access to cheap labor? A hot nightclub (guy movies) or shopping (chick movies environment? Oh- here's an unconventional one: legalize gay marriage...or at least, domestic partnerships. It'll boost your talent pool and the perception of Illinois as an open, creative place. Also, do more to promote home-grown
filmmakers and artists: they're much more likely to use their home state in projects.

4) (I'll spare you my people recommendations)

So feel free to wade in on any of the good research doctor's questions if you think you've got some answers. Or one of those 'thought' thingies I keep hearing so much about.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Tyra Banks Is Scabby: 5.41

And she doesn't care about poor people!

I was already preparing a post on Tyra Banks' scabby antics when a funny little thing showed up in my inbox. From the Gmail account of the Renegade Writers, came a brief missive drawing attention to this post on Defamer about the latest renegade tactics employed by an independent trouble-making faction trying to draw attention to the plight of reality writers. It's nice to see the little guys getting creative when they rumble with the powers that be.

Basically, the poor reality writers, who have the mind-numbing job of creating compelling storylines from uninteresting, dimbulb, ghetto-beauty contestants on America's Next Top Model, are being screwed out of their health benefits thanks to lack of Writer's Guild protection. But instead of recognizing that these people are talented people who deserve health benefits for their kids, the CW execs are getting greedy. After all, ANTM is the CW's biggest hit and its only one that isn't looking particularly shaky (please see: Gilmore Girls, 7th Heaven, One Tree Hill, and ALL of the sitcoms)

Seems like it'd be a shame if all of the viewers of this 'reality' show were forced to confront the reality that it's heavily scripted by people behind the cameras asked pointed questions at the right time. People who are people, too, I might remind everyone. People who also happen to be very good at generating publicity.

But then, I realized, maybe no one at the CW has caught on to this fact yet. So I've decided to ape my Renegade friends, and pen this little missive to the CW exec team:

Dear Ms. Ostroff and company,
Please remember that your family isn't more important than a reality writer's family.

And there are fewer talented people who can do a reality writer's job than you probably believe. But don't trust me, Hollywood's anonymous assistant, trust The Economist:

Get smart, my CW friends: don't damage your biggest show with strikebreaking activities that would draw attention to the fact it's scripted.

Yours Truly,

If you'd like to write your own words to Dawn Ostroff, the CW's fabulously greedy Prez, please feel free to email her at the following address:

UPDATE: Dawn's email bounced back, as did John Maata's (see below). It looks like this little tactic at least got them to switch email addresses, if nothing else. However, all other email addresses still seem operational.

Hey, while you're at it, feel free to email any or all of these CW executives and let 'em know how you feel:,,,,,,,,,,,,,,


Oh, and by the way-- they all need Viagra and love helping Nigerian businessmen.

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Monday, October 16, 2006

We Should've Invaded Paris Hilton: 5.40

Who would've guessed in 2003 that Paris Hilton's ladybox would contain more deadly biological agents than the country of Iraq?

Well, okay. . . besides those pesky UN Weapons Inspectors. Anyone remember Hans Blix?
Of course you don't.
But you remember the fast food company responsible for this ad, don't you? I digress...

Most of us now realize that the Iraq war was a big mistake.

But meanwhile, Paris Hilton has been responsible for multiple car crashes, rampant drug use, the decline of Western civilization, and is, according to recent surveys, the most overexposed celebrity in the world. A mean feat, to be sure, but yet another reason that her noxious influence needs to be stopped today. And frankly, if a DUI is the best that American prosecutors have managed in her 25-year reign of terror, then the Hague won't get around to her until 2050. And by then, it will be too late: her one-woman genocide of intellect will already be complete.

Let's take a look at some facts that I've carefully arranged together to make my point.

Saddam Hussein slaughtered thousands of Kurds, we probably all agree on that. But since we invaded, more Iraqis have died violently in the um, NOT civil war, than he ever gassed or murdered. By the time we invaded, the Iraqi army, economy, and society were all crumble-ready, as we've seen, and certainly not ready to be anything more than a nuisance for its neighbors. Also, you might remember that Saddam was a secular dictator. Until we tried to link Saddam to 9/11, Iraq was one of Al Qaeda's least favorite Arab dictatorships.

Invading Paris Hilton would've almost certainly resulted in fewer casualties, even if you include those who would develop "Paris Hilton Syndrome" or, as they're more widely known, STDs. Additionally, patrolling Paris would require fewer soldiers than it does to patrol Iraq. And Paris Hilton, as the country's most overexposed celebrity, certainly gets far more airtime-- and therefore, more pernicious influence-- than Saddam ever had.

President Cheney made a mistake. If only we'd elected someone more pop culture that guy who invented the Internet.


Monday, October 09, 2006

How To Get A "Superior" Fired: 5.39

Sorry 'bout the lack of posting. Again, I blame Time Warner.
Before we start, I'd like to say this: I don't necessarily condone any of these things that I'm going to suggest.

But I'm still gonna write them...

...because I'm confident that one day an assistant will Google them up, these Internet-immortal words, and use them for wonderfully nefarious purposes. Also, before anyone gets angry, let's remember that this is the blog of an anonymous, often irate, Hollywood assistant. Take it with the grain of electronic salt with which it is intended. This is for infotainment purposes only.

And no, this isn't a list, like this other post, because getting someone fired is really a strategy. Sorry. But I did add fun bold words, so pay attention to those or something.

Getting a superior fired is a strategy because it must unfold over the long term. It has many prongs, different feints and parries, like a really wicked swordfight. I'll spare you further dick metaphors. And note that getting someone fired requires a lot of 'feminine wiles' like backstabbing, trickery, mastery of employesexual politics, empathy, and sensitivity.

You've got to pick and choose opportunities to highlight the superior's worst decisions. At the beginning, you'll have to frame them in the context of confusion, wondering about why things are like they are. As you progress, and blowback increases toward the Superior, take care to encourage others to take the lead on expressing collective concerns to other "Superiors."

BE CAREFUL. This can easily backfire. If it starts to, back off immediately. You'll notice by the blowback in your direction such as calls wondering if you and "Superior" have an okay relationship and telling/ordering/asking you to patch things up. If that happens, you must pick a new flaw to highlight for at least your next one or two that you highlight. And back off the highlighting long enough for a reconciliation. Remember, at least one or two more flaws until you can bring that one up again. If there aren't that many, reconsider your position.

It's really all about Neo-Unions, which differ from regulation old, "scary" Unions in that they're more ad hoc, less formal, more cooperative, and significantly less powerful. But, if marshalled effectively, they can, and do, influence the actions of bosses. Your Neo-Union, if you don't quite understand it already, is basically your co-workers.

Keep in mind that Neo-Unions' loose structure means that you can pull in outsiders to provide independent criticism of Superiors and especially, their most relevant decisions. Whether they're PR people (tough, b/c they're so professionally happy) or computer people (good, but their criticisms will often get lost) or advertisers (sweet spot cuz they're the money people). But getting these outsiders to criticize your target Superior's actions can be an invaluable push for otherwise-complacent Big Bosses. Again, be careful this criticism doesn't fall on you.

-If your superior has been on the job longer than you, unless there is gross negligence, Bad Boss ain't goin' nowhere. Or at least, not by your hand.

-Ultimatums (ie- it's him or me) have a .0001% chance of success. Never put your job on the line over someone else's bad behavior. That statement's good in a lot ways, and a lot of situations.

-Whatever you do, never let your Superior know that you're targeting them. Be tight-lipped around other employees as much as possible without severely comprimising your other goals. If your Superior finds out definitively that you're after them, you're probably toast.

Go slowly, and go in good faith, my friends. If your cause is righteous, you should prevail. Hopefully, you're still young enough to believe this.

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Seriously, Time Warner, I Hate You Guys

Oh how I hate my infernal ISP, Time Warner Cable.

Our connection won't be repaired until NEXT Friday. Unfortunately, it was the Roomie who finally got through...because I would've demanded someone's head on a stick. Or at least a prorated rate for the month. But maybe that's a good thing, considering it would've required a whole new round of corporate bureaucratic wrangling.

Seriously, Time Warner, I had Comcast for almost three years and had maybe two instances of outtages-- both no more than a few days at most. Now you're telling me that it's going to be down for a total of three weeks, and there's nothing even a "highly-skilled" tech specialist and my actually highly-skilled, tech-savvy roommate can do about it?

Nope. Nothing.

Seriously, Time Warner, you're totally making this girl think I'm coming over just to use her series of tubes, obscuring the fact that I'm really there to use her other set of tubes.

Which, if you think about it, means that Time Warner is making me gay.

Fortunately, my TV still works, so I will be able to tune into Veronica Mars, which should be enough to overturn any alternate tendencies. And you should, too. Tune in, that is. Otherwise, you won't get caught up with the best show on TV.