Sunday, October 28, 2007


Apparently a number of Writers Guild of Canada members got form letters from Cable Honcho Jim Shaw this week in response to their having sent form letters to the CRTC (distributed by the Writers Guild last month) which took Shaw to task for his recent attacks on the Canadian Television Fund.

This was followed by the WGC sending the entire membership an email letter suggesting Mr. Shaw's letter was an attempt to "bully" those opposed to him and appending yet another form letter they could forward to the authorities.

Simultaneously, DMC launched another salvo in opposition to Mr. Shaw, in the process calling me out because of my past support for the Shaw offensive.

Now -- getting called out by DMC is not a matter to be taken lightly. I put it on a level with being that hapless sheepherder who suddenly has to go up against Jack Palance in "Shane".

shane1You know the scene. Unarmed sheep farmer. Gunslinger Jack tosses a gun to his feet...


Pick it up! Pick up the gun!

Sheep herder picks up the gun. Jack blows a hole in him, turns to the townsfolk...


You saw him! He had a gun!

Trust me. DMC and Jack Palance are not dissimilar. Imposing guys. Tend to dress in black. Seldom back from a fight and awful good at shooting from the hip.


So there's the gun...

There's the Guild folk looking on to see what I'll do...

Maybe it's time to reveal I'm really a wolf in Sheep herder's clothing...

But first...

I want to make it clear that I didn't get a letter from Jim Shaw this week. Or last. Or anytime since I wrote so intelligently, passionately and glowingly in his support.

No cards. No flowers. No invitations to skip to the head of the "Rocket Fund" queue. And he didn't offer a cable discount, perhaps because I don't live within his monopoly jurisdiction, but that's beside the point.

I mean -- thanks a lot, Jimbo! I nominate myself for Pariah status on your behalf and what do I get in return?  Zip!  Nada!  Nothing!

You Rich guys are all alike...

And Mr. Shaw -- one other thing -- you're still right to be going after the CTF and anybody else who doesn't want them to be accountable for their decisions.

You know what really bugs me about all this? Just how God-damned Chickenshit the Guild I helped found and so many of its members seem to be.

Ohmigawd! The big bad cable guy is after me! He's mean and angry and he knows where I live! Somebody save me!

Hey! The guy wrote you a fucken letter! You don't like it? Write him back!

Or phone him up! You can even do that toll free: 1-888-472-2222. I don't know for certain, but I'll bet he's in the office from about 9:00 a.m. onwards.

Tell his Assistant that he contacted you, so you're just returning. He wanted to talk about the CTF and you have much to tell him.

Honestly people, if you feel you're being pushed around -- PUSH BACK!

Stop asking me to carry your torch and pitchfork!

I mean, is there some reason why you can't speak (and maybe think) for yourself?

You're supposed to be Writers for Christ's sake! Why do you even need somebody else to compose a letter for you?

Aren't you good enough to write what you feel on your own? Are you so out of touch with your own industry that you wouldn't know what to say?

Are you maybe this out of touch because you don't actually live here and are distracted by more immediate local concerns like California wildfires and couldn't care less whether the Guild passes your form letter off as a vote of support from a real Canadian writer?

Or are you like so many members of the WGC, anxious not to rock any boat that might one day ferry you a meager development deal via some CTF funding envelope?

I understand strength in numbers and union solidarity and all that -- but why is this attack on Jim Shaw coming from union management down and not from the membership up?

Who's running the WGC -- writers -- or the same kind of cloistered bureaucratic thinking that appears to be running the CTF and almost every arts funding outfit in this country? 

"Don't ask questions! We know what's best for you! Trust us! We have the best interests of you artist types at heart!"

And since the inception of the Fund, the average income of Canadian writers and the number of work opportunities for those telling Canadian stories has gone in which direction...?

If there really is accountability and open public reporting and no cozy or even casual deals between CTF board members and network reps or anybody else who benefits from the Fund's largess, then what's wrong with having a look at that?

And what's wrong with examining the process to see if it can be improved?

Why is my Guild asking me to sign and send a form letter which states, "The CTF needs to be left alone to do its job and not spend significant resources defending itself from attacks in the media."

I mean -- if there was no reason to look into the CTF -- why has the CRTC already decided to do just that? And why do the loudest voices opposed seem to belong to those who have been the major beneficiaries of the Fund?

Sure, some fine TV programs have come about because of CTF funding. But their costs and budgets make up a miniscule percentage of the funds allotted.

Don't we have a right to know why the lucrative development deals that were killed were killed?

Do we, as the folks funding the Fund through our cable levies, not have the right to ask why the creators of failed shows keep getting new deals, why the same executives keep green-lighting the same production companies and never through their joint "expertise" create a show that makes it to air, let alone becomes a hit?

Is there no public right to see why shows that are successful somehow never seem to return a profit to either their investment partners or the Fund?

Wouldn't our industry be better if all that was a little more out in the open?

No wonder Jim Shaw questions your commitment to the cause. He knows you don't really have any commitment. And so do all those people who got your form letter.

Any idiot can sign a petition demanding a cleaner environment or an end to hostilities in Darfur. The people Politicians listen to are the ones who actually pick up the tools and do something.

Okay, DMC.  Your turn.

First, I have to compliment you on having the courage to say what you think and what you feel. That's a rare trait above the 49th. I may disagree with you on some stuff, but you sure as hell have the strength of your convictions and you're a thing of beauty expressing them. If this country had ten more writers with half your guts and a third of your passion, we'd have an industry that could challenge the world.

But you gotta kick off the cutting edge blinkers, Pal. You gotta stop looking at the business through the prism of Queen Street West, the Film Centre and what they like to hear down at the CBC. Trust me, none of those folks will be there when you really need them or when it counts. Because none of them care about the one constituency that truly matters -- the audience.

I know that you do care about the guys on the other side of the tube. I can see it in your work and in your passionate advocacy of "Trailer Park Boys", "Corner Gas" and a host of shows I suspect you personally can't stand.

Hard as it may be to accept, you and Jim Shaw are fighting for the same cause. Yeah, you're doing it for art and he's doing it for money. But it's the same cause -- the right of the audience to have access to a variety of programming they actually want to watch.

I can't believe you printed what the man had to say in his form letter response, but clearly didn't read the sentiment...

"Neither I nor my colleagues at Shaw Communications want to determine what Canadian programs are to be funded by the CTF. We do not want to control decisions on content. We believe television should entertain us, inform us, inspire us, and make us all think – as Canadians. We support the development of original Canadian programming and we want to ensure that money is well spent to produce programming that matters.

That means the CTF should be an active participant in supporting shows that people actually watch. They should be as great as this country; they should tell our stories and they should be aimed at commercial success."

I'm walking away now, DMC. I'm leaving your gun in the dirt and taking a pass on this showdown. My fight isn't with you any more than yours is with Jim Shaw.

Let the rich guy have his day. Use his love of money to help our cause. I honestly believe we'll all be better off if he gets what he wants.

1 comment:

DMc said...

Well, here you go then, Jim, hitching your contrarian cart to a very dubious horse.

For the record, as I've said many times, it's not that the CTF is a perfect flower that couldn't use a spruce up or two. Yeah, I know that the letters from the WGC don't say that. But you're up against a meglomanical egoist who has proven time and again, in interview and in advertisement and in form letter, that he doesn't mind dissembling -- whether egotism or ignorance drives it, I couldn't care less.

He says he has no wish to regulate content, yet he won't shut up about content.

The examples he picks he picks because he doesn't like them. He wants control of a fund himself -- remember, his POV is that the CTF can't be fixed -- but he doesn't want to have anything to do with content.

A five year old could see through this shifty bullshit, but somehow because he talks from the hip you admire him. That's foolish at best.

I like to look at the surrounding landscape. Like the fact that this whole bullshit tantrum was launched directly after the CRTC turned down his application to bring the USA network north.

Like the fact that CORUS, a company he controls which last week reported a record year, recently booted and threw dozens if not hundreds of employees out of work.

Jim Shaw lies, and bullies, and you eat it up, because you don't like some of the same people he doesn't like.

Yeah, it's bullshit that more people don't stand up and speak their mind about this. But that's not the issue. The issue is whether Jim Shaw's vision of a Jim Shaw fund that Jim Shaw gets to control is a better way to fund TV, or if the CTF -- with reform or no -- is a better mechanism.

You back the horse you back, for whatever reason. I think it's a naive stand. I think you back the guy who'd fuck you over in a heartbeat if he got the chance. A guy who made nothing for himself, inherited it all from Daddy, and now wants to tell us what to do.

As snarkily as possible.

Good for you for expressing your convictions. I think it's great that you do it. I hope that when the millionaires get even fuller control in this damn apathetic nation than they do already, that you still have the chance to do it.

I'm more than comfortable backing the horse I'm backing. For the life of me, I'll never understand, beyond sheer, ornery contrarianism, why you're backing yours.

Some deals come with too high a price.