Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not Unless Somebody Dies, You’re Not!

On one of my first trips to LA, I went to a basketball game where Jack Nicholson was sitting courtside. At some point, one of the Lakers, whose name neither I nor probably any member of his posse can now remember, botched a play and got yanked off the floor.

But he didn’t want to leave, arguing with the coach and anyone else who would listen that he should be allowed to keep playing. Jack had finally had enough and piped up. “Sit down. You’re not going in. Not unless somebody dies, you’re not”.

It might’ve been the same trip where somebody explained to me how Hollywood worked. He compared it to a goldfield where every claim had been staked. If you wanted to participate in the goldrush, you either sought out an untapped vein on your own, made yourself invaluable to one of the outfits –- or –- waited for somebody to die.

Luckily, it’s much easier to die in show business than real life. You can be taken out for not panning as much ore as your studio expected or passing off a nugget of Fool’s Gold as the real thing.

And you can be chased off by those eager to replace you who malign you or convince others you can’t swing a pick like you used to do.

It doesn’t matter whether or not their opinion is true. Hollywood’s a town where the word of the herd echoes loudest.

It’s a place where you can condemn a restaurant for being opposed to gay marriage in one breath and ruin a leading man’s box office appeal by insinuating he’s one of those icky Gay guys in the next.

The herd mentality operates to a single purpose, to bring somebody down so that there is room for somebody new.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve watched what I think is a new wrinkle in this phenomena fueled by social media.

Often those who tweet and post on Facebook aren’t trying to communicate as much as they’re attempting to draw attention to themselves. We live in an age where obscurity is the new poverty.

(And don’t assume that those of us who blog operate on a somewhat higher plane –- because we don’t)

This has allowed the herd to not only target en mass but in the process imply who the soon to die’s replacement should be. And that would be one of those leading the attack. For if they found the weakness first, surely any honor awarded for the kill should fall to them.

But for this process to succeed, you can’t target just anybody. You have to go after the most highly visible victim. And that strategy has come into play in a very pronounced fashion among screenwriters.

For while, God knows, there are hundreds in our profession who churn out predictable, by-the-numbers scripts on a daily basis, their fellow scribes mostly leave them alone and aim their venom at those we all agree (or at least once agreed) are the best of us.

Look at what we have already done to such writers as David Mamet, David Milch and most recently Aaron Sorkin. Three guys who could (and repeatedly do) write circles around virtually everybody else who calls him/herself a screenwriter.

Mamet was the first and perhaps the easiest to target. He went out of his way to tell the herd he wasn’t one of them any more –- or perhaps worse -- never really had been.

His 2008 Village Voice essay “Why I am No Longer A Brain Dead Liberal” severed that connection in one swift cut. Not long after, he published “The Secret Knowledge”, a book that bludgeoned the values of the herd, then raped its corpse, pissed on it and left it out in the Sun.

Suddenly, all those who had bulk emailed Mamet’s brilliant, utterly essential and true “MEMO TO THE WRITERS OF THE UNIT” to all and sundry as proof of where they stood on the cultural battleground, began snarking that the kid from Chicago just didn’t have it anymore.

According to our particular chattering classes, his new plays didn’t have the edge and bite now that it was known the sharp tongue and teeth belonged not to “one of us” but a Capitalist (never mind that the rest of us still copyright our scripts to make sure we get fully paid).

One critic even pointed out that he’d only been nominated for an Oscar twice (for “Wag the Dog” and “The Verdict”) and those were both ---- adaptations…

In other words, Dave couldn’t even get into the Kodak theatre on his own merits, so how had anyone ever assumed he was any better than those dimwit actor wannabees who won statuettes for writing “Rocky” and “Good Will Hunting”!

"People may or may not say what they mean... but they always say something designed to get what they want." — David Mamet


Next into the Screenwriters public pillory was David Milch.

There was a time, somewhere between his final season of “NYPD Blue” and the first of “Deadwood” that David Milch was anointed “Television’s First Artistic Genius”.

And then everybody started knocking him for being “a control freak”.

He took the blame for the sudden end of “Deadwood” for declining to reduce the final season to less than half the originally planned episodes and then haggled over completing the saga in a couple of two hour movies when the truncated season plug was pulled.

Now he was an out of control control freak making life miserable for all the rest of us writers well known to be far more eager to embrace capricious network notes and decisions.

Then he was branded as even more difficult by not making “John From Cincinnati” more accessible. And by the time we got to “Luck” he had also become insensitive to the on set deaths of several horses and supposedly threatened co-producer Michael Mann with a baseball bat.

Never mind that the end products in all three of those series were powerful pieces of drama and mostly better than anything else simultaneously broadcast.

Never mind that Milch and Mann went public to explain their personal decision to cancel “Luck”, describe their working relationship and suggest that maybe Nick Nolte wasn’t the most reliable source when it came to stories about Louisville Sluggers.

Screenwriters more than anyone still picked Milch apart and demanded he be sent to the PETA woodshed before being banished from the lucrative slopes of the goldfield to write religious tracts since that subject seemed to matter so much to him.

“Pain or damage don't end the world. Or despair, or fucking beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you've got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man... and give some back.” — David Milch

And now, for the last few weeks, it’s been Aaron Sorkin’s turn in the barrel. And this one has been a pile on of epic proportions.

Despite the fact that “The Newsroom” is designed as a Hollywood liberal polemic where the bad guys are everybody most screenwriters hate and the heroic characters are imbued with traits and passions writers love; writers have been the most vocal in trashing it.

Sorkin’s multiple seasons of brilliance on “Sports Night” and “The West Wing”, his seminal play “A Few Good Men” and films like “Charlie Wilson’s War”, “Moneyball” and “The Social Network” have been dismissed by the general consensus that “The Newsroom” sucks.

As a guy who shares more of David Mamet’s values than those of the herd, this should give me some joy. But it doesn’t. Because in my opinion “The Newsroom” is about the best written show on television right now and more than on a par with “Breaking Bad”.

Yet I’ve seen writer after writer insist that Sorkin has “lost it” or doesn’t have the feel for television anymore after spending a couple of years writing movies. Some even say that Steve Zaillian had more to do with the final version of “Moneyball” than Sorkin.

(Enjoy the moment, Steve. It’ll be your turn on the spit when they’re done with your co-writer) 

When someone takes an opposing view to the trashing, I’ve seen writers counter with “Oh, yeah. Well, he’s certainly lost the ability to write female characters”.

As one further opined, “Every woman on ‘The Newsroom’ is dysfunctional”.


More dysfunctional than the women on “Girls”? “Sex and The City”? “Entourage”? “Kalifornication”? “Nurse Jackie”? “Weeds”? “Big Love”?

More dysfunctional even than the women of “The Sopranos”?

Let’s face it. There have been a lot of fascinatingly dysfunctional female characters on television of late. And male ones too. How exactly are any of Sorkin’s creations that much worse? And why is he being fingered as the major offender?

Is it his supposed arrogance or intelligence? His youtubed “Sorkinisms”? The way he continually falls back on the same 26 letters of the alphabet for every damned thing he does?

No. It’s because Aaron Sorkin has a lock on a very lucrative section of the goldfield right now. And a lot of writers know that they’re not getting a shot at that turf unless he dies.

"I love writing, but hate starting. The page is awfully white and it says, 'You may have fooled some of the people some of the time but those days are over, Giftless. I'm not your agent and I'm not your mommy: I'm a white piece of paper. You wanna dance with me?' and I really, really don't. I'll go peaceable-like." — Aaron Sorkin


You see. It would be really easy for a smart and talented writer to go after one of the lesser lights banging out pages for some lame procedural or same-joke-over-and-over sitcom. We all know those shows are staffed by people barely more talented than their peers.

Heck, there are series where the showrunner writes everything while the much vaunted “room” mostly gives notes and does research. How come nobody wants to knock them out of the box so they can get the chance to show what they can do?

Because that’s not the point.

Replace any of those guys and you’re just another nobody on a forgettable show. No, you have to make it clear you’re somebody who deserves consideration for the MOTHERLODE.

The show nothing in your resume or work ethic indicates you can handle.

The one that will give you some of Mamet, Milch or Sorkin’s respect.

The job that means you don’t have to go prospecting for your own El Dorado.

Please understand that I have no problem with somebody not liking a show or a particular writer’s style for any reason. I take no issue with you publishing your criticisms.

But when I don’t like a show, I stop watching it and move on. And when the whining attacks continue week after week after fucking week, you know it’s really about something else.

At the moment, David Mamet is completing a script about Phil Spector. David Milch is embarking on a William Faulkner project for HBO. Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” has been renewed for a second season and he’s also writing a couple of movies.

They’re not going anywhere. And neither are most of those slagging them.

Not unless somebody dies, they’re not.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Lazy Sunday #231: Little Bitty

Watching the Olympics is one of those things that makes you realize just how big the world is –- and how small.

For weeks, the Canadian Media has been hyping “our medal hopefuls”, the local athletes destined to be world beaters and bring back Gold and Glory from London 2012.

What they didn’t tell us was there are 85 other guys from 65 other countries who are just as good or better at each and every sport we were supposed to dominate.

So there’s always disappointment as our athlete comes in 25th or fails to qualify while some guy from someplace you didn’t even know was a country is draped in a flag you’ve never seen, singing an anthem you’ve never heard, chewing on his medal.

There’s so much more to the world than they ever get around to telling you.

And when you see how many people are just as good at something you thought you were special at, it can make you feel tiny and insignificant and even unable to ever make your mark or any difference.

And then the camera goes in for a close-up on that guy who won and you see the emotion and joy and sense of accomplishment on his face and you think, “Hey, I know him. He’s just like me.”

And that makes you feel like you could take on the world just the way he did. Because, well -- he did.

I once had a friend with a government job. Every week he had to go to some presentation or seminar that taught him to make sure all his interactions with the public were politically correct, gender sensitive and racially or sexually unbiased. He hated them.

Because being politically incorrect, gender insensitive or biased just wasn’t who he was and had nothing to do with his job. But he still had to go.

One night we were walking our dogs and he said, “The took us to an Imax movie about the Universe today.” I asked what that had to do with job training. He shrugged. “They do it to make us feel small”.

And staring at the stars, like taking in the spectacle of the Olympic Games can definitely do that.

But it can also make you realize nothing is beyond your grasp. Because many who started out small or came from nothing and nowhere achieved things even they never thought were possible.

Play the first video below with the sound off and the one below it for musical accompaniment. It’s a reminder that no matter how impossibly large the world seems, it’s the same size for all of us.

Enjoy your Sunday.

View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The One Assault Weapon We Must Not Ban


While the point of my latest ongoing web series was to promote movies, books and other creative endeavors in need of crowd funding, today’s offering blew me away…

Come Summer I take as much of my creative activity as I can outdoors. Most of the year, I actually don’t mind sitting alone in a drafty garret lit only by the glow of a computer screen. But when it’s nice out, I want to be out too.

So I move the computer to the deck or the patio and work there. Which brings me into contact with a work related hazard nobody can ignore –- bugs.

There just isn’t any way to avoid the constant irritation as flies, yellow jackets and wasps take an interest. It’s nature’s way of replicating the network execs who’ll be annoying you once the damn thing’s written.

And there’s no way of getting them to go away that doesn’t make you or your work space reek of some kind of toxicity.

Until now…

Santa Monica artist Lorenzo Maggiore must have been inspired by being similarly afflicted. And he appears to be a much more humane person than those of us who slam heavy objects on the pesky interlopers or drown them in a steady stream of Raid.

He invented an assault rifle that kills bugs.

The Bug-A-Salt is high tech weaponry that dispatches bugs with a tiny, lethal blast of salt, leaving them not only dead, but slime free for disposal. And all without the collateral damage of poisoning your pets or the rest of your surrounding ecosystem.

And now –- through the power of crowd funding -- you can help him bring this wonder to the world, and especially me, who could use one oh soooooo bad as I type this and a Senior VP of Development just won’t stop buzzing around my head.

As of this morning, Lorenzo has raised more than $152,000 or 10X his original goal, with six weeks left to contribute.

Which doesn’t mean you should shrug “Why bother?”. It means you should send him some cash at anything from the $40 “Lone Gunman” entry level which will get you your own prototype to contributions that could make you a major arms dealer.

Because the more money he gets, the faster this thing gets into our hands. And with one of these, each of us could become a Lord of the Flies!

Contribute to Lorenzo here. And here’s his astonishingly inspired invention in operational mode.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Lazy Sunday #230: My Olympian


Am I the only sensing that the hype leading up to this year’s Olympic Games in London is not generating all that much excitement?

At first I thought it might be a Canadian malaise, with us maybe still recovering from the massive winter party that was Vancouver 2010, satiated even jaded by this international competition thing.

Then I wondered if the way we over-hyped our own games just set the bar too high for anyone to better this soon.

Or maybe that well known British reserve was simply getting in the way of sparking an urge to party.

And then I saw the ESPN special “Nude Olympians” issue subtitled “The Body” and subsequently discovered that a half dozen other countries had done classy photo spreads of their own Olympic athletes in the buff.

And I knew that London 2012 was struggling to get some attention. Because if you’re having trouble getting noticed, taking all your clothes off is a sure sign of desperation.

There was a party near my place this week for the daughter of one of my neighbors who was leaving to go to the Olympics.

I don’t know her more than to nod “Hello”. Didn’t even know she was an athlete, let alone one performing at a world class level. Suspected she wasn’t someone anyone else has ever asked to pose nude for some glamor shots.

But I went to the party and have to say I’ve never met anybody as thrilled to be chosen for any honor, let alone one this unique and prestigious.

I learned that she’s expected to medal, maybe even take Gold. I learned she competed at the recent Pan-Am Games and the last two world championships in her sport.

Yet, she lives just down the street and I knew nothing about her.  And that’s because all of us pay as much attention to she and her fellow athletes as I’ve been paying to the 2012 Olympics.

Because her Olympics are the Paralympics.

Some of her teammates were at the party. Athletes missing limbs. Athletes who are deaf. And blind. And mentally challenged.

And as I talked to them I began to understand their motto –- “Forget everything you thought you knew about humans. Here come the superhumans”.

This year, I really don’t care who owns the podium in London. These will be my Olympians. And these will be the games I watch.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Some Things Bear Repeating

Monday night in Toronto, Ontario, 2 died and 23 were wounded in an armed attack on a street party.

Last night in Aurora, Colorado, 12 died and 59 were wounded in an armed attack on a movie theatre.

Whenever these terrible events occur, and they seem to be occurring with increasing frequency, there’s always a great deal of soul searching and blame placing in the media.

Guns kill. Drugs kill. Gangs kill. Poverty kills. Racism kills.

Religion. Video games. Movies. Political rhetoric. Comic books. Misplaced concepts of honor. Ancient feuds. According to the press pundits and the news channel experts, they all kill.

Nobody wants to tell the truth.

Killers kill.

People with something seriously wrong inside them pull the triggers.

And wield the knives.

And swing the machetes.

And step on the accelerator.

And swing the baseball bat.

And drown their kids.

And immolate their daughters.

Whatever method of dispatch is used, the problem is not the object taken up to do the deed. The problem is the person who decides to use it to end the life of another.

But we’d rather take the easy road and blame inanimate objects, imaginary friends or cultural trends than address the harder and harsher path of figuring out what the hell is wrong with us.

Following the Toronto shooting, somebody going by the handle “bitchslappedbylogic” searched Twitter and linked everything related, then formed it into a timeline.

It far surpasses anything from any traditional media outlet. Input from those who were there. Shout outs from the ones who were shot. Then ominous predictions of retribution and witnesses debating what they should tell the cops.

That link took me into a world the endless TV talking heads and newspaper editorials repeatedly avoid. Because it’s easier to find something to blame than face what some of us have become or have been turned into through no fault of our own. 

I’ve written about the way we agendize tragedy in the past and on a sad, terrible day like today, those thoughts bear repeating:

The Way of the Gun

The Taste Police

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Desert Pete’s Pick Of The Week: 8mm


Last week, I waxed poetic about the need to start funding the entertainment I want to see because fewer legit places are apparently interested in making any of it.

As a credit to my producing acumen, the first selection “No-No: A Dockumentary” secured more than its required funding a couple of days later. And another film project I recommended a while ago “Be Here Now” also reached its goal and will soon be released.

Can I pick ‘em or what?

If CBC were to put me in charge of their programming, we’d probably not only see double digit increases in their ratings, but the shows would be run by full time Canadians who actually support the corporation with their taxes and viewership.

But they, in their wisdom, have chosen a different path. One in which their situation will only deteriorate as they lose the support of yet another community they could’ve hired but didn’t.

Shit like that happens. I need only point out what befell the Maple Leafs after they neglected to draft me back in the late 60’s.

But this week, I want to turn your attention to music and a great band out of LA that could use a few bucks.

Even if you haven’t heard of “8mm”, I’m fairly certain you’ve heard them.

“8mm” is the creation of Sean Beaven (formerly of “Marilyn Manson” and “Nine Inch Nails”) and his wife Juliette. They’ve toured extensively and released two albums with songs that have been featured in episodes of “One Tree Hill”, “Grey’s Anatomy”, “Dirt” and “Moonlight” as well as the brangelina feature “Mr. and Mrs. Smith”.

“Wait!” I can hear you cry. “Those guys are making big money, why do they need any of mine?” -- which is understandable but misses the point.

You crowd fund not only to support artists who do stuff you like but to make sure they don’t have to sign some soul destroying contract binding them to a corporate machine that wants to digital lock everything so you’ll pay through the nose for just a quick listen of what feeds your soul – or sets you dancing.

And let’s not forget that one successful band gives music companies enough scratch to ass rape a dozen struggling upstarts and deprive them of their own dreams, while pressuring the band making money to write songs for douche bags like Loud Finesse.

You’re doing more than “8mm” a favor here. You’re saving the world from jackasses!

“8mm” is looking for $30,000 to tour behind their new album “Between the Devil and Two Black Hearts” and whether or not that tour brings them to your hometown, you’ll still enjoy the benefits of their reaching their goal.

Pledging $25 not only begats a digital download of the new album (plus bonus tracks) but a limited edition CD and art booklet. Kick in more and we’re talking T-shirts, stickers, autographed Polaroids, even a Skype session with the band’s manager to get advice on making your own group more successful.

Maybe CBC could chip in at that level since the band and their manager know lots of Canadians already working in Hollywood because the taxpayer funded network wouldn’t give them the time of day when they were working here.

But let’s save that rant for the coming days. You can prime Desert Pete’s pump for “8mm” here. And here’s a taste of what you could be hearing live.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Desperately Seeking Validation


For the record, when I was eighteen, I had two posters on my bedroom wall. One was of Humphrey Bogart in “Casablanca”. The other was Che Guevara. I was also a huge fan of The Beatles.

These days, I still think Bogart was one of the greats. Still love the Beatles. But Che has been crossed off my revered list.

Over the weekend, a half dozen folks in my social media feeds copied me the photo above, giddy at the significance, wondering why they’d never known two of their “progressive” heroes had jammed together, guessing at what songs they might have sung.

Imagine! John’s strong beliefs in peace and equality combined with Che’s fearless desire to confront “The Man”. Why, surely nothing unjust could stand against them.

Sadly, it was just another example of how gullible, uninformed or maybe just desperate for affirmation some people can be.

The picture is, of course, a fake, a Photoshop blending of one taken of Lennon in 1975 with one snapped of Che in 1966. But the juxtaposition is even more bogus and about on the same level of those images of Jesus used to sucker kids.


I guess we all like to believe that those we admire are just like us, sharing our values, liking what we like, hating the same people we hate and most of all using their power and influence to make the world the way we’d like it to be.

Unfortunately, that desire blinds us from seeing our idols for what they really are or were and keeps us from finding practical ways of dealing with the issues we face.

John Lennon and Che Guevara never met and if they had they wouldn’t have sung a few verses of “Imagine” or “Revolution”.

If they had bumped into each other, the first question John might have asked Che was why Rock and Roll had been banned in Cuba as one of the first acts of the Revolutionary government.

Maybe he’d want to know why a man who fought for the rights of the people personally participated in executing thousands including hundreds of teenage boys and girls imprisoned for such crimes as being “anti-Stalinist” or practicing a religion.

While Lennon hired planes to fly over New York City towing banners saying “War Is Over”, Che wallowed in the blood of the struggle. His own diary includes descriptions of him killing unarmed wounded prisoners –- and enjoying it.

In addition to his music, Lennon wrote books and made movies. One of the first things Che did on capturing Havana was stage a book burning. He signed death warrants for authors and imprisoned or exiled filmmakers, songwriters and poets.

When John was preaching “Love is all you need”, Che was dispatching young men to labor camps for being “effeminate” and insisted that black people were lazy and unclean.

John Lennon was a far from perfect human being. A wife beater. A pathological liar. A serial hypocrite who sang “imagine no possessions” while living at the most fashionable address in New York.

But you always got the feeling he was trying to be better, searching for paths of redemption and kernels of truth.

Che was a homicidal psychopath.

What if he was replaced in that image above by another homicidal psychopath who hungered to play music with John Lennon? What if the other half of that photograph featured Charlie Manson?


Why not? He liked to kill people almost as much as Che. He fought the system.

Would you be sharing it then? Would you be wondering if they banged out a rocking rendition of “Helter Skelter”?

Give your head a shake.

Get to know your Gods or icons before you advertise their brand. And burn the Che T-shirt. It only tells the world you’re an idiot.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 229: Dubai III


Most of what most people know of the world they learned from movies and television.

Other media like documentaries, books and newspapers or the internet might offer more up to date or factually correct information. But the power of drama and comedy to penetrate our conscious and subconscious brands first impressions that are almost impossible to erase.

It’s said that 100 years ago, when movies first began to have an impact on America, affecting fashion, creating celebrities and challenging social mores, most people spent their entire lives within 20 miles of where they were born.

So when the movies showed audiences how people lived their lives in other parts of the world, it was accepted as truth.

That’s a little different now. But not by as much as you might think. For even though more of us travel further and to more “exotic” destinations, we carry the preconceptions instilled by movies with us.

Take Dubai.

I’ve never been there. Don’t know much about it beyond it being a wealthy oil sheikdom that’s part of the United Arab Emirates. I’ve also heard it’s a place transforming itself to prepare for a future after its oil runs out.

But the movies have always taught me to think of that part of the world as endless desert, wandering Bedouins and a bunch of rich guys blowing their money on fast cars, gold bling and guns.

I got a glimpse of it in “Mission Impossible 4” where it served as a location for a very long and ultimately pointless action sequence that I suspected was mostly shot in Vancouver.

But I got a better view by way of a brilliant time-lapse video by Richard Bentley, with music by Athar Saeed.

Go full screen and allow this stunning visual achievement to erase everything you thought you knew about this part of the Middle-East.

And Enjoy Your Sunday.

Dubai III timelapse from Richard Bentley on Vimeo.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Desert Pete Saves The Future


“You gotta prime the pump, you must have faith and believe. You must give of yourself ‘fore you’re worthy to receive. Drink all the water you can hold. Wash your face. Cool your feet. But leave a bottle full for others. Thank you kindly, Desert Pete.” 

                                                                   --- The Kingston Trio

As long as any of us have been alive, show business has been dominated by large companies comprised of gate-keepers, bean-counters, marketing analysts and people skilled at both managing and fleecing artists.

On one level, that’s given us a lot of profitable popular entertainment. On several others, it has prevented artists from doing better work, robbed many of the fruits of their labors and deprived audiences of rewarding content.

A couple of days ago, a friend who’d seen “The Amazing Spiderman” gave me his two minute review; starting positive, gradually admitting it hadn’t been “all that” and ending with “Why’d they do a reboot so soon after the last one?”.

The answer to his question is easy –- because they knew it would earn a shitload of money. Whether or not the consumer felt equally rewarded was a lesser consideration, if considered at all.

Sequels and reboots have become have become staples in the movie world. And while, not that long ago, as many as a dozen new films were released each week, those numbers continue to decline as studio economics require minimized risk and access to the largest demographic as quickly as possible.

The opportunity to see something truly original is almost non-existent. Unless you make a personal commitment to the task.

Each time I start a new project, I don’t do the “smart” thing. I don’t assess the marketplace and figure out if there’s room for another “CSI” clone or “Twilight” lookalike.

I don’t root the shelves of comic book stores for what’s been overlooked or decode the best seller lists for a character type or story model that captures the zeitgeist.

The studios have armies of people already doing that. People with the connections and resources to pre-buy and then realize whatever the trend gurus predict will bring in the most cash in the shortest amount of time.

I only have me. So I write the movie I want to see.

The logical extension of that approach is that I should therefore put more of my leisure time budget into making sure the movies, TV, books and music I most want are available to me.

I can do that either by giving a corporate entity whatever it’s charging for two hours in a theatre, a CD worth of music or a tale sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard…


I can invest in somebody making the movie, music or story they’re passionate about and not only enjoy and own a piece of the end product, but make it available to everybody else as well.

Crowd-funding operations like Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been around for some time. But as more and more people realize this is a way to achieving their dreams without giving away most (if not all) the product of that dream might earn, their impact of not only show business but the rest of our lives is increasing exponentially.

In the first 5 months of this year, Kickstarter alone saw $230 Million pledged to thousands of projects from films and music to health care products and infrastructure projects for cash strapped cities.

Publisher’s Weekly just announced that the company is the 2nd largest publisher of graphic novels. Meanwhile, 12 of the films screened at this year’s prestigious Tribeca Film Festival were crowd funded, as were 33 at SWSX.

Very quickly, the gap in the market left by studios abandoning production of all but tent pole blockbusters and teen driven date movies is being filled with all of the profits from those releases going to the filmmakers -- instead of the lawyers filmmakers used to hire to try and get an honest accounting from their studios.

This week, one of the 1980’s most successful bands, Def Leppard, locked in a dispute with Universal Music over what the music monolith would allow them to earn on digital downloads of their own music, released cover versions of their songs on iTunes, literally taking back what was theirs to begin with.

What we are seeing is the steady elimination of the middlemen and corporate systems which have controlled the lives and creative output of artists for generations. Those who never needed the gate-keepers and the bean-counters are rendering them irrelevant while reaching a vast audience with what they really want to say.

Therefore, we’re beginning a new weekly feature here at The Legion, offering up a project we feel is worthy of your participation. Something that might not ever see the light of day without your help.

First up: “No No. The Dock-umentary”.

The video below explains it all. They have until Monday to reach their funding goal. Help if you can. It’s a story a lot of people don’t know. And it’s also one many among those multi-tentacle, interwoven corporate interests would rather you didn’t see.

C’mon. Prime the Pump.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 228: Hot & Heavy

It’s hot all across North America this morning and the air hangs heavy even in the pre-dawn hours. Unlike those who complain about the heat, I revel in it; born in the Great White North but with a life compass endlessly seeking Marguerittaville.

The intensity of this current heat wave, however, got me thinking of the day we wrapped my last episode on “Beastmaster”, filming a battle scene with elephants at 130 degrees and the humidity hovering around 98%.

I was in Heaven.

Besides the perfect weather and opportunity to spend my days with tigers and elephants, one of the great joys of that series was being exposed to Australia’s magnificent artistic talent pool.

It never ceased to amaze me how a country half the population of my own continuously churned out not only such a high calibre of talent, but talent so self-assured and independent.

Like Canada, Australia faces the same threat of cultural dominance from Hollywood and the American media. And like us, they’ve put all kinds of support systems in place to help their artists present their nation’s uniqueness to the world.

But unlike us, I never heard the constant whining about cuts to funding or saw artists panic or go into paroxysms of depression when the Government didn’t seem to be backing their dreams.

They just found another way to follow that dream, a different method to tell their stories, another level of talent to bring to the fore.


Among my favorite actors on “Beastmaster’ was Jackson Raine, not only supremely talented but the kind of guy who regularly saves a production’s ass in the time and budget strangled world of series television.

As the Beastmaster’s more cerebral sidekick Tao, Jackson had a thankless role. His muscled buddy always got the big action scenes, the best of the villains and the girl in the end. He mostly got to be beaten up, kidnapped, dumped in jeopardy and threatened with imminent death.

But he was also the “go-to” guy whenever we were in trouble. Because no matter what kind of pages you handed Jackson or the fact that you put them into his hands moments before they needed to be shot, he always transformed them into TV gold.

For me, he also always symbolized the Australian artistic spirit that said, “Nothing will keep me from reaching my audience”.

Since “Beastmaster”, Jackson has gone on to other notable TV and movie roles as well as writing and directing.

This week a music video he produced and directed for Australia’s “Crooked Saint” (featuring Tim Wheatley formerly of “The Sparrows”) made its debut – suitably matching the zeitgeist by being titled “Hot & Heavy”.

It’s a great song, nicely augmented in its video version. Perfect for either those moments when the heat lays you out or finally lifts on a momentary hopeful breeze.

Available on iTunes or right here – where nothing stops us from reaching our audience either.

Enjoy Your Sunday.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

The Only Remaining Decision

Since its inception, this blog has, from time to time, been obsessed with the Canada’s broadcast regulator, the CRTC.

But events from the last few days have convinced me that the moment has come to kick that habit. Because it appears that the only remaining decision to be made about the CRTC is what you’re going to wear to its funeral.

If you’ve been a reader of those past posts, you may have noticed that I began as someone who believed the Commission actually listened to the country’s artists and audiences in order to fulfill its parliamentary mandate that Canadian consumers of radio, television and other forms of telecommunication have their needs well served.

Then I became a guy offended at CRTC commissioners refusal to consider arguments from anyone but the major corporate players as the industries they regulated became less and less interested in providing content that was already only as Canadian as their rules of license absolutely required.

I suspected that the CRTC was inept, corrupt, the victim of regulatory capture or just plain stupid.

Then I stopped caring.

Because it had become clear that no matter how often interventions by interested consumers or artists involved in the industry were ultimately proven either prescient or flat out true, the Commission blindly continued to do what our rapidly converging-to-survive media conglomerates insisted was necessary to keep their own game going.

Every time my own Guild made presentations in Gatineau and returned to assure the membership they felt they’d finally been heard, I recalled my nerd buddies in high school helping cheerleaders with their homework and assuming that would get them somewhere.

As if.

And then this week, news items in the realms of internet, television and the cellular phone made it clear that whatever the CRTC says, does or threatens to say or do means nothing.


First up was a press release from the commission itself announcing that it was no longer pursuing an investigation of Rogers because it was “confident” the company was no longer throttling internet traffic or at least wouldn’t be by the end of the year.

Those paying attention will recall that thousands of Rogers subscribers, many paying for its most elite online services, had discovered their net usage was being regularly choked off, especially when they logged onto gaming sites.

The company first denied the accusation, then admitted to it while begging the commission for understanding (and maybe some additional internet usage fees), then promised to comply with an order to cease and desist –- by the end of 2012 –- or six more months from now –even though it could have been technically accomplished overnight.

In other words, there will be no penalty for charging customers for services they did not receive. No monitoring of a company who flat out lied to everybody it could when first caught.

In fact, Rogers can now get away with doing whatever they finally admitted doing for another six months even if that means consumers continue to be stiffed in the meantime because…

Because the CRTC is “confident”...

Message to Consumers: Even if you get the CRTC to help you, what you’ve lost remains lost.

Next came an announcement from Netflix that current viewing levels reveal the company is now more popular than all US cable networks combined.

And when that’s combined with news that a million people cut off their cable providers in 2011, there’s now tangible proof that everything the CRTC has done over the last five years to allow Canadian networks to amortize their minimal Cancon production slates over virtually every channel, pay-cable tier and platform they own will be for naught.

The audience now knows it can find something it would rather watch somewhere else and cheaper. Meaning most of them will also soon realize that if there is no real “value for service” there’s not much value in having that service to begin with.

Message to broadcasters: You can’t fix stupid. The CRTC can only help you kill yourselves quicker.

Finally, the Supreme Court gave its approval to an $18 billion class action suit against our biggest cellphone providers for falsely claiming the CRTC itself required them to charge a “system access fee”.

Not something the CRTC hasn’t been aware of for years. Not something they didn’t hear about from consumers daily and could readily have stopped with a single phone call.

Just one more thing they didn’t address, even when their own name and reputation were used to defraud the very consumers they were mandated to protect.

Why? Who knows. Maybe they didn’t want to jeopardize the play days when the guys socking it away at Bell, Rogers and Telus took everybody down to Bank Street for ice cream and maybe a Beavertail.

Now the industry the CRTC insisted it was supporting could be on the verge of the biggest consumer payout in the nation’s history.

Ask yourself two questions -- If Rogers fires 375 people after profits drop $30 Million over an annual quarter, how many will they cut when they have to find their share of $18 Billion?

And –- How long will I be on hold at Customer Service once that happens?

Message to everybody: The CRTC does no good for anybody.


If you ask me, the only decision the CRTC’s new Chairman, Jean-Pierre Blais has to make is whether to blow his brains out with the internet gun, the television gun or the one that doubles as a cellphone.

Because nothing the CRTC does matters any longer. At every turn it is being overruled by the Harper Government, by-passed by new technology and outsmarted by consumer advocates who actually do their jobs.

It’s over. Decide what you’re wearing to the funeral.

And don’t forget to put on some dancing shoes.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Lazy Sunday # 227: Happy Canada Day!


Today Canadians are mostly BBQing, drinking and blowing up fireworks as we celebrate our country’s birthday.

But amidst all that partying, we all take a moment to think about what a terrifically special place this is and remember where we came from and what we are.

Part of our heritage and the Canadian icon best known throughout the world is our Mounted Police. And the primary reason they reached icon status was all the bad TV shows and movies that featured red coated heroes who always got their man.

While we in the Canadian film and TV business might wish it otherwise, the fact is that our national image was long ago cemented by Dudley Do-Right and a guy in a scarlet tunic crooning in a canoe.

So we might as well embrace and honor the tradition.

One of my heroes as a kid was Sgt. Preston of the Yukon. I read the comics, ate the cereal and, of course, watched his adventures on TV.

So, return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear for "The Adventures of Sgt. Preston of the Yukon” (and his wonder dog King).

Have a Happy Canada Day! And Enjoy Your Sunday…