Saturday, December 27, 2008

Blame it on the Rain

The cold 8 degree temps that greeted me off the plane on Tuesday night are long gone. All those people that told me to bring some warm weather back with me should be pleased -- with the temps anyway! It is over 50 degrees here in Wisconsin, and the lovely snow is melting away very quickly with the pouring rain. Cold and snow advisories have given way to fog and flash flood warnings. No doubt the cold will be back soon, but for now it almost feels like home...

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Happy Holidays to you all, wherever you may be. For my part, I am happy to be home amongst family, friends, snow and cold.

Winter Ball

I would never have guessed that I'd be playing softball a week before Christmas - in short sleeves no less! Yet, that was exactly the case last Sunday when we were playing a doubleheader for the league championship. We won both games and also this handsome T-shirt for our efforts. Go team go!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Button Up!

I've been waiting a long time for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. While the wide release comes on Christmas Day, I fortunately got to see a preview last week and was not disappointed. Because I think the movie is better seen without knowing too much about it, I won't spoil any details here.

After the Variety screening I was at, Director David Fincher and Writer Eric Roth spoke. They talked about the painstaking process of making the film -- the special effects, the make-up, the locations, the 150-day shoot... The narrative of the film is far different than the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story it's based on. Eric Roth (who also wrote Forrest Gump) weaves an intricate and poignant tale (Fincher chastised Roth for calling it a "fable" which in many ways it is) that will stick with you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Miami in L.A.

I got to work as an extra this week on CSI:Miami which is shot at a studio in Manhattan Beach - about 30 miles south of L.A. It was good fun - I got to play both a prison guard and a Miami-Dade cop, roaming the halls of the Police Department. The set was nice, but cold - and the days were long, which is good because I can use the money! Oh, and traffic is great when you are driving at 4:30 a.m. - of course, I had to wait about 10 seconds for the coyote to walk out of the middle of the road as I left my driveway. Ahh, L.A.: never a dull moment, even in the wee hours of the morning...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Great Scott!

F. Scott, that is. Hot on the heels of his short story being turned into the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, seems Mr. Fitzgerald is back in vogue in Hollywood. Nikki Finke broke the news that Baz Luhrman has purchased the rights to the classic novel "The Great Gatsby." Because of both past failures to successfully adapt the beloved novel, and Mr. Lurhman's proclivities to make splashy pictures, this news is sure to cause strong feelings all around.

Here is a LINK to the entire article (and already 79 comments since she posted yesterday!)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why I Love Print Auditions

Yesterday I had a print audition (i.e. they use your picture in ads in magazines/packaging/etc.) for Bose. Whenever your agent calls/e-mails with one of these auditions, they give you a description that the client is looking for, what the client wants to see when you walk in the door. And remember, it isn't an acting audition, it's all about 'the look.' These are always fun to read, because most of the time they are so overly specific that they border on the absurd.

Yesterday's audition: European, ethnically ambiguous, European-African or Mediterranean, fit, attractive, successful, tech-savvy career guy type, the guy that likes outdoor sports, and entertaining friends.

Now it's shorter than many I've read, but come on! From one look at you, they want to know that you are a successful, tech-savvy career guy that likes outdoor sports and entertaining friends? Do you wear a trendy suit with hiking boots and carry an iPhone, a fishing rod and a bottle of champagne? Oh, that's right - no props. You just have to convey all those specific things with your eyes. Easy.

What I like least about print auditions: I was #129 and they were going for 3 more hours. They take three quick pictures and you're gone. So, they see hundreds of dudes for one spot. Guess the best Wall Street outdoorsman host-extraordinaire exercise guru will get this one...

AMPTP Trying to Pit SAG vs. AFTRA

According to Nikki Finke's Deadline Hollywood Daily site, the studios are making rumblings that TV shows are going to be shot more and more under the AFTRA contract (the other actors union) since SAG is being 'unreasonable' in their demands. Her post yesterday:

EXCLUSIVE: 20th TV May Shoot Spring Pilots Under AFTRA And Transition Existing SAG Shows To AFTRA

This morning, I received a tip to check out the rumor that Fox Studios television shows will be going all video/all AFTRA in 2009, that older film shows will be shot on video, and that SAG actors will be renegotiated with AFTRA contracts. Here is the response I received from Twentieth Century Television: "With all the uncertainty surrounding the stalled negotiations with SAG, TCFTV is indeed considering shooting its spring pilots under the AFTRA agreement. As for shows already in production, we are exploring every option including transitioning shows from SAG to AFTRA."

Today, there were several responses:

SAG Statement:

"We should not be surprised by the timing of this new AMPTP attack -- as usual, they are attempting to use scare tactics to influence the member vote in the upcoming strike authorization referendum. Any effort by Twentieth Century Television to shift existing programs from SAG to AFTRA would violate federal law and AFL-CIO rules, and the Screen Actors Guild will take any and all necessary and appropriate action to insure the right of its members to be represented by the Guild."

And AFTRA's statement:

Regarding media inquiries about press reports about an assertion that Fox is transitioning shows from SAG to AFTRA, AFTRA is setting the record straight by offering the following

1) Fox has been a long term AFTRA signatory, historically producing both dramatic and non-dramatic programming under AFTRA’s TV Contract for decades. For example, Married With Children, the program which historians now describe as the show that built the Fox Network, was produced under the AFTRA TV Code. There are countless other scripted programs from Arrested Development to The Bernie Mac Show to Roc and others produced under AFTRA contracts during Fox’s history. As such, the fact that Fox is producing programs under AFTRA contracts is not unusual; indeed, it is consistent with the long history of this Company’s signatory relationship with AFTRA and consistent with the historic ebb and flow of coverage between the two unions as technology has shifted over time.

2) It is more expensive for Fox to produce scripted programming under the AFTRA TV Contract. Prior to July 1, 2008, the rates terms and conditions of the AFTRA TV Contract for Prime Time scripted programs were identical in every way to the SAG TV Contract. As of July 1, 2008, the AFTRA rates have been increased as a result of the membership’s ratification of the new Prime Time “Exhibit A” terms. The inference that Fox is somehow saving money by producing under AFTRA’s Prime Time Contract is incorrect.

And, finally, 3) AFTRA has been absolutely clear and explicit, long before the question of a potential strike by our sister union was contemplated, that a program already established under one union cannot be “converted” or “transferred” to another union. AFTRA is a chartered union of the AFL-CIO, and a member of the Associated Actors and Artistes of America (the Four A’s). As such, the rules and obligations of both the AFL-CIO and the Four A’s would prohibit such a “transfer.” In addition, even if there were no such restrictions under the rules of our parent organizations, it wouldn’t matter. Simply stated, AFTRA would never participate in such a practice. Fox Labor Relations is very well aware of this.

Finally, here's the AMPTP statement on behalf of Big Media:

SAG's overheated statement regarding the organization of pilots cannot obscure the fact that, in the midst of the greatest economic crisis of the past 80 years, SAG is persisting with a failed negotiating strategy that has already cost SAG members nearly $40 million and will cost them potentially hundreds of millions of dollars more during a strike.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

SAG Strike Update

As both sides go back and forth about 'inaccuracies' in the other's position (once again the AMPTP is spending thousands on public ads in the trades. nice.), here is the official info on the SAG strike ballots:

Screen Actors Guild today announced that strike authorization ballots will be mailed to paid-up SAG members on Friday January 2, 2009, and will be tabulated on Friday, January 23. A yes vote by 75% of members voting is required to pass the measure, which would authorize SAG's national board of directors to call a strike, if and when the board determines it is necessary.

The AMPTP took out a full page ad in Variety on Monday extolling the virtues of their offer. To respond, essentially SAG says that the studios are already making money on new media (, etc.) and those profits will only increase. Meanwhile, they don't want to share. Here is the full response:

“There they go again. The AMPTP’s ad is great fiction, with convoluted bullet points and confused messages -- and, it’s completely wrong.

Here’s the truth:

* Under the AMPTP’s current offer, streaming of new television product on and other new media platforms pays day performers about $46 for the first year’s use. Not per run of the episode, but for the whole year, and that’s only after a 17-day FREE rerun window.

Peter Chernin, Chairman and CEO of News Corp., told industry analysts that his company’s ad-supported online programming site, the already $12 million profitable, was a “replacement for reruns”.

* Under the AMPTP’s current offer, there is no union jurisdiction for original made for new media projects made for budgets under $15,000 per minute. That’s the vast majority of all new media. We have signed more than 800 productions to our SAG new media agreement. If we can do it, why can’t the AMPTP? We are certainly willing to show them how it’s done.

* Their proposal for original programming running on,,, and other network new media platforms is – zero. Yes, seriously, zero.

* Management is gutting the contract through the demand that we remove force majeure which has been a protection for actors since the first SAG agreement in 1937.

* Management has also demanded broad and sweeping changes to the more than half-century old clip consent provision which guarantees actors the right to consent to the use of their image and to be compensated for that use.

* Minimum increases in traditional media doesn’t do actors any good if there aren’t any minimums in new media.

How can that be anything but 'the end of residuals?'

How can that be anything but a situation in which it is 'impossible for actors to make a living?'

How can that be anything but 'a massive roll back?'

How can that be anything but 'life or death for SAG members?'

Make no mistake about it, this is exactly what management is offering in original programming streamed on new media:

Minimum Rate – Zero
Residual Structure – Zero
Overtime Protections – Zero
Forced Call Consideration – Zero
Young Performer (Minors) Protections – Zero

Management is offering a lousy deal with “Zero” in new media and is threatening the promotion of non-union work in a residual-free environment without minimum compensation. That could be the beginning of the end for actors' careers and livelihoods.”

Monday, December 15, 2008

'Tis the Season. AWARDS Season.

Awards season is in full swing here in Hollywoodland. That is the time of year when studios release all their 'awards-bait' movies - usually serious somber films full of great acting and wonderful cinematography. It is important for these films to gain traction with media members and awards voting constituencies before their wide release. To that end, there are many pre-release screenings around town. Through the SAG Film Society and also the Variety Screening Series (put on by the daily trade paper, Variety), I have been able to see many of these movies. One of the best things about these screenings is that they are FREE - as long as you RSVP promptly when they open and don't mind waiting in line sometimes. In the last week alone, I saw Defiance, The Reader, Wall-E (which I hadn't seen when it was out last summer), and Revolutionary Road. Often they have guests -- writers, actors, directors, producers -- speak after the films and take some questions.

Last night's Revolutionary Road screening was followed by a Q&A with actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Kathryn Hahn, Michael Shannon (who absolutely stole the couple scenes he was in!) and writer Justin Haythe. It was insightful hearing them talk about how the project came to be, as well as how specific scenes were prepared and shot.

Tonight I am going to see the new Will Smith movie, Seven Pounds, and then on Tuesday night I get the one movie I've been waiting for: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button with Brad Pitt/Cate Blanchett and directed by one of my favorites, David Fincher!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Highly Leveraged TV

I haven't been able to keep up with most of the new TV shows this fall, but I really enjoy the new TNT series "Leverage." Timothy Hutton stars as a ring-leader of a group of essentially modern day Robin Hoods, stealing from the rich and bastardous, and giving to the helpless and weak. Each episode is like a tiny, bite-size Ocean's 11 movie. Like those Ocean movies, "Leverage" doesn't rely heavy on plausibility. But, filled with techno-gadgets, there are equal parts action, fun, and of course, witty banter. You likely won't be made smarter by watching it, but you just might want to become a thief. Catch it Tuesdays on TNT.

Monday, December 8, 2008

When Does the Wisdom Come?

Another year older, another year wiser? First part is true for me today, but I doubt the second. Here is a picture of my birthday cake. Well, not really. But, I do remember my favorite cake of all time was my mom's Dagobah-replica-in-chocolate-fudge cake when I was about 5 - complete with Luke, Vader, R2-D2, and Yoda action figures and Yoda's adobe home. I need to find a picture of that one...

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Non-Lazy Sunday

Instead of watching another Packers loss, I decided to take the opportunity to be productive today. And no, that doesn't simply mean playing softball. In fact, I skipped softball today (it's okay, playoffs don't start until next week ;) Nope, I spent the day at the Met Theatre in Hollywood at a commercial casting director workshop that was put on by Brass - my commercial agent. I haven't done much with them since the agent that signed me left the agency over the summer. And even though it was a long day (3 sessions over 8 hours) it was a good chance to both meet some of the people at the agency and to get in front of reps from 9 or 10 casting offices. Each session had a Q & A followed by a chance to do a short piece of commercial copy. Only time will tell if anything comes of it, but it never hurts to practice.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Myth(?) of Dog Jack

So, it's been awhile since I've written about Dog Jack, the independent Civil War film I worked on a few years back. I know many of you who have heard me talk about this project wonder if indeed it even exists since it has been so long. I assure you, it DOES exist. In fact, I got recent word that there might maybe possibly perhaps be a release of some kind in the not-so-distant future (i.e. sometime before the next presidential election, I hope!) I'm not sure what that means - maybe a festival, hopefully a DVD.

I know that long months/years in post-production is often the fate of indy/low budget movies, so it isn't entirely surprising that this project hasn't been completed yet. But, I know that the folks they had working on it in post (sound, editing, etc.) are top-notch people, so I am really excited to see it!

I will continue to keep you guys updated. In the meantime, here are some Dog Jack links:

Dog Jack Official Site

Dog Jack Trailer

News Story on Dog Jack Filming in Penn.

Dog Jack on IMDb

Thursday, December 4, 2008

House Sitting

The last week or so I've been house sitting in the Hollywood Hills. The upside: a beautiful view, sports in HD, and a lot more space than my apartment. The downside: terrible cell phone reception. Curse you, Sprint!

Here are a couple views from the roof deck.

Oh, and the best part? I get to hang out with my good friend, Kiki! As you can see, we share the same passions - watching football and sleeping on the couch.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

House of Cards

I played poker the other night for the first time in awhile. Was going along just fine until I called an all-in in which I flopped two pair. I was way ahead and of course got beat on a lucky river pull for the other guy --- OK, sorry, at least I kept it brief. The only think more boring than listening to someone's bad beat poker stories (and boy can some folks regale you with long-winded poker tales!) is listening to stories about someone's latest golf round (you know the stories, "I would've got par if..." "I almost holed in from the rough, but..." etc., etc.)

Anyway though, Poker can be a lot of fun. And I got to thinking about why. Of course there is the rush of winning a big hand, or even just being in a big hand. Your heart starts beating a little faster, though you try not to show it. The gambling rush. And then there's the competition -- going mano a mano for all the chips. And I think that has a lot to do with it. Unlike say, sports, you don't need to be in especially good athletic shape to be a winner (though those dudes who play several days at the World Series of Poker constantly talk about how much 'endurance' they need). You need to be smart in some sense; it helps to know about odds and math and reading other people. And I know we've all played in home games where people take all this VERY seriously. I guess it does make them feel important to be able to gripe about pot odds when they are deciding whether or not to bet. I think these talkers and gripers (see Phil Helmuth for the Pro version) are pretty much tools, but they make me laugh.

Still, at the end of the day, no matter if you have a PhD in math or if you are a mentalist, there is still a certain amount of luck. So, unlike say basketball, where no matter what, Joe the Plumber could never beat LeBron James in a game of one-on-one if King James is trying, the worst poker player in the room could beat the best player heads-up on any given day. That chance makes the average guy, who still has those ancient competition genes in his DNA, pony up to the poker table for a chance to be a legend. At least in his own mind. Now, shuffle up and deal!

Monday, December 1, 2008


So I was sitting watching football yesterday, when there was a loud noise and everything vibrated for a split-second. I thought, "another earthqauke?" - albeit a very, very short one? It seemed more like a huge far off explosion though. And indeed it was in some sense.

I went online (what did we do before the internet? walk around in a never-ending questioning stupor???) and found the cause. The space shuttle Endeavour had to land at Edwards Air Force base outside of LA due to bad weather in Florida, and a sonic boom could be heard from Bakersfield all the way down to Mexico. The cost of landing here instead of in Florida? About $1.8 million to piggyback the shuttle on top of a special 747.

Click here for some more info about the shuttle landing and the mission they were on.

The most interesting part:

The shuttle crew also conducted four spacewalks to clear metal shavings from a solar wing rotary joint at the space station. The joint had been jammed for more than a year and hampered energy production at the orbiting outpost.

Initial tests indicated the repairs on the joint were successful. Overshadowing the clean and lube job, however, was the loss of a $100,000 tool bag. Astronaut Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper let go of the bag during the first spacewalk; it wasn't tied down and floated away.

A $100,000 tool bag?! Wow, was it Louis Vuitton?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

SAG Strike Update

Here is an e-mail I got from SAG that addresses many of the questions that members might ask about why we should authorize a strike right now. It is especially persuasive when discussing the raw deals actors got back in the 80s about 'home video' and 'cable TV' when those mediums were new and experimental (a la "new media"/internet right now) Those deals were never renegotiated even though now DVD sales is HUGE for the big studios, and more than a quarter of all television ad dollars are spent on basic cable shows. So, to think that years down the road, the media moguls will be willing to give more in regards to New Media seems pretty absurd.

I don't agree with everything they say, but some very valid points are made. Anyway, here are the Q's and A's:

Why should we vote to authorize a strike?
We need to show management that we are willing to fight to preserve our ability to earn a living as union performers; otherwise, management will take that away from us. Nearly half of our earnings as union performers come from residuals, but management wants us to allow them to make programs for the Internet and other new media non-union and with no residuals. This means that as audiences shift from watching us on their televisions to watching us on their computers and cell phones our ability to earn a living will go away and future generations of actors may never be able to earn a living through their craft. This change will happen faster than you think.

To add insult to injury, management also insists that we eliminate force majeure protections from our contract. These protections have existed since the first SAG contract in 1937 and protect you when production stops as the result of an “act of God” like a natural disaster or a strike by another union, such as the WGA strike earlier this year. This is an enormous rollback that will leave actors without one of the most basic protections of a union contract.

What is the effect of voting “yes” to authorize a strike?

Voting “yes” does not mean that there will automatically be a strike. A strike authorization is a tool that gives us more leverage in negotiations and we intend to use it to try to get a fair deal. If we receive “yes” votes from at least 75% of the members who vote on this referendum, the National Board will have the ability to call a strike, but it must vote to do that, and that won’t happen before we attempt further negotiations to reach a deal with management.

Why does management believe we should endorse non-union, residual-free work in New Media?

Management claims this bad deal is necessary because they need to “experiment” with new media and they claim they will renegotiate these terms with us in the future. We have already agreed to most of management’s new media terms, however, and have proposed, in the areas where we still disagree, extremely flexible terms for new media based on our successful low budget theatrical contracts and our nearly 800 made-for-new media contracts with independent producers. Our terms will allow management the latitude to experiment using union actors.

And how can we believe that management will ever improve these new media terms when they still won’t improve the home video residual formula after 22 years? Right now all the actors on a given cast share 1% of the revenue generated through DVD sales because of a formula we agreed to in 1986 when management needed to “experiment” with home video. In this negotiation, we have asked only that management at least make pension and health contributions on DVD residuals, rather than making us pay them ourselves out of our paltry 1%. They have refused even that!
The basic cable residual formula was also negotiated early in the history of that medium to reflect the then “experimental” status of basic cable programming and pays only a small fraction of network television residuals. It is now over 20 years later, 27% of all television ad dollars are now spent on basic cable, and the basic cable formula still pays only a small fraction of network television residuals.

Management simply does not have a history of ever ending their “experiments” and paying us fairly.
The reality is that management is opportunistic and they believe they can force these concessions on us because they believe we are weak and divided. We need your vote to prove them wrong.

Don’t all these terms just go away at the end of 3 years anyway because management has agreed to a “sunset clause”?

All the “sunset clause” means is that if management wants to maintain in future negotiations the bad new media deal they want to force on us now, they must write those terms down on a piece of paper and give it to us as a proposal. Do you really believe that this will provide us with any protection in a future negotiation if management decides that they like making non-union, residual-free programs in new media? The fact is that once management establishes a business model that relies upon non-union, residual-free production, it will be even harder to change their minds. Just look at how hard they continue to fight to avoid improving the home video formula, well after DVD’s have become their richest source of revenue.

Haven’t the other Hollywood unions accepted this deal already? Why do we need a better deal?

We are not looking for a “better” deal. We are looking for a deal that is different and that recognizes the unique needs of actors. No other union represents the actors who appear in motion pictures or the actors who account for over 95% of the earnings in primetime network television. While management likes to pretend, when it suits them, that “pattern bargaining” is somehow obligatory for unions in this industry, the fact is that we have a legal right to negotiate our own contract. And for good reason—the “pattern,” in many cases, affects us differently: The impact of sanctioning non-union made-for-new media programs is different for us.

Many performers must rely on the collective bargaining power of the union to obtain fair terms of employment. Unlike the writer or director, a day performer or background actor may not have the leverage to negotiate fair terms for themselves. Performers, especially stunt performers, also have health and safety issues on the set that aren’t shared by writers or directors and they rely on the union to look out for them. And unlike writers or directors, our union faces a significant threat from non-union performers who want to provide producers with an alternative workforce they can use to make their product without having to comply with union terms and conditions. Allowing our employers to make non-union new media productions will allow these non-union actors to gain credits and experience, which will make non-union production easier and more attractive and thereby reduce the opportunities for union actors like us to get work.
Allowing residuals-free new media production also impacts performers differently.

Unlike writers and directors, most performers don’t earn enough in initial compensation to live on. Instead, we rely on residuals to get us through the lean times. As production inevitably shifts from traditional media to new media, the lack of residuals in new media will eventually choke off that vital source of income that enables us to stay in the profession even when we aren’t working so that we can audition, hone our craft and remain available for new roles. In such a world, many of us will be reduced to amateurs working day jobs to support our acting habit.
There are already lots of differences between management’s new media proposal to us and their deals with the DGA and WGA. For example, management has agreed to set minimum payments for writers of made-for-new media programs, but refuses to do so for actors.

Why doesn’t the pattern apply to this critical issue? There are other differences. The minimum residual for a TV show rerun on the Internet for six months is over $600 for a director or a writer, but only $22.77 for an actor who works as a day player. On the other hand, use of clips of an actor’s work on the Internet requires consent by the actor, but a director’s or writer’s work can be used as a clip on the Internet without their consent. Is that better, worse or just different? Management talks about their new media template like it is exactly the same for each union and can’t be changed. In fact, management has proposed varying new media provisions to different unions when it suited them, but they have refused when we have proposed reasonable and modest changes, like making sure all made-for-new media productions are done union and pay residuals.

Are we sure that we have exhausted every opportunity to make a deal before asking for this authorization?

We shouldn’t have to exhaust every opportunity to make a deal before asking for a strike authorization. Most successful unions ask for a strike authorization early on, sometimes before they even start bargaining, because management is more likely to take the union seriously if they know the members are willing to fight. We didn’t do that this time because the WGA strike had just ended, but our union needs to get back to the routine practice of approving a strike authorization well before we get to the expiration of the current contract. Actors elected by the membership to the SAG National Board decide by a vote if and when a strike should be called.

As it happens, we have absolutely exhausted every possible opportunity to make a deal before asking for this authorization. We spent 42 days between April and July in hard bargaining with the AMPTP. In the months that followed, we bargained informally, met with CEO’s and educated our membership about the issues. Finally, we asked for a federal mediator to intervene. After nearly a month, management agreed to return to the bargaining table for a marathon mediation session that ran late into the night on two consecutive days until the mediator finally declared that it was pointless to continue.
After all of that, management’s positions on the fundamental issues at stake in this negotiation are the same as they were on the first day of bargaining. On the other hand, we have pared down our demands, made painful concessions and offered compromise after compromise, all to no avail. It is crystal clear that without the support of our membership for this authorization, we will have no choice to but swallow whatever management sees fit to give us lock, stock and barrel.

Is a strike really feasible considering how bad the economy is right now?

The bad economy hurts management just as much as it hurts us. As uncertain and anxious as our employers are about the future of their businesses and of their own jobs, the prospect of a SAG membership willing to go to the mat and fight them is the last thing they want. Yes, the bad economy means that it will require more of a sacrifice from some of our members if in fact a strike becomes necessary, but remember that this union was founded and obtained its first contract during the depths of the Great Depression. Hard times do not mean that we stop demanding fair treatment from management.

What can I do to help?

Vote “yes” on the strike authorization referendum. It’s our best hope of obtaining a fair contract. Talk to your fellow SAG members wherever you can find them and convince them to vote “yes” too. Read your email and visit the SAG website to stay informed and learn about town hall meetings and other events in your area and make sure you attend. Better yet, bring another member with you. If you can’t attend, or prefer to express yourself in writing, email your thoughts and suggestions to We read every email that comes in.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

NorthWORST Air

Every time I've flown Northworst, er Northwest Airlines, there has been a screw-up. Every. Single. Time. I've spent countless hours in the lovely Minneapolis and Detroit airports thanks to their problems. I can't believe this absolute turd of a company is still in business... So, you can imagine my chagrin when NW bought out the best airline in the country (and the one with the most flights to my hometown) Midwest Airlines last year. Of course, they would bring things down. Nonetheless, because they now have a virtual monopoly flying direct into Milwaukee, I booked my flight home for Christmas aboard Northworst a couple weeks back.

After midnight last night, I get an e-mail from Expedia saying "Urgent: one of your flights has been canceled. Call us immediately." Surprise, surprise, after 40 minutes on hold, they tell me that my return flight to LA has been canceled and in its place I've been booked on a flight that stops in Minneapolis. Now, I don't really like flying (maybe it's the 100-ton metal tube defying gravity thing...), so the fewer take-offs and landings the better for me.

But, in this case, more than that it's the principle of the thing. I said I was willing to take a direct flight on a different day - "None available." Okay, well, then the price should be reduced right? I mean since I booked a non-stop flight and now you are stopping? "Nope. Since it is a non-refundable fare we can't have to give you a reduced price." But, wait a minute -- I'm getting WORSE service since now it will take longer, not to mention the stopping thing. "No sir, you are still getting the same class of service." And no chance to get a flight on another airline at this late notice -- oh, and it doesn't matter anyway since the fare I bought was non-refundable, remember? So, they can dick me around and I just have to take it.

Can you imagine this clever trick in any other business?? You order tickets for baseball opening day, then two weeks before the game, they tell you you are now sitting three sections behind where you bought tickets -- for the same price! No chance to get other tickets since they are now sold out, no sorry, no refund, no explanation, no recourse. Classy.

Seems like I'm not the only one to get screwed by Northwest. Here is some fun reading -- remind yourself that this company is still in business. (by the way, I found the picture of the plane up on top on another disgruntled passenger's blog, and it was entitled, "One of their better flights" - funny...)
30 Hours in Detroit Airport- Ugh.
Northwest Blames Pilots for Cancellations - Blaming everyone else. Very Mature.

Note to self: avoid Northworst. No matter how sweet their siren song, they will inevitably disappoint.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gas Relief!

Huzzah-- managed to fill up for $1.99/gallon! Or about $3/gallon less than it took this summer out here. Let's hope those oil prices keep dropping so they can pass gas (savings!) on to the little guy.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Once again I am away from home for Thanksgiving - I miss the friends, family, and food! But, I am thankful for everybody's support, even from parts distant. Hope each of you has a wonderful holiday. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

November Rain

Last night brought the rain. And I mean real rain, not the typical 20 minute LA shower. It rained steadily all night and most of today - feels like home! That should help take care of some of the intense dryness that has plagued Southern California which has enabled the spread of those wildfires over the last few weeks. Now though the worry is potential mudslides in those burn-out areas. It's always something I guess...

Monday, November 24, 2008

SAGging Hopes for a Deal

I received an e-mail from SAG today announcing that attempts at mediation regarding the labor contract impasse between the actors' union and the studios have failed. SAG has decided to seek a strike authorization from its members. This does not mean there WILL be a strike, but it means that the SAG negotiating committee will at least have a little bit of leverage in negotiations. (Who are we kidding though? These talks are not, nor have they ever been, a negotiation. The AMPTP has laid down some not-so-great terms, especially regarding New Media, and will not budge.)

Excerpts from the e-mail:
Management continues to insist on terms we cannot responsibly accept on behalf of our members. As previously authorized by the National Board of Directors, we will now launch a full-scale education campaign in support of a strike authorization referendum. We will further inform SAG members about the core, critical issues unique to actors that remain in dispute.

We have already made difficult decisions and sacrifices in an attempt to reach agreement. Now it's time for SAG members to stand united and empower the national negotiating committee to bargain with the strength of a possible work stoppage behind them.

We remain committed to avoiding a strike but now more than ever we cannot allow our employers to experiment with our careers. The WGA has already learned that the new media terms they agreed to with the AMPTP are not being honored. We cannot allow our employers to undermine the futures of SAG members and their families.

SAG needs 75% of its members to vote yes in order to pass the strike authorization. I think that the vote will fall short of that, which is too bad, because I fear that the things the union will be forced to give up if they take the current deal will be things that we will never be able to get back. If the AMPTP won't negotiate now, why would they be willing to give things up down the road? When all media is "new media" (internet, etc.) in a few years, why would they be willing to give back anything they have? (by the way, as mentioned above according to the Writers Guild, the AMPTP has already failed to comply with terms of the new deal they signed last spring - nice precedent)

All of the creative types (writers, directors, producers, ALL actors) need to get on the same page so that we can have a unified front in dealing with these mega media giants next time. Unfortunately, it's too late for that this time anyway, and even up against a strike authorization from SAG, I doubt the big studios will budge. They are rich. They can afford not to.

As usual, Nikki Finke has some great information about the labor dispute on her Deadline Hollywood Daily.

I guess it seems too much to ask for both sides to actually negotiate in good faith... I don't want a strike. Nobody does. But, if SAG doesn't get this authorization, I'm afraid it is a slippery slope down...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Money. Big Money.

So, the new Bond flick Quantum of Solace opened in the US to the tune of an $82.1 million first week which was 30% higher than the last one, Casino Royale (which was by far the biggest grosser in the series' history). Since, unlike most big blockbusters, Solace opened overseas first, it now sits at a worldwide cumulative gross of $355 million. Them's big numbers! It no doubt means that another big budget Bond with Daniel Craig is in the pipeline. But, more importantly, many industry pundits are pionting to the Bond success (as well as the huge buzz and pre-sale for this weekend's teen vampire flick, Twilight) as evidence that the film/entertainment industry is recession proof.

It may be a bit early to declare that, but it is a good sign for those of us out here working -- and trying to work. By the way, anybody see Quantum of Solace yet?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Something in the Air

As many of you have likely heard, wildfires have again struck Southern California. With the Santa Ana winds spreading the flames, thousands of people have been displaced and many homes have been destroyed. Millions of Californians have been affected since even miles and miles away from the fires, the air quality is pretty bad -- In fact, I showed up at my softball game yesterday morning only to find out it was canceled because of all the ash in the air. Of course, even though everybody is walking around coughing, it is really only a minor annoyance compared to what so many other folks are having to deal with. Here are some pictures of this weekend's fires and the resulting devastation...

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Anybody, especially if you're a boy, of a certain age remembers the TV show CHiPs which was on in the late 70's and early 80's. One of my favorite shows when I was a kid. Well, now that I live out here, I occasionally see the California Highway Patrol (CHiPs) in action. And every time I see their bikes and those cool, tight, light brown uniforms, it makes me think of Ponch and Jon. Last night, on the way to my workshop, one such officer pulled behind me on the highway and stayed behind me until I got to my exit. Usually when an officer of the law is driving behind me, I get kind of nervous, but this time I actually thought it was funny -- I kept remembering how Ponch would always pull women over for "being too beautiful" or for "driving without my number" -- what a smoothie.

Of course, all night, while people (including me!) were doing their scenes in class, I had that amazing synth CHiPs theme song running through my head...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What Recession?!

As a proud alum of the University of Chicago, I get occasional updates from the school, as well as those inevitable post-grad requests for cash. Unfortunately, I can barely pay my bills now, so I can't afford to help a prospective student pay his bills just yet. But, I digress... The latest e-mail I got was a jaw-dropper. David Booth, MBA '71, just donated $300 million to the business school at U of C. Yes, that's right - Three Hundred MILLION dollars. That is mindblowing, especially in today's floundering economy.

This is the largest gift ever to a business school (besting Nike founder Philip Knight's $105 million gift to Stanford) and one of the largest of any kind. Of course, U of C will name the school in honor of Mr. Booth. Good for him, and good for the school. Go Maroons!

Full article HERE

Monday, November 10, 2008

Soaps on the Ropes?

I took a couple of great workshops over the weekend. One was part 1 of a 3 part Soap workshop -- yes, those wonderful sudsy daytime shows that housewives/househusbands watch. Or that they used to watch. I guess fewer and fewer people tune into the melodrama these days. In fact, I hear that many of the ones currently on the air might be canceled relatively soon. Still, the ones that do remain provide steady work for the lucky ones that get on.

And, no, working on daytime TV isn't really my first choice -- but it would be working, which would be good. And, no, I wouldn't get cast as the strapping 23-year old hunky love-muffin (I'm afraid my age, chest hair and my not-quite-less-than 5% body fat body would preclude me ;) But, that being said, I would love to be a cop or a lawyer or private eye or some such other thing while I am pursuing what I really want to do. At least, I think I would. Part 1 on Saturday was with a manager who only reps daytime actors. He was very forthright about what it takes to be on a soap and the direction that daytime TV is heading. And the next two weeks are with the casting director of one of the big daytime shows, so I guess I'll see what she thinks of my 'soapability.'

The other CD workshop was with Lisa Loia-Bourne, and she was really wonderful. Rather than the usual "start with questions," Lisa gave us her (very diverse and impressive!) background, and had a bunch of industry advice -- what to do and not to do, both in general and specifically for the office she works at. She similarly took the time with each of the scenes to give notes and feedback, both good and bad, and allowed the actors to do each scene multiple times. It was a very informative session overall, and I hope to read for her again someday soon.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

First Teaser Trailer for Angels & Demons

The first teaser trailer for next May's Angels and Demons is up, and it looks pretty slick. Click A&D Teaser to see it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Greeting Seasons

There IS weather out here - and maybe even a season or two. How can I tell? Well, the days are getting shorter - I notice mainly because it is getting darker and darker as I drive to my Thursday night class each week at the same time. Of course, with daylight savings, it is now very dark as I drive down Santa Monica Blvd. at 6:30. These longer evenings mean that the weather cools off (sans sun) earlier and earlier which is great.

Also, we have had a few rainstorms recently (which I guess signals the start of fall? winter? out here -- I keep hearing Jim Rome plugging Rain X on the radio, so it must be somewhat routine this time of year.) Now most of these storms are different from the usual in the Midwest: there is a lot of wind, and torrential rain -- but it's all over in about 15-20 minutes tops. Then the sun breaks out of the clouds, and within an hour or so a few small puddles are the only reminder that there was any rain at all.

Some days (maybe 1 every few weeks) it remains overcast all day which is quite nice - though after that day, I usually find myself ready for some sun again. So, maybe I'm getting soft, and maybe the weather here could be considered a bit fall-esque, minus the falling leaves and random frost coverings, but I don't think there is any winter snow on the horizon...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Returns

Well, we now have a President-elect, Mr. Barack Obama. I watched his meteoric rise through the Democratic party firsthand as I lived in Chicago when he went from a local politician to the party's darling at the 2004 Democratic National Convention to the US Senate. I think he is a bright, energetic guy who will be a wonderful leader for our country.

Out here in California, there were several resolutions/propositions on the ballot -- many were confusing in terms of what they would mean as well as there financial impact on individuals. But, there were a couple such propositions that I thought were no-brainers. Proposition 2 is a very, very minimal farm animal rights measure that simply states that by 2015, farm animals have to be in cages large enough that they can stand and turn around most of the day. As it is now, virtually all factory farm animals --especially chickens and pigs-- are kept in cages barely bigger than the animals. It really is sickening, but most people don't even realize that this is the case. Anyway, the proposition is an absurdly small step towards treating animals as the sensitive, sentient beings they are, but baby steps are better than nothing. Thankfully Prop 2 passed.

A disturbing turn: Prop 8 which was a hotly contested proposal to ban gay marriage in the state also passed - by a close margin of 52% to 48%. Even out here in 'liberal California,' apparently there are many folks who believe that they have the right to tell others who they should and shouldn't love and who they can and can't marry. In this day and age, for a state like California to legislate such personal decisions -- and in my mind, rights -- is disappointing. Apparently though, some people are very excited -- see the clowns in the accompanying photo, pictured after hearing the results -- geez, as if two men or two women being married would make this dude's life any worse.

So, in summation, I feel uplifted by the direction of the government after yesterday, but also realize that we have a long way to go...