I do not like writing these blog posts because I am keenly aware that they’re locking me further and further out of the club. A filmmaker colleague and good friend said to me the other day over lunch: “The fact that you decided to take on the MPAA makes me think that deep down inside you’re done with filmmaking.”
I laughed because he said it jokingly, but I haven’t stopped thinking about that comment since. He obviously implied that anybody who takes on the MPAA should expect to be blacklisted. We so casually joke about being an industry ruled by tyrants, without any hint of resentment and bitterness, that I often wonder about the water supply in Los Angeles and if somebody isn’t dropping mind-altering drugs in it unbeknownst to us.
We’re supposed to be free-thinkers, rebels, dissident artists, liberals, etc. and most of us still pretend we are, but no matter what the Motion Picture Association of America does…
…may it be spreading homophobia: MPAA accused of homophobia
…or misogyny: MPAA misogynistic
…or if they’re blackmailing politicians: MPAA Chief threatens Obama
…or running a tax scheme: Hollywood Financials
…or exaggerating piracy losses year after year, to the point where the Government’s Accountability Office has to step in: Fixing stats
…or interpreting laws to only benefit themselves, while simultaneously screwing the people they use to morally appeal to pirates not to steal from the “little people” in Hollywood: Tech geeks fight against Big Hollywood
…or if they bend the law in foreign countries, so piracy charges result in imprisonment, going as far as hiring cops who are investigating piracy, so they can “legally” bribe them into doing their bidding: WARNER CONFESSES
…or if they, through doing all of the above, lose a vast amount of money while still paying themselves fat bonuses: MPAA’s massive financial loss
So let’s see we got: Censorship, bribery, coercion, greed, fallacy and promoting homophobia and misogyny.
But we’re cool with it, because you see, we’re not really hard core liberals or dissidents and we certainly don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us, all right?
Yeah, this is where I tear my hair out because now we’re just being stupid. Should we look at how this hand feeds us?
I have posted the article on the foreign levy scheme before, but we Hollywood folks just love to put our head in the sand and pretend that numbers don’t exist. But when we use money as an excuse not to stand up to injustice, we have a moral obligation to investigate if that excuse is actually valid, otherwise we’re just a bunch of jokers.
To make it easier on you, here are some excerpts first:
It was because of U.S. acceptance of the Berne treaty, as well as the emergence of satellite, cable, videocassettes and DVDs, and the ease of digital theft over the Internet, that the concept of “foreign levies” was born. To ensure that an author gets his due, Berne Convention nations established so-called collecting societies: agencies convened, supervised and sanctioned by each country specifically to collect revenue due any author for his rightful share of any use of his work — and to get that money to him as quickly as possible.
But none of these collecting societies are labor unions. Their purpose is solely to get authors’ money to authors, regardless of their union affiliation or national origin. Thus, when the WGA and the DGA first approached the collecting societies in 1990 shortly after the U.S. signed on to the Berne Convention, proposing that the guilds disburse that money on behalf of U.S. authors, it spawned the fundamental complaint…that neither guild can legally speak on behalf of writers or directors who aren’t guild members.
Guild vice president Carl Gottlieb …says the foreign-levies diversion scheme was originally hatched in 1990 by two studio lawyers and then–WGA executive director Brian Walton. According to Gottlieb….attorney Jay Roth (who later became DGA executive director and was paid over $1 million last year) and MCA/Universal general counsel Robert Hadl (now on annual WGA retainer at $150,000, plus $300 an hour and expenses) came to Walton with a proposition: If they could persuade foreign collecting societies to turn over their revenue to the WGA, this promising new income stream for writers could be shared with the guilds and studios, including Hadl’s.
The powerful trio divided the booty three ways: 85 percent for the studios, 7.5 percent for the DGA and 7.5 percent for the WGA — to disburse to often-struggling writers in the manner the WGA wished and when the WGA wished, with no disclosure of the diverted 92.5 percent required. Double Cross at the WGA
92.5 % for them, 7.5 % for us.
So much for the hand that feeds us. If you look further into this scheme, you’ll find out all kinds of fun things, like how it is actually breaking the laws of the Berne Convention, how they decided to not only collect money from union members, but everybody who has ever made a film, even if that person fundamentally rejects Hollywood and how all this money is lying around in union accounts because the people it belongs to apparently can’t be found. Here is a partial list of them: LOST DIRECTORS
PS: Hey Chris Moore! Producer of Good Will Hunting, American Pie, The Chair…the DGA owes you foreign levies for your directing work on Kill Theory. Apparently you are hard to find. LOL.
There are as many stubborn and selfish people on the tech side as they are in our lovely industry, but I can’t help thinking it has a lot to do with how we are conditioned to think. In an almost Machiavellian orchestrated divide and conquer strategy, you have people on the tech side angry and scared because the MPAA goes after them and successfully robs them of their freedom, often with fabricated charges. On the other side you have us, the artists and we’re so used to scarcity and fear of survival…you just need to point out the enemy to us and we’re lashing out at them…no questions asked. It’s so convenient when the little people are at each other’s throat rather than ask questions and dig deeper, isn’t it?
My shrink thinks that my need to protest this kind of shit, even with dire consequences for myself, could be a slight Joan of Arc themed personality disorder. It’s apparently also what Whistleblowers suffer from. I had to laugh about that, only because if I would have started crying I wouldn’t have stopped. Welcome to the 21st century Ladies and Gentlemen, where moral courage is considered a mental disease and yes, Big Pharma has a pill for that.
PS: In case you’re wondering, I’m not done making movies or TV shows, not by a long shot.