Tuesday, January 27, 2009

SAGs Doug Allen Gonzo!!

Wow! A day of interesting news all the way around.

LOS ANGELES: The Screen Actors Guild (SAG) sacks national executive director, Doug Allen, splitting the position into two separate posts.

Former Guild general counsel David White takes over as interim national executive director, while longtime Guild senior advisor John T. McGuire serves as chief negotiator. SAG also replaced its TV/theatrical negotiating committee with a taskforce directed to complete its current negotiations on behalf of the board of directors. All changes are effective immediately.

This opens the way for a more settled industry especially at this time of international uncertainty. This definitely was not the time to play chicken with the industry! Perhaps now a three year contract can be reached with an agreement to reopen the internet discussion then. There should be some sort of track record established by then that can be used for a more positive set of negotiations.

Canadian Federal Budget Arts Points

Harper actually back pedaled a little in this one - he actually restored some canceled programs and/or DIDN'T cancel another rumored program - namely the Canadian Television Fund

Here's the highlights for the arts portion:
  • Increasing funding by $20 million over the next two years and $13 million per year thereafter to the National Arts Training Contribution Program.
  • Providing $30 million over the next two years to support continued access to Canadian magazines and community newspapers.
  • Providing $28.6 million over the next two years to the Canada New Media Fund, and $14.3 million annually thereafter.
  • Providing the Canadian Television Fund with $200 million in funding over the next two years.
  • Providing $40 million to the Canadian Tourism Commission over two years to support marketing activities, such as the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.
  • Providing $12 million per year in 2011–12 and 2012–13 for infrastructure to promote international cruise ship tourism along the Saint Lawrence and Saguenay Rivers.
  • Providing $100 million over two years for marquee festivals and events that promote tourism.
  • Supporting Canada’s parks with $75 million over two years for improvements and enhancements to Parks Canada’s visitor facilities, such as campgrounds and visitor centres.
  • Providing an additional $75 million to Parks Canada for upgrades to National Historic Sites, including a number of sites connected with the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.
To sum it up - providing the Canadian Television Fund with $200 million in funding over the next two years, while this sounds all fine and dandy its needs to be examined with the thought that the fund was rumored to have been in danger of not being renewed. Have to do the math still but this doesn't appear to be any greater than the amounts normally pledged per annum. This simply reinstates the fund.

Thanks Mr. Harper for deciding not to trash the Canadian Television Fund. Now where's the stimulus?

Increasing funding by $20 million over the next two years and 13 M per year there after to the National Arts Training Contribution program - This item simply restores the money they already took out. NSI and the Canadian Film Institute get a reprieve. Thanks Mr. Harper.

Providing 28.6 million over the next two years to the Canada New Media Fund and 14.3 million per year thereafter - As far as I can tell this was already pretty much in the works anyway.

In addition to this there is a few bucks in for local theatres and a dollop for festivals, and a whack for Parks...

All we can really be thankful for is that most of this is restoring programs that they had previously trashed. We can still continue as before but without any really big stimulus packages that will allow us to get back on the train of productions that we once had.

Friday, January 23, 2009


What happens in the industry stateside affects us directly here in Canada. One need only look to the fact that CanWest Global is having interest payment difficulties, then connect last years Goldman Sachs financial involvement and their part, however large or small, in the recent outright theft on Wall Street of the life savings of hundreds of thousands of individuals. No surprise that there is no money left for CanWest Global - the bottomless American well had a bottom after all! Rumor is that 380 Billion US has been poured into the banks and brokers with no accountability required - the bankers and brokerage bosses even got their Christmas bonuses! Even worse, the money "in" so far has had no measurable effect on anything (except maybe Bernie Madoff!).

Harper started out denying that we would be affected, now he's about to release a massive deficit budget - did I hear 40 billion? Nowhere have I heard that there is anything in there for the film and TV industry.

It's a major mistake as we are seeing first hand during this economic downturn, yeah well - recession then. In previous generations the studios were self contained, self directed and self financed. Somewhere along the way some Wall Street brainiacs got the idea that bigger was better, that they could instantly monetize everything, and instead of waiting for the returns from projects they took a chance on, they sold out the projects long in advance to the stock and derivatives markets. Now there is no cashflow from any source because all the industries are tied together. Duh!! (These guys have Masters and Phds in law and business??).

Disney, when Walt was alive was an absolute model of how to do things right. Then came Eisner.

As the studios get/were bought up by conglomerates like Time Warner, News Corp., Disney, Viacom and Sony, thankfully we’re slowly starting to discover that we won’t need them anymore - unless that is, they somehow exert total control over the Internet as well (yes they are trying - don't discount the possibility of TelCos buying into or being acquired by the remnants of the Studios).

Yes finances still have to come from somewhere, but hopefully it won't be from the studios for much longer. Right now it seems that the only way to make any money from Internet projects is sponsorships and advertising banners. That's all crashing a bit right now - on the other hand it has been announced recently that Internet advertising has currently surpassed that of advertising on TV. An example might be www.Hulu.com . TV on the Web, it has advertising. It’s a great place to find a missed television show or episode, so far however, no one is making any money from the convenience but how will that play through in the future?

Here's a little blurb from the concerned actors and industry folks stateside. We need something like this to educate the public and our own government officials about what the film and TV industries mean to Canada - Harper - wake up! The Conference Board has done a whole work up on our industry. We have a much larger footprint and mean more to this country then is recognized by any of the parties let alone the constipated remains of conservativism. This from me, a former party faithful!

Take at look at this excellent PSA spot and think Canada instead of USA... think government interference instead of Union problems... you get the picture.

There's a website called FilmFellas and they are actively discussing how the Internet is changing entertainment. Check it out.

To you folks in the industry - we need to get our points across much more effectively than we are right now. We can't do that without you participating.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What is the Internet?

We need to try to answer that question. For film makers it’s a place to meet, to learn, to find jobs, to locate and experiment, and finally, perhaps to distribute the results of all of the preceding elements.

This is precisely the dilemma facing the SAG committee. What is the internet? What does it mean to the future of actors and acting? What does it mean in terms of where lives and careers are going?

Tina Fey’s comments on The Golden Globe Awards last night, “there’s this thing called the Internet…” True Tina Fey, there is this thing called the internet but what is it? Do you have the slightest idea of what it is right now? It’s still in development. How can you set the rules before you know the experiment worked. They have much more than the internet to fear I’m afraid. Check out this video to get a glimpse of where things are at right now, let alone where they are going.

This is a tech demo. The actor is not really saying or doing - the whole performance is animated plain and simple. I have had several discussions with my colleagues in the animation field who suggest that this is not animation but is instead visual effects. In my opinion if it comes from the results of individuals manipulating lines, images, pixels etc., it’s animation and this impresses the fact that we are so very close to synthetic actors that they do indeed have things to worry about, however its got nothing to do with the internet and will have much greater impact on their lives than the internet ever could. In Japan they nearly have the challenge of synth-voices cracked as well. Try this link and play around with it for a bit.


This isn't even the leading edge stuff - I'll post that when I find it. This is pretty impressive though.

You decide. Is it animation or visual effects? What are visual effects in this age of blurred reality?

Next post I'll tackle the mounting pressures on the industry. We still have Steven Harper's block headed stubbornness to contend with. He still doesn't seem to get it. More later. Here's the link to the Youtube location if you want to look at it in HiDef.