Monday, August 31, 2009

So you think you're green?

Okay folks, is anything or anyone really green? I mean what is your definition of green?

It’s supposed to mean self sufficient, it’s supposed to mean non-polluting, it’s supposed to mean carbon neutral and so on and so on and so on. Ever heard of the laws of thermodynamics? It governs everything we do or create. Essentially you cannot get back more energy than you expend. Bottom line, you can change the elements you work with but you can’t change the physics. If we want to consume energy we have to expend something. You can dress it in whatever rhetoric you wish but the results are still the same. You give to get.

So, you’ve decided to go lithium huh? Where do you suppose lithium comes from? The ground dummy! It’s the 31st most common element on earth but it still has to be dug out of somewhere. Digging takes energy. Transporting it takes energy. Processing it takes energy. Manufacturing it takes energy. Installing it into the cars and products that will use the rechargeable batteries takes energy. You starting to get where I am going with this?

So maybe you stuck with Nickle Metal Hydride batteries. Where do you think nickel comes from?

There is no decision you can make other than to ”off yourself” that can make a major difference to your energy consuming selves. You can change the forms of energy you use, you can change the packaging, the containers and the devices but you still bloody well use energy just to exist. You want to change that, stop existing. Not my option by the way. Worked way too hard to stay alive as it is to give up now.

Then there’s CO2. The average human consumes about 2200 calories a day. For men 2550 for women 1950 – more than that and apparently you’re just plain gluttonous! That translates to 0.82317 Kilos of CO2 per 24 hrs per human. More if you are seriously physically active. If we just hit 7 billion on the planet then we emit about 2.1 billion tonnes a year. Of course the people who are in charge of what we are supposed to think suggest that we are carbon neutral because our emissions in theory are countered by the carbon sequestered in the plant matter that we eat in a year… do you believe that? And so on…

Okay back to the lithium battery conundrum – now you have to charge the damn things. Where do you draw the charging electrons from? The grid? Sure, maybe. Solar panel – good choice. Wind energy? Another possibility. Ever wonder how the electricity gets in the grid? How is it generated? Coal fired generations plants/ Natural gas fired generation plants? Hydroelectric? Nuclear? Wind? Maybe solar in some cases.

Energy is expended to get energy. It takes resources and energy to construct the solar panels. It takes a lot of materials to build nearly anything we use to create energy. Almost everything we use or do starts with cement. Energy to mine the limestone, energy to transport it, energy to grind it, energy to bake it, and again energy to transport it. Same goes for all of the metals used along the way.

Bottom line. We live we consume. Don’t want to consume? Dying is your only other choice. The real issue is: how many people on planet earth is too many people? Then comes another conundrum. Who decides who gets to be here? Why should it be you that stays or even gets to be born?

Yeah well, I think I'm just going to fire up the Hummer and go down to the beer store for a couple dozen, grab a couple steaks, fire up the barby and just kick back. Its all too much for me!

Friday, August 28, 2009


My rant for today is about equality in all aspects of the word. Like other affirmative action programs one has to ask when are the disadvantages equal enough? When has the initiative reached its goals? What is the measure being sought after?

I just received an email looking for participants in a new program and some of the bits appear below my diatribe.

I guess the point that is starting to get irksome for me is: When in my 35 years in the business did I ever have the opportunity to participate in these types of career boosting programs? One that was exclusive to my sex that is? I probably wouldn't be approaching the age that I am with the amount of bitterness that I am developing if there had been something of the sort available.

I started my career fresh out of film school with the belief that I could do anything that I wanted with my life. That was true within the usual life parameters - family, economics, practicality. I had the desire to write and to direct from as far back as I can remember. I just didn't come from a family background that had any money connections at all. On my fathers side - poor ranchers - I was six before we got electricity. On my mothers side I am First Nations/Metis. Nothing there that would give one an advantage of any kind back in those days - you were generally better off not mentioning that you weren't totally white.

I jumped straight into life after film school, and that of course meant a family, a house, the usual trappings. Directing was not part of that scenario. Production at least could pay the bills - a DGC ticket got me in. I have spent my life molly coddling those unforgettable individuals in the "creative side" of the industry who appeared at times to be incapable of tying their own shoelaces. It was frustrating to say the least. When you reach PM in this side of the business it kind of paints a target on your forehead and says "okay anybody out there - go ahead and take a shot!"

That also meant being front and centre in negotiations of all sorts. In my case that included DGC negotiations when Union differences arose. By then I was Vice President of the Alberta Guild chapter and active both nationally and locally. Of course during that time the IATSE and the Teamsters decided to war over the transportation department. They didn't pick the bigger shows, they always picked mine. Why was I so lucky? Anyways, following closely on that onslot was the battle between the IA and DGC over the art department. I was it. The president was out of the jurisdiction on a show he couldn't leave. I did get things sorted out and proposed a truce rather than a true solution, one that still stands as a precedent I'm rather proud to say. It gave PDs and Art Directors a choice of what they wanted to do on any given show. It has not been without a few wrinkles but workable.

All that to say that everyone remembers the messenger not the message. Having been in the middle of numerous fracases bestowed upon me a reputation that I didn't earn or want. I had merely kept the chair warm as part of my duties. All of this while doing something that I didn't really want to be doing. Sure I was in the industry I wanted to be in, but never close to doing what I wanted to do in it. And no avenues open to allow me to do so. No mentorships available in my jurisdiction and I daresay nowhere across the country at that time - and even now very limited. Even getting to be PM I did myself - no one to work under - just observation from a distance and suddenly there I was in the chair, I had talked my self into a job. The fact that I pulled off some projects that had been labelled as impossible has been a feather in my cap so to speak, but again, not where I had wanted to be.

All of this to ask - when have men ever had the kind of opportunities that women are now enjoying? Seriously don't start foaming at the mouth until you think that through. I keep hearing how disadvantaged women "are." However, I can see how disadvantaged that women "were." Today is a different story. In Canada at least, a very large percentage of the successful film companies are women owned and operated. My last ten jobs were all for women. In my lifetime in the business I never discriminated between men or women when hiring for any position. Most guys I know in the industry have been doing the same for at least two decades.

Truthfully yes I'm jealous of the networking capabilities that women seem to have. They are naturals at it whereas the males of the business are more independent and competitive. Women for eons have pointed out the "old boys clubs" and while in some time periods and in some businesses that did apply it doesn't so much anymore. Even within those "boys clubs" it was more of a "I'm going to get all these guys together in one place so I can see what my competition is - what I'm up against." Mentoring is actually rare in this business of freelancers. Mentoring is a corporate kind of think. That said, I ponder the question of how all of us can get into the mentoring/networking mode. When there is a struggle for jobs, networking kind of goes out the window. Everyone jealously guards every scrap of information, every rumor of work. So how do we generate enough new jobs to bring the system online again? Where does the money come from to make this happen? This was all happening long before the so called economic downturn.

How do guys like me get out of the production side and into the creative side - where are the programs for us? We had dreams too. Just because we ended up as the care takers of the industry doesn't mean that's what we wanted to do. Somebody, anybody, give us a shot before we're too old to appreciate it.

Here's the WIF info I was referring to earlier. Wow, to have access to this kind of training at any age!


WIDC Module 1

Story Incubation Module (SIM)

December 4 to 7, 2009
(Directors only)

Director Applications & Criteria

WIDC Module 2:
Prep Production and Post Production Module (PPPM):

January 14 to 31, 2010
(Module 1 Directors, Actors & Crew)
Applications & Criteria
Actors | Professional Crew | Work Study Crew

CTV WIDC Scholarship Fund
Director applicants will be automatically considered
for this funding support when selected to attend WIDC.
For more scholarships

WIDC Module 3:
Follow up for WIDC alumnae includes:

Centennial College @Wallace Studios Award

WIDC BANFF Fellowship


WIDC Feature Film Award
Congratulations 2009 Winner: Katrin Bowen!

Open to all Canadian women directors;
valued at nearly $100,000 in in kind rentals from
Western Canadian Industry organizations..
Next Deadline: March 31, 2010

CTV WIDC Career Advancement Module (CAM)
Congratulations to this season's CAM Participants:

Paulina Abarca-Cantin, Allison Beda, Lois Brown, Deanne Foley

Carolyn Combs, Karen Hines, Lulu Keating, Tracy D. Smith

Carole Ducharme, Danishka Esterhazy, Anne Marie Nakagawa, Alison Reid

Next Deadline: September 15, 2009 for St John's Session

CTV WIDC Director Development Award
Next Deadline: March 31, 2010

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The case against pangea

A very interesting article that I found on Neal Adams website

First… it’s important to understand that this is the most profound disagreement in all of science in a century and a half… and, even so, it is the tip of the iceberg, the ramifications of this disagreement will change everything we know in science, top to bottom.

To begin with basic stuff.

All science knows…

The earth has two crusts. One…the mostly basalt lower crust or the oceanic crust which is 2 – 4 miles deeper down than the higher upper continental crust. This lower crust, essentially covers the Earth. It … this crust is being made daily at rift cracks that snake around the earth’s mid- oceans. But how could all these rifts continually spread apart…without the Earth growing? Ah….that is the question….isn’t it?

Sitting on or “in” and “as part of” the oceanic crust is the second higher upper crust or the Continental Crust rising for the most part out of the water. It is made mostly of granitic rock, which is 2.5 times the weight of water.

Some edge area of the Continental Crust or Plate dips into and under the sea level of the ocean. This area is what we call the Continental Shelf. So as you go out into the ocean and the water gets gradually deeper … that is the Continental Shelf. At a given distance out into the ocean the ocean floor suddenly drops off and goes down like a plummet… 2 ½ to 4 miles to the deep ocean floor, where we find the second lower crust, the Oceanic Crust made mostly of basalts which are 3.0 – 3.3 times the weight of water. So to make it visually clear, if you took the water away what you would see as you go out into the ocean a distance is, the Continental Shelf would suddenly drop away and down like a ridge in Arizona., except it would go straight down for two to three miles, as if it was suddenly broken off. The other side of that broken off ridge is across the ocean thousands of miles in Europe, or Africa and west to Australia and Asia.

How did the two sides of this higher crust spread apart?

Catch the rest of the article on Neal's website:

Here's a video of the whole argument - it works for me. I never did buy into the pangea theory and now here is a refreshing view of how things happened. I like it. Comments please?

What happened to my TV shows?

I personally noticed the changes in TV fare about 1999 - 2000. It was the busiest year I've ever had, going from one show to another from one coast of Canada to the other. We were stockpiling American shows in anticipation of lengthy strikes by WGA, DGA and SAG. If I remember correctly only one of the groups negotiated a settlement and the strikes dragged on for months.

That was the beginning of the network search for replacement fare and the increasing usage of non-scripted prime time shows. Here we are eight years later, another bank of strikes behind us and TV is worse than ever. What networks have forgotten is that in order to garner viewer loyalty they first have to offer something worth being loyal to. Scripted entertainment had all of that when it was quality material. That still exists, but mostly from the cable side.

When the network chairs are populated not by creative thinkers but by MBA marketing majors who see everything as "product" you have an attitude that the content doesn't matter as long as the packaging is glitzy enough and looks good - all sugar coated and sweet. Move them from Fox, CBS and NBC to General Foods or Proctor and Gamble and they'll speak the same lingo at board meetings without skipping a beat.

TV and motion pictures have never been and never will be just "product" and anytime that they are treated as such the audience suffers for it. When the audience suffers the networks pay in lost viewership. There are enough video games and cable fare to satisfy most and viewers vote with their remotes, leaving primetime shows in droves. There is likely less scripted material on network air now than there has ever been since the invention of TV.

It becomes a self perpetuating loop. The viewers leave, sponsors pay less for ad time, networks recieve less revenue, scripted shows get cut back, viewers leave. A cycle which continues over and over. In the end you have bankrupt networks, starving writers and actors and a whole industry collapses just because the networks wanted to save a buck back at the beginning of the cycle.

Of course there are some industry responsibilities as well and that is the demands by WGA, SAG and DGA - did they get theirs raises? Sure, but they also lost about 1000% more in the end in lost work. So who's to blame for this mess we're in? We all are. Its all about greed regardless of who you point the finger at. However, the networks could have handled it better and still be in business instead of heading off four hours of non scripted entertainment with Jay Leno!

Ultimately I blame the studio that made the deal with Bruce Willis for Die Hard. That started the upfront money disaster that now rules the industry. That unfortunately was the result of "funny" studio accounting that many stars were increasingly dissatisfied with. You can't blame them really because the only way to get their backend money was to sue. That said, no star is worth 35 million per show. We can still make a decent non star show for less than half of that. For our industry to survive the optics have to change. We have to be seen to be responsible and 150 to 200 million dollar budgets isn't the way to do it.

There was another factor involved that seldom garnered any attention, the Canadian and German investment funds. Back in the 90's Canada was pumping hundreds of millions into Tax Shelters that were ultimately supporting American prime time tv. When the Canadian government decided that they were tired of supporting foreign fare they pulled the plug with the last Tax Shelter projects ending in late 2002.

The Germans, never to overlook an opportunity, stepped in during the late 90s with their versions of the Media funds and again pumped copious amounts of capital into American Prime Time TV as well as an occasional feature or two. The good thing about this for Canada was that all of the activity was taking place in Canada - both from the Canadian initiatives and the German ventures, sometimes in co-production with each other with the Americans being the ultimate beneficiaries.

When the German funds were discovered to be draining into pockets it wasn't intended for they too rewrote the rules, jailed a couple of fund managers and left Hollywood to fend for itself. The real interesting element is not that the Canadians and the Germans propped up the Hollywood TV and feature industries for a decade but that Hollywood - the giant - was so greedy that it totally abandoned the old models that had sustained it for fifty years in favour of the easy "soft money" abroad. There is probably no one left who can even remember how they did things before the tax shelters.

Is it too late? Probably. Look at the ownership structures of most of the major players. They are totally owned and controlled through Wall Street giants who only care about Ferengi economics not about the fact that there is a creative industry at stake. Its sobering to see the work rosters of Los Angeles being similar to the size of Vancouver's list back in 2000. The work is now spread out over so many jurisdictions that Hollywood will soon be a memory played out through theme parks.

The scariest thing I have heard recently is a new phrase - Community Media. The concept that "everyman" can be involved in the creation of entertainment media - it is being touted as a liberation and liberation it might be, but it is the end of the professional media. There was once pride in the ability to hold a shot steady, entire film schools devouted hours of practise time to turning out camera people who could set up and execute the perfect shot - and where are we now? Feature movies have hand held cameras shots so wild and erratic that it would have made most people motion sick even ten years ago, but oddly enough we the viewers have grown used to the wildly tumbling images on ever bigger screens. The end of an era.

The only thing that will save the industry now is a major shift in technologies where story can once again be king and Youtube but a distant memory.

Ah yes the good old days...

Where Did The Primetime Broadcast Audience Go?

Updated: Where Did The Primetime Broadcast Audience Go?

Posted on 03 December 2008 by Bill Gorman on

Ask Not Where the Broadcast Audience Went, It Went To Cable

We’ve seen that primetime broadcast network viewership has been on the decline since the early 80’s. But we’ve also seen that primetime TV viewing by household has been relatively flat from the early 90’s. Where did the primetime network audience go?

It went, and continues to go, to cable.

The chart, table and text below have now been updated with the final numbers from the 2007-8 season. Note that the percentage of US TV HHs (rating) viewing during prime-time has risen slowly over time, but the broadcast networks share of viewing has continued to drop for the entire period.

As the prime-time broadcast network audience began declining in the early 1980’s, it shifted to cable networks, and by an ever increasing amount, basic/ad supported cable networks.

Some interesting trends jump out.

Over the past 20+ years, Independent Stations have joined up and become Network Affiliates. Note the ever growing list of networks below. I am looking for good data on the number of Independent stations vs. Network Affiliates over time, but conventional wisdom is that their numbers have shrunk substantially. That’s why I colored both of those series blue. I think they should be considered part of the same viewership trend. Taken together, those two groups have gone from a rating of 54.5 to 27.9, a decline of 49%.

At the same time, Public broadcast primetime viewing has fallen from a HH rating of 2.6 to 1.4, a similar percentage decline of about 54%.

Although I was mostly coherent in the mid-80’s, it was quite a surprise that in 1984-85 audiences were watching more Premium/Pay Cable than Ad/Basic cable.

What is undeniable is that the growth of Ad Supported/Basic cable viewing was not followed by a similar growth in premium/pay cable viewing. Premium/Pay cable has seen its share fall modestly during the period. It’s hard to compare the Premium/Pay Cable numbers before 1999 with those after 1999 because of the definition change (noted below) though.

In fact, today more people watch “other” cable (shopping, music, etc) cable than watch premium/pay cable.

Primetime HH Rating by Season 1984-2008

Season Network Affiliates Independent Public Premium/Pay Cable Ad/Basic Cable Other Cable
1984-85 44.8 9.7 2.6 4.0 3.6
1985-86 45.1 10.1 2.5 3.4 3.9
1986-87 43.3 10.5 2.7 3.3 4.7
1987-88 40.1 11.5 2.5 3.8 6.0
1988-89 38.7 11.7 2.4 3.9 7.5
1989-90 36.5 11.9 2.2 3.6 9.0
1990-91* 38.4 7.8 2.3 3.4 11.6
1991-92 41.0 5.5 2.1 3.1 12.8
1992-93 40.4 5.7 2.2 3.0 13.6
1993-94 40.5 6.1 2.2 3.0 14.1
1994-95 37.8 6.4 2.2 3.1 15.9
1995-96 35.7 6.6 2.1 3.3 18.0
1996-97 33.2 6.7 2.1 3.7 19.8
1997-98 31.4 6.7 2.0 3.9 22.3
1998-99 31.3 7.2 2.0 4.2 24.1
1999-00 34.7 2.1 2.0 3.5 24.0 1.9
2000-01 32.6 2.4 1.9 3.5 26.0 2.1
2001-02 30.3 2.5 1.6 3.5 28.2 2.1
2002-03 29.6 2.6 1.7 3.6 29.4 2.4
2003-04 28.9 2.9 1.6 3.4 30.9 2.9
2004-05 27.8 3.7 1.6 3.1 32.8 3.2
2005-06** 29.1 2.0 1.5 2.8 33.5 3.4
2006-07*** 28.1 1.2 1.4 2.6 33.8 3.0
2007-08*** 26.9 1.0 1.2 2.6 35.1 3.0

Network Affiliates:

1984-90: ABC, CBS, NBC affiliates
1991-1999: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX Affiliates
1999-December 25, 2005: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, UPN, PAX affiliates
December 26, 2005-January 29 2006: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, UPN, UNI, PAX affiliates
January 30, 2006-February 26, 2006: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, UPN, UNI, TEL, PAX affiliates
February 27, 2006-August 27, 2006: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, UPN, UNI, TEL, TF, PAX affiliates
August 28, 2006 – September 3, 2006 : ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, UPN, UNI, TEL, TF, AZA, PAX affiliates
September 4, 2006 – Present : ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, WB, UPN, UNI, TEL, TF, AZA, PAX, MNT affiliates

1984-90: Commercial independent stations including FOX affiliates and TBS
1991-99: Commericial independent stations including WB, UPN affiiliates and superstations except forTBS.
1999-present: Commercial independent stations including Telemundo and Univision affiliates. Excludes TBS

PBS affiliates

Ad Supported/Basic Cable:
1999-present: Viewing to advertiser supported cable networks. Includes TBS and WGN cable.
1984-99: Tuning to basic cable including Pay-Per-View
1991-1999: Tuning to basic cable including TBS and Pay-Per-View.

Premium/Pay Cable:

1999-present: Viewing to premium pay cable services.
1984-99: Cable Subscribers receiving at least one premium channel. This does not include Pay-Per-View.

All Other Cable:
1999-present: tuning to cable networks that are neither ad-supported nor premium pay, includes pay-per-view, interactive channels, home shopping channels, and audio only feeds.

*Effective 1991, FOX and TBS changed from Independents to Network Affiliates and Basic Cable Respectively.
**Combination of Live data and Live+7 data.
***Live+7 data
All years prior to 2005-6 are Live Data.

Nielsen TV Ratings Data: ©2008 Nielsen Media Research, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Thanks to Bill Gorman

More stats on the household viewing habits:

Daily Television Viewing By Household 1952-2007

Posted on 28 August 2007 by Bill Gorman


2005-6 and 2006-7 data is Live+7.
2006-7 data is through 9/23/07.

Again, a "thank you" to Bill Gorman

Policy Peril: The Truth About Global Warming

When pondering the whole issue of global warming tub thumping there are of course the first knee jerk reactions like "this will affect my future and that of my family for generations to come."

That would be correct if you are referring to the negative financial impact of the implementation of the Kyoto standards. As in any examination of political and sociological scenarios it is important to ask the question, "who stands to gain from the implementation of Kyoto?"

As in chasing drug traffickers, the key is to follow the money. In short I am saying - THINK PEOPLE! THINK FOR YOURSELVES! We are the largest grouping of all time to have the easiest access to instant information but we are also the largest group to simply accept what we are told and spoon fed by both governments and the self interested media.

This is a very well thought out video with a lot of research behind it. It is not just anti global warming or anti climate change propaganda - at least no more so than Gore's Inconvenient Truth was/is. Watch the video, think about it and most of all discuss it and do your own research.

Click on the link below. I wish I could figure out how to have the window open here but this will have to do for now.