Thursday, June 26, 2008

So an article came out in this week's BackStage (east and west) about the short films going up on the internet regarding the SAG/AFTRA/AMPTP controversy, and ours was featured!  It was a humble end-of-page cite, but any publicity is good publicity (is that how the saying goes?).  To check it out, go here: Back Stage

Here's the video, and the full transcript of our interview.  We said some funny, thoughtful stuff, if I do say so myself.  But, ah well, not funny enough to make the cut... 

The Interview: (Backstage Journalist Halley Bondy) 

Were you compelled to make the video based on any particular event/events in the news or personal experiences?

  • RD: Well, we had had conversations about the negotiations for a while, but the specific event that really motivated it was Nikki Finke’s article in that reported AFTRA’s contract agreement and then their shady avoidance of SAG on Thursday the 29th of May – which I think every actor should read.  When I read that AFTRA had agreed to the same New Media terms offered to SAG on day 1 of negotiations, and that they had “caved on clips” – her words - plus they had been really ridiculous in their refusal to brief SAG on their agreement, I was shocked.  One sentence she wrote just stuck with me, and I printed it off “Tragicomedy, because the losers were the 40,000 dual cardholding actors – a majority of them here in Los Angeles – who "got ditched like a bad prom date" by      the AFTRA negotiating committee that purports to represent them.”  Anyhow, so that night we talked about all this in acting class…  
  • PC: And part of it was, looking back on the discussion that night, we saw how passionate and well-informed some actors are, and how others have no clue about what is going on.  Literally we were in the middle of an important talk about the union and what’s going to happen to their future and livelihood, and they’re off in another world.
  • RD: Yeah, so those two things really kept me mulling over the whole topic until writing a short seemed like a good idea.


4.            What exactly was your mission in creating this video? Who were you intending to reach, what is your underlying message through these stock characters?

·     RD: “Stock characters?”

·     TE: Ouch Halley.

·     PC: Uh, there’s nothing “stock” about my character.  That is pure genius.

·     RD: I think I would say my goal was to do what satire does best: poking fun by being over the top and hyperbolic and making caricatures of a group of people to say, “Look, this dynamic is kind of ridiculous.” Just to say - like you were mentioning Patrick - look guys, we have to care about this.  It’s a form of art; and hopefully that’s exactly the kind of thing art does.

·     PC: And I think there are two ways to go about that stuff.  I think that sometimes people get a little aggressive and try to bludgeon someone over the head with their message.  But at the same time, people don’t listen when you’re shaking them and saying “listen to me!”

·     RD: Right

·     PC: So, I feel like we can attempt to make it a little more…

·     RD: Palatable.

·     PC: Yeah, like I said the other day, we hope this lands like a Chris Rock joke.  First it makes you laugh, but then the next day it makes you think a little bit.  Which is all you can hope for with something like this. 

·     TE: Yeah, and some of the SAG stuff they send out can be really dry, and hard to swallow.  And we’re actors, we have to make it - not dumb it down - but make it something that people want to look at.  Just to get people to talk about things.  It’s  just an easy way to get people to think about the situation.

·     RD: Yeah, so the main goal is just to create a conversation, and maybe be a part of that conversation only peripherally. And I think a secondary mission, like with Monkey Bread Productions – the other YouTube channel that Tiffany and I are a part of – we’ve been discussing the whole issue of making YouTube shorts and how it seems like you get a lot of hits if you do a short about sex or poop or something that’s just vulgar and over the top.   And there’s part of me that wants to make something like that just to see if we can get a gagillion hits.  But then there’s also part of me that wants to sleep at night, and not want to die inside, and instead make something that matters and is smart.  And if satire can do that, then I think it’s a great tool to have.

HB: Who were you intending to reach?

·      RD: Oh, I think it’s pretty clearly only for people who know what’s going on between the unions and care about it – so primarily actors.  Or should we say that we were intending to reach the producers?

·      PC: Yeah, I’d actually like a TV show out of this. This is kind of a pilot for me.

·      RD: Target audience: Show runners.

·      PC: Well, and I think in this age, especially in our age group, I feel like people are really disconnected from a lot of things that are important. People just want to bury their head in the Perez Hilton sand and pay attention to that crap. And not pay attention to what’s really important – their livelihood.  If someone is really serious about being an actor, then there’s no more important time in your life than right now.  So it seems odd that some people aren’t a little more active,.. just active in knowing. 

·      TE: Just reading the contract. 

·      PC: Right, or the pamphlets that suck.  Or Nikki Finke’s blog.  Just something.  It’s crazy how many people in the union are ill informed, in both unions. 

·      RD: Right, because if you want to be a life-long actor; if you think at all, “hopefully this will affect me for the next 60 years of my life.”  And knowing, historically, that the last 27 years have all been based off of one negotiation of one contract, it is incredible that more people aren’t anxious to be informed and aware of what’s going on. 

5.            What specific problems do you have with AFTRA's leadership? AMPTP? The new AFTRA contract? What would you like to see change?

  • RD: That sounds like I have a personal issue with AFTRA, and I don’t.  I would say that there is a general dynamic in the way that AFTRA is negotiating and historically negotiated the basic cable contracts in 2005, and similarly, there is a general dynamic in the way that SAG has done that.  And what it has resulted in, today, is that actors – given the choice – would rather work SAG contracts, because SAG has worked harder to get certain things for actors than AFTRA has.  Mainly they just need to go back to the table together.  So, I don’t have a problem with them personally – everyone I’ve met on the AFTRA board seems like a really wonderful person, who is very intelligent, and I enjoyed hearing their opinions very much.  But that general approach to the way they negotiate separately then turns into lower rates, less residuals, healthcare that isn’t as good, etc. 
  • PC: Right, and the fact that AFTRA has less than 10% of the shows on TV, and then goes in and does a deal before SAG can, is troublesome to me.  And like you said, they are great people, and I whole-heartedly believe that they think they got the best deal possible.
  • RD: Well, and that’s what I’m saying, I think they feel like they got the best deal possible operating inside their framework; which is not taking a strike seriously as a possibility.  You know the Shell Oil Truckers just ended a 4 day strike.  And you could really use the same kinds of arguments against a union like that as people are using against SAG: it’s horrible time in the economy, it’s going to hurt a lot of people, gas prices are really going to go up.  But a union doesn’t have many other tools other than the threat of not continuing to work.  That’s why strikes exist.  I know that from Newsies. 
  • PC: True.  But the only thing I will say is that SAG is not the innocent partner in the corner twiddling it’s thumbs.  There are a lot of politics involved that we don’t get to see.  It is both of their faults that AFTRA went to the table and made a deal alone and that SAG wasn’t with them.  And vice verse, that AFTRA went to the table and shut SAG out of the negotiations. I feel helpless as a member of both – I feel like my parents are divorcing.  I just want them to work it out. 
  • RD: Good metaphor.  And now the judge is making you decide who you want to spend weekends with. 

HB: What specific problems do you have with the AMPTP?

·      RD: Well, that’s a funny question because I think that they’re doing a great job of what it is they’re supposed to be doing; which is not giving us anything.  If you are someone who is working behind that juggernaut that is the AMPTP, you have to be pleased with how they’re performing.  So what do I want from them?  I want a million dollars for my own show. 

HB: What would you like to see change?

·      RD: What I really would want different is for the two of them to have negotiated together – or to scrap this first contract and go back together.  To not have allowed the AMPTP to do something so obvious like divide and conquer. I guess I’d also say that I am disappointed that AFTRA didn’t agree to this debate that SAG proposed.  I think if they could have found a great moderator for that, it could have been beneficial.

  • PC: That would have been awesome.
  • TE: Yeah, at a theater or something where people could have gone and listened.
  • RD: Right, but some people are upset about that debate and are mad at SAG because they think SAG is distracted and attacking a sister union.  But the implicit assumption there is that what AFTRA has done has not affected SAG – but it has HUGELY affected SAG.  Not only is it an issue of leverage in the current setting, but down the road, AFTRA’s contract could completely alter the landscape of shows…
  • PC: Yeah, I don’t understand why there hasn’t been more talk about this.  This is what it really boils down to.
  • RD: Right, as shows are shot more and more on digital, they will have the option of going AFTRA like Cashmere Mafia or Till Death or Damages, and all the sudden we’re going to start seeing a LOT more AFTRA work.  Because what producer is going to chose a more expensive SAG contract over a cheaper AFTRA one? No one. 
  • PC: Exactly, and that’s why I’ll vote “no” on AFTRA’s contract.  Because the only way to solve this is to drop this first contract, for AFTRA and SAG to go back in together and negotiate one deal, and then when all the smoke has cleared to merge the two unions.
  • RD: And put all this crap behind us.

6.            This could almost be seen as fodder in favor of a strike, no? Would you strike before conforming to the "compromises" of the AMPTP?

  • TE: It’s not fodder for a strike.  I think that’s anyone’s immediate reaction to anything right now that basically says,

“Um, excuse me… could we talk about this?”

“Oh?! So you want to strike!?”

I think people have to be not so afraid that we’re just going to stop working if we simply want to talk about something.

  • RD: And it’s also not wrong to critique what AFTRA has done – that also doesn’t translate into a call for a strike.
  • PC: Well, and that’s the whole point.  I think, just because you’re asking hard questions, and drawing a line in the sand, that doesn’t mean I’m frantic to strike. 
  • TE: And it’s not even a “hard question”!  It’s putting a wig on you (Patrick) and poking a little fun.  It’s not… come on.  Calm down.
  • RD: And seriously, who’s listening to us anyway?  Like we’re going to be this major swaying force in the history of the industry.
  • TE: Yep, us and our 900 friends that have watched our video.
  • RD: And my mom who keeps clearing her internet cache and re-watching the video.

HB: Would you strike before conforming to the "compromises" of the AMPTP?

  • TE: Well, I think that the strike is a group decision.  I mean, I think what we’re going out for is just for everyone to talk about it and come to a decision together.
  • PC: I feel like you have to trust your union.  If they fully believe that they need to strike in order to get a contract that will help us survive for the next 27 years, if that’s the only thing that will allow us to get better than what AFTRA received, then I think that’s something you have to entertain.  You can’t be afraid of the threat you’ve made.
  • RD: I also don’t think I’m comfortable answering that question just yet. I mean, when so much can change so quickly.  When we still have a week and a half before the end of the contract.  12 days before the 30th of June.
  • PC: Right, and even the end of the contract doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll strike.
  • RD: Right, and then they still would have to vote on it.  And that’s supposed to take like 2 weeks.  It’s crucial to remember the threat of a strike holds more weight as the deadline approaches. And so, to make that decision now,      when we’re still not at the point of SAG’s most potent influence, seems premature.
  • PC: It’s tough too.  We don’t’ know what issues they’re willing to compromise on.  Of the laundry list of issues, you know that like half that list is stuff that they’re willing to give up so they can get the other items. 
  • RD: And they learned, from the writer’s strike, that if they walk in and say, “Ok look, we’ll give up the DVD’s if you’ll give us this.” Then the AMPTP is just going to say, “haha! You gave up DVD’s – now we know you’re willing to compromise on those.” Because they did that to the writers.  And the other just quick note, the other thing that surprises me as people write blogs and comment on blogs, is how frustrated some people get with Alan Rosenberg – who I don’t know and I don’t know that much about his style of negotiating – but they get so frustrated with him saying that he thinks there is a good possibility that there will be a strike.  Like they feel like he is callously dooming the town for a recession.  But what kills me is, OF COURSE he says that. 
  • TE: Yeah.
  • RD: We have no leverage, no threat of a strike if the president of SAG comes out and says, “Listen, we probably won’t strike.”
  • PC: Like, “Honestly, it’s just smoke and mirrors.”



7.            What kind of responses have you gotten for making this video? Funnyordie has a voting system, correct? Have you been contacted by any of the unions? You (ryan) mentioned a chat with some 'AFTRA folks,' what are you talking about?

  • TE: Mom loved it. The boyfriend thought it was hilarious.
  • PC: My mom didn’t even know it was me.  But when she realized it was me, she was very proud I was that good in drag.
  • RD: I like how all three of us immediately go to how our mom’s responded to the video.
  • PC: I know right?  That’s all that matters; what your mom thinks.
  • RD: No, but I’ve been really pleased by the response. I’ve had nothing but really positive responses.  And, we’re ranked really high on funny or die voting.
  • PC: Which is tough to do, because people usually just vote die just for fun.
  • RD: Right, they’re like, ‘Um, there aren’t any porn jokes in the first 30 seconds of this video – Die.’

HB: Have you been contacted by any of the unions?

  • PC: Nobody’s contacted us but you!
  • TE: And you are printing our names, so I’m sure we’ll be getting some emails from somebody.  Maybe I’ll change my email address…

HB: You mentioned a chat with some ‘AFTRA folks’ what are you talking about?

  • RD: We study at Lesly Kahn & Company and Lesly had reps from both SAG and AFTRA come on different nights and present their sides of the story.  It was a good reminder that there are always two sides to every story.  We had a really extensive meeting with AFTRA, Patrick and I and a couple other actors sat in an office for over an hour just gleaning information from them
  • PC: It was over two hours, I think, that we sat in there.
  • RD: It was a long time, and we still walked away going “Wow. But I still feel the same.”  We learned that they are passionate, reasonable, smart people that approach this negotiation from a place that is different from what we want a union to be.  So we don’t dislike them at all – we like them in fact – we just aren’t quite on the same page.

8.            HB: Have you posted anything else on funny or die, or plan to? (I noticed that this is episode 1, is this a series?)

  • RD: Yes!  It isn’t a series with the same characters, but…
  • PC: But we gots somthin’ fo ya.
  • RD: Yeah, that’s a teaser.  We’ll have another one up end of the month.

9.     I gather that the AMPTP is a slimy, uncompromising business snob, SAG is a nice gal with reasonable demands who is however helpless against AMPTP, while AFTRA is a na├»ve skank. Correct? However I saw that there are some blatant references to contract specifics (the internet residual line, for instance) but is anything else mentioned (herpes, rusty trombone hehe) a metaphor for contract specifics?

·      RD: Well first, no.

·      TE: Right, because SAG is clearly the hot girl, and your character description doesn’t make any reference to that.

·      RD: Yeah, the thing that makes me uncomfortable with that statement is that it implies that everyone in the AMPTP is slimy and uncompromising… which I’m sure is not true.  On the other hand, I don’t think there’s any question that they all have herpes.  That’s just common knowledge. But I’m sure they aren’t necessarily slimy.

·      TE: And I didn’t think AFTRA was a skank, I just thought she was desperate.

·      RD: Yeah!  That’s exactly what I was going for.  Because, you know, I thought Patrick, you did such a good job in that scene of saying, “These are my needs and my wants…”

·      TE: “And you’re gonna buy me flowers…”

·      RD: Yeah, and then what happens is that you just give in to this absurd deal, but it’s not like you’re sleeping around.

HB: However I saw that there are some blatant references to contract specifics (the internet residual line, for instance) but is anything else mentioned (herpes, rusty trombone hehe) a metaphor for contract specifics?

  • RD: Yes, I’m pretty sure the internet residual line is the only thing in the entire short that is a direct reference to anything in the contract negotiations. But, let’s be honest, rusty trombone does represent…
  • PC: The sunset clause.
  • RD: Yes! The sunset clause.
  • TE: Good. Classic.
  • RD: Well, I mean, I think that’s clear.
  • PC: Seriously, you have to be a moron not to see that.
  • RD: Again, this is satire.  Right?
  • TE: It’s fun!
  • RD: To take it as a call for the strike or…
  • TE: Propoganda…
  • PC: Yeah, and to do something as a really goofy commentary, just for the sake of the fun of doing it, and then to get attention from a trade paper is great!  It is beyond icing on the cake – because that wasn’t something we thought or planned on.  It was just something that you wrote, Ryan, because it came to your head, and we were excited to do because it was fun to hang out and shoot something.  It ended up turning out pretty good!  It’s just amazing to have that outcome.
  • RD: It makes me think of Michel Gondry quote that I’m going to mess up: “It’s utopian that people would just be able to make films of stories that they like, to have fun with that process, and then other people would then pay attention to that result.” Halley, I’ll find that quote and email it to you. (Actual quote from GQ Feb 08: “That’s what it’s about.  To make your own what you want to watch.  For yourself.  Not to be part of a commercial system…It can’t be bought by anything.  It’s completely utopistic.  How you say, utopist.”)
  • PC: Oh, and I’ve learned that it’s said “A-M-P-T-P” through the whole process.
  • RD: Yeah, the best thing that’s come out of this, is that we are the only people that we know who can say “AMPTP”
PC: Every time.  I get it now. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From the Colbert Report "The Word"

"But thanks to George Carlon, a fearless warrior in the fight for censorship, there are seven words you will never hear on TV: (This Reality Show is a Terrible Idea.)"

Oooohhh... sad because it's true.  

Monday, June 23, 2008

Just came up with a good 80's band name: "Barfing Chili" 

Perhaps a good first single for the band: "With Thick Hair"

Also, I'm going to start making an entry once a week (at the least).  Jason Smith, you are my blog accountability partner.  If I have not, by Sunday of any given week, blogged during that week, I expect you to call me.  Anyone else who wants to keep me accountable, you're welcome.