Draining the Hollywood Swamp

Draining the Hollywood Swamp

“They don’t understand the movie business!  They don’t understand talent relations!”  

This was the Cri de Coeur of a major, (and unnamed) Hollywood agent after Warner Media’s announcement last Friday that they were putting all of their movies on HBOmax.  

This was the cry from the heart of the Hollywood Swamp.

And just about every major name in Hollywood agrees with it.*. The actors, the writers, the producers, everyone is furious with Warner Media.

“’Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service,’ filmmaker Christopher Nolan, whose relationship with Warners dates back to Insomnia in 2002, said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. 

Added Nolan: ‘Warner Bros. had an incredible machine for getting a filmmaker’s work out everywhere, both in theaters and in the home, and they are dismantling it as we speak. They don’t even understand what they’re losing. Their decision makes no economic sense, and even the most casual Wall Street investor can see the difference between disruption and dysfunction.’

The instant response in Hollywood was outrage and a massive girding for battle. ‘Warners has made a grave mistake,’ says one top talent agent. ‘Never have this many people been this upset with one entity.’ Like others, he had spent much of the day dealing with calls from stunned and angry clients. And that swooshing sound you hear? It’s the lawyers, stropping their blades as they prepare for battle: that Warners was self-dealing in shifting these movies to its own streamer, perhaps, or that the company acted in bad faith. Some talent reps say the decision affects not only profit participants but others who have worked on films as the move might affect residual payments. They expect and hope that the guilds will get involved.”

Warner’s corporate overlord is AT&T and the truth is that Ma Bell DOES understand the movie business and she don’t give a fuck about it.  She knows that everyone in it from George Clooney to Christopher Nolan to the lowest extra on set is completely disposable.   It’s guilds mean nothing. And their lawyers are nowhere near as good as her’s. What Ma Bell does really and truly care about is the $150 billion in debt she went into to acquire Time Warner and just how big of a crater it’s left in her spreadsheet.  She also really cares about being a top tier streaming service because they rake in about $20 billion annually. And with that kind of revenue, she could get her debt bomb under control within a few years.

And that is the real magic number here.  That $20 billion annually is way bigger than the money Disney was raking in with its billion-dollar movies. That is what they all want now.

True AT&T will be poisoning relations with Hollywood to get it.  Because this is going to drain the Hollywood Swamp.

Movies are where big money is and more importantly, that is where the status is. Status determines if you get the best table at Cut. Status determines who sees you at your agency, the work of a day agent, or the guy on the top floor.  Status determines if the studio head smiles at you and calls you by name in public.  Who is on the A-list and who has fallen to the D-list.  

Ranking almost as high is the super-agents and managers that bang out the multi-million dollar deals for the A-List.  Their caste is symbiotic with the on-screen talent.  They also take care of the lesser castes like the writers and directors. 

There are also sub-castes that are in constant contact with the brahmins of Tinsel-town. Entertainment reporters whose highest ranks get to do the interviews with the A-list. And whose lowest have to suck up to Influencers.

Then there are the outcasts from this caste system.  The people who have to measure their standing in Hollywood by whose coattails they get brushed by, the waiters, the travel agents, the personal assistants, the servants.  All sucking up to, and sneering at, one other, depending on which grand personage spared them a kind word.**

All of them are entranced by Hollywood’s glamour.

Glamour used to mean a spell that alters appearance with the intent to deceive the observer.  The word became so intrinsically bound to the American film industry that its definition has changed.  Yet when all is said and done, the meaning behind it has not.

Remember this song? 

Hooray for Hollywood

The screwy ballyhooey Hollywood

Where any office boy or young mechanic can be a panic

With just a good-looking pan

It’s basically Hollywood’s anthem but nobody remembers the next verse.

And any barmaid can be a star maid

If she dances with or without a fan

Scratch the surface on an over thirty-five-year Hollywood actress and you will likely find a scarred woman who is as hard-edged and rough worn as an inner-city streetwalker.

Glamour indeed.

And AT&T has declared a death sentence on Hollywood’s spell of deception.  If or rather when Ma Bell gets her way, everyone in Hollywood is going to be working in TV.  And the movies have always regarded TV as their retarded little brother.  Of course, everyone in Hollywood is screaming.  

AT&T has pulled the plug on the swamp.  The spell of Glamour is going to fade and everyone in Tinsel town is going to see what they really look like without the magic.

Hooray for Hollywood

You may be homely in your neighborhood

But if you think that you can be an actor, see Max Factor

He’ll make a monkey look good

*Except for Gal Gadot and Patti Jenkins.  They were both screaming as loud as anyone but learned to love HBOmax when they (allegedly) got paid $10 million. Hey, actors are paid to promote as they say.

**Don’t knock it. Jon Peters started off as Streisand’s hair dresser.

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Comments (9)

  • Corey Ashcraft Reply

    I can see the puncturing of glamour of Hollywood with the loss of the Movie Theatres. What I don’t get, is why wouldn’t any actor not want to have steady work on a minimum 7 year show? Objectively, you can make more money, be in the public eye for a longer time frame, and it is steady work on a show. A hit show: think Cheers, Frasier, Seinfeld, Friends, Fresh Prince, Star Trek is on from anywhere from 7 to 10 years and it can really lay the ground work for Financial security in a way that a hit movie can not. How many actors would kill to work on a 15 year show like Supernatural as a main character? Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, everyone wanted to be on Bonanza or some other long running western. In the modern age (post 2000), everyone wanted to be on CSI as a main character. TV may be dead as appointment viewing but it is Streaming where they will find there financial security. A good streaming hit can get an Actor or Actress into the Mainstream in a way that a Movie at the Cineplex or a TV show can’t. Stranger Things, Man in High Castle, Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the Witcher have all taken over the as “must watch” entertainment.

    December 10, 2020 at 2:24 am
    • Codex Reply

      Work is a also a lot harder and more demanding, and rarely involves trips around the world to film on location.

      December 10, 2020 at 10:34 am
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      Salesmanship 101: Almost all human behavior is driven by a desire for increased status.

      Buddha wasn’t wrong when he said, “all suffering is comes from desire.”

      December 10, 2020 at 11:54 am
  • Jfizzy Reply

    A-listers are aging as a cohort. Bring on the newbies and slot them into cheaper, more innovative shows to try and recapture lost market share.

    Ten years ago my family and most people I know caught most new releases at the video store (and later Netflix). Went in person to the theater 3-12 times a year because movies were watchable and even good. You could at least pretend you got your money’s worth after shelling out 60 bucks for a family of five.

    Now literally nobody I know watches new movies. No theater. No rentals. About half are totally unaware of any new releases at all. The other half maybe catch it on streaming at no extra cost 6-12 months after release. No more urgency. No more movie or TV talk outside of occasional Bachelor/Bachelorette.

    The world is changing and the smart money was prepped long before this move by Warner. I love it personally. All my favorite shows and movies are on a disk and I rewatch over and over.

    December 10, 2020 at 4:21 am
    • The Dark Herald Reply

      Movie culture has been dying in the US for a while.

      There are other parts of the world where people still go to the movies two nights a week.

      December 10, 2020 at 11:56 am
    • Owen Reply

      I hear you brother. I used to be a movie buff. In the sense that I would go to first run movies a few times per year, usually matinees to save money. I’d also go to second run/”art” movies at the Balboa theater in San Francisco, or the Mechanics’ institute, or another forum. Now it’s all streaming. You guys probably all know that you can get a huge variety of streaming TV shows and movies from your local library. Most of them use Kanopy or Hoopla. Screw Netflix.

      December 14, 2020 at 2:21 am
  • Bonesaw Reply

    Pre-lockdown I knew of 1 person with a movie pass. He would go to the cinema a minimum of once a week, often 2-3 times a week.
    He’s not what you’d call a movie nerd though, he knows very little about anything to do with movie creation, other than Hollywood gossip about celebs.

    I know of no one else who goes to the cinema regularly.
    The only times I would even consider going was if I was desperate to see a new movie so I could talk about it right now with friends. I’ve had zero inclination to do that for 10 years or more. The cinema experience is awful. Let it burn.

    December 10, 2020 at 3:03 pm
  • David VanDyke Reply

    This parallels what happened to music with Apple iTunes, and to books with Kindle (and Nook and other digital publishing) and POD. Everything going online, streaming, subscription–and by the way, if you read the fine print, often with no actual ownership of the digital goods, only licensing.

    On the other hand, that’s generally better for the consumer than going to a movie theater and coming away with nothing but memories.


    Streaming to home viewing compresses the highs and the lows of the movie experience. Unless you host a movie party, you’ll never have that moving communal moment of elation or horror or shared love as you all watch a great film for the first time and react together.

    On the other hand, you’ll never sit through a turd just because it’s not quite bad enough to walk out after blowing fifty bucks on a pair of tickets and popcorn combos.

    And the advantages mostly outweigh the disadvantages. You can pause the movie and talk about it as loud as you like, even rewind it and watch something again you missed, or turn on the subtitles to see what they really said. You can use your own toilet. Raid your own refrigerator at any time. Choose your own temperature. Turn the sound up or down. And never will you have some a-hole turn on their phone and text right in your sight line, ruining your immersion.

    And nothing will really change for those of us who wait for the DVD or the streaming availability anyway.

    Movie theaters will eventually become retro boutique experiences filled with nostalgia, rather like visiting a classic diner or drive-in where the waitresses wear miniskirts and roller skates, or an amusement park.

    And you know what? That’s okay. People will still make movies and TV shows and other screen entertainment and the content will be monetized and delivered to the consumer. It will be the same, but different, and the wheel goes ’round again.

    December 21, 2020 at 6:46 pm

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