Groundbreaking deal for a major studio: 20th Century Fox aims to entice a dozen top screenwriters to bring original spec scripts to the studio in exchange for gross participation if the pics get made. The writers, who'll take small upfront payments and will get only their usual fees on films that go into production, will also be guaranteed input as producers and protection from being rewritten without their permission. More recognition that the congloms were going dry creatively, and that giving creatives more input into the filmmaking process is good business. Let's hope that this deal serves as a model for other stuidos and other writers. Link: Variety.com - Fox gives top writers gross points.
Congrats to Steven Bochco, member of CV's Board of Advisors, on the news that he's entered into a strategic alliance with Metacafe, a YouTube-like video-sharing site that tries to cut through the user-generated clutter by paying producers based on the popularity of their content. Under the deal, Bochco will create a variety of content for Metacafe, including a Bochco-branded online channel. Hopefully, we can make progress on the Internet Freedom/Net Neutrality issue to ensure that his content will get distribution over a Web "level playing field." Link: Variety.com - Viral vid bug bites Bochco.
A federal judge has ruled that companies that snip out potentially offending material from movies for home viewing violate copyright laws. Businesses that edit sex, profanity and violence out of DVD and VHS copies in an appeal to some viewers' tastes are "illegitimate," said Richard P. Matsch of U.S. District Court in Denver.
The dispute is about artistic integrity, said Michael Apted, President of the Directors Guild, who directed "Coal Miner's Daughter." "Directors put their skill, craft and often years of hard work into the creation of a film," he said in the statement. "So we have great passion about protecting our work, which is our signature and brand identification, against unauthorized editing." Link: 'Sanitizers' of Home Video Lose in Court - Los Angeles Times. Technorati Tags: television TV cable Indecency FCC
Creative Voices is one of over 200 signers of a letter to the Smithsonian asking it to reconsider its deal with Showtime Networks for preferential treatment on filmmakers' docus that utilize the Smithsonian's materials. After all, the Smithsonian and its materials belong to ALL of us and have been preserved to be seen, used, and discussed by ALL of us. So this deal with Showtime is a complete warping of the vision and purpose of the Smithsonian from that set by James Smithson when he endowed the museum and by Congress in creating and funding it.
Writes Lorne Manly in the NYT: But the idea of a public institution's granting preferential treatment to a commercial entity has alarmed many in the documentary and academic worlds, who worry that the venture will discourage independent filmmakers from taking their projects to other outlets or from putting their work on the Internet on a noncommercial basis. The letter states that it is a troubling prospect to require independent filmmakers, video bloggers, historians or educators who make nonincidental use of the Smithsonian's collections or staff to offer their projects commercially to "this new business venture." Such a requirement, the letter says, is "an anticompetitive practice that is extremely troubling... Closing off one of the most important collections of source materials and limiting access to staff will have a chilling effect on creativity, will create disincentives for digitization of the collections for access by all Americans, and violates the mission and purpose of the Smithsonian Institution." Link: Filmmakers and Others Petition Against Smithsonian's Showtime Deal - New York Times.
View the Letter to the Smithsonian here.
CBS for the first time is "broadcasting" all the NCAA Tournament Basketball games over the Internet. "This is a watershed event," said Neal Pilson, president of the television- programming consulting firm Pilson Associates and a former head of CBS Sports (and we agree). There have been a lot of events available on a subscription basis, priced modestly, but this is the first time that a significant national event -- which is also covered on television -- is being made available free, with the revenue stream coming from advertisers," Pilson said.
"We know for a fact, from various research, that the amount of video that is viewed online is soaring," says Brent Magid, chief executive of broadcast consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates in Marion, Iowa.
CBS has worked at a feverish pace in recent months to make sure that people can access its content in on-demand platforms, including cable video-on-demand, through a deal with Comcast Corp.; cell phones; the Web, including searchable video of various CBS programs via the Google search engine; and the iPod.
CBS and Apple Computer said Tuesday that they would team to sell condensed versions of all 63 NCAA tournament games on iTunes. Apple will make condensed versions of all the games available the day after they air for $1.99 a game, or $19.99 for a full-tournament pass. Link: Excite Money & Investing.
Consumer acceptance and enthusiasm for video over the Net has come about much faster than anyone anticipated, perhaps hitting a tipping point with AOL's online coverage of the Live Aid concert, which drew a much larger audience online than anyone expected. Now, AOL is streaming old episodes from the Warners TV library. All this is very interesting and disruptive to Comcast's big plans for video on demand -- because isn't that exactly what this is? As Lenin supposedly said of capitalists, "they will sell us the rope with which we will hang them." And so it may be true of Comcast selling us broadband, with which we'll avoid watching their VOD and directly access content over the Net.
As we've been warning for some time, the rapid migration of TV programming to the Net and iPod may be a threat to creatives' wages. The formula that ABC is paying residuals on is a terrible definition, over 2 decades old. "ABC's unilateral decision to pay digital download residuals at the homevideo rate is a violation of our contract and an insult to our hard-working members," said Writers Guild of America West president Patric M. Verrone. "It is unacceptable, and we will aggressively pursue all legal options at our disposal." Verrone's East Coast counterpart echoed his complaints. "The members of our guilds demand the companies pay what they are contractually obligated to pay and not a paltry residual rate based on an irrelevant homevideo formula from the age of Betamax," WGA East president Chris Albers said Monday. ABC said in a statement. "We believe that the residual for sales and permanent downloads of programs to the iPod is covered by the homevideo residual formula. If the guilds have a different point of view, (they have) the right to challenge the company's determination before a neutral arbitrator. In the end, this is simply a dispute over how to interpret a provision under agreements that provide the means for resolving that dispute." From Daily Variety. Link: Variety.com - Download drama. Subscription May be Required.
Stunning is really the only word for the just released Oscar noms. Not one single Big Studio Picture got a major nomination. We don't mean just for Best Picture. We mean ANY major category -- writing, directing, acting. We're fighting the temptation to make some sort of over-arching we told you so statement in terms of Big Media vs. Independents, or Creativity vs. Bottom Line, or Passion vs. Profits, etc. But wow -- that the Academy voters, many of whom work for studios, could not find one single solitary Big Studio Picture to honor in any of the major categories -- and that a similar trend has taken place in the Emmys, which increasingly are dominated by more creatively-attuned nets such as HBO, Showtime, and even the basic cable networks... Does this not speak volumes?
Frazier Moore, the AP's excellent TV writer, has a Christmas Wish List we should all ask Santa for. Writes Moore, "The FCC should be operating in the public's behalf, since the airwaves that carry broadcast programming are publicly owned. That's right, Santa! The air you and your eight tiny reindeer will be flying through across the U.S. is a public resource, not private property. So maybe Christmas Eve you could pack your sleigh with a few new commissioners eager to serve the public interest, rather than big business."
He also wants Santa to bring us an end to politicization of PBS and, could Santa please do something about the explosion of product placement on TV? Link: A Grown-Up Kid Makes Some TV Requests.
The WGA will issue a position paper today on the issue of product integration into television shows. This differs from product placement, where a product is simply "placed" on the kitchen counter or in the background. In product integration, the product plays a key role in the show and the writers are told to write the show around the product. Although particularly obvious in reality shows like The Apprentice, one very notable example came during Desparate Housewives when one of the wives took a job as a model extolliing the virtues of Buicks. WGA West Prez Patric Verrone told Daily Variety that "the issue emerged earlier this year during the guild's efforts to organize the writers and editors on reality shows.
"As we spent more time on the reality campaign, the tipping point was that we saw that writers on those shows were just getting bombarded with product integration," he noted. "And it's been creeping into primetime dramas, too."
Today's announcement also included backing from CV Advisor Marty Kaplan, associate dean of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and director of the Norman Lear Center. Kaplan asserted that the general public had been outraged over disclosure of payments by the Bush administration to columnist Armstrong Williams and for video news releases. "In entertainment, the minimum acceptable standard is unambiguous disclosure of stealth commercial content," he added."