Friday, September 08, 2006

I've produced or exec produced 12 TV movies this year, including Life is not a Fairytale and Firestorm. i thought, given some of the silliness i'm seeing in the diaries at daily kos that it might be useful to some here to understand the process that gets such movies made.

so here's a primer on how it works.

there aren't very many of these made any more--the heyday of the TV movie is long since behind us. when selling to the networks only an event is going to get their interest. 9/11 was always going to be a movie on one of the networks or on cable--it was just a question of where. when cyrus was pitching the story, he had insider info as a movement conservative, so he knew how to get the line on the commission report and so on.

what follows is speculation (a dramatic recreation, if you will, with some license taken, some composite character, and some fictionalizations. hell, maybe there's even some improv.)

at ABC, you have various lines of defense. someone in the middle ranks (a VP or slightly higher up) gets a call from cyrus's agents saying: "we have a great take on 9/11 as a mini-series". a pitch would be set immediately, because cyrus is considered a solid writer (he in fact IS a solid writer, with some decent credits and a few good scripts behind him). And given the profile of the pitch, Steve MacPherson would be in that first meeting, most likely. I doubt VERY much that Cyrus pitched a political slant--more likely he just pitched a "i know people on the inside" angle. as well, everyone wanted to tell john o'neill's story (that was oliver stone's original angle as well) and cyrus had a bunch of info from that end as well.

ABC probably bought this in the room, as they say--a good writer, a great story, a true event. kind of a no-brainer. with that deal done, cyrus commenced to writing, with some input from ABC but probably very limited at that point. once he finished his draft, then the network got involved. notes are written (by both VP types and probably higher ups) and those notes are both creative and now quite possibly political in nature. the highest-ups at ABC would be well aware of this project, and were i'm sure very keen to have this movie on for the fifth anniversary, putting everyone under the gun. that this coincided with the election coming up was most likely not on people's minds-i am reconsidering my intemperate remarks on digby's blog yesterday. airdates have their own logic--this one was too obvious to need to question.

now here's where things get murky: i'm sure cyrus did what he has promised to do--delivered a piece of right wing propaganda, albeit a well-written one. or maybe he figured he'd add the sneaky stuff in when the shooting draft was done with the director (david cunningham was attached early on in the process as well, so they were collaborating from the get-go) and kept it neutral. but given that the highest ups care and cared about this (though McPherson is the president of ABC believe me he has bosses as well, and those are the guys who make decisions about, for instance, where to donate political dollars) project, they may have given their own notes.

now they have a start date, and they go out to actors. actors are actors--their are some juicy roles in this project, and ABC was not afraid to pay actors well to be in it. so the actors do what they do--read for parts and hope to get cast.

what they don't do: have strong political opinions about major material that probably didn't read so tendentiously on the page. i can assure anyone reading of that. harvey keitel or patricia heaton (NB my company distributed her last TV movie) and their political views have nothing to do with it. that doesn't mean that cyrus might not know someone like patricia via political meetings--hell, i got my first job in hollywood because i was a member of Southern Californians against the Death Penalty--just that actors do what they do, not anything more, unless they are producers or writers on a project as well.

so, the scorecard on who most likely is and is not responsible for any political and polemical content in this movie:

ABC mid-level exec: not responsible, 90% chance a lefty like me.

ABC prexy: probably not responsible

ABC highest ups: possibly responsible

Writer/producer: definitely responsible

director: definitely responsible

actors: definitely not responsible

ABC affiliates: definitely not responsible

advertisers: definitely not responsible

tom kean: a total dickhead liar and most assuredly responsible

all in all, it's doubtful to me that there was a concerted effort to attack Democrats here by ABC in general, they were hoping to be more subtle than that. i think that too much autonomy was probably given to cyrus and david c. and those guys took that autonomy as license to unleash their own biases and prejudices, ones that might well dovetail with ABC (at the VERY TOP) execs own beliefs. someone else will have to check on policial donations at the top of the company, but i would be shocked if they didn't skew right wing.

then comes marketing. marketing took one look at this movie and said--hey, rush limbaugh will love this. so will hugh hewitt. remember, ABC owns lots of radio as well, and in paticular right wing talk radio. synergy! and their audience will watch our movie if they tell them to (they don't call them dittoheads for nothing.) so marketing took the ball and ran with it (probably with cyrus's "friend of limbaugh" help). that's all about generating ratings and buzz.

well, that's what i'm guessing is the case, with limited (but some) insider scoop. it's both better than some are positing here, but bad in result, i'm afraid.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

jill on the bbc.

a note to john kay, who sort of works for the same company i do: are you totally useless, or just on this story? quoting 8 year olds? some random woman at some random "special needs" day care? who is she? what is her qualification to aver that taking a lollipop from a child will cause permanent damage? given that her opinion is so patently absurd, could you supply the evidence from a study that agrees with that opinion? no? there is no study to support that supposition? so you just literally pulled someone's opinion out of your/their collective ass? well, i thought the 8 year old who thought jill's work was "Cool" balanced this very well.


pathetic. and the bbc puts this tripe on uncritically. you should all be ashamed of yourselves. whatever.

but i do like the radiohead music! very portentous!
I'm having a hard time getting through this script--it's boring, it's a pass. thus too much procrastinating and posting. below is a link to a very worthy cause--getting a book published about the plame case via FDL books. please donate if you can.

Firedoglake - Firedoglake weblog » Announcing CIA Leak Investigation Book by Marcy Wheeler: We Need Your Help!
from an article in the st. louis dispatch:

Bush remains keenly interested in the game and watches often. His recall for
names and statistics is well known.

In greeting Bennett, Bush referred to the catcher's game-ending grand slam
against the Chicago Cubs on Aug. 27.

"He's one of the most powerful men in the world. He's got a lot more important
things on his mind," Bennett said. "To remember something relatively
meaningless in the grand scheme of things ... it's pretty impressive."

impressive is one word you could use. i might go towards the phrase "desperately horrifying and depressing".

what a waste to have this idiot running our country. sigh. double sigh.
Jill's story on the cover of the Sunday Times (of London) magazine:

BBC appearance from today uploading to youtube/here as soon as i have it.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

a brief labor day nothing:

how is it that on what is an excellent three-day weekend, there is no one in the mainstream of punditry agitating for a shorter work week? i think we all agree three days off is a nice thing. it makes people happy, simply put. more time to listen to music, hang out with friends, chill with the family, go to the lake/beach/pond/crick, time to grab a ballgame (i'm particular to soccer myself, but for most of you that's baseball i'm sure), play a game, and so on.

so, here we are, it's all nice and good, and nothing. there simply is no mainstream pundit who would ever argue for such a thing. that's not so weird, as much of our pundit class is too rich and 4 days-a-week-and-then-the-hamptons to care. but where is labor? where are those trying to get positive steps taken to improve our lives as workers? nowhere. the statistics (less americans now repped by labor unions then ever in our unionized history, wages stagnant to negative for the vast majority of americans, hours longer than ever, productivity as high as it's going to get) don't lie: we're fucked.

how did this happen? labor used to win huge battles: the five day week, the 40 hour week, vacation time and break time mandated, child labor laws, health and safety laws--shit, we were making the world a better place, not just for the working man, but period. the rising tide would lift all boats, and labor would be a respected partner in the business of business. well, when the rich saw how they could get richer, in fact stay that way and hand the whole shebang off to their spawn who had done nothing to earn their place at the (head of the) table, they changed the laws (written by their factotums, the highly paid lawyers) to accomadate such needs. and here we are.

now everywhere you go, someone has a story. i'm not sure which was more depressing: my flight on Northwest, where the whole workforce will be forced to take a 20% pay and benefits cut, or the conversation with Drea, the super cool security woman at my office building, telling me she's got to come in on LABOR DAY!!!!!! or she won't get paid for time off. WTF? anecdotes, you say? sure, but it seems everyone i meet has such a tale to tell.

i think it's bhutan that has a measure for "Gross National Happiness". i think it's time to institute something like that in the USA. i think we won't be near the top of the heap.