Thursday, 30 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #279: Miscellaneous Money Musings

IT TAKES A VILLAGE ROADSHOW TO RAISE A MOVIE

If you have watched any recent movies from the Warner Bros. studios in the last decade then you've seen the logo of the Village Roadshow company. Village Roadshow is an Australian company that owns movie theatres, and co-finances movies with Warner Bros. Pictures.

At least, it's
supposed to co-finance movies with Warners.

You see, the venerable studio's parent company Time-Warner recently had to pick up a whopping $120 million debt that was supposed to be covered by Village Roadshow to pay for films like
Gran Torino, Get Smart, Nights In Rodanthe, and Yes Man. Now this is a twist, because it's usually the studio that fails to pay millions to their investors.

But seriously, this is a pretty serious situation, because there are reports that the company is cash short and might be unable to kick their part into the 2009 production slate. Many are saying that this whole problem was caused by problems with a third party lender messing up their credit line.

Which brings me to my point.

Money has become too complicated.

It should be simple, but it isn't. Money comes in, money goes out, and hopefully you have more money coming in than going out. But now you have derivatives, sub-prime mortgage backed securities, and other things that seem to lose more money than earn. And we now have CEOs who can't tell you what it is that their companies are doing.

This situation is caused by experts, who sell the CEOs these overly complicated ideas on the premise that anyone who refuses to dive in headfirst, just isn't smart enough to appreciate these incredible money making opportunities. I heard a piece on the radio about an insurance company that recently went up several notches in relative size because their CEO took a look at their books and said: "What the hell is going on with all this? I don't understand what the hell is going on, and we're getting out."

They did, and they survived.

How much are you willing to wager that Village Roadshow itself and its third party lender got in over their heads with things they didn't understand and the ripple effect turned into a wave that threatens to overturn their boat.

Which brings me to my ultimate point.

Simplify.

Investors put money in movie, movie makes money, and everyone gets their fair share, so they can kick some more money back in for future movies. Everyone is happy, making money, and money keeps getting made because people know what the hell they're doing.

A QUESTION ABOUT THE NEVER ENDING SUMNER

Reader Tony asked...
After having read the linked article, I have to think; if old Sumner is as serious about staying in control of the National Amusements empire as he says he is, then there may never be a Charles Bludhorn to his Adolph Zukor (at least Zukor knew to quit when Paramount was failing), thus fulfilling my earlier prediction.
You might be right. But I'm of the never-say-never school of thought. Because there are ways of deposing a CEO, even when he's a majority shareholder, especially when the company is sinking fast, but those involve lawyers, and all sorts of complicated crap that make my brain hurt.

Besides, he might be forced to sell out just to save his own skin, because of the massive debts he's amassed.

But the real risk for Paramount is the possibility that there just isn't a Gulf + Western or a Charlie Bludhorn around anymore, and that the company would get stripped of its assets and sold off in pieces.

It would be a shame to see it go, but I won't say if it's a definite thing or not. Unlike New Line and Robert Shaye, Paramount's identity does not begin and end with Redstone. He was just one of a long list of owners-CEOs and someone can follow him. If there's any company left when he finally does step down, well that's to be determined.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #278: The Never Ending Sumner

Octogenarian media mogul Sumner Redstone compared himself to the Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and declared that not only does he have no intention of retiring, he has no intention of dying either. And his inspired leadership, and the Star Trek reboot, will lead the struggling Paramount to new fields of gold, glory, and greatness.

Now I'm certain that these declarations were made in response to a rather harsh review given to the company by Pali Research. (Click here and scroll down for the details)

But the declarations illustrates Paramount's key problem, which is...

CORPORATE FOSSILIZATION

Not to make too big a point about Redstone's age, but when saw
Jurassic Park, he thought it was a film about his childhood. And now that I have the age joke out of the way I can get serious. The problem with his declaration is that many view him as Paramount's key problem.

He's racked up a lot of debt buying up smaller companies, he's alienated a lot of people in the industry, on both the creative and financial sides, and because of all those things, the company is struggling just to get films made.

When people, shareholders, and creditors alike, start asking what's going to be done to revive the company's fortunes, and all they get is the assurance that everything will be all better with more crappy shows on MTV, yet another cable channel in an already bloated cable universe, and a movie based on rehashing and prettifying a 40+ year old franchise that Paramount only stumbled upon owning when it bought Desilu Studios during the Gulf+Western era.

Paramount is almost in the exact same position it was in during the 1960s. It's spending too much money on films seen by not enough people,
Benjamin Button made $300+ million worldwide but probably only broke even at best, once prints and ads and foreign distributor cuts were considered, the films that do profit, are owned by others, (Marvel's Iron Man) or have such huge profit-participation deals Paramount gets very little for their investment (Indiana Jones anyone), and all they can think of is to throw more of other people's money down into the rabbit hole in the hope that it'll reach wonderland.

Well, the other people who provide that money, aren't all that interested in getting into bed with Sumner Redstone, and that's definitely unlikely to change with his assertion that he will have to be carried out of his corner office before he'd even consider passing the torch to a deserving, and fresh management team.

New management, especially good management might actually pull Paramount out of this death spiral, but old Sumner has no interest in saving the company and leaving a positive legacy in his wake. This sort of behaviour strikes me that he would rather be in charge than be successful, and a once grand company could get burned to the ground in the process.

Someone must tell Sumner that all fame is fleeting, that time waits for no one, and that when you pre-date the "talkie," retirement isn't exactly shameful.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #277: A Little Early Merger Counselling...

DR. PHIL- Howdy y'all, I'm Dr. Phil McDrawl, and I have a newly merged couple whose relationship worries a lot of people. I'd like to introduce you to the husband, William Morris
Enter William Morris, who is quite elderly, and slow moving.
WILLIAM MORRIS- I'm coming, I'm coming you young whipper snapper!

DR. PHIL- And his new bride Enn Devor.
Enn Devor comes bouncing out from backstage, she's all big silicon implants and bigger blonde hair.
ENN DEVOR- Hi everybody. Aren't I great?
The couple take a seat.
DR. PHIL- Now some folks are saying that this relationship is doomed. That your egos will get in the way of marital success.

WILLIAM MORRIS- What?

ENN DEVOR- He thinks our egos are too big.

WILLIAM MORRIS- Of course they're too big. I'm amazed she can even stand up straight.

ENN DEVOR- EGOS!

WILLIAM MORRIS- That's what I was talking about.

DR. PHIL- Let's not forget that this is my show, so I'll just butt in here. How are you going to make this merger work.

WILLIAM MORRIS- It's all about equality. I'm big in music representation.

ENN DEVOR- And I'm big in movies. Together we can cover the whole world.

DR. PHIL- But what about things in that special place--

AUDIENCE- Ooooooooohhhh.

DR. PHIL- I'm talking about the boardroom.

WILLIAM MORRIS- Well the boardroom is even.

DR. PHIL- But I heard that things don't even out. One of you has five seats and the other has four.

ENN DEVOR- Well that's true, on the surface, but for every one of his board votes, I get one and a quarter. That way it evens out.

WILLIAM MORRIS- And it makes her feel special having one and quarter votes, instead of just getting another board member.

ENN DEVOR- I better feel special, considering I'm stuck playing the trophy wife in this little skit.

WILLIAM MORRIS- You don't like the breasts?

ENN DEVOR- Do you hear me complaining about the breasts?

WILLIAM MORRIS- Good, because they count as two and a half of your board votes.

DR. PHIL- If you think you can make this work, then I wish you luck, now normally I'd plug my book-- Merger Matters, but this time I think you should order Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse, a rollicking fantasy thrill ride, featuring the author of this blog and his story Dixie Chrononauts.

WILLIAM MORRIS- Wait a minute, you're ruining this skit to pimp the blog writer's book?

ENN DEVOR- Yeah.

DR. PHIL- Man's gotta pimp what a man's gotta pimp.

WILLIAM MORRIS- I like the cut of your jib.

ENN DEVOR- Need a new agent?

WILLIAM MORRIS- He's mine, I saw him first!

ENN DEVOR- You saw the dinosaurs first, let someone fresh close the deal!

WILLIAM MORRIS- Why you little!!!


THE END

Monday, 27 April 2009

A Little Shameless Self Promotion

I just received my contributor's copies of Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse. The book is an experiment in what's called a "shared world" anthology-novel hybrid, where authors from all over are each given a title, a premise to go with that title, and some basic guidelines to create a stand-alone story that also fits together with the other stories, to create an overwhelming mega-story of good versus evil in a world on the brink of the apocalypse.

My premise dealt with time traveling Civil War re-enactors called
Dixie Chrononauts, and I got a very nice review for my story from the project's creator Mike Hanson.

So if you like this blog, be sure to click the following link and order a copy for yourself, read it, love it, and tell your friends to buy it. Or buy multiple copies to give as gifts, I don't care as long as you buy it.


Saturday, 25 April 2009

Saturday Silliness Cinema- Two Musical Interludes

Time for my usual weekend break from ranting about business, to have a larf.


Today I have two slightly musical stand-ups.


First up is George Westerholm with his Goth love song "Trevor."



And next is a young absurdist named Demetri Martin. Enjoy.


Friday, 24 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #276: You Have Questions, I Have Answers

WHAT HAPPENS AFTER HARVEY?

A reader, I'll call him A. Nonymous, left a comment that think required a bigger more detailed answer than the one I tried to give him in the comments. Here it is....
Let me first say this, I've been reading your blog for some time now and one of the things that brings me back is your wit. Plus the occasional detective yarn that's loosely tied to hollyweird antics. TWC slow descent into nothing has been a long and ongoing tale of morons -who all are rich- planning to end their careers in the most flashliest of ways and you've been on the side commenting at every fubar action.

When TWC implodes, I'm wondering what then for you? What ongoing idiot will inspire your id? As you recently wrote; who will be the prefect "villain" to chronicle and ridicule then?

I know you've told many tales of hollyweird, and there's plenty of fools there. Yet none of them has gathered your interest more than Weinstein.
First thing I have to say is that you don't have to worry about me and my material for this blog. Back in the early days, I was the nemesis of Robert Shaye, the mercurial CEO of New Line Cinema. Shaye too New Line from having one of the the biggest movie trilogies of all time, and the hundreds of millions in profits associated with it, to complete and total financial collapse, and New Line's absorption into the Time Warner Empire. New Line was even the first company I campaigned to take over, as I'm often wont to do.

When Shaye was moved into a producer emeritus office at Warners (basically a utility closet in the basement wedged between the wet-dry vac, and a selection of mops), I did have a moment of worry. I really wondered what would come next, and who could possibly match Shaye for alienating people, losing money, and bad business decisions.

I had forgotten that when Xenu closes a door, he opens Harvey Weinstein's mouth.

And I have to admit, Harvey is a godsend for a blogger lecturing Hollywood about their bad business practices from a safe distance. His decisions seem to be based almost entirely on ego, rather than business, and as time goes on, what once seemed like entrepreneurial panache seemed like dumb luck at catching trends and riding them.

But once his company collapses into wrack and ruin, and his investors, creditors, and lawyers take their pieces away, someone new will take his place.

I've realised that in Hollywood, there will never be a shortage of powerful people pressing their personal and corporate self-destruct buttons.

And there's some good reasons for this...

1. Ego rules Hollywood. Once someone reaches a certain level of power and prestige in Hollywood, their lives become obsessed with letting everyone know how powerful and prestigious they are. No matter how many fall before them, there is always someone who says: "Don't you know who I am, I'm (Insert First Name) Fucking (Insert Last Name)!!!" Which is the guaranteed sign that person is taking the first step towards Failureville. And the catch is that the same ego which is making them screw up, is telling them that it cannot possibly happen to them because they're mishandling....

2. Other People's Money. Another problem with Hollywood is that the people in power have no real responsibility in the managing of the money. It's not their money, it's the investors, and those investors have no real say or control over the company. Spider-Man says that with great power comes great responsibility, but in Hollywood, great power comes with absolutely no responsibility. Their pay is determined by personal whim, not performance, and if in the rare event that they do get fired for incompetence, they have golden parachute severance packages that could feed North Korea. So why do they need to give a crap about the consequences of their actions, the whole system is designed to protect them from consequences.

So I'm not worried about life A.H. (After Harvey).

DO ALL THINGS MUST PASS?

Another reader, I'll call him Tony, dropped off this comment about yesterday's post about Paramount's poor rating...
Is it just me, or would it be probable that Paramount might not live very far beyond its 100th birthday (either 1912, when Adolph Zukor founded the Famous Players studio; or 1914, when W.W.Hodkinson founded the Paramount Pictures distribution company)?

Given that all things must pass, it wouldn't be too improbable to see my and your suggestions happen; thus the first 2 major studios to be founded would also be the first 2 to fold.
I'm one of those "never say never" types, I'm not going to say that Paramount will collapse, but I also won't say that it can't collapse. Both are very possible.

Recent events showed that there are no companies that are "too big to fail." In fact, recent events have taught us that those who are two big to fail, are usually too big to manage properly. When a CEO cannot name all the divisions of their company, and their function, then you have problems. Paramount's been a major player, and for most of it the biggest player since pretty much the beginnings of Hollywood history.

Now the condition it's in can lead to two possible outcomes for Paramount...

1. Things keep getting worse, and bankruptcy ensues. Then the vultures sweep in and pick at the pieces, because Paramount has a lot of valuable assets that a lot of folks covet, so it could end up scattered all over hell's creation.

2. Things get worse, but before it completely crashes, the old owners sell out, new owners come in, drive out the old management, put in new blood, who then strip the company to the bone, and rebuild. This is more likely, because in the case of Paramount, it's happened before. In the 1960s Paramount was literally going belly up, and it was taken over by Charlie Bludhorn's Gulf + Western Corporation. Bludhorn brought in new management, with the mandate to do whatever it took to rebuild the company from the ground up. This brought in an age of Paramount dominating the box-office and the Oscars, something it hasn't done in a long time.

Now the question is, is there anyone with the wherewithall to buy the company, and rebuild it like was done in the 1960s-1970s. In today's economic conditions, and the rather lacklustre brood in corporate America that could be highly unlikely, and it could very well get a new pack of bosses making the same old mistakes.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #275: Miscellaneous Money Musings...

1. BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE AN INDIE MOVIE DEAL?

Gossip blog Defamer is asking the question: Is Harvey Weinstein broke?

Their evidence is that The Weinstein Company is no longer looking at new scripts or books to make into movies, there are no new independent productions they can buy and sit on, the ones they are sitting on are reportedly being offered back to the people who made them, if they can find a buyer willing to pay TWC the money they've spent, and Frank Miller is rumoured to be shopping around the long moribund sequels to Sin City because it looks like anyone whose name doesn't rhyme with Fentin Farentino will be getting anything done with TWC in a long time.

Once upon a time Harvey would have crushed those rumors beneath his heel like either a bug, or the career of an indie filmmaker. But like I've said before people aren't afraid of Harvey anymore, and now that he's taken a beating, they're all coming out to put their own boot in for good measure.

But, and this is Weinstein sized but, there are possible explanations for these developments that don't involve Harvey falling into penury.

1. The lack of interest in new scripts, books, or indie films. Well, who would want to sell their scripts, books, or indie films to TWC? Come on, when you sell one of those things to a movie company, the point is that someone, anyone, will someday be able to see it on a big screen. Not gather dust in Harvey's closet.

2. The films that they own and are trying to sell back are probably because the investors in TWC have convinced Harvey that buying films and not trying to make money from them, is not a good business plan for a movie company. I don't know how Harvey convinced them it was for as long as he did, but they've probably changed their minds by now.

3. While Sin City made $159 million internationally, how much of that was earned by TWC is a mystery, because the bulk of that was made overseas, and most of that remains with the local distributors. So while the project has a lot of edgy-indie street cred, it's probably not that appealing from a financial perspective. Maybe someone else will be able to do something with it, but probably not the Weinsteins.

All I can say is that I find the stories sadly believable. In fact, I consider them and more stories of corporate collapse inevitable, because how can you run a movie company that doesn't release movies, spend millions in litigation that should have been avoided, and spend huge money on Oscar campaigns, while alienating actual Academy members.

2. BROTHER CAN YOU SPARE A GOOD INVESTMENT RATING?

Take a look at this story from IMDB.
Financial Analyst Blasts Viacom Management (22 April 2009 2:39 AM, PDT)

In a blistering commentary about the management of Viacom, the parent company of Paramount and MTV, media analyst Rich Greenfield of Pali Research on Tuesday lowered the rating on the media company's stock from buy to neutral. Despite his continuing belief that Viacom's assets are undervalued, he wrote, "We simply do not believe its management team is capable of closing the valuation gap, particularly given a pattern of poor decision-making, the lack of respect [Viacom CEO Philippe] Dauman has from his employees, peer media company managements and investors, as well as a Board of Directors that continues to excessively reward under-performing management." Greenfield also concluded that Viacom's decision to launch the pay-tv operation Epix with Lionsgate and MGM is "a critical mistake" that will not generate the kind of revenue that Paramount's previous deal with Showtime did and will result in "producers becoming fearful of a weaker pay-tv window via Epix." Greenfield also blamed a dramatic drop in ratings for MTV on "unappealing" programming and the fact that "management has failed to bring fresh creative talent into MTV to reinvigorate the brand and its programming."
All I can say is "ouch."

I guess in today's economy this analyst saw no profit to be had from putting the proverbial lipstick on this pig, and good for him. It's about time that someone said this, at least someone other than me, and handful of others. And let's take a look at some recent decisions made by Paramount.

1. First they became almost entirely dependent on outside production companies, like Marvel, or Dreamworks, for hits, while simultaneously alienating many of the people they need to make their own hits. When Dreamworks left, so did half of Paramount's proposed release slate.

2. Bad management decisions have scared away many of the investors needed to finance productions, because who wants to attach themselves to a sinking ship that will take all the life boats and strap them to the captain that drove them into the iceberg into the first place.

3. MTV. Don't get me started on MTV. Their ratings are down because they either waste their air time on reality shows starring vacuous fame-whores with no talent, charm, or appeal beyond their ability to wear suspiciously trendy clothing or debase themselves solely to make aging millionaires a little more money, or they find something considered "edgy" and "alternative," buy it, dull the edge, make it mainstream, and then do whatever they can to drive it to the lowest common denominator, and then start digging. (I just got a new digital cable hook-up that carries MTV programs... stinky.) These are not programs designed to appeal to youth, they are programs designed to appeal to stupid youth, who are unable to see an extended clothing commercial when it bites them on the ass.

4. The Epix Channel. Their partnership with Lionsgate and MGM to further saturate an already over-saturated pay-tv market can't deliver what they think it could deliver. There was a show on in Canada about Canadian showbiz called Made in Canada (AKA The Industry in the USA). In one episode a Canadian movie mogul named Allan Roy buys the Subtitled Movie Channel, a digital channel that shows the same Eastern European movie 24/7. He doesn't buy it for the content, the channel-space, or to make money. He bought it so he could strut around wearing a jacket with his channel's logo on it, and make himself feel important. At first I laughed, thinking it was ridiculous, but now I don't think so anymore.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #274: No Security For Security...

Okay, Los Angeles has a big problem.

Gone are the days when it was cheaper and more efficient to just shoot movies in and around the greater Los Angeles area. It's spent as a location, (
I mean how many times can you have a chase in that canal-reservoir thing?) the state is broke, taxes are high, general costs are high, regulations are adding to these costs, and with the fires, floods, and plague outbreaks, it's like living in the Old Testament.

It's no wonder that productions are fleeing the one-time movie capital, for greener pastures where costs are lower, the brush-fires far away, and the tax breaks are generous.

And now the Chief of the LAPD wants to give runaway productions another reason to flee, and to piss off legions of retired LAPD officers.

You see, for years, decades really, retired police officers would get hired to work security on film shoots, either on location, or in and around the studios. Usually these retired cops would earn around $49/hour for the first 8 hours, with overtime, and benefits. That's a pretty good deal for these cops to supplement their pensions, and allow them to be able to afford to still live in the overpriced LA area.

Well, because of some budget shortfalls by the city, the Chief now wants the studios to hire off duty active (non-retired) cops for around $69/hour, as well as a 14% fee to the city for the privilege of hiring these cops, and increases in permit fees.

Now how do they think this will affect local productions?

They're going to leave, that's what, there are lots of places now where costs are lower, and that's even without tax breaks, and new technology means that they are not bound by the limits of Southern California's mild weather. It's the first rule of economics, money follows opportunity, deny opportunity, and the money will leave.

And let's not forget the problems this new program can cause.

Los Angeles has probably the lowest per capita relationship between police manpower, population, and square mileage. The force is already stretched too thin for a city of that size, and that means studio security won't have the same priority as stopping gang violence. It will also set up unhealthy competition between active officers looking to land fewer and fewer positions at film shoots, to make up for the loss in overtime pay caused by the city's shoddy fiscal management.

And let's not forget the retirees. Many of them need this income to maintain their health insurance, and being fired by government fiat is a rather harsh blow to men and women who dedicated most of their lives to protecting the city.

Which I guess brings me to the main lesson behind this post. The reason LA keeps losing business, is because they just can't accept the fact that when something isn't broke, you don't fix it.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #273: Dear Harvey

AN OPEN
LETTER TO
HARVEY WEINSTEIN
(head of The Weinstein Co.)

Dear Harvey.

The downward spiral of the Weinstein Co. goes on unabated as you masterfully exploited the excitement behind Mickey Rourke's comeback, and dumped the movie
Killshot (starring him and Diane Lane) in 5 theatres in Arizona, for a total box-office of $18,000 before a trip to the 2 for $10 bin at Wal-Mart.

$18,000.


Wow, Harvey, I'm sure your investors are just dancing with over that one. I mean,
Killshot had to cost at least a few million, Diane Lane, Mickey Rourke, Thomas Jane, and that guy from 3rd Rock From The Sun, don't work for free, and I'm sure the director, and screenwriter also had to be paid, and I'm pretty certain Elmore Leonard had to be paid, he's not exactly a Hollywood neophyte. Then we've got crew, sets, locations, props, costumes, post-production, etc.... etc....

Which makes me wonder what percentage of these costs were covered by this stellar box-office performance?

My guess is somewhere around 0.4%, which is the best I can do without knowing the budget.

I have to say that this decision to not even try to recoup the costs on this film, one of many TWC "releases" to meet this fate, is puzzling me and compels me to ask you a very important question:

Are you even in the movie business anymore?

Really, I would like to know, because even if a film sucks donkey balls, I am willing to give it some recognition if the company that made it puts some effort into selling it, but I'm just not seeing that effort from your company. Movies only sell if you at least try to sell them, because without putting some hustle on, you're just pissing away money.

Now I'm willing to consider that I might be wrong and that this caused by some sort of misunderstanding you are having about the fundamentals of the movie business. Then please, allow me to explain something.

Movies are works of art, that is a fact.

Paintings by great master artists are works of art as well.

Great paintings are valuable because they are rare, and hard to get.

Movies that are rare and hard to see, are
worthless. Because movies are expensive, and while some people pay will pay millions to own a painting, folks will only pay around $10 to see it in a theatre, and $25 at most to own the DVD (and even then, only when it comes with a truckload of extras).

Rarity does not make movies more valuable, the opposite is true.

Which is why I can't understand what you're doing with the company, and why your investors are standing by and letting it happen.

Harvey, I've gone beyond thinking that you're making bad business decisions, I'm starting to worry about your mental health.

Sincerely
-Furious D

Monday, 20 April 2009

Sometimes You Get Pleasant Surprise....

Many years ago I became a member of Triggerstreet.com an online community set up by Kevin Spacey and some corporate sponsors to allow budding screenwriters to read and review each other's work.

The thing is I haven't been able to participate in it for years, literally. But I just got a review for one of the scripts I posted, a horror thriller called
Somebody's Out There, and, of all things, it was a good review, in fact, a glowing review. Maybe a bit too glowing for a simple horror story told in a complicated way, and too bad the reviewer didn't run a studio, but I'll take any praise I can get. It does my already bloated ego good.

And while I'm here, I'm just going to plug the book with my short story. (I have to, it's a small press release, and it needs all the promotion it can get. So order your copy, enjoy my story
The Dixie Chrononauts, and let me know what you think.)


Sunday, 19 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #272: Fox Atomic Meltdown

According to the indefatigable Nikki Finke: Fox Filmed Entertainment is shutting down the semi-independent production company Fox Atomic, and taking its finished, and semi-completed productions and moving them to the parent company's release slate.

Now I always shed a proverbial tear every time a film company shuts down, because when one shuts down, so do all the opportunities that could have been created by this company. And Fox Atomic was a perfect example of immense potential squandered, by a serious lack of vision in its creation and a terrible lack of understanding its target audience.

You see Fox Atomic was created as the "youth division" of the Fox empire, making and releasing films targeted at the late-teen, early twenty-something audience.

This creation was tainted by two major mistakes.

MISTAKE #1: THE NAME

I'm sure the marketing people that sold the name to the Fox high-mucky-mucks told them, no doubt using terms like "outside the box" and "paradigm shift," that teens will associate the company with explosive hipness, and flock to films made by that company in droves.

Not really.

You see, people see the name Fox Atomic, and they assume that it will be small.

Very small.

So small, they won't even notice it.

They might as well have called it Fox Teenybopper, and it would have been just as successful.

MISTAKE #2: THE MISSION STATEMENT

The last thing you do when trying to sell films to teenagers and twenty-somethings is to announce that you have created a division of a large conglomerate, whose purpose is to sell films to teenagers and twenty-somethings.

That decision tells teenagers two things:

1. That their tastes in films are not worthy the consideration of the main studio, just worthy of an "atomic" sized division among dozens of other divisions.

2. That this big conglomerate will tell them what to like.

Yes, it's both belittling and patronizing at the same time. Try to be that way to a teenager and see if it will make them give you their money.

It won't work.

It's the corporate equivalent of a middle aged man putting on his red leather Michael Jackson jacket with the shoulder pads and zippers, getting a comb-over done in the style of a Flock of Seagulls haircut, and putting on their neon blue
Miami Vice T-shirt to "connect" with the young folk.

Now the great irony is that News Corp. the parent company of Fox already owns a company with a history as a success at marketing to teens and twenty-somethings. A company that went moribund, and was assimilated by News Corp. when it tried to become a more mainstream entertainment company, and forgot its core mission of profitable exploitation films.

I'm talking about New World Pictures.

It was founded by independent exploitation auteur Roger Corman in the early 1970s, and in its heyday produced some pretty wild, and many profitable cult pictures. Corman's model was to look for young and hungry talent, grooming them to shoot efficiently, within modest budgets, and to use their entire imagination to get the job done. Many top filmmakers got their start working for Corman at New World.

The company started to go wrong after Corman sold it, and moved on to other things. The company then changed hands several times, owned Marvel Comics for a while, acquired TV stations, and tried to make "bigger" films and become a more mainstream studio.

That's when they went belly up, and got bought up by News Corp. who coveted their chain of TV stations for their fledgling Fox Network.

What should have been done was to take the New World name (which is pretty much all that's left) and create a new company around it. One that doesn't have the weight of the Fox Empire hanging over it. In fact, all connections with the Fox Company should have been downplayed. The key to promoting an independent division aimed at the youth market is to
never admit that it's a division aimed at the youth market.

They should have only said that New World was being spun off because they think it's a good business opportunity. If they can get outside partners to help finance it, all the better, because it will further distance it from the big conglomerate. Then they should put together a good team to run it, give that team a pay structure based upon the success of the productions, and the mission to make a certain amount of films, within a certain budget range, and to get young ambitious talent to do it. That talent would be fostered, and treated fairly, so that when they do become big names, they will give a certain amount of leeway to their old partner on certain projects. (Remember, loyalty begets loyalty, especially when it makes poor people rich)

Then you reinvest the company's profits into the company until the point when it can become a self-sustaining company. On the management side, it can operate as a trial by fire, to test the real acumen, and skill of young executives, with the promise of wealth, and a position in the main company as their reward, if they choose it.

Of course it's not like anyone at Fox asked me what to do. Which is a shame, I could have saved them some money.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Saturday Silliness Cinema: 2 Canadian Stand-Ups

Time for my weekly break from my usual rants and raves about business to share a laugh with you, my loyal readers. All two of you.


Today we have some stand-up comedy from North of the Border, yep I'm talking Canada.


First up, Canada's reigning king of the one liner, Stewart Francis at a recent appearance on the Craig Ferguson show.





And now a young up and comer from Newfoundland, named Jonny Harris, performing live at the Halifax Comedy Festival.





I'll be back passing harsh judgments on Hollywood soon.



Friday, 17 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #271: More Miscellaneous Musings

1. NBC-U GOES DOWN, WAY DOWN

NBC-Universal posted a shocking 45% plunge in profits so far this year. Now the plunge itself isn't what shocked me, but the fact that it was
only 45%. Now I know that all is not bleak with NBC, the arrival of Southland has literally doubled the number of shows on that network I consider worth a chance. (The other being Life with Damien Lewis and the delectable Sarah Shahi)

Now the fact that NBC-U CEO Jeff Zucker is not only staying at his post, but still capable of walking under his own power is also stunning. I guess his plan of having someone even worse, Ben Silverman, as the man most likely to succeed him, is a great way to avoid getting fired. However, being the lesser of to weasels can't go on forever while a once major corporation sinks slowly in a sea of red ink.

What can be done to save NBC? I don't know, it may have sunk past a point of no return.

2. JONNY QUEST GOES TO HELL

Okay, I heard that the brain trust at Warner Bros. is looking to make a big screen, live action version of the classic Jonny Quest cartoon, and that they want Disney pretty-boy Zac Efron in the title role.

I can think of 3 things wrong with that:

1. Age: The "classic" Jonny Quest that people actually remember (not the lame spinoff show) is an eleven year old boy full of energy, courage, and curiousity. Zac Efron's a twenty-something tween idol full of hair gel.

2. Audience Demographics: Zac Ephron's target audience are pre-adolescent girls. Jonny Quest's true target audience are 30 something males, who remember the original show as the most violent, offensive, and hence the coolest, cartoon they ever saw.

3. The MPAA: The studio will want to make the movie a G at best, or a light PG at most, while the elements that made the TV show memorable would score at least a PG-13, or maybe even an R (if done right). Remember, this was a cartoon that had episodes featuring gunfights, (with Jonny participating), and gruesome deaths, lots of them. This wasn't Scooby Doo, and that's why we loved it on those rare occassions when a station from Bangor, Maine would re-run them un-cut.



Don't forget to order. I want every reader to buy a copy, enjoy my story
The Dixie Chrononauts, and tell your friends to order a copy too.

Friday Fiction Feature

It's back, for no good reason that I'm compelled to finish things I start. I have the latest installment of my improvised blog story Tooth & Claw up on my fiction site. If you're new to it, or need a recap, then feel free to click on the other chapters...


Enjoy.

And be sure to check out...



Thursday, 16 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #270: Is Smart Dead, Or Is Smart Just Not Smart Enough?

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS MOVIE SPOILERS
(but since you're probably not going to see the movie, read away)

According to an LA Times article (h/t Hollywood Elsewhere) the film State of Play will most likely tank at the box office, inspiring the author of the article to declare that "smart" thrillers or "smart" films in general are dead, most likely due to the gradual dumbing of the American audience.

I beg to differ.

I think the reason like State of Play fail is because it's hard to be a thriller when you're more predictable than the tides.

I had only been 5 seconds into the commercial for State of Play before I figured out that the whole conspiracy somehow involved a sinister defense contractor.

Why did I think that?

Because it's almost always a sinister defense contractor.

If not, it's a CIA/FBI cabal.

Or it's the military.

Or it's some other corporate baddy up to no good. (pharmaceutical and chemical companies are popular choices.)

Or it's all of the above enacting some sinister conspiracy cooked up during a golf foursome at the Whitehaven Country Club.

Back in the 1970s which saw the rise of the "smart" political thriller having corporations and intelligence agencies as the bad guy was new, novel, and relevant to the general distrust and ennui in the aftermath of the political assassinations of the 1960s, and Watergate in the 1970s. (Which itself was the subject of All The President's Men.)

But that was almost 40 years and several hundred political thrillers ago.

What was once new, novel, and relevant, has become cliche, and people can see these "shocking twists" coming a mile away, and are less likely to drop $10 for a mystery where they can guess the ending from the commercial.

And it's not just thrillers. The comedy/romance/ caper film Duplicity pretty much ended its run before the first screening was finished. Folks wailed and bemoaned its failure, and blamed the dumb audience for being too dumb to know that they're too dumb to know what's good for their dumb asses. I think it had more to do with the ads remarking that it was made by the same guy who made Michael Clayton, with George Clooney. Clayton was another "smart" movie with a predictable bad guy (a big corporation) and the premise that a man can fake his death, in the age of CSI, by tossing his personal effects into a burning car. That's not particularly smart, and the audience knows that.

So I guess the lesson of this little rant is that smart movies aren't dead, they just aren't as smart as the makers think they are.


And let me take a moment to shill the book I'm in...


You can't blame me for trying, I'm only getting royalties on this thing.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #269: Miscellaneous Musings...

1. Actor Jamie Foxx apologized for making some tasteless comments about teenage Disney starlet Miley Cyrus. And while it's fine that he apologized and all that, but what I started thinking about, is exactly why he made the comments in the first place, and I can only think that it comes from a deep sense of insecurity.

I mean Miley Cyrus is a perfect target for the sort of self-aggrandizing ridicule Foxx seems to need to justify his existence. She's a teenager, she's rich, she's got a bit of a "hick" image, an audience of children, she's practically property of the Disney conglomerate, and her music is the sort of bland, mindless pop pap that will ensure that she'll be lucky to find a gig doing birthday parties after the age of 20.

She's more to be pitied than scorned because she will be spat out by those who made her as soon as they finish chewing her up. One can only hope that she does a good job holding onto her money before it's stripped away by the vicissitudes of bad, or corrupt, management, and shady media business practices, because she'll stop selling as soon as her fan base hit their sullen pubescent phase. Once that happens the only people who will still care are the tabloid media running the ghoulish countdown to profit from the schadenfreude generated by what they hope to be her inevitable downfall.

Foxx's stunt tells me a lot about him. It tells that he feels that desperately needs a certain amount of "street cred" as an "artist" and a "rebel" without actually doing anything that really rebels against his Hollywood clique, because that might really endanger his career. So he goes after an easy target, gets a little press, both for the words, and the apology, and then gets a pat on the back for "daring" to stand up to Disney who probably forgot the comments around 5 minutes after he made them, because they don't cost them a damn cent, and that's all they care about.

It's like that whole Russell Brand bruhaha where he made phone calls to an elderly actor about the sexual habits of his granddaughter. It got him fired from the BBC, but I suspect that he did so he could get fired, and then use that cachet as a "rebel" who got himself fired to get better gigs at better places.

2. The new web incarnation of Movieline is now online. I'd like to wish the folks there good luck, and hope they have a good run.

3. I forgot to do the shameless book whoring last post... sorry about that.... buy the damn book anyway....


Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #267: Sometimes, Someone, Has To Say No

I think this is a first.

A celebrity has been convicted of murder by a Los Angeles jury.

That's right, Phil Spector, eccentric musical genius and father of the "wall of sound," was found guilty of murdering actress Lana Clarkson in his Alhambra mansion in 2003. It took 6 years and two major trials, but it appears that justice has been done for his victim.

But the thing that sticks to me though is the photo taken of Spector while he was being booked into the California prison system. His wig looks like a ragged mop, and his eyes are wide open, and staring at the camera, like a dead salmon looking up at Julia Child on fish night.

For some reason I can't bring myself to say that they are wide with terror, because when I look at that increasingly fish-like face, the only word that I can use to describe that expression is disbelief. In fact, the first time I saw that picture I was hit with the thought: "Someone must have told him 'no.'"

Think about it, here was a man who lived a slightly exaggerated version of the celebrity lifestyle, chiefly that he always got everything he wanted, how he wanted it, and when he wanted it.

Everyone said "yes" to him for over 40 years, first because of his musical talent, and then because of his power in the industry. And music history is loaded with stories of him waving loaded guns at folks who even attempted to say anything close to "no."

So it's not a far stretch of the imagination that he propositioned Miss Clarkson, she dared to say "no," he got out his old friend, Mr. Handgun, and the poor woman ended up dead on his floor. In fact, I remember reading an article about his erratic and threatening behaviour 20 years ago, and thinking: One of these days that crazy bastard's going to kill someone. (Making this case one of those rare occassions when I hate being right.)

I think this sort of situation will happen again, with others doing the killing and dying. It's as inevitable as the tides. Modern celebrity culture simultaneously builds people up and tears them down, all the while indulging their every whim, no matter how bizarre or even criminal they might be. Mix that with the sort of pathological psyches that many people who aggressively pursue fame have, and you have a recipe for disaster.

Which I why I think that the most important word a celebrity has to hear is "no." They need someone to tell them when they're going off the rails, give them a clip on the ear, and remind that they are human beings after all, that actions have consequences, and that people have to view things logically, and not act like a spoiled toddler having a hissy fit.

Even the emperors of Rome would have advisors by their side during triumphal marches whispering "All fame is fleeting" in their ear. They knew the power of ego, and while it could be a form of personal mental defence, it could also become a personal self-destruct button.

Too bad no one in Hollywood seems to know that.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Cinemaniacal: Return of the Recurring Villain!

I belong to a social networking site for writers, specifically crime-writers, called Crimespace. And in one of the forums another member mentioned if a recurring villain in a book series would be a good thing.

The answer he got was "yes" and "no."

Some recurring villains have been great, but they can also be a trap. And I call the trap the "Big Daddy Syndrome." It comes from the Simpsons episode where Chief Wiggum gets his own spin-off show as a New Orleans private eye. In the delightful parody of bad detective shows, Wiggum corners the gangster Big Daddy in his lair, Big Daddy then leaps out the window and slowly swims away. Wiggum takes this escape with some aplomb saying: "We'll see him again, each and every week."

Do you see what I'm getting at?

Maybe I should explain more. Look at all the great recurring villains of the past, Ernst Stavro Blofeld from the James Bond novels and films, Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes, and even Wo Fat from Hawaii Five-O, and think about what they have in common. If you answer that they were most famously played by British actors, that's one thing, but go a little bit deeper.

In the James Bond novels Blofeld only appears in three books, and in the first novel Thunderball, he's strictly a supporting character, controlling the sinister plot from a safe distance. The next two appearances, where he plays a more direct role, the rivalry between him and Bond grows increasingly personal and destructive, not only physically, but mentally as well. It ends in You Only Live Twice, with Bond literally strangling Blofeld to death with his bare hands, ending up an emotional, physical, and mental wreck.

He's more active in the movies, but before their extremely loose adaptation of You Only Live Twice, he's a mysterious puppet master, operating in the shadows. But he's best presented in the novels, which is sparingly.

Professor Moriarty, the "Napoleon of Crime," and arch-nemesis of Sherlock Holmes, is only in two stories, and both times he is never seen by narrator Watson, and only mentioned in passing in some of the others. Yet, his vendetta against Holmes and their battle atop the Reichenbach Falls are some of the defining moments of the series.

Which then brings us to Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh, (real name Kenneth Dickerson) the Red Chinese spy-master who made things complicated for Steve McGarret and his 5-O squad on Hawaii Five-O. He was so popular as a villain that when they decided to retire they made his capture the centre of the finale episode. Now one of the reasons for his popularity was the jovial performance of Khigh Dhiegh, who always played happy villains, but despite his popularity, he hadn't appeared on the show for 4 years before the finale.

So do you see what I'm getting at?

The best reccuring villains are used sparingly. They don't have to appear in each and every instalment. And when they are used, they should have a story arc, not unlike the protagonist, with their own trials, tribulations, and triumphs. Having them appear, cause trouble, and then escape in the end so they can show up in the sequel, not only cheapens the character*, but is lazy writing and insulting to the audience.

It used to bug me even when I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons when they only had one villain for the whole series. One of the things that clue me in that a show will not be any good is when the villain is in the opening credits as a regular. That's a certain sign that it there will no growth, no arc to any characters, just an evil scheme of the week.**

So I guess the lesson here is that while you can have a recurring villain, they better be damn good, and even then, only sparingly to spice up the series with some extra dimensions.

*(Blofeld and SPECTRE were often inserted in Bond movies as a substitute for the Soviet KGB to avoid offending the Russians which led to some oversaturation, and a bus load of continuity troubles, like how he doesn't recognize Bond the second time they meet face to face.)

**(Don't mention Smallville, because Lex Luthor wasn't the villain in the series, it was about him becoming a villain.)

Don't forget...

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Saturday Silliness Cinema: Smooth Originals.

I don't know much about the stories behind these little videos, but the premise amuses the movie geek in me. The premise is that some of your favourite films and TV shows are rip-offs of 60s French cinema.

The examples I have here are Die Hard With A Vengeance or Dial Hard, and the French version of 24.

Enjoy.







And don't forget...



I gotta sell the proverbial soap, so to speak, no matter what.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #266: The Basis Behind the Billy Bob Blowup

By now everybody's heard about actor Billy Bob Thornton's little shit-fit on the set of the Canadian arts show Q, and it's host Jian Ghomeshi. To sum it up, Thornton was there to talk music, Ghomeshi mentioned that he was also an actor, and Billy Bob took it as the most grievous insult ever delivered to humanity.

Boo-hoo Billy Bob.

But really, Billy Bob is not to blame.

At least not completely to blame.

You see, the real culprit the force that drove him to shit a kitten on live radio and television was method acting.

Now I'm not saying that Stanislaski's book on acting has a chapter on becoming a major league asshole, but the elements that surround method acting put him over the edge.

You see in the olden days of show-business, performers like actors, singers, and actors that sang knew that they were in show-
business. Whether they were plugging a movie, an album, or a live appearance at the delightful Copacabana, they knew that they had to sell the proverbial soap, because that's how they made their living.

Method acting changed that.

Suddenly actors were no longer just entertainers, they were perceived as having deeper insights into the human condition than mere mortals, and the banal necessities of selling their work was somehow beneath them. And when you start that sort of ego stroking on people already near pathological in the self-esteem departments.

Bing Crosby, and Frank Sinatra didn't mind if they were asked about their movies when they came on the Tonight Show to plug an album, it all put the pennies in their piggy bank, and shilling both was part of the job. But try that with a modern celebrity that honestly thinks such things are beneath them, and you get a shit fit like Billy Bob's.

Plus there's also the concept of the Method Actor being "in character" for a scene. Billy Bob was on the show Q to play a musician, and there was this Canadian dip-shit going off his precious script. A very telling statement was when he snapped that the host wouldn't have asked Tom Petty that sort of question.

Think about that for a second, and the logic behind it.

If Tom Petty acted in a movie, I'm sure the host would have asked a similar question in the context of a singer having a passion for film. It shouldn't have been a problem for the host to ask an actor about his passion for music,
but that wasn't in Billy Bob's script. He was in character, and he was in the moment, and that character didn't make movies that moment.

To Billy Bob, the host of Q was that DOP from the Terminator movie walking into his eye-line and ruining his scene. Except unlike Christian Bale, who was being kept from doing his job by unprofessional behaviour, Billy Bob should have realized that
his job required him to tell a couple of quick funny stories, and then segue back to the music, the way an old pro would have done it.

But they don't teach actors, or singers, how to do a smooth segue these days. It's considered beneath them.

_________________
And now a break for some shameless self pimping.

Look for my story The Dixie Chrononauts.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #265: Lionsgate News & Shameless Self-Promotion (By Me)

According to The Wrap's Sharon Waxman the latest round in the battle between activist corporate raider Carl Icahn and the management of Lionsgate may have gone to the management. One of Icahn's purported allies is reportedly endorsing the management team, and Lionsgate's biggest debtholder is saying that he won't be selling the debt to Icahn in pretty certain terms.

Anyway, this whole thing is getting pretty tight, and the reports are now saying that company and Icahn are back in talks about board seats and coming to some sort of agreement.

I don't know if these reports are true, but it could mean a radical shift in the whole Seige of Lionsgate.

__________________

And in other news...shameless self promotion kind of news...

A while ago I was part of a very special project. Authors/Editors Michael Hanson and Edward McKeown had the concept of an anthology of short stories presenting the various facets of a global Lovecraftian apocalypse. Each author was given a basic premise for a short story that was to be part of this larger story, and told to go absolutely nuts with it.

The project eventually became a two book epic called Sha'Daa: Tales of the Apocalypse.

Well, we sold the book to Altered Dimensions a small press publisher, and now book one, featuring me and my story The Dixie Chrononauts (containing time travel & monsters) is available via Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


Buy it, love it, and declare your love for it on every website you can get your hands on.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Case of the Corpsed Up Career

The sound of Harvey Weinstein muttering something about "Ben Silverman's doodle," as he rooted through my trash looking for indie movie to not release wafted through my open office window, accompanied by Springtime air, and the exhaust of a hundred SUVs heading down Sunset Boulevard, on their way to a Global Warming Awareness rally.

Other than that, it was quiet in Hollywood.

Too quiet.

And quiet isn't good when you're a man like me. You see, I'm Furious D, and I'm a dick. A private dick to be exact, a shamus, a gumshoe, a peeper, a P.I., and about a dozen other names that don't cause people to giggle shamefully like when you say the word "dick."

It was not a good time for me. My back hurt from a recent business trip to Tijuana, not from anything to do with the case, but from having to give a donkey a decent burial in the desert. I knocked back a shot in honour of Senor Pepito, a true hero, and was just about to have a little afternoon nap, the crazed mutterings of Harvey Weinstein my lullaby, when my phone rang.

"This had better be good," I said to the phone, "I've been having a recurring dream about Zoey Deschannel and I don't like to miss an episode."

The phone rang again, making me think that answering the phone would be better than yelling at it.

"Furious D," I said in my most world-weary, yet still noble tone, "private dick."

"I got a case for you," growled the familiar voice of Lt. Gruff Cliche, who worked for the Hollywood Police. Not the LAPD that handled law enforcement, but the Hollywood PD, who handled the celebrities. They were a hand-picked elite, sworn to serve and protect the rich and famous from doing any serious time for their various and sundry crimes.

"I don't do celebrity cases anymore," I said. I gave up working the Fame Game, not out of any moral quandary, just because celebrities, and their sins, had become so damn boring.

"You haven't been doing any cases lately," said Gruff, "I thought you could use the business."

"Why can't you handle it?" I asked.

"We got our hands full," said Gruff, "too much fame, too much money--"

"--too few brains," I concluded, remembering the motto of Gruff's unit. "What's the case?"

"It's a homicide."

This was the moment the orchestra would do some sort of "dum-dum-duuuuummmmm" and cut to the next scene.

#

"What do you have Doc?" I asked as I strolled into the Hollywood Career Morgue. The place smelled of disinfectant and bitter failure. Vivaldi played on a CD player in the corner, how he managed to balance himself on a stereo while playing the violin was another mystery for another time.

"We have a dead career," said Doc Exposition, a tall, thin fellow in a white lab coat.

"All the careers here are dead," I said as one of Doc's assistants wheeled a dead career past me on a gurney, it's destination, a reality TV show on basic cable.

"This is a young one," said Doc Exposition, lifting the sheet like a celebutante's mini-skirt, revealing the remains of what was once a promising career. Of course the promise was long gone, replaced by what smelled like urine.

"Cause of death?" I asked.

"Pissed away," answered Doc.

"Then case closed," I said.

"Not quite," said Doc. "The problem is that we don't know whose career this is."

"Oh," I said. "I need to see everything you've got, and then I need to see the crime scene."

#

Doc Exposition showed me everything he had, which made me wish that I had said "everything you've got on the case" instead. I had forgotten that his nickname was "Doc Exhibition."

I left the Career Morgue and headed for where the HPD found the carcass. It was a back alley behind a fashionable nightclub called
Shaggers. I had seen dozens of such scenes back when I worked celebrity cases. There was puddle of puke, reeking of booze and I didn't need to be a CSI to see that it contained no food matter, a used up tube of lipstick, something that looked like a receipt half in the vomit puddle, and a hair caught in the door. The hair was bottle blonde, and I couldn't tell the root's colour with a naked eye, or even a clothed eye, so I took samples of everything and went back to my lab.

#

By lab I mean basement. I woke up Chompy, my pet badger, tossed him a cheeseburger and broke out my Junior G-Man Crime-Lab Kit.

I was right about the vomit, no food at all. The lipstick was made by a fellow named Les Behan, a popular brand in Hollywood among starlets craving tabloid media attention. I then turned my attention to the receipt. I had the chemicals ready to restore the faded ink, so I opened the bottles, poured them into the pan, took a deep breath full of fumes..............

When I regained consciousness, Chompy was slapping my face and gesturing for me to get back to work. Thankfully he had opened the basement windows and aired the place out enough for me to breath again without hallucinating. By the time I staggered back to my worktable the ink had been restored. It was a summary by an accountant, listing fees paid to the actor with the dead career. There were movie salaries at first, small at first, then they got bigger, then smaller, and fewer and farther between. Then all that were left were "appearance" fees from nightclubs. At first they were big, then they too got smaller, and smaller, until all that was left was one free drink per night. Alongside these fees were the costs, hotel suites, houses, cars, car repairs, fines, legal fees, and rehab stints, all sucking down cash by the bushel.

I then put the hair under my microscope.

The hair wasn't definitely not a real blonde, in fact, the root was red.

I picked up my phone and dialled Gruff.

"Hey Gruff," I said, "I have an ID on your dead career. Yeah I could tell you who it is, but I want my readers to guess who it is and leave their answer in the comments. Yeah, I know I'm breaking the fourth wall in a way by getting them involved, but this is metafiction."

So, do you know who owns the career?

CASE CLOSED?