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How to Save TV: Cut Free Sodas?!

THE PROBLEM In Josef Adalian’s story, “Television — as We Know It — Is Finished,” he reports how network executives are finding ways of cutting costs. They talk about cutting large writing staffs and cutting scripted television shows all in the name of balancing their budgets. One even said, “We're losing salaries and we're losing […]

THE PROBLEM

In Josef Adalian’s story, “Television — as We Know It — Is Finished,” he reports how network executives are finding ways of cutting costs. They talk about cutting large writing staffs and cutting scripted television shows all in the name of balancing their budgets.

One even said, “We're losing salaries and we're losing people. If you can't get free sodas, I think people will survive.”

That’s a great sound bite, but the reality is, when executives lose their jobs, they usually get a golden parachute, which could cost a network millions of dollars.

That’s right. They get paid millions of dollars to walk away. If you don’t believe me, Google "Ben Silverman." I have an inside source who told me that Silverman barely showed up at the office, and when he did, he would throw a football at random people to play catch.

Yeah, he was worth his multi-million dollar deal.

Of course, the most common way of getting rid of executives is to give them a lucrative producing deal — which just pays them to produce the same crappy shows that they were fired for greenlighting in the first place. So when executives say they are “losing salaries,” most likely that translates into they lost their second assistant or they have to share their assistant with another TV executive.

Forgive me if I don’t shed a tear.

But what really irks me is the “If you can't get free sodas, I think people will survive” idea. That’s what’s wrong with this whole crazy business and, may I dare say, with the whole corporate culture: Executives always cut that one little thing that makes it tolerable to be a P.A. making barely $350 a week before taxes and who must sacrifice his (or her) car by piling on the miles because he’s running around getting lattes for all the freaking producers at that little coffee shop miles away because that’s the only coffee they drink.

Or better yet, cut the catered lunches. God forbid that the crew, who have been working themselves ragged to get the job done, might have a nice meal.

When you look at the overall budget of a show or a department, saving money on Cokes or catering is really just cosmetic. It’s the trick of the trade to show the board of directors that costs are being cut when, in fact, the majority of budgets are eaten up by inflated executives' salaries and bonuses.

I thought bonuses were given for a job well done. Why do executives get bonuses because it’s in their contract?

If things are really that bad, I have an idea: Let’s cut bonuses for actors and writers who get nominated for Emmys and Golden Globes?

Oh, don’t get me wrong, they still will get their second-year series bonuses, writing royalties, back-end participation, option pick-up bonuses. I’m just talking about award bonuses given to talent for just getting nominated by their friends for an award created by their own Guild.

I know of one actor whose award bonus was more than what a well-paid assistant makes in one year. And then he got paid twice that for winning the award! What happened to: It s just an honor to be nominated? Well, it’s an honor, but it’s also very lucrative for them.

THE ORIGINS

The decline of TV (and probably good filmmaking) can be traced to this one simple fact: The system is broken.

I use this analogy constantly with my insider friends: Your car breaks down, who do you go to fix it? The salesperson who sold it to you? Or the mechanic? Everyone is going, “Duh, you go to the mechanic.”

Exactly! You go to the person who can build an engine from the ground up. Who knows the inner workings of an engine. Well, my friends, all the creative, network and film executives that are making the decisions about what you see on TV or in theaters usually don’t have a creative bone in their body or cannot recognize a well written script when they see one.

Why? Because they all come from the same watering hole: The agencies. Almost every executive, at one point or another, had to man an agency desk. And agents are, well, they are salespeople. They are the ones responsible for selling a product, not making it. And while I’ll admit you must have a few sales people on your team, that shouldn’t comprise your entire team.

One of the best creative executives I know is a writer. He tried making a living as a writer, but he has a family so he needed the steady paycheck. This guy is amazing. He can get right to the heart of the problem of any script because he knows how to write a script.

And yes, if I told you a few names of the films he’s responsible for, you would be impressed.

IN THE END

I don’t believe it’s the end of television, although I do believe that there will be some major changes in the way the business is run. I already know that producers are changing the way they are getting their shows financed and on the air. And it may be a good thing, because the model they are working on reduces the fiscal responsibility of the networks while rewarding the producers and creators of the shows with large pieces of the back-end because they have ownership of the show.

That is a win-win situation.

I also know it’s possible to work for a great entertainment company that treats all their employees with equal consideration — because my human works for one. They haven’t cut her overtime, or her benefits and they still let her order Cokes for my department.

They even catered lunch for the entire company just because it was summer.

Imagine that! In the middle of the decline of TV.

The Divine Shellenator (nickname "Shelly") came from Planet Dog in search for a worthy human to keep as her pet. She now sits quietly at the feet of her human, who works long hours at the computer, writing. While her human is slaving away at her day job at some entertainment company, Shelly leads the life of luxury by sleeping in her bed all day.