First a couple of Tibits! If that lady seen in the halls of SAG looks like Sallie Weaver, it’s ’cause it is. Ms. Weaver, who resigned from SAG several months ago as Deputy National Executive Director for Contracts, has returned to SAG in a related capacity. She will research and compile a history of SAG contracts. Hmmmm
A Big topic among SAG’s movers and shakers these days is why AFTRA President John Connolly’s sudden departure! Could it be he saw the handwriting on the wall against his turning AFTRA into the digital future in media! Or could it be simply another step in his desire to be a big shot union leader. Or maybe it was just the money. His predecessor at Actor Equity earned $239,863 annually. (The word is that the figure in his case is considerably less) Or could it be his ultimate revenge on SAG. After all, Equity is practically synonymous with the Four A’s. In fact, if you check Actor’s Equity LM-2’s on the DOL website, it is listed under the Four A’s.
So, what does that have to do with anything? Well, supposedly SAG’s jurisdiction is mandated by the Four A’s. Therefore, SAG would most likely first go to the Four A’s for any ruling on the much disputed digital jurisdiction issue between SAG and AFTRA.
So, so, on whose side do you think Equity(AAAA) NED John Connolly would come down on? Awwww.
Oh, by the by. Our new NED Doug Allen had an informal get-together with the Hollywood Board the other day. Although everyone is pretty tight-lipped about the affair. I can say that Mr. Allen has impressed a lot of folks with both his knowledge and determination to assert SAG’s jurisdictional rights, and franchise mandates.
Now, let’s go to those articles. Article in bold!
Tom Short is a force in Hollywood. He may sway a strike decision.
By Richard Verrier
Times Staff Writer
February 6, 2007
Tom Short, the son of a Cleveland union boss, is not on power lists. He rarely strolls red carpets with stars. But he ranks among the most influential and feared figures in Hollywood.
His clout is evident on film and television production sets every day.
And this from a guy who according to the IATSE LM-2 only makes $263,139 grand a year. Of course, he did have an expense account of $97,708 dollars, but, but, one would think he would do better.
Ho, ho! There’s always Christmas.
Last summer, writers on the reality TV show “America’s Next Top Model” walked off the job in a dispute with producers.
Short, head of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, or IATSE, undercut the strike by having his members take over the writers’ work. After two months, the strike died.
Thank, God, there was no scabbing!
What sets the 58-year-old Short apart from a typical union leader is that he often is more ally than adversary to management.
A compliant union is a good union.
With tense contract talks anticipated this year between writers and producers, Short’s role has never been more important. A strike could throw thousands of people out of work, upending Los Angeles’ $30-billion entertainment economy. Even the mere threat of a work stoppage could turn production schedules upside down, idling workers for months.
Hey, Mr. Short is not needed for unions to avoid a strike. All unions have to do is cut out the middleman and just give employers what they want: Sort of a Short Cut to union/employer tranquility.
Studio bosses are hoping that Short, who is based in New York, will use his influence to avoid a strike and that he will temper the more strident Writers Guild of America.
“He’s tough, but he’s fair and you can trust him,” said Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers President J. Nicholas Counter, the studios’ negotiator. “When you make a deal with Tom Short, you know it’s a deal.”
Yep, when employers make a deal with him, they know it’s a deal, no matter what his members may want. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells
Many in the rank and file credit Short for strengthening a splintered union whose spotty history dates to the 1930s, when it was run by Chicago gangster Al Capone. Short’s union boasts about 30,000 mostly blue-collar workers in L.A. alone, including set builders, camera operators, grips, painters and costume designers. His members work on virtually every major production, whether it’s the movie “Dreamgirls,” TV’s “American Idol” or Broadway’s “Wicked.”
In an industry where clout is fleeting, Short maintains an iron grip over his far-flung membership from Vancouver, Canada, to Orlando, Fla. with an old-school, bare-knuckles style. Though he can be charming, he often reserves his wrath for fellow labor leaders and even his own union members. Critics say he uses his power to intimidate dissidents in an effort to silence them.
When Michael Everett, a union dissident, questioned why the IATSE chose a lavish resort in Hawaii for its quadrennial convention in 2005, Short responded by stationing workers at the hall entrance to pass out portraits of Everett resembling a wanted poster. “Don’t allow this malcontent to question your dedication. Give Brother Everett a Hearty Aloha!” the fliers read.
Tom must have the same writer as ex SAG CEO Pisano. Who can ever forget his quote in SAG’s Screen Actor Magazine, “And, of course, SAG continues to wrestle with the principal obstacle to our progress: a culture in which arrogant, belligerent and obstructive conduct is regarded as acceptable, even desirable, behavior by certain of our members who call themselves leaders.” Damn malcontents!
“He’s a classic bully,” Everett said. “People are afraid of him. He intimidates those who oppose him.”
Short declined to be interviewed, suggesting in a letter to The Times that his opponents were aiming to undermine him.
“It is also no secret in California that there are people in our industry who would like, for their own reasons, to discredit me prior to the time scheduled for critical industry wide negotiations,” Short wrote. “I make no apologies for the strong positions I have taken on behalf of the more than 100,000 working women and men I speak for in the IATSE.”
With a penchant for dark suits and brightly colored ties, Short has a reputation for being guarded and brusque. He presides over tightly controlled board meetings that often include testimonials from union officials praising his leadership. He makes clear to his staff members that he likes to be called President Short.
Works for me!
His prolific organizing boosted membership in the last decade by more than 60% at a time when unions across America have been shrinking. Short enrolled new classes of workers such as production accountants and crews on low-budget films.
“He had a vision for the future,” said entertainment lawyer Howard Fabrick, who has represented film and TV producers.
One of Short’s main accomplishments has been to zealously protect what is widely considered the richest health and pension plan in Hollywood. Once workers log a minimum of 300 hours in a six-month period, they receive full coverage without having to pay insurance premiums.
Short has advocated cooperative negotiations with the giant media conglomerates that control studios and TV networks, reasoning they would pay a high price to secure labor peace well before contracts expire. But the Writers Guild and Screen Actors Guild have leaders who vow to oppose the studios on such issues as sharing revenue from DVD sales and digital downloads.
Infighting among Hollywood unions usually stays behind closed doors. But Short has publicly lambasted Writers Guild leaders as “certain officers who don’t work in the industry” and incompetent in their negotiating skills.
“It’s very unusual to have one union attack the leadership and strategy of another in this kind of public way,” said Harley Shaiken, a UC Berkeley labor professor. “It’s incendiary.”
Short rose to become IATSE president in 1994 after a turbulent past in Cleveland.
In 1975, Short, then a member of a stagehands union, beat up TV reporter Jay Bacchus, who crossed a theater picket line to cover a story, according to Bacchus, who filed a civil suit. A judge ordered Short to pay $800 in damages, court records show.
Beat up a reporter. Hmmmm
“I was stunned as hell,” Bacchus recalled in an interview. “He just acted like a wild man.”
Short and his father, Adrian, a longtime stagehands representative, were indicted in 1980 on charges of embezzling union funds after a special Justice Department investigation into organized crime in Cleveland. A jury acquitted Adrian Short Jr. on seven counts and couldn’t reach a verdict on 14 others. Prosecutors dropped the remaining counts against Adrian Short after he pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return. Prosecutors dismissed the charges against Tom Short.
In 1990, Short was involved in a violent altercation with his son, then 16, according to a police report. Joseph Short told police his father called him a “wimp,” burned his forehead with a cigarette and threatened him with a baseball bat. Tom Short told police that his son pushed him and threatened him and that the burn mark was inadvertent.
Hey nobody is perfect!
No charges were brought over the incident, which was first reported in a 1995 LA Weekly story, and the two reconciled.
Today, Short runs the vast union from its international headquarters on the 20th floor of a Manhattan office building with help from “The Official Family,” the nickname for an executive board that includes his general secretary-treasurer and 13 vice presidents, who critics contend are virtually impossible to unseat.
“No one wants to run for fear of offending Short or the Official Family,” Everett said. “If I were to nominate someone, that person would be marked.”
The only people who benefit from this kind of divide are our employers!
Although the union’s locals elect their own officers and hire their own staff, Short maintains close ties to a coterie of powerful business agents and executive directors. Some union officials earn extra income from jobs Short grants them under union rules.
One of Short’s closest advisors is his brother Dale, a Cleveland-area attorney whose law firm was paid more than $100,000 in legal fees between mid-2005 and April 2006, according to union filings. Dale Short also received about $80,000 in salary in 2005 as business manager for a Cleveland local.
Critics say Tom Short keeps locals in line through his ability to revoke union charters, oversee disciplinary trials and browbeat dissenters.
Pam Mack, a former business agent for an IATSE local, said she crossed Short over a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by one of her members against the crafts services department at Paramount Pictures.
“He said, either you make it go away or you go away,” Mack recalled.
The suit was settled. But within a year Mack, who also clashed with Short over a merger involving her local, was ousted. She called the action retaliation by Short.
“If you go against Tom Short,” Mack said, “it’s over.”
For he’s a Jolly Goodfella, for he’s a Jolly Goodfella, for he’s a Jolly Goodfella, which nobody better deny!
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
A Hollywood 101 course for Capitol Hill
Stars descend on Washington today to teach lawmakers about the industry’s economic importance.
By Jim Puzzanghera
Times Staff Writer
February 6, 2007
WASHINGTON Hollywood plans to show the nation’s capital today that it’s more than just a pretty face, with the help of some of its most recognizable ones.
In what amounts to a Hollywood 101 course, the Motion Picture Assn. of America trade group is holding a daylong primer on movie industry economics that will include cameos by two household names and current Oscar nominees: actor Will Smith and director Clint Eastwood.
Invited to the symposium “The Business of Show Business” are members of Congress, federal and state officials, think-tank scholars and the media, who will get an earful from directors and moguls about the industry’s global economic muscle, how movies are made and its challenges in the digital age. RSVPs have been sent by some influential Washington players, including Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), who oversee such key policy areas as copyright law and foreign trade.
“We tell a lot of stories but we never really tell our story cohesively as an industry,” Warner Bros. Chairman Barry Meyer said. “This is going to be one of the few times we come to Washington and really explain our view of how critical our industry is, why it deserves the attention of the government, why it deserves the protection of the government.”
Showing policy wonks what Hollywood is all about is part of the MPAA’s goal of going beyond the movie screenings, celebrity congressional witnesses and star-studded campaign fundraisers to showcase how entertainment makes multibillion-dollar contributions to the economy and the nation’s balance of trade. In doing so, the industry hopes to underscore that Washington needs to strengthen copyright protection and to crack down on global piracy.
“I think that there are some folks who are very understanding of how important the issues are, and I think there are others who are less so,” said Michael Lynton, chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment. “It’s our responsibility to impress upon them the scope of it.”
With rapid technological changes posing opportunities and threats the MPAA estimates losses of $6 billion a year worldwide from counterfeit DVDs and other pirated content Hollywood decided to make the economic message the star.
The trade group will hammer home the point with data from its first nationwide economic study, which shows that the movie and TV production industry is responsible for 1.3 million U.S. jobs, generates $30.24 billion in annual wages and funnels $10 billion in taxes each year to federal and state governments.
“The tendency is to look at the film and entertainment business in the context of celebrity or glitz,” MPAA Chief Executive Dan Glickman said, “but the truth of the matter is that this is a big, important industry for America.”
The seminar also comes at a time when the entertainment business is facing a strong push-back in Washington from the consumer electronics lobby over how people use movies and music in their homes.
“We’re on the cusp of a lot of new digital initiatives, and a lot of this is going to be coming before the government,” Warner Bros.’ Meyer said.
“There are factions out there that think anything we put up on the Internet should be free and distributed virally around the world. We think that’s a huge problem for us and could destroy our industry.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said that many of her colleagues didn’t grasp Hollywood’s economic clout, and that their views of the industry often were shaped by concerns about excessive sex and violence in movies.
“We want the industry to do well, but we want it to be a net positive addition to the values of Americans,” she said. “It must understand this, I think, and respond to it in a positive sense, instead of saying, ‘Well, this is our business; we’re going to do what we want.’ ”
Despite the emphasis on economics, it’s hard for Hollywood to do anything even try to dispel its flashy image without at least some star wattage. And today’s invitation-only event will stand out as a Washington policy conference with red-carpet flair.
Smith, nominated for a best actor Academy Award for “The Pursuit of Happyness,” will headline the opening breakfast at the Smithsonian’s stately new downtown art museum. Filmmaker Michael Apted, president of the Directors Guild of America, will keynote the luncheon at the swank Hotel Monaco.
“This is a chance for us to come to Washington and for them to actually see us as walking, talking, breathing human beings,” Apted said. “You’ll get a sense that making movies is a very unusual and singular industry. It’s not like making cars or growing wheat.”
Attendees and panelists include directors Taylor Hackford and Steven Soderbergh, Meyer and top studio executives. Capping the day will be a dinner honoring actor-director Eastwood, nominated for directing “Letters From Iwo Jima,” complete with a rope line and an actual red carpet.
“The celebrity is the icing on the cake, but it can’t be the foundation,” Glickman said. “The foundation is jobs and economic benefit.”
Which, he said, is why Hollywood is doing what other industries do.
“Everybody in a democratic system wants their government to be helpful to them,” he said. “That’s us, that’s the consumer electronics industry, that’s agriculture, that’s aviation, that’s pharmaceuticals.”
Don’t Call them DVD’s call them Downloads!
Wal-Mart starts selling movie downloads
By Dawn C. Chmielewski and Abigail Goldman
Times Staff Writers
February 6, 2007
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. today begins selling films online as the leading seller of DVDs stakes a claim in the emerging market of movie downloading.
The store, at http://www.walmart.com/videodownloads , makes Wal-Mart the first major retailer to offer downloadable digital movies from all the major Hollywood studios.
The online DVD market is crowded with competitors, including Apple Inc.’s iTunes store, online retailer Amazon.com Inc.’s Unbox, premium cable operator Starz Entertainment Media Group’s Vongo and lesser-known download services such as Movielink and CinemaNow Inc. These services are still struggling to find a mainstream audience.
Wal-Mart’s announcement was not surprising, given the retailer’s influential role in DVD sales, a significant source of studio revenue.
As the nation’s top seller of movies and music, with about 40% of the DVD business, Wal-Mart has the leverage to extract concessions from the studios on products and pricing.
Wal-Mart’s online movie store emulates the no-frills atmosphere and pricing of its stores. It undercuts rivals on price, selling downloads of new movie releases for $12.88 to $19.88 and older titles for $7.50. Downloads of TV shows sell for $1.96 an episode.
The retailer will offer DVD buyers a coupon for a discounted downloadable copy of the same movie for $1.97. However, it will not yet permit consumers who download a movie through its online service to make a DVD copy at home, saying the technology is too time-consuming and onerous.
“They have the probably the broadest relationship with the Hollywood consumer because of their vast retail infrastructure,” said Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment. “This is going to extend that relationship.”
Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, with annual revenue of $316 billion, has been slow to develop a download business.
Its music site, which began a test phase at the end of 2003, made news by undercutting Apple Inc.’s iTunes store on price, selling songs for 88 cents each.
But because songs downloaded from Wal-Mart.com wouldn’t play on Apple’s iPod, the dominant portable music player, the company’s music offering failed to garner much interest.
When the Bentonville, Ark.-based company in November announced its intention to offer movie downloads, some analysts were lukewarm, saying that the endeavor didn’t fall within Wal-Mart’s area of expertise.
Kevin Swint, Wal-Mart’s divisional merchandise manager for digital media, said, “As our customers increasingly want content by download, that’s what we’re trying to support.”
*All formatting an photo’s are SW’s!