Stuff To Read: My Email To The Office of The Writers Guild Of America East Supporting The Striking LO:CI Writers

Music To Get Psyched Up With ‘Let’s Turn It On’ by Freddie Mercury

Well the writers strike today in NYC picketed in front of Chelsea Piers, which is the home for the production offices for LO:CI, SVU and the mothership. Since I couldn’t just run up there and join the protests nor did I have time to send anything cool or useful to the strikers, I fired off this email to the WGA East. Hopefully it will encourage at least one writer or staffer to hang tough :)

To Whom It May Concern at the WGA East

I’m just one fan of a bunch of us out there in the big wide world of the work of the writers of Law & Order: Criminal Intent but since I know they will be striking later today at Chelsea Piers, I am hopeful that you’ll print out a copy of this email and pass it to the women and men of CI who will be walking the lines out in front of their production offices. I wish I lived closer as I’d be happy to walk the line with them or offer my support in any way possible, but since I live in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and just found out about the strike location a few hours ago, that isn’t going to happen. So this note will have to do.

Thanks very much

Go WGA Writers!

November 7, 2007

Dear CI Writers (and any other CI production-involved people below the line or above it who happen to picket or support the strike at Chelsea Piers on November 7, 2007)

This is just a note of encouragement and support from one of many of CI’s fans who has been suspicious and concerned for many months that the AMPTP wouldn’t negotiate in good faith with the WGA and that all you writers would end up on strike.

Last season’s renewal negotiations I know were tough on everyone. CI was dropped by NBC and moved to USA Network which in retrospect has been a blessing in disguise. I also know that many of the above the line types from Vincent Katie and Chris on down to those of you who are more behind the scenes but still above the line didn’t get much-deserved pay raises they earned. Worse I understand that the below the lines folks actually took pay *cuts* to keep CI in production.

It has been wonderful to see CI flourish at USA Network to the extent that CI is now the #1 scripted drama on basic cable. The ratings are so good that if you were on a broadcast network, you would be beating the network pinheads at NBC who didn’t have the sense to either keep the show or promote and schedule it wisely in the first place!

It has been gratifying to see more people discovering and enjoying CI either through the syndicated episodes airing on Fox, the reruns on Bravo, or of course the heavily promoted original episodes on USA. And that’s just in the United States…you would not believe how many fans you have around the world and how fast the word is getting out about how great CI is — I’ve waited six seasons to see this happen and I am so thrilled for you all!

So you can imagine how heart-wrenching it is for me to hear that you will be striking with only 11 episodes completed. I am disappointed that the seventh season of CI may only be half as long as the other six seasons of CI were. And this from a show that in it’s first year was delayed due to the cataclysmic events of 9/11, then aired irregularly thanks to NBC’s scheduling whims and the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Know this…a bunch of us ‘old-timer’ fans stuck by you then and we’re still sticking by you now. None of us has a serious enough case of the seven year itch that we’d easily stop watching CI.

In the grand scheme of things, losing a few TV episodes isn’t all that tragic for us fans. But I worry for those on the CI staff who don’t have a lot of financial options. Some of them may be writers, some of them may be crew or production office staff. But everyone is striking in what I am convinced is a worsening economy. I worry about people who make CI episodes not being able to make mortgage or car payments or pay medical bills, their kids who might not have much of a Christmas, or the debt some of you might have to go into if the strike goes long or unfortunate things happen. You are taking a big risk and I worry it might not go well for everyone.

That said, I think you really don’t have a choice in the matter. I have been reading Nikki Finke’s website and yesterday’s blog post http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/deals-lies-backchannelling-why-this-is-a-bigger-mess-now-than-ever-before/

made me seeth with anger.

Lawyers like me have a word to describe the nature of the dealings between the WGA and the AMPTP: unconscionable. Bad faith doesn’t even begin to describe the way they’re negotiating even if only half of what Nikki Finke reported is true.

I also understand that someone has to set the precedent and take the AMPTP members out behind the woodshed in these negotiations to show them that the creatives in show business really do matter. In my few instances of representing music artists in contract negotiations with the music divisions of the same unconscionable corporations (they offer the same crappy contract provisions to bands and singers and musicians, only the faces you deal with are different), I found that at some point you just had to say no to the powers that be. They will overreach in every way possible and try to get as superior a position relative to you as they think they can get away with without making you walk away. So the WGA has called their bluff…the AMPTP can and must do better. Indentured servitude hasn’t been the law of the land since the Civil War.

What I am hoping will happen will be that the folks in the AMPTP will be wiser than the folks in the music divisions in the same companies and realize that the ignorance of a lot of bands singers and musicians won’t be repeated in these ‘new and future media’ clause negotiations. The stunts pulled then are well-known now in the entertainment law community and they won’t work. Trying to swindle the most literate and intellectually curious artists is always a dumb idea and is doomed to fail.

Moreover if the WGA fails, it will make it just that much harder for SAG, AFTRA, & DGA members in the near future to try and win some paltry share of the enormous revenue these companies generate from all your labors. And then you have to think of the non-union members of CI’s production team…if all of you successful above the line types can’t get an additional sliver of the revenue pie, what will happen to lowly production assistants and mail room types who don’t have the strength to even form a union? So you must negotiate not only for yourselves but for everyone on the CI team.

So as you are out there pounding the pavement for what seems like paltry pennies today, know that you do have some power and leverage and you would be foolish not to use it. The other side clearly can be defeated if the world knows just how grasping and greedily the AMPTP members are behaving.

Please be assured that the word is getting out about how the AMPTP isn’t negotiating in good faith. All you writers need to do is refuse to accept any contract provisions that are unfair, to let others know how AMPTP members are behaving and to resolve to not agree to anything but that which is reasonable. If we CI fans can be of any assistance in reaching your goals, do not hesitate to contact us…we would be pleased and honored to help you all as you need it. It’s the least we can do.

You should also know that CI fans are reaching out to other shows’s fans and we too are organizing online to support you and to resist the propaganda that ridiculously tries to pin the sins of the AMPTP on the WGA. While few fans are highly educated or wealthy, they have enough experience and instincts to spot when someone slick and rich is trying to hustle them.

Here are some places you can go online for information and support from the masses:

The CI Writers Strike Thread at the USA Network CI Fan Forum (yes we’re wasting the network’s bandwidth coming up with ways to help you counter their greed and stupidity)
http://forums.usanetwork.com/index.php?showtopic=394870&st=19

Fans For The WGA CI Forum
http://fansforwga.ipbfree.com/index.php?showtopic=18

WGA_Supporters LiveJournal Community (it’s a multi-authored blog representing many fandoms)
http://community.livejournal.com/wga_supporters/

Fans4Writers (started by Joss Whedon’s fans but soon to be populated by other fandoms)
http://fans4writers.org/

Fans For The WGA (which covers 19 different TV show fandoms at this writing)
http://fansforwga.ipbfree.com/index.php?act=idx

There will be other sites added (I am planning some blog posts to my own blog and I am sure that other CI, Vincent D’Onofrio. Kathryn Erbe, Chris Noth and Law & Order and Homicide: Life On The Street related groups will be joining up to support you soon)

I’ve also already picked out a red fleece pullover to wear today and will be following up on this story like white on rice.

Good luck to you with your picketing and take heart in the knowledge that you are gaining momentum out there amongst rank and file TV fans. CI fans and others are behind you and doing whatever we can think of to ensure you succeed!

With heartfelt gratitude for everyone who works on CI and for every TV show writer and screenwriter.

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Stuff To Read: Why I’m Finally Going To Say Something Nice About Warren Leight

Music ‘One Day At A Time’ by The Knack

I know I bag on Warren Leight and the current crop of LO:CI writers pretty savagely and constantly lament the departure of Rene Balcer and his writing staff from LO:CI as a major turning point in the quality of my beloved show.

But I’ve got to hand it to Warren for really respecting the picket line and the WGA strike (even though it looks like once we hit the 11th episode of LO:CI this season a whole bunch of us are going to be jonesing for new Goren or Logan episodes).

As an intellectual property attorney who has seen the evil a ‘current or future media’ clause can visit upon an artist (this overreaching clause came from the music divisions of entertainment conglomerates and I saw more than a few artists suffer from not grasping its implications to their bottom lines), I say to the writers at LO:CI for goodness sake, strike hard against perpetual indentured servitude the MegaMediaCorporations(TM) Inc. want to imprison you in and all y’all deserve some revenue from the Internet downloading, the cell phone downloading as well as more than a pathetic four cents per DVD.

For the fans who are going to be going into withdrawal well may I remind them that back in 2001 the first season of LO:CI was delayed due to 9/11 and then all through the winter of 2002 we had to wait many many weeks to see new LO:CI episodes because of the nuisance of preemption by the 2002 Winter Olympics? Thanks to FOX syndication reruns, Bravo reruns, the first 3 seasons of LO:CI on DVD, Amazon downloads, plus whatever marathons USA Network chooses to run etc, well you won’t have to suffer as much as we dinosaur days fans did. You’ll live…trust me. Just take the hiatus one day at a time

Oh and huge kudos are going out to the LA Times for their WGA strike coverage and this article.

Warren Leight is grappling with his dual roles on LO:CI

“Grappling with his dual roles”
— Matea Gold LA Times Blog

“Warren Leight, executive producer and showrunner of USA’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” was wrestling with an issue facing many of his fellow showrunners on the picket line: how to juggle his competing duties as a writer and producer.

Last night, he finished one last tweak on the 10th episode of “Criminal Intent” and faxed it in right before the strike deadline. The script for Episode 11 is also done and will probably go into production before Thanksgiving. Though Leight won’t write another word until the strike is over, he may get called on for his input on editing and other responsibilities he has as a showrunner.

“I’m trying to figure it out,” said Leight, who says he won’t cross the picket line. “I think that’s a hugely complicated issue. I have to play every situation by ear. A lot of showrunners are grappling with that.”

Leight feels strongly that the writers were forced to strike. “They made us an offer we had to refuse,” he said of the studios. “My sense is they wanted it to come to this.

“In a sense, they managed to do the impossible: They brought writers together,” he added. “Look, it’s an ornery group. But we know what the stakes are. There’s remarkable unity between the guilds on both coasts, which has never been the case, and across different echelons of the guild. It’s unfortunate it’s come to this, but they’ve managed to create more unity in the writers guild than we’ve been able to do on our own in 30 years.”

Unlike the 1988 strike, this stoppage comes down to one clear issue for most writers, Leight said: “They know if they don’t stand up now out here, there will be no residuals in five to 10 years. It’s a one-issue strike.” ”

I don’t know how else I can support the striking writers except to say so right here on The Vault’s homepage and to maybe go rewatch VDO’s rants as the writer David Kahane in ‘The Player’ for inspiration (and ignoring the conclusion of the film). In real life the weasels of MegaMediaCorporations(TM) Inc. don’t always have to win.

If somebody wants to hook me up with a WGA T-shirt or a strike sign I’d happily accept them :)

Wow! VDO Vault Celebrates 36,000 Hits on VDO Photos on Flickr.com

Some of you out there must really be bored and/or like looking at VDO-related pictures on Flickr.

As of sometime during the morning of Tuesday August 14th 2007, the VDO Vault photo account at Flickr.com reached over 36,000 hits. This is a pretty big landmark considering the 35,000 mark was passed less than two weeks earlier.

This means that since I started a Flickr account back in January of 2005, approximately 2000 visits each month are registered there of people looking at photos of the collection. That works out to something over 60 views a day.

I don’t really pay close attention to the numbers of people visiting this blog, the audio files I maintain at musicwebtown.com or the videos I have posted to YouTube. This is probably because Flickr makes it comparatively easy for me to keep track of page views there (everytime I log in I see the statistics). But they are high enough that I figure someone other than me is amusing themselves with what I do. So I’ll keep doing what I’m doing and keep somebody besides myself pre-occupied.

Anyway yesterday in honor of the 36,000 milestone, I posted a several more photos of Japanese items in my collection. There is one whole new set of items to look at: Japanese movie programs (or more correctly their covers). That brings the total number of photos you can browse at Flickr to 938. If I get a little more motivated this month, I might shoot for bringing that total number of photos up to 1,000 (or more). Since it is summer though and most everyone is spending time outside, I have slowed up a bit, well, that and I have been staking my claim to some more Web 2.0 real estate for the VDO Vault ‘brand’ as well as vegging out a bit and enjoying the weather.

And FYI there’s been another 150 hits in one day at Flickr even though I’ve been really slow to get this blog entry written and posted!

Music to goof off by: ‘Foolin’ Around’ by Freddie Mercury

I’m Just Not Sure What To Believe Or Think Other Than Maybe I Should Watch Even *Less* TV

This post is kind of a thought piece and is only very tangentially related to VDO so you might want to move on if you’re were hoping for something more on point.

Last night ABC TV’s (in the USA) Primetime aired a piece on the actor Daniel Baldwin and his latest attempt to rehabilitate himself from his apparently very long-term addiction to cocaine. For whatever reasons, Daniel let the ABC cameras be turned on him while he spent several months in a $50,000 a month rehabilitation facility in Malibu California and also while he went through various criminal court proceedings on drug-related charges as well as him going on a movie location shoot. The ABC report also delved into his relationships with his family a little bit, especially mentioning Daniel’s also famous actor brothers.

For those who don’t know who Daniel is, he was one of the stars of the highly-regarded US TV series ‘Homicide: Life On The Street’. Daniel played Detective Beau Felton and left the show well before VDO did his Emmy-nominated guest appearance in the H:LOTS episode ‘The Subway’.

Felton was not a very popular character on Homicide. He was not meant to be pretty or brilliant or particularly likeable. But Daniel played Felton well, figuring out how to balance Felton’s repellant qualities and the character’s downward spiral with a sprinkling of humanity that would cause you to soften your initial negative judgment of his worth. That certainly takes some skill on the part of an actor and Daniel Baldwin proved he had the talent to find just the way to play that character.

I for one learned to like the Felton character enough to write a short piece of fan fiction a few years ago that would allow me to combine the Felton character and that of Ned Beatty’s perfectly archetypical cop Detective Stanley Bolander with Detectives Goren and Eames of Criminal Intent fame and play around with some ideas I had into what has turned out to be a not utterly embarassing piece of writing that lingers on the ‘net in the archive of the excellent peer-reviewed fan fiction site Apocrypha (for those who care to read it see “What It Feels Like For A Girl”).

Frankly of the four established characters I was writing for, Felton was the most difficult to make believable and consistent with what most Homicide fans would know about him and yet not appear as a simple strawman or too stereotypically the ‘bad boyish cop’. I don’t think I succeeded totally capturing the complexities of Felton but at some point you have to put an end to a story for it to be published. So you could say I carried the idea of Felton and my conceptions about around in my head for quite some time.

So it was with more than a little interest that I tuned into watch the Daniel Baldwin piece.

In that story I wrote of Felton:

“The younger man is somewhat burly and boyishly attractive, but Goren notes that excess is taking its toll on those inherent good looks and prematurely aging the man”.

You can imagine that my description pretty much fits Daniel Baldwin the man as much as and maybe more so than it fits Felton, especially as he appeared before ABC’s cameras.

At this point in the Primetime show I was utterly hooked into watching in the same way that I was initially hooked into watching VDO’s film ‘Guy’, the story of a relatively ordinary and average man who lets a strange woman filmmaker turn the camera on him to make her next movie. ‘Guy’ to me is a watershed moment in filmmaking not only because it predicts the rise of ‘reality’ television in our culture but because it plays around with the idea that the act of turning a camera on someone causes them to alter their personality and become someone other than they normally would be. Maybe this isn’t acting in the professional sense of the word but it could be called posing or persona building.

The thing that makes a movie like ‘Guy’ different from a ‘reality’ program like Primetime is that it is 100% clear to me that ‘Guy’ is a character being made by Vincent D’Onofrio and being masterfully fashioned into an utterly average guy trying to figure out on the fly who to be before a camera and in the process not only distorting his own identity but how he relates to the films few other characters. I can’t say enough good things about how brilliant D’Onofrio’s performance in ‘Guy’ is, how I am haunted by it when I think of it and how I find much more to thoughtfully consider in it every time I actually watch the film.

Anyhow the ‘Daniel Baldwin’ in front of the Primetime camera struck me as less of a real person and more of a character like ‘Guy’ as the camera rolled on. The TV program does give some glimpses of a person in real pain but there are also moments when we see Daniel trying out being an actor, trying out being a contrite defendant, trying out being a part of a family, trying out being religious. You are left at the end of the hour wondering how much of what you saw was due to drugs, how much was due to his fear of being incarcerated, how much was an actor trying to suss out what his audience wanted at any given moment and how much was the actual human being underneath all of the layered-on roles.

I looked at the comments on Primetime’s website after the broadcast and found that the comments about ‘Daniel Baldwin’ were very mixed but one comment lead me to what is purported to be Daniel’s MySpace page. I found the possibility of ‘Daniel Baldwin’ having a MySpace page both intriguing and repellant.

I should mention that a few years ago after an experience I had online at a Yahoo! group purporting to have had the actual Vincent D’Onofrio as one of its members that my opinion of celebrities who venture online into public fora and with no intermediation from others is inclined to be negative and mistrusting. You can read about my experiences elsewhere on my blog if you choose to (just search on ‘DASH’).

But given my viceral reaction to the similarities of Felton as I envisioned the character and the ‘Daniel Baldwin’ of Primetime, I felt compelled to go to the MySpace page. I went there not taking for granted the fact that the page’s author might not be the actor I have seen on fictional or ‘reality’ TV.

I have read every entry at ‘Daniel’s’ blog at MySpace and I can say that I am now more thoroughly concerned confused and repelled by what I saw. Again ‘DB’ or ‘Deebs’ as the author calls himself is by turns misogynistic, angry, despairing, flippant, profane, insecure, self-absorbed, meek, playful, despondent, conflicted and contradicts much of what was said in the Primetime program. If anything “Deebs” is far more villainous, self-destructive and frightening to me than I would have imagined the character Felton to be (and if you read my story you will see that I only have the Felton character drinking heavily, hitting on women while he is still married, and utilitizing the services of a prostitute). That confuses and bothers me in a way I cannot adequately express but I also accept that it is not up to me to do anything about it other than to not encourage “Deebs” to make a spectacle of himself.

If I were his lawyer I would demand that the MySpace page be taken down: If it is *the* Daniel Baldwin writing the page there are admissions that could be used against him in court (not to mention calls into question what was said before Primetime’s cameras) and if it isn’t some of what is said potentially defames a whole panoply of people. But the one thing that seeps through the entire MySpace blog is that there is a troubled person behind the writings even though the medium of a MySpace page further distorts the true identity of the author and may pile on some more roles, poses and personas that have to be stripped away from who ‘Daniel Baldwin’ and/or ‘Deebs’ truly is/are.

I only know that whoever all these people may be, they are beyond my very limited capacity to help them. I also have confirmed why as a rule I choose not to watch ‘reality’ television. Unlike my experience of the film ‘Guy’ where I know I am dealing with an invented premise and characters, with ‘reality’ programming, I don’t believe the picture represents reality anymore than Salvador Dali painted with absolute fidelity the world around us. If I want to ponder alternate realities I can choose a good piece of fiction like a Phillip K. Dick story or I can daydream.

But I fear for a world where this sort of ‘reality’ television and unfettered access to the well-known via the Internet is considered to be a healthy diversion or a legitimate form of entertainment.

Anyway if ‘Deebs’ or his people should stumble upon this blog post this song is for you and all the complexity within and around you. I hope for your sake and for those who know and love you that you have an ending at least as upbeat as the one Primetime wanted to attach to its report on you. I also hope that with what you’ve done on TV and online that if you can’t redeem yourself, you help one other person who is similarly situated.

Music: ‘The Beast In Me’ by Nick Lowe

Entertainment Professionals Sites: Meet Vincent D’Onofrio’s European Doppelganger

I have been working on adding links to the official websites of a lot of people who have worked on various projects with VDO to the blogroll at the right of this page and in doing some research I stumbled onto the website of László I. Kish.

I know you American fans are asking yourselves “who in the heck is László I. Kish” so check this out:

The resemblance is startling isn’t it? Other than the hair color of course…

László I. Kish is a Swiss actor who speaks many different languages, English, German and Italian being but three of them. László (who is only 2 years older than VDO) also writes and directs movies and you should watch his reel and his video clips at his website (the text is in German but I’ll walk you through this):

http://www.thekish.com/

Go click on the number “4 Galerie” at the bottom of his webpage to see László in his multilingual “Demotape” (click on the word “abspielen” (play) under it, it’s on the right hand side of the screen)

Does his acting style strike you as more than a little familiar (even when he’s not speaking English)?

How about his resemblance to a 1980s era Paul Masson commercial-appearing Orson Welles in the “Run Rabbit Run” videoclip (click on the word “abspielen” (play) under “Run Rabbit Run”?)

Or how about the many photos of László on both the Galerie (Gallery) and “5 Logbuch” (Log Book) pages, especially his ‘Dune” photos at the latter link (the photos are on the left edge of the page)?

So what is Kish’s connection to VDO?

László snuck under all our radar screens playing “Angus” the fisherman in “Salt On Our Skin”/”Desire”.

And here I though I was paying really good attention when I watch VDO’s movies. LOL!

Now I’ve simply got to figure out how to see the entirety of that short film “Run Rabbit Run”…what a great performance!

Music: ‘Gemini Dream’ by The Moody Blues

Fan Follies: The Debate/Smackdown At The ReelBlog

Whoa!

Reading the comments in the latest posts at TheReel seems to require a thick skin *plus* some extra protective padding…doesn’t matter if you’re a fan, a CI cast member or Dick Wolf (or a network executive/pinhead).

From the innocuous sounding post entitled Contest:Find The Emmy

comes this pithy comment that has me laughing louder than what people are saying about a certain nameless celebutard and jailbird (although the people who have called her one of the ‘Three Bimbos Of The Apocalypse’ have both my bemusement and my utmost respect for their cleverness)

“Right now, I’d like to soundly beat Dick Wolf and the NBC money-men over the head with an Emmy…” -Diane

Oh and if the comments to a post entitled No-raise offer irks “Criminal Intent” stars doesn’t leave you feeling a little emotionally jostled, you’re either a robot or you really *don’t* care about LO:CI.

I’d say the fan sentiment over what will happen to CI, its cast, its crew, and its creative direction is far from unified and *very* touchy right about now.

Tread cautiously everyone.

Music ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ by Nick Lowe

Bonus cut ‘Go Insane’ by Lindsey Buckingham

The Negotiations Saga: The Sequel: They’re Back…All *Three* Of Them…

Music with a coded message: ‘Wrapped Around Your Finger’ by The Police

Bonus message/track: ‘Your Latest Trick’ by Dire Straits

…you can color me a little surprised but these days I guess any paycheck is better than no paycheck, and (maybe?) mediocre scripts are better than no scripts even (especially?) in an industry as arbitrary as the entertainment industry

Here’s hoping they clean house on the show runner/writing/ creative side of things at LO:CI to *improve* the downward spiral that was Season 6

I seriously doubt that will happen (because chances are to do that *properly* also costs money) but one can always hope and dream, can’t one?

Hollywood Reporter Article Link:http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/content_display/news/e3i74b211e4087bceb965f9b4ed0eddf42c

“‘CI’ stars returning without raises
By Nellie Andreeva

June 9, 2007

Good intentions have prevailed in the salary dispute between the stars and producers on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

Sources said Vincent D’Onofrio, Chris Noth and Kathryn Erbe all agreed Friday to return to the series next season without a raise. Wolf Films and NBC Universal TV Studio had set a Friday 5 p.m. deadline for them to accept the offer. (HR 6/8)

The actors are said to be disappointed because leads on returning series get at least 5% salary increase every year. In the end, it came down to wanting to come back to the show and understanding the financial strain posed by the series’ move from NBC to USA Network next season, sources said. (Repeats of the show will air on NBC.)

It’s belt-tightening time on the “Law & Order” franchise. Sources indicated that below-the-line crews members are taking 5% to 10% pay cuts next season.

Reps for Wolf Films and NBC Uni TV declined comment Friday.”