Category: film

In late 2008 I wrote an article about some of Hollywood’s most powerful and influential A-List actors opposing their own guild’s vote to strike in its ongoing negotiation with the AMPTA (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers).

Now I present the other side of the argument by way of several videos featuring well-known actors including Elliot Gould, Rob Schneider and Martin Sheen strongly arguing for a YES from fellow guild members on the vote to strike.

Rob Schneider revealing how FOX TV plans to broadcast reruns exclusively online and not on TV airwaves (but without paying actors their current royalty/residuals rate, but instead only 3% of that for online play)

Elliot Gould makes an emphatic appeal and argument in favor of SAG moving to strike as he explains the media wash employed by the AMPTA to control the perception of the actor’s fight for a fair deal.

And Diane Ladd:

And Martin Sheen:

And me, Keram, who has been a professional actor for almost 30 years and who has given seminars and been invited to speak at conferences about the arts and new media can strongly state that SAG has my full support in moving to strike if it should require it.  The AMPTA claims that it needs time to understand and assess its online broadcast strategies and will be willing to renegotiate in three years.

That’s what they said about DVDs and it never happened.

Presently, the broadcasters are already streaming their programs, even the newest episodes in high-resolution, full screen, online and forcing the viewer to watch 15 second ads at regular commercial breaks, and yet they do not feel that actors should receive the same royalties (or in some cases, any at all) for these presentations.

SAG represents some 150,000 actors nationwide of which roughly 2% earn the majority of the money.  When one considers that the top 1% is earning twenty million dollars per picture, then it clarifies that the remaining percentile are not necessarily slouches, but they are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and people who contribute to society and work many other jobs.  The idea that actors live some sort of fantasy life or that they would want to strike out of greed is a gross misrepresentation of the reality.

The concern that many actors presently share about the downturn in the economy and California’s massive financial crisis making it a bad time to strike must remember that the renegotiation of this contract has been known for several years and the possibility of a strike has already slowed work for as long.  My feeling is – we are here, lets get it over with: thinking that delaying this for another three years will suddenly create confidence in the production landscape seems absurd – the only thing we will lose is the momentum and bargaining position.  As cinematographer Steve Gainer said on my podcast (and I am paraphrasing here) – do what we have to do, but let’s just get it sorted out so we can all move forward.  I agree – once a fair deal is struck we can just go back to making movies, television and online content and not suffer from the concern of mounting a production that could fall apart as the result of a looming strike.

So if you read this and are an actor or have dialogues with people who have the ability to vote on this, consider both positions but recognize that the time to get this deal done is now and the the guild needs the support of its members.

Crumb documentary by Terry ZwigoffCrumb – Dir: Terry Zwigoff

This is the film that first made me hyper-conscious of self-imposed, voluntary corporate branding as illustrator Robert Crumb observes that “these days” everyone is walking around wearing t-shirts and clothing advertising one company or another.  But the effects of this film cast a far wider net than mere corporate aversion.

Crumb is a complex man from a complex family; his two elder brothers are geniuses in their own right but each is also more mentally disturbed than the next which leads me to wonder, in this case with much greater emphasis than normal, whether it is the the anomalies and deviations from what is considered a “healthy, normal” mind that give rise to great art or whether it is the life of an artist that give rise to mental instability.  Of course there is no definitive answer but this film’s utterly deviant subjects underline that the two are hardly mutually exclusive. Required viewing.

In the Realms of the Unreal - documentary by Jessica YuIn the Realms of the Unreal – The Mystery of Henry Darger – Dir: Jessica Yu

Continuing on this theme of mental instability and visionary creativity, here we have as our subject an ascetic, anti-social man about whom even his lifelong neighbors knew very little.

A janitor and avid church-goer, no one knew, until he was moved to a convalescent home in his final weeks on Earth, that in his single apartment he had written a fifteen-thousand page fantasy novel with profoundly complex and beautiful illustrations wherein all the young girls who were the subjects of his very innocent-spirited magnum opus (and even that is understatement) had penises – more than likely because he didn’t know better.  The study of his work is a study of how the mind attempts to heal it wounds – Darger was sent to boarding schools and even a sanitarium in his childhood – all of which he works out in the course of his book.

Rivers and Tides - a documentaryRivers and Tides – Dir: Thomas Riedelsheimer

This documentary about nature-artist Andy Goldsworthy will, unequivocally change your life. using only things found in the natural world, he synchronizes himself with the patterns found in the world and ultimately finds a way to render found objects in a manner that pursues and underlines their energy.

Not only is it a fitting introduction to this extraordinary soul, but Fred Frith’s score perfectly punctuates this delicate process throughout.

Highly recommended. Beautiful beyond belief.

Surfwise - documentary by Doug PraySurfwise: The Amazing True Odyssey of the Paskowitz Family – Dir: Doug Pray

Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz is another man who turned his back on the conventions of society and decided to raise his nine children in a dilapidated RV, teaching them what he felt were the true values and virtues of life.  An expert surfer, and Stanford-educated physician who was head of the medical association in Hawaii, Paskowitz’ extraordinarily liberal views manifested different results in each of his children.  Living on a strict organic food regimen and making do with as little money as possible, this is a study in what it might mean to live virtually off the grid, for better or worse, and whether or not that is any longer possible.

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill - a documentary by Judy IrvingThe Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill – Dir: Judy Irving

Concerning the life of homeless musician Mark Bittner who befriends a wild flock of stray parrots that live in San Francisco city proper.  What begins with a seemingly innocuous birdseed hobby becomes a life unto itself and he transforms into a kind of Francis of Assissi to this displaced, growing flock.  He conjectures the flock began as a group of runaway pets that found each other and eventually began breeding in the wild.  Mark champions them when public outcries by environmentalists to exterminate them so as to ensure the stability of the local ecosystem take on City Hall.  This film teaches a lot more than birdkeeping, however, as it observes what dynamics may unfold when we open our arms and our hearts to realities of the present and the abundance that exists in our ever changing world.