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The Crack of Dawn
The Crack of Dawn
I don’t think that everything happens for the best — it just happens — and whatever it is, that’s what’s happened, and you deal with it. In my youthful dream of taking Hollywood by storm it never occurred to me for a second that I might spend the next 25 years struggling and not make it. The reality is that I simply had to redefine “make it.” As I recently mentioned, while I was making my first feature, TSNKE, in 1984, I was interviewed by the local TV show, PM Magazine. When asked what my goal was, I calmly and rationally replied, “Francis Coppola has five Oscars; I want six.” As I said before, after the interview Sam Raimi informed me that what I’d just said was, “the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
A mere four years later, Sam and I were both camping out in the garage of his rickety, unstable rental house that clung precariously to the side of a hill in Silver Lake. He had sublet the house to Joel and Ethan Cohn and their girlfriends, Fran McDormand and Holly Hunter, all of whom would soon win Oscars. Alas, Sam and I never did win any Oscars.
So, I never “made it” to the extent of winning Oscars. Nor did I even make it to the extent of directing movies for the Hollywood studios. I did direct a bunch of TV shows and three TV movies for Universal, so I came close. I’ve got to believe that making a low-budget feature film for Universal is a lot like making a TV movie for them, only more expensive, with more risk, and therefore, a lot more pressure (and just as a note, “low-budget” in Hollywood, as per the Screen Actors Guild, is any film under sixty million dollars). Even with the limited perspective that I have, I can’t imagine what it’s like doing what my childhood friend, Sam Raimi, has done, meaning direct extremely expensive movies for Hollywood studios. When you’re spending $250,000,000 of Universal or Columbia or Paramount’s money – that’s a quarter of a billion dollars, folks – the pressure is so intense it’s beyond my meager comprehension. A day of shooting on Xena was, I believe, about $125,000 in U.S. currency. Every day of shooting Dr. Strange cost a couple of million dollars! Every fucking day! Sam said he had 86 days of shooting. At two million a day you’re up to $182 million, without post.
The thought of it gives me a knot in my stomach. Not only can Sam handle it, but he’s also done it quite a few times. Three Spider Mans, Oz and Dr. Strange. I bow before his ability, and I know for a fact that I don’t have that in me. There is absolutely no way I could handle that kind of shit. To live through whatever Disney put Sam through – and he certainly didn’t confide in me – on Oz the Great and Powerful (2013), wouldn’t have killed me; it would have caused me to get fired or quit early on, long before production began.
What am I saying? I’m saying that Hollywood is the place where your best friend stabs you in the face. Sadly, I didn’t think up that line. After leaving L.A. for the sixth time, my assessment was that Hollywood’s claim to fame was that it had more assholes per-square-inch than anywhere else of earth.
I like Bill Maher and I’ve watched damn near every episode of Real Time for the past 22 years. He and I are generally in accord, though certainly not always (he doesn’t like Bob Dylan? I say, “Fuck your hip-hop and grow up, Bill”). Anyway, Bill is smart. Smarter than your average bear. While all the rest of Hollywood is on strike – as Bill personally is as a Writer’s Guild member – and his show, Real Time, is off the air, he has another “show,” which isn’t a show, it’s really a “podcast” – Club Random – which is unscripted, and therefore unaffected by the strike. Anyway, Bill is getting some heat from a recent comment he made to Jim Gaffigan. He showed very little solidarity or empathy for his fellow striking WGA members, saying, “They think Hollywood owes them a living. It doesn’t.” He’s right, of course, and I’d like to add, “and it never did.” This is a standard, old/young issue that really doesn’t matter. It’s simply this – most of the WGA and SAG members that are marching around on strike are 25-45 years old, and honestly think that the generation before them had it easy. They say shit like, “Back in the ‘60s you’d get on something like I Dream of Jeannie for 26 episodes, and you could live a decent life and pay your bills.”
That motherfucker is dreaming. It’s true that if you’re on the production crew, and you get an entire season of a show, you can pay your bills. But the writer is not on the crew. You’re a writer, try reading the credits. Writing credits change every week. And those WGA writers were clawing each other’s eyes out to get as many episodes as they could. Rare is the show that has the same writer two weeks in a row. Scripts are too hard and take longer than a week to write. If you’re going put out 26 episodes, you have to have a number of writers. The only guy who could pull that shit off was Rod Serling, who wrote about 90 of the 150 episodes of Twilight Zone. But that was back when you could get really excellent Dexedrine. Thus, Serling lived to the ripe-old age of 50.
The point is that not only does Hollywood not owe you a living, or an Oscar, it doesn’t even want you there. I concluded that it hated me, and every other creative person there. The business side of Hollywood, which is Hollywood, hates the talent, and wishes they could somehow be replaced. But what could possibly replace the uncooperative talent?
Uh . . .
As Bill Burr said, and I entirely misquote, once they’ve got the cute Japanese girl in a plaid skirt fuck robots worked out – cute girls who will fuck you, get you a beer, then happily sit with you and watch the game – that’s the end of sex with human women, thus the end of the human race.
If a robot makes a better, cheaper car, and people buy it, nobody gives a shit about the humans who lost their jobs. If AI makes a better, cheaper script – and people buy it – nobody gives a shit about the Writer’s Guild members who lost their jobs. However, if the people don’t buy it, and actually demand better product, then AI has to get in line with the rest of us.
It’s ultimately up to the audience.
P.S. I like Denzel Washington a lot. He deserves better than Equalizer III. If humans actually wrote that, they should be worried.