Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Calloused Hollywood Princes

As I stumble along the narrow goat path of my so-called career, I keep getting smacked in the face about how fungible the lower orders are considered to be by Tinseltown's hierarchy. And part of me is always surprised ... or shocked ... or disheartened.

I'm finally catching onto the fact that a small corner of my psyche is going to be naive and doltish in perpetuity, no matter how many industry depravities I witness. Which is surprising, because as a college student a hundred years ago I used to listen to a veteran Hollywood screenwriter (Niven Busch), describe Hollywood's abrupt firings and dismissals in gruesome detail, so it's not like I don't know it's part of the ongoing culture. And yet...

I got ticked when a Warners exec laid off dozens of artists after assuring them "We've got plenty of work." (This was in the first half of the nineties, when I was still a starry-eyed romantic) ...

I was surprised when Tom Schumacher cut hundreds of Disney staffers loose after assurances that "everyone's job were safe" (Even though I was more battle-hardened by then) ...

I had a bad reaction when David Stainton told John Musker and Ron Clements "We're just an anchor around your feet" as he was laying them off.

And over the past few weeks, when board artists and directors told me about the write-ups and dismissals after years of service, I still found the bile rising in a sour column in the back of my throat, even as I thought: "Yeah, there it is again." One artist was particularly poignant:

"You know, I never moonlighted. The other guys took outside jobs but I gave them 100%, didn't take outside work. And a few weeks after I got dismissed, an exec called and said: 'I feel a little bad about this. I'm not sure we did the right thing letting you go, but we can't undo it now...'

The only remarkable thing about the above is that somebody called and admitted to second thoughts, even though nothing changed. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the Hollywood elite clings to John Wayne's edict in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon:

"Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness."

And yes, this sort of thing goes on so frequently and with such regularity that it's almost not worth posting about. Almost.


Cathlin said...

So that's where that "mantra" came from. I always wondered. How much damage this attitude has done.

Further proof that it pays to save a little when times are good.

Anonymous said...

I was never a fan of John Wayne. Now, I'm not impressed with those who find JW to be a role model.


Anonymous said...

So true. Not to mention there were a ton of more layoffs at WBA the other day. No news on that?

Anonymous said...

"I was never a fan of John Wayne. Now, I'm not impressed with those who find JW to be a role model."

Fan of JW or not I doubt he personally wrote the ""Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness" line . JW was an actor for hire and didn't write, direct, or produce She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.

It's a line said by a fictional character in a movie. Whether or not John Wayne personally espoused that ethic is not for me to say.

But I agree that it really is too bad that most Hollywood execs seem to have adopted it as a personal code of conduct.

Steve Hulett said...

Wayne speaks the line as Nathan Brittles, a veteran cavalry officer.

Ironically, the Brittles character is a pretty good guy in this John Ford film. And the line is actually -- in the context of the story -- a semi-ironic refrain that Brittles uses more than once.

Anonymous said...

Can one ask--where are all these layoffs happening? What division of Where?

I guess I should be darned happy I don't know(yet).

Anonymous said...

WBA just laid off about 20 or so more people on Monday. Well they were give their 20 day notice. And it appears more are to come.

Anonymous said...

WBA had 20 people left to lay off?!?!?

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