Sunday, March 11, 2007

More About Lists of Dark Hue

"Never let that s.o.b. back in here ever again. Unless we need him."

-- Jack L. Warner, studio head

Bouncing around the studios these past few days, I ran across a CG supervisor at one of the bigger studios who mentioned he'd been following the Blacklist thread. From his experience, he doesn't think there is a lot of blacklisting, and had an interesting take (which I'm paraphrasing):

If you've got good job skills and a personality that isn't totally Neanderthal, you should do okay. I knew somebody at an effects house that was terminated, and within a short time he'd been rehired by the effects studio four more times. Because they needed him. In fact, I think they hired him off their own "bad" list. He was a known quantity to them, and they knew he could do the job.

As the supe told me this, I thought of a longtime Disney employee who was cut loose by management some years ago. I was a novice union rep then. The exec I was dealing with said: "This person is awful. Horrible. Nobody can deal with him. He's never coming back here! Never!"

Can't get more blunt than that, right? The guy's career was over, finished, kaput. At least at Disney. But because the artist had worked for the Mouse House a long time, and because the employee was "never coming back," I managed to pry a few thousand dollars out of Disney's corporate fingers as it threw him out the door.

And what do you know? Within the space of four years, the person had been rehired for lengthy projects at Disney Company three different times.

Now, how could that happen, since the guy was horrible and nobody could deal with him? Easy. The artist was very good at what he did. And the studio had a need for his services. Those two things trumped the temper and withering sarcasm that put a lot of people off.

Thirty years ago, I interviewed James Garner (the actor) for a magazine article. Garner told me that after he sued Warner Bros. to get out of his Maverick contract, Jack Warner tried to stop him from working at other studios. Garner told me that for a while, he couldn't get arrested, and paid his bills doing regional theatre where nobody cared what Jack Warner thought.

So how did James Garner's career get going again? "The Mirisch Brothers hired me for a couple of pictures," Garner told me. "They weren't intimidated by Jack Warner, and they liked what I did, so they hired me. But if not for them, I don't know what would have happened."

It didn't hurt that one of those pictures turned out to be a blockbuster entitled The Great Escape, and suddenly James Garner was in demand again.

The point here is, it's tough to get blacklisted when you have skills that studios want and need. Politically blacklisted writers like Dalton Trumbo couldn't create screenplays using their actual names, but movie producers who valued their talent still employed them (under pseudonyms and, admittedly, lower rates of pay.)

So what has all this taught me the last fifteen or thirty years? That you can't get blacklisted if:

* You are really, really good at what you do, and there is a demand for what you do.

* You aren't a knuckle dragger (which you probably aren't, otherwise you wouldn't be really really good at what you do.)

* You haven't killed somebody.


RedDiabla said...

Dang, I guess I should rename my blog.

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