Thursday, January 28, 2010

Organizing New Animated Series

David Spade is getting into animation.

TBS is partnering with David Spade to develop an animated version of his film "Joe Dirt."

The pilot script deal calls for the comic actor, Sony Pictures Television and Happy Madison Prods. to collaborate on a series following a "mullet-sporting, muscle-car-loving loser with a heart of gold." ... This marks TBS' third animated project following Fox TV and DreamWorks' "Neighbors from Hell," and Lionsgate and Olive Prods.' "Good and Evel." ...

I've noticed of late that there is a lot of new product being made out there, some of it under a TAG contract, a bunch of it not.

For instance, when Sony was doing Sit Down, Shut Up last year, they didn't bother to send it to their in-house animation studio Sony Adelaide, but shipped it to Rough Draft, where it was done under a union contract reserved for some but not all of the jobs Rough Draft (Glendale) does stateside.

The last couple of years, Rough Draft has done the fine Fox/News Corp. animated series Futurama non-union, even as the writers and actors on that show were protected with WGA and SAG contracts.

How can this be?

The answer is sad yet simple. Rough Draft has its "union" and "non-union" sides, so that it can sub-contract work from the entertainment conglomerates under a variety of banners. "Non union" if they've got lower budgets; "union" if they've got higher budgets or some of the work is being done under a TAG agreement elsewhere (you can't split payroll on a project without getting into legal trouble. The work has to be on the union or non-union side of the fence; you can't be on both sides at once.)

Just now, there's a variety of work being done for the conglomerates around and about town: non-union Wild Brain, down from San Francisco, has been doing a Peanuts project tied to Time-Warner without benefit of a TAG contract, and they will shortly (my spies tell me) be doing a Habro project; the non-union facility Bento Box is doing Neighbors From Hell (a joint Fox and DreamWorks Animation project) and could soon be doing Bob's Burgers, yet another project from Fox/News Corp.

All of these television spectaculars have lots of TAG members working on them, and none pay TAG pension and health benefits, because no company has much interest in paying more money when they can get away with paying less. It's the way capitalism, even the pseudo-capitalism practiced in this country, generally works.

Unless and until the artists working at these places decide they want more rather than less, lower benefits and wages are what they'll get.

Happily, of late I've gotten a number of phone calls from pissed off artists who are not happy to be working without benefit of contract. Said one:

"You know, DreamWorks has brought in a bunch of artists to work on this project we're doing, they've got DreamWorks executives serving as producers, and we're all sitting here working unpaid overtime and getting skim milk benefits. Where are the rep cards?"

(Full disclosure: I gave him some cards.)

To let you know, we are presently working to organize a number of studios sub-contracting work from the majors. I always say: "Everyone works for the Big Boys anyway, you might as well get Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Benefits while you're doing it." Whether we get enough representation cards ... and enough support ... to nudge these various job shops into signing TAG agreements remains to be seen.

But we're working on it. And we'll keep you informed about what's going on.


rufus said...

Miramax R.I.P.


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