How Private Equity Ate Hollywood

Apropos of the current WGA-ATA conflict (What? You thought we’d forgotten about it? No such luck), an analysis of what happened, how, and why, from a source that doesn’t even have a horse in this race. (Who’d a’thunk?)


Note: This pic wasn’t published with the original article. We chose the sensationalist approach because, hey, that’s us, you know?

by David Dayen

Hollywood is smoldering this week, after the 13,000 members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) prepared to fire their agents, the upshot of the termination of a 43-year-old agreement between the union and the Association of Talent Agents trade group. On Saturday, the WGA ordered members to part ways with agents who didn’t subscribe to a revised code of conduct, which rank-and-file writers approved with 95.3 percent support. The form lettersinforming agents of their firing, which well-known writers have been posting on Twitter, will be delivered later this week.

This isn’t a strike or lockout; as much as you might like your favorite television shows to pause to catch up on your DVR, they will in all likelihood continue with minimal disruption. But the battle between writers and agents represents another example of the monopolization and financialization of our economy, and how organized, unified workers can fight back. While the lead antagonists on the stage are talent agents, the villains behind the scenes are private equity firms.

The WGA laid this out in a remarkable report last month, showing how institutional investors—mainly private equity—have bought into the three largest talent agencies, to the tune of billions of dollars. These three agencies—Creative Artists Agency (CAA), William Morris Endeavor (WME), and United Talent Agency (UTA)—are responsible for 70 percent of WGA members’ earnings.

Private equity firm TPG Capital now has a 53 percent stake in CAA, investing $340 million in the agency. Another $100 million in investment comes from a consortium of Chinese and Singaporean sovereign wealth funds and the telecommunications firm Taiwan Mobile. Silver Lake Partners, another private equity firm, has invested $750 million in WME, with another $1.8 billion in WME equity stakes passed around to the sovereign wealth funds of Saudi Arabia and Singapore, a Canadian pension fund, Chinese investor Tencent, Japanese fund SoftBank, and more. UTA gave a 40 percent stake to the private equity firm Investcorp and Canadian pension fund PSP Investments for $200 million last August.

Previously, these organizations were partnerships under the control of the agents themselves; today, “the top three agencies now operate under the pressure of private-equity-level profit expectations,” the report explains.

That translates into an affinity for something known as “packaging” fees, direct payments from studios to talent agencies as a kind of commission for employing their clients. “Packaging” is a bit of a misnomer, as even one client of an agency can trigger this studio fee. The WGA estimates that about 90 percent of the 2016-2017 television season’s scripted programs were packaged. WME earned $138 million from packaging fees in 2013 alone, according to financial statements.

Clients do not share in these packaging fees, though the fees substitute for the agent’s usual 10 percent commission. However, packaging fees are considered part of the budget of a television or film production, and can stretch into the millions of dollars. That means that the agent is bartering with the studio over a fee that comes out of the same pot of money as the writer’s pay….

Read it all at prospect.org

Why Most “Normal” People Don’t Understand Writers

We love Lou Stone Borenstein for two reasons:

  1. He’s funny as hell.
  2. He’s fucking crazy.

For example, how about this video “for every introvert skeptical of the advice out there and every extrovert wondering what introverts are so scared of, and everybody in between”:

More videos from the Lou Man

Curtis Comic Strip Analyzes TV…

And finds TV just as wanting as the rest of us do:

Found on the interwebs

Savanna College of Art & Design Wants Full Time Film & TV Professor

This looks like something LB should do. (He won’t, but he should):

Professor of Film and Television

Campus Location: Savannah
Position Type: Full Time
Position Title Professor of Film and Television
Specialty: Film and Television
Category:
Work Year: Academic Year
Posting Text SCAD film and television students mirror professional production practices of the industry as they collaborate with university’s other programs in dramatic writing, production design, performing arts, sound design, visual effects and more. The compelling and powerful visual stories of SCAD students capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences at festivals around the world, including the Tribeca Film Festival, Sundance, Cannes, SXSW and more. SCAD student filmmakers have been recognized by The Television Academy Foundation numerous times, including the 2017 Student Emmy Award for Best Scripted Series for the university’s live-action comedy, The Buzz.

You have an opportunity to join SCAD as a film and television professor in Savannah, a city booming with film and television productions. Immersed in a creative studio environment with resources and technology rivaling professional productions, your knowledge and professional guidance will help students continue SCAD’s award-winning tradition. Ideal candidates should have credited professional experience in film and television productions, including specializations in preproduction, production and/or postproduction.

Thanks in part to the state’s lucrative tax incentives for film and television productions, Georgia was named the No. 1 global filming location — possessing more top 100 feature films released at the domestic box office in 2016 than any other place in the world. With movies and TV shows constantly filming throughout the state, productions continue to find film-ready crews comprised of SCAD students and alumni, many of whom work on real productions long before graduation.

Named among the best small cities in the U.S by Condé Nast Traveler and listed by the Moviemaker Magazine as one of the best small cities to live and work as a moviemaker, Savannah offers an inviting climate and a culturally rich downtown, providing a real-world workshop for the study of art and design. The university blends seamlessly into the Savannah landscape and provides students with a dynamically layered learning environment in which to thrive.

Requirements:
• Master’s degree or its equivalent in film and television or a related field
• Portfolio or demo reel
• Production experience and credit listings on recognizable movies and television shows
• University-level teaching experience preferred

Posting Date:
Closing Date:
Open Until Filled Yes
ADA TAG To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed are representative of the knowledge, skill, and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.
Special instructions to applicants: Note: Only complete packages will be considered. An unofficial transcript of your highest degree awarded, cover letter, and resume or CV, and portfolio are required.

Applicant Documents

Required Documents

  1. Resume
  2. Cover Letter/Letter of Interest
  3. Unofficial Transcripts
  4. Portfolio

Optional Documents

  1. Other Document

Supplemental Questions

Required fields are indicated with an asterisk (*).

More info about SCAD

THE SNOW CAKE

LB’s NOTE: Some people really know how to live. Others know how to tell us about life. Leslie Coff is one of the rare ones who does both. Simultaneously, even:

by Leslie Coff

We had the house on the hill.

Years ago, when we lived in Atlanta, our house was that corner house — and because of that hill, when we would get our annual two inches of snow (that would of course melt the next day), it was to our house that all the neighborhood kids would come to sled.

We had sleds, you see. Having moved from The North – St. Louis — we were fully equipped for the annual twenty-four hours of ‘hard winter’.

My husband and I would wake early, seeing that the storm had come and quickly did an inventory of our kitchen: was there enough hot cocoa for at least two dozen? And what other goodies were to be had?

And if they were to be had — could I make them into something wonderful?

Over the years, at dawn, I would make brownies, cupcakes, using any and all ingredients that I could find, knowing there would be fun and fabulous children who arrive — and over time would be cold and hungry from sledding on our hill.

One year, in my pantry, I found flour, eggs, gummy bears, applesauce, orange juice, pudding, powdered sugar. Knowing what I know of kitchen chemistry (or not!) I combined it all, poured it into a roasting pan and — (tada!) — snow cake.

By ten in the morning the kids began to arrive. Sledding on our “northern” sleds, on their makeshift sleds, on their bottoms, laughing and shouting and calling, they were a sight to see.

We loved every minute.

After about an hour they began to pile into my house. At least a dozen pairs of socks now going round and round in my dryer, followed by at least a dozen pair of wet pants..

The legs associated with such pants were covered in our pajamas, our sweatpants….now sitting at the long kitchen table, sipping cocoa, eating snow cake.

Laughing.

It was, perhaps the best cake I had ever made. And accidentally. Our guests were beyond happy.

The cheeks and noses were red: theirs.

The eyes were shining: ours

The magic of the Atlanta snows lasted only one day — and some years they didn’t come at all.

But they were a window into a wonderful world: the world of children and their excitement, their fullness, their energy.

Since those years the kids have scattered, in fact, we scattered and moved to the Real North where snow lasts for months.

Last year, one of the young men died accidentally.

I flew back for the funeral. I found them all, all those little faces, red and shining…

Now in grace and grief.

They were the same little people whose snowy socks went around and around my dryer.

But older now.

Sobered by life — and loss.

But those years we shared of the magical snows were something to behold.
Memorialized by the memory of life — and a cake made from applesauce, gummy bears and pudding.


Leslie Coff writes and makes all manner of Snow Cakes, now in Madison, Wisconsin. This post first appeared on one of the most honest places on the interwebs – Leslie’s blog