Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Managing Creatives

Okay, so where am I?

I'm still recovering from the red carpet at the Oscars. Every year, for seven straight years, the photographers pit takes a little more from me. This year I may have brought back the flu bug from either the hundred or so camera clickers or the one of the beautiful people who lined the frenzied madness of the 9Oscars Red Carpet. I mean take a look at this:

In this time after awards season, I reflect on the year ahead and the year behind me for a strategic gut check. It's important to self reflect and make sure the you keep rowing your boat in the right direction. Age has its advantages, but complacency it often the plague that diverts you from your goals. I like to circle a huge goal and assess my talents. The last couple of years netted me some great accomplishments: lots of gold and silver statues (read some of the 2016 and 2017 columns for details), some brushes with getting the Media Guy Struggles script made into a pilot (close but no cigar), and a fourth book published (pretty good). This year I'm gunning to complete the framework of a documentary I've been eyeing for a few years. I'm not sure it will be as good as Icarus or Heaven Is a Traffic Jam on the 405, but go big or go home.

I used to know I was great at a few things, namely being able to create great ad campaigns and crafting superior media buys. This still applies today, but after careful reflection, I realized my greatest talent was politics. Not the House of Cards style politics, but the kind it takes to managing creatives and all of the drama that surrounds them. Come to think of it, the process of managing creatives extends to employees that are high performers and high potentials.

In my younger days, I was very totalitarian with a "my way or the highway" approach to managing, but today I like to say: “teams made up of diverse members who are open to taking each others' perspective perform most creatively.” I guess that's when totalitarianism meets socialism. Laugh all you want but look at my staffs for the last twentysomething years and you see one thing: low staff overturn and massive productivity.

Back in the day, I wanted everything done in a few minutes. That didn't work then and it doesn't work today. I think I finally realized that watching an episode of Mad Men where Don Draper defended his creatives to new management calling them out for being lazy:
“You came here because we do this better than you, and part of that is letting our creatives be unproductive until they are.”
So simple, and yet it pretty much says it all when it comes to effective talent management for creative people. Let them be unproductive until they are. A very difficult pill for task-oriented managers to swallow, but an absolutely crucial prescription for the creative potential.

So for those stuck on how to get the most out of your creative team, keeping them happy and motivated, let's drill down a little bit more.

The Creative Workplace

Having a creative workplace is critical to great work. I mean some agencies or departments really go to town with central meeting spaces looking more like a spoiled teenager’s bedroom with big screen televisions, PS4s, pool tables, and Slurpee machines. This where staff emerge from their office to unwind, brainstorm, bounce ideas off each other while bouncing racquet balls off the wall. Does this mean the creatives are a bunch of immature lunkheads who play all day and get very little work done? Maybe. But I say let them be unproductive until they are. The math of it all usually works out and the clients are always more than happy with the results no matter how hard they fight the process.

Employees need a work environment that inspires their creativity. This can sometimes be as simple as positive performance appraisal or by giving them the right personal music to listen to. Daydreams and pie-in-the-sky ideas produce the best inspiration because we are relaxed, calm, out from under the weight of managerial pressures.

The right colors, lighting, furniture, all have tremendous impact on our moods, energy, productivity, and creative ideas are often a reflection of the mood we are in. This is why a lot of musicians prefer to live in darkness, as it helps them tap into their anger and sadness to create some of those head banging or tear jerking songs.

Motivating the Creatives

Creatives are not paid huge salaries, and yet we often work into the evenings and over the weekends to meet important deadlines. But why would anyone do anything if the cash isn’t there? It has been proven again and again that creative people are not motivated by money. For simple tasks, yes. You offer a cash bonus to the employee who can lick the most stamps, and watch as the tongues start to fly! But offer the same incentive to whoever creates the best jingle for your company’s new cereal, and you’ll get some really lousy jingles.
“People will be most creative when they feel motivated primarily by the interest, satisfaction, and challenge of the work itself, not by external pressures.” 
The Public Relations Society of America did a survey where they asked, “What matters most to you about your job?” If this were an Olympic event, money would have gone home empty-handed. Challenge and responsibility, flexibility, and a stable work environment took gold, silver and bronze respectfully, leaving money in fourth place. In fact, nine out of the top ten answers were about the work itself, the work environment, and the people they work with.

No one is given a bonus for impressing the pants off their clients with incredible ad campaign ideas. But they all beamed with pride for having worked so hard and would celebrate whenever their creativity was rewarded with a simple “Good job, the client loved it.

Be Like Garbo

Creatives work their best when there is no one hovering over them, micromanaging their every move. They like to feel autonomous, like their own boss, independent and without distraction. This can be very difficult in an open office environment, where anyone can just walk up to you and ask you a question, or where you can hear conversations happening right next to you, or constantly getting bombarded with emails and instant messages. When creatives aren’t working together to brainstorm ideas, they need to be left alone.

Want to crush someone’s creativity? Get them to fill out a progress report before they’ve finished a project. Not only will this interrupt the process, but it will make them feel watched, managed, stifled.

This is not to say that creative people don’t respect deadlines, they very much do so, but they don’t need managers on their shoulders every step of the way. They want to channel their inner Greta Garbo ("I want to be alone.")

Of course not all interaction is negative. Your employees should be encouraged to brainstorm with others as often as possible. Creation can be a lonely journey sometimes, and ideas grow exponentially when more than one brain is working on something.
“Be hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise” – Dale Carnegie
While creative employees give off the impression of being extremely strong and proud, lone wolves who ‘don’t need nothin’ from nobody’, who can just brush criticism off their shoulders like too much dandruff, are actually the complete opposite. They are like delicate egg shells, and can very easily crack if not handled with care.

Creatives are very sensitive, especially where their work is concerned. And while they don’t need extra money to do a good job, they definitely need a pat on the back for a job well done.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Backstage at the Oscars: 2018

Okay, so where am I? 

I've been a little fidgety because the Oscars seem so late this year. I mean I can't recall the last time the show was as late at March 4th. But today is where my dreams soar while I settle into my spot on the red carpet (which as you all should know is actually a burgundy shade of red) of the Academy Awards®. I mean, I only have three scripts written (two for film and two for television), but I sincerely believe that somehow one of these will become the perfect blend of compelling, emotional, heartfelt, and ultimately Oscar-worthy. Let it be noted that I don't want to be like that dude Terry Bryant who tried to steal Frances McDormand's statuette at the Governor's Ball. I want to earn my own.

I hope more watch the telecast though. This year the show lasted nearly four hours and tumbled 19 percent from 2017 with only 26.5 million viewers. That's easily the least-watched Oscars in history, trailing 2008 by more than 5 million. Yikes!

This still a far better audience than I received from my agent. I've been waiting for his promises to be fulfilled since we talked about traveling to Beirut together in 2006. Alas, I'm going it on my own and every year I feel like I'm being chased by the Revenant bear. I was told once that you have to persevere to success.

Here's to perseverance...

So for the seventh straight year, and without further ado, here's my take on the happenings backstage at the 90th Academy Awards:

Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

A. Thank you. Don't give me anymore attention because it will all go to my head. Come on. Ask away. I'm ready. I'm ready.

Q. Please explain your comment at the end, the two words "inclusion rider."

credit: Michael Yada / A.M.P.A.S.
A. Right. I just found out about this last week. There is -- has always been available to all everybody that get -- that does a negotiation on a film, an inclusion rider which means that you can ask for and/or demand at least 50 percent diversity in not only the casting, but also the crew. And so, the fact that we -- that I just learned that after 35 years of being in the film business, it's not -- we're not going back. So the whole idea of women trending, no. No trending. African Americans trending, no. No trending. It changes now, and I think the inclusion rider will have something to do with that. Right? Power in rules.

Q. I want to ask you about a bit of a follow up to that question. The tone of the evening, obviously it's about awards, but there was certainly throughout the evening the idea that this was a different Oscars than in the past because of what has happened since October.

A. No. It actually was it happened way before that. I think that what happened last year, you know, with Moonlight winning the best picture, that's when it changed. And it had to be acknowledged. That had to be acknowledged, and it was acknowledged in the best possible way. Not just by, you know, fixing the mistake, but actually recognizing that that won Best Picture. Moonlight won Best Picture of 2017.

Q. It was about the idea that this evening was sending a message because of the activities that have happened and the revelations and women being brave enough to speak out since October. Did you feel that was handled properly and enough this evening?

A. Well, yeah. You know, it was really interesting because like I said, feeling like I was Chloe Kim doing back to back 1080s in the halfpipe, I was -- I don't do everything. As you know, I don't show up all the time. I only show up when I can and when I want to, but I was there at the Golden Globes and it's almost like there was an arc that started there. It doesn't end here. But I think publicly as a commercial, because that's what we are ‑‑ this is not ‑‑ this is not a novel.. This is a TV show after all, but I think that the message that we're getting to send to the public is that we're going to be one of the small industries that try to make a difference. And I think $21 million in the legal defense fund is a great way to start. And the commission that's being headed by Anita Hill, that's really smart. See, we didn't just -- we didn't just put out commercials about it. We actually started a conversation that will change something.

Q. Okay. Three Billboards has started a movement. Have you seen the billboards all over the world?

A. Oh, are you kidding? Off the screen and on to the street. Really exciting.

Q. Talk about that. I want to hear what your comment is about that.

A. Well, you know, recently my husband and I were in London at the BAFTAs, and we went to the Tate Modern and we saw an exhibition about the Russian Revolution -- Russian Revolution and the propaganda that was used. Now, that revolution did not go so well, so we don't want to think too much about that. But the red and black is a really, really good choice. And Martin McDonagh knew that. He was involved in the choice with the with the set design of the film to use that kind of iconography, and I think that idea that activists are taking that kind of statement and putting it out there billboards still work. They still work. So I think that it's really exciting. It started actually with the Grenfell Tower fires investigation. Then it leapfrogged to the Miami gun control situation. It was outside the UN about the Syrian situation. You know, it's a kind of -- that's the kind of power that an image can have. And that's what we're making. We're making powerful images.

Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Q. You asked Kazu makeup artist to work with and why do you think he's special? Computer graphic can't replace his work.

A. Do I think the computer graphic can replace his work?

Q. Yeah.

credit: Michael Yada / A.M.P.A.S.
A. I hope not. You know, the ‑‑ the clothes, makeup and clothes are the things that ‑‑ are the closest things to the actor. And they actually touch the actor.  And they are the first people that you meet in the morning and they are really ‑‑ they are vital individuals that you interact with to ‑‑ I've done motion capture and you are in a gray void with no costume, and they then CG it on you later.  So to lose that kind of connection, you know, we really ‑‑ we worked as a team. And plus, it's always easier, I think, to throw something out because something new comes along. You know, just because you can.   mean, he's a consummate artist and it was really my ‑‑ once I had stepped off the ledge, as it were, with Joe Wright, I said to Joe, it's contingent on getting Kazuhiro because, for me, he was really the only person on the planet that could have ‑‑ that could have pulled it off. I mean, I think he delivered.  Yeah.

Q. It's been almost a year since we were in Vegas, and you said if you ‑‑ if they will offer the Oscar, you wouldn't say no.  So what it really means to finally get it?

A. I didn't say no.

Q. What it means, what it means for you an Oscar, to win an Oscar?

A. I think for this role, it's got a sort of special -- it feels like it has a special significance. I can't say what it would be like to win an Oscar in any other year. But winning an Oscar for playing arguably one of the greatest Britons who ever lived. To win it for playing Winston makes it doubly special. Does that make sense? And this film and this company of actors and Joe, working again with Sarah Greenwood and Jacquie Durran and those actors on the set, it was a very -- it's been an unforgettable experience and a highlight of my career.

Q. What is it like for you meeting so many young actors and young filmmakers that have looked up to you in their youth and throughout their career and are getting to share the stage with you tonight?

A. I think we are -- the thing that I -- one of the lessons that I learned from -- from John Hurt, the late John Hurt, God bless him. When I was a younger man, went to the cinema, I looked up at, you know, Albert Finney and Tom Courtenay and Alan Bates and Peter O'Toole, and Alec Guinness, Peter Sellers, they were all sort of my heroes. We are links in a chain, you know. I'm thrilled for Chalamet. He's a lovely kid. I mean, he really is. He's a kid. And he's a charmer. Hugely talented. And I said to him tonight, in the words of Armie, You will be back. You know, he's got -- this is probably it for me. He's got years. He's got years yet.

Q. This movie seems to be a lot about facing up to great fears and great obstacles. Do you think people can relate to that in their lives apart from, like, politics and stuff like on a personal level so they connect to it in the movie?

A. We all have -- I think we can all relate to -- I mean, Joe has said that there's part of the movie that is about doubt. But those insecurities and fears, we do things -- we want to do things with the best intentions. I would like to give people the benefit of the doubt and say that they are motivated by a good heart, and, you know, they have the best intentions. You know, but when you are in a position like, I think, Winston is in like he was in 1940, we see in the movie he sends 4,000 men to their death to save 300,000. And when you are in that big chair, making those decisions, though in war, those are the types of things -- those are the types of decisions that you have to make, and then of course I don't know how you then sleep soundly in your bed on the evening of the day when you sent 4,000 innocent men to their death. But you walk -- you walk in those shoes. And I think that we can all    we -- not that extent, but, you know, most people, I think, you know, in the audience, they have got financial worries. They have got children. They are trying to put the kids through college or they have illness or sickness in their family. We've all got -- and certainly, I know that I, you know, there are regrets and things. And you -- you know, that's the worst thing you can do as an artist is you can edit yourself and second guess, but I still sometimes have that little demon on my -- that little voice talking to me like that kid, you know, Mrs. Torrance.

Q. If Winston Churchill were alive today, what advice would you think he would give the leaders of the world?

A. Oh, my heavens. He would probably 

Q. Impeach Trump?

A. He would what?

Q. Impeach Trump?

A. Maybe. My God, he would give him a good talking to, wouldn't he?

Q. What would he say?

A. Well, none of them look at history. He was a big believer that you've learned -- that you've looked at history to move forward. There's an -- actually, there's an interesting thing. There was sort of a survey done, and the children were asked about Winston Churchill, and not just -- I'm not talking about nine or ten year olds, I'm talking about, you know, young, young sort of college people. And a great many of them thought that he was either a soldier in the First World War or he was a dog in a TV commercial in Britain, and there is a TV commercial called Churchill, and it's a bulldog, and he talks. It's an insurance company called Churchill. And we don't -- we don't teach history anymore, do we? They don't know anything about it.

Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Q. Could you tell us more about the process? How you embodied the character? How you started working on that role?

credit: Michael Baker / A.M.P.A.S.
A. Oh, it's so boring, but if you want to hear it, I can tell you the whole -- you know, it's like a big soufflé or a stew. You throw in some potatoes and some carrots in there and you work with an amazing dialect coach like Liz Himelstein who worked with Gary Oldman and Margot and Terry Knickerbocker, my acting coach. And I did some ride alongs with some cops, Josh McMullin in Southern Missouri. Liz Himelstein taped two cops, actually. There was a guy named Demer [phonetic] in L.A. I did a ride along with him. And I met with this skin graft doctor who introduced me to some burn victims, actually. I mean, but the thing is, that's if you have luxury, the luxury of time, you know, which you don't always have for a part. And then I worked with Martin and but sometimes you get a part and you only have a week or a couple days to prepare. I heard that Jeremy Renner only had four days to prepare to play Jeffrey Dahmer, which is a lot, if you are playing Jeffrey Dahmer, you know. So I had the advantage that I had, like, two or three months. And so I got to indulge in all this research. And so it was a lot of fun. So that's the long answer to your short question.

Q. You said a wonderful thing about the arc of your character being Barney Fife going into Travis Bickle.

A. Yes, yes.

Q. I'd love to ask, in any way, was Barney Fife and the great Don Knotts any inspiration to you as an actor throughout your career?

A. Absolutely. I mean that when I say Barney Fife and, you know, the town of Ebbing is very much like Mayberry, and Woody Harrelson's character is very much like the Andy Griffith character. And, in fact, I could be wrong about this, check your facts, but I think we shot in Sylva, North Carolina and I think Mayberry was shot there, but I could be wrong about that. But, you know, the goofiness of Barney Fife, the kind of hapless thing of Barney Fife, and then his transition into somebody else was just sort of -- Travis Bickle was kind of a -- Barney Fife to Travis Bickle was kind of a generalization, but it's a lot more complicated than that, obviously, but, you know, yeah.

Q. You dedicated your win to Phil Hoffman. 
A. Oh, you caught that, good.

Q. So I'm curious, as a friend and as a colleague, tell me, you know, what he meant to you, how he inspired you.

A. Well, I guess you want to start making me cry, but he's, yeah, he was an old friend of mine, and he directed me in a play at the Public Theater and, yeah, he was very close to me and he was an inspiration to all of my peers. You know, people like Jeffrey Wright, Billy Crudup, Liev Schreiber, you know, you know, everybody. Mark Ruffalo, Josh Brolin. I mean, whoever was in my age range, Phil Hoffman was the guy. And he was a great director and he believed in doing theater. In fact, he was -- he vowed to do a play a year, which I don't know if he got to do because he was very busy doing movies, but he was a great inspiration and a great theater director. And I don't know if anybody knows, he was a bit of a jock. He was a wrestler, and he played basketball, and he inspired me. And I could go on for an hour about Phil Hoffman. Philip Seymour Hoffman was a good friend and he was a huge, huge inspiration on me. Yeah.

Q. I stopped counting at 21 the awards that you won. So do you count them at all and do you feel that those were like billboards saying, Sam, you're going to win the Oscars now?

A. No, but that sounds like a really cool dream, but no, no.

Q. Can you talk about, specifically, your character and whether you take that criticism on or was that how you dealt with it and your sense of that?

A. Well, yeah. I mean, it's a complicated issue, but, I mean, Kareem Abdul Jabbar wrote an article that was really amazing sort of defending the movie as far as that goes and it was really eloquent. I didn't realize he's like a cultural professor, which I didn't know, in addition to being like a basketball icon, and that was a great article that articulated everything. And I think for me, you know, the whole thing is that, you know, they have a lot of work to do, Mildred and Dixon. It's not like they are like all of a sudden redeemed at the end of the movie. They have, you know, a lot of work to do and maybe some therapy, you know. It's an ongoing thing, you know. So, and it's also it's a movie and it's a dark fairytale of some sorts. And so it's like, it's not necessarily -- in real life we probably would have gone to prison, both of our characters, so, you know. That's -- that's sort of how I see it.

Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Q. So winning an Oscar by yourself with no one's help, that's an awesome feat. So now that you've won this big honor on your own, how are you going to change on a day-to-day basis?

A. I have to be at a table read for Mom at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow morning. So I am going right back to work, and I will ‑‑ I am so happy that I have a job to go to after something like this.  Because it could go to your head, and then tomorrow to wake up and feel ‑‑ and have nothing to do and have this whole journey be over. Starting in September when we premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, and the whole journey we've been through is extraordinary. And it's going to be ‑‑ I'm going to have a big crash down after this.  So I'm happy that I have Mom ‑‑ the people at MOM to lift me up and keep me ‑‑ keep me going and keep me focused. And I'm just happy to have a job to go to tomorrow. But this is extraordinary. Thank you.

credit: Michael Yada / A.M.P.A.S.
Q. Hi.  So where did trophies ‑‑ I mean, you have a ton of Emmys. You've got every award leading up to this one this year. Now you have an Oscar. Was that ever part of your fantasy of what your acting career was going to be like? Or is this like this great side effect?

A. I certainly ‑‑ I kind of didn't dare to dream of things like this, because I didn't want to be disappointed. And I think at a certain point, I had given up thinking this would happen for me because I just wasn't getting the kind of roles in film that would give me attention like this, and that's what my very good friend Steven Rogers did for me. He says he did it ‑‑ wrote this for me to do just that, to show a different side of me and show that I could ‑‑ what I could do, and I will never be able to repay him. It's an extraordinary gift he gave me. It's kind of overwhelming.  I think I'm going to get him a Rolex. I don't know. What do you think? And engrave it on the back. I haven't figured out what, but I've got to get him a good present. That's a start at least.

Q. You've spoken about using your inner critic. But what is your inner voice saying right now?

A. "Bravo.  Good going, girl.  I'm proud of you."

Q. We're asking what makes a great story?

A. Oh, God. What makes a great story?  Fully realized characters, characters with ‑‑ who have big needs, wants, desires that butt up against people who don't want them to have them.  Definitely great characters and great writing.  Great writing is key. That's why I'm ‑‑ when I read a script as an actress that I get excited about like I, Tonya, American Beauty or Juno, things that ‑‑ or West Wing I've gotten to do. That just gets me so ‑‑ it makes me want to come alive, and I feel like I come alive when I do all different roles I've gotten to do.  And it's how I feel the most tethered to the earth, and I feel a communicator when I'm sit‑ ‑‑ telling others' stories. And great storytellers are great writers, and I like telling ‑‑ I like telling stories.

Q. Can you talk us through a little bit of what it was like working with Margot Robbie and director Craig Gillespie?

A. Craig Gillespie?  Yeah. I met them both ‑‑ well, I met Margot the day before I started shooting, and I really ‑‑ I only had eight days to shoot this role with them because I was doing Mom, and I was rehearsing for Six Degrees of Separation, the Broadway play I did last spring.  I've never been more busy as I was last year, so when this came together, I had no time to do it, and all of the producers made it happen, the producers of Mom and Six Degrees and Margot and Tom and Bryan, Bryan Unkeless and Tom Ackerley of LuckyChap.  They made it happen for me, and they're extraordinary.

Margot has ‑‑ she's kind of a phenomenon. Because I have no head for business whatsoever. All I know how to do was be emote [sic] and do my act. But she's got this great head for business and a beautiful heart and an artist's soul and a heart. And she's remarkable, and I cannot wait to see what she's going to accomplish in her career. She's, you know, 20‑nothing, and she's done this unbelievable performance in I, Tonya, and she's going to do extraordinary things. They're both ‑‑ and Craig's just ‑‑ he killed this movie. He just killed it.  And I mean killed in a good way. He just nailed it. He knew how to ‑‑ he knew how to get just ‑‑ was a running freight train. We had no time to shoot it, and he had the best sense of humor and best attitude, and knew how to grab things on the fly. And he's just ‑‑ remarkable man. They're both ‑‑ I've never even been to Australia, but I've got to go now.  Because, I ‑‑ yeah.

Guillermo del Toro, The Shape of Water
Best Picture and Directing

Q. At the Golden Globes I asked you about how you balance the light and darkness and you said, "I met somebody."

A. Yes.

credit: Michael Baker / A.M.P.A.S.
Q. And you created a meme that's gone all around the world and affected millions of people. So the question is how do we keep that ‑‑ how do we help you keep that going? How do we stop the scapegoating of Mexico and really reaffirm your unique and magnificent culture?

A. I think every time we can demonstrate in any forum, be it sports, science, art, culture, anywhere, what we have to bring to the world discourse, to the world conversation, is extremely important, and it's extremely important when we do it to remember where we're from, because it's honoring your roots, honoring your country. Now I'm going ‑‑ my next stop is I'm going to see my mom and my dad this week.  I'm going back home with these two ‑‑ with these two babies.

Q. Congratulations. You spoke fondly about Fox Searchlight on stage, and I wonder if you know anything about the studio's future? Have you talked to anybody at Disney about it? Have they reached out to you? What can you say about that?

A. As they say here, it's above my pay rate. Way above my pay rate. But what I know is I'm continuing conversations with them about future projects, you know, and you form bonds with a studio, but you form bonds with individuals, with people that support you. And whatever that I ask for, it goes or stays, you continue creating.

Q. How is this a victory for Hollywood North and the production going on in Canada?  So much of this was done in Toronto.

A. What I will say when we started this, Miles [J. Miles Dale] and I, we talked very, very seriously about creating this movie with heads of departments from Canada. We wanted to ‑‑ you know, I've been there working for more than half a decade continuously, and I wanted to ‑‑ we wanted to show the talent and showcase the talent of the HODs in Canada and make it something where you don't go and use a rebate and escape. You know, you go to use the talent, you go to have the artistry, you go to have the complicit creation with everybody there.

Q. Before the movie was released, you said that you didn't dare to dream about the Oscar, but if you had the chance you wouldn't dare to write a speech and prepare that.  So my question is: Did you do it? Did you write it? Did you think about doing it? And what did you have left to say?

A. The only time I wrote a speech was on the beginning, and I pulled out the paper and I couldn't read it and, you know, I was sweating into my eyes, and I started just speaking from the heart. So, what I wanted to do ‑‑ what I did here is the same.  I thought, you know, I'm going to get there, and if I have a little piece of paper and I count down, it's horrible because you see the numbers.  So just talk about what you're feeling at that moment.

Q. I'm wondering why it is ‑‑ why did you choose Baltimore?

A. You know, I fell in love ‑‑ when I was a kid I fell in love with one of the primal trilogies in cinema for me, Barry Levinson's Baltimore trilogy, you know, and I loved the setting. And I know we screwed up with the accent.  I'm very, very, very aware with that, but what I wanted was to capture that flavor.  You know, it's such an interesting mixture, the Catholic, the industrial, how near is to the ocean, all those things, and for me it was mythical.  Levinson invented so many things in those films, and particularly important for The Shape of Water was the Tin Men and the Cadillacs in Tin Men and how they represent America, and that isn't there.  You know, I think that those three films, Avalon, Diner and Tin Men are fabulous landmarks of American cinema. And then the John Waters, man.


Past Media Guy Oscars Backstage Columns: 20172016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012

The Big Four -- Oscar-winners Sam Rockwell, Frances McDormand, Allison Janney and Gary Oldman pose backstage with their Oscar for Achievement in acting:

credit: Michael Yada / A.M.P.A.S.
Emma Stone checking out her phone, or lines, or her massive bank account:

The rare double: Kobe Bryant (with director Glen Keane) now has an Academy Award and an NBA MVP for Dear Basketball as Best Animated Short Film:

credit: Matt Sayles / A.M.P.A.S.
Jordan Peele and Nicole Kidman share a winners' chat backstage:

There was extra attention on the Envelopes this year:

Helen Mirren -- in her fourth dress -- falls in love with Uncle Oscar all over again:

Finally, my favorites from the red carpet:

The installation..

JLaw, I can't quit you...

Daniel Kaluuya staying Get Out character the entire time...

As I did in 2017, I sneaked across the red carpet to the Oscars' step and repeat… What a rush… I feel like I robbed a bank, again!:

Allison Williams being interviews with cue cards behind her...

Jordan Peele's smile...

Emma Stone's Laugh...

Armie Hammer going out of his way to prove he was acting in Call Me By Your Name during the entire red carpet experience...

Margot Robbie's Greetings...

The happiest couple I saw -- Sam Rockwell and Leslie Bibb...

With these captures from a special night, I hope to see you for my eighth straight year with an update from my new agent -- because my new agent went silent for the last 25 months. Poor me!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Oscars Week 2018: My Picks

Before I get to my picks I need to pat myself on the back. Since I started covering the Oscars seven years ago, let it noted my picks have been correct to the tune of 45 out of 53 in the major categories! At 84.9%, that warrants a regular trip to Vegas or London to book some bets. That is, uh, if I gambled. Not that the shameless promotion is over, here's the Media Guy choices for the telecast on Sunday:

Best Picture
Get Out
Media Guy Thoughts: I have a feeling it's time for the Oscars to honor a movie like this, plus who would want to be the person or company reaped the profits from a movie that has grossed over $250 million off a $4 million production budget? SPOILER ALERT: Who didn't lose it when Daniel Kaluuya found all of this old boyfriend pictures in the closet? I'd go with The Shape of Water but Splash and Creative from the Black Lagoon are already better.

Kobe and I have 33,643 combined NBA points.
Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role
Frances McDormand, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Media Guy Thoughts: Easiest choice on the board.

Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role
Gary Oldman, Darkest Hour
Media Guy Thoughts: If Get Out gets on a role, then this pick won't make it.

Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
Sam Rockwell, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
Media Guy Thoughts: He's won everything else.

Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role
Allison Janney, I, Tonya
Media Guy Thoughts: She's won everything else and a boatload of Emmys.

Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird
Media Guy Thoughts: #TimesUp

Animated Short Film
Dear Basketball
Media Guy Thoughts: Kobe Bryant has home court advantage. Go Lakers!

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Jordan Peele, Get Out
Media Guy Thoughts: If is Get Out's year then Jordan Peele wins directing and Greta Gerwig wins this one. So, I'm edging my bets and going Peele here.

The Oscars Swag Bag

I think it's pretty funny that the what's perceived as the official Oscars swag bag really has no association with the Oscars. This is true to the point were in 2016, the Academy sued Distinctive Assets for trademark infringement (they have since settled).

Since the legal extras, Distinctive Assets has also toned it down its extravagant image, taking the value of each bag from its high of $230,000 down to the current overall value around $100,000. Ad, oh, you have to pay taxes on the bag if you opt to take it! Highlights include:
  • 12-night Tanzania vacation for two...The package from International Expeditions is the most expensive gift at more than $40,000. The journey includes spa services, a private safari guide, wild game drives and a hot air balloon safari with champagne breakfast.
  • Week-long stay at the Golden Door spa...The relaxing San Diego retreat goes for $8,850 and the spa donates 100% of net profits to children's advocacy organizations.
  • Six-night and seven-day stay at Koloa Landing Resort at Poipu in Kauai...Nominees and their guests get to stay in a two-bedroom villa with an ocean view. Additional perks include a zipline adventure and helicopter tour.
  • 10,000-bowl donation from Halo, Purely For Pets...Donations are made in the nominee's name to an animal shelter or rescue of their choice. $8,000. 
  • Luxury false lashes from Le Céline
Here's everything else in the 2018 swag bag:

  • A commitment from Jarritos iconic Mexican soda to donate a pallet of soft drinks to a charitable event of the nominee’s choice
  • A lifetime supply of Oxygenetix Breathable Foundation and Hydro-MatrixALLÉL DNA-based skincare
  • Avaton Luxury Villas Resort Greek beachfront escape
  • BANGARANG Positive Cube
  • Blush & Whimsy magical color changing lipstick
  • Chao Pinhole Gum Rejuvenation
  • Charleston & Harlow candles
  • Chocolatines’ edible 16-piece jewelry box
  • Cook Yourself Happy: The Danish Way cookbook
  • Curlee Girlee children’s empowerment book
  • Dandi Patch amazing underarm sweat patches
  • Delicacies Candy & Confections organic & vegan lollipops
  • D.Thomas Clinic Signature DNA Head-to-Toe Treatments
  • DNA kit from 23andMe
  • Fresh crate of California oranges from EpiFruit
  • Esther Fairfax Lotte Berk Barre Method private group class
  • Face It makeup remover combo kit
  • Happiest Tee luxury t-shirts
  • Hydroxycut Organic weight loss supplements
  • Inception of Beauty 10-piece makeup brush set
  • Justice For Vets Challenge Coin
  • Kalliope NYC Phobia Relief Expert
  • Liwu Jewellery inspired by ancient Celtic symbols and Chinese calligraphy
  • Look Fabulous Forever Prime Collection
  • Luxura Diamonds limited edition conflict-free diamond necklace
  • My Magic Mud activated charcoal whitening toothpaste
  • M·Y·O Cosmetic Cases
  • MZ Skin Collagen Eye Mask and Golden Eye Treatment
  • "99 Creative Wows – Words of Wisdom for Business Celebrity" Creativity Kit
  • Non-invasive full face skin rejuvenation from Nurse Gigi
  • No. 9 Daily Chemical Exfoliant from Oumere Skin Care
  • Paiva Aloe Gorgeous! luxury cleanser and mask fusion
  • Personal training sessions with celebrity trainer Alexis Seletzky
  • Posh Pretzels gourmet gift box
  • PROVEN AI-based personalized skincare based on the Beauty Genome Project
  • Quincy Herbals SlimMax Detox Tea
  • Quip beautifully simple electric toothbrush
  • Reian Williams Fine Art
  • Rouge Maple pure organic maple syrup
  • Safi Kilima Tanzanite bolo bracelets
  • Southern Wicked Lemonade all-natural lemonade moonshine
  • The Green Garmento Gigantote
  • TOTALEE hair care products
  • Vaya Tyffyns stainless steel lunchboxes
  • Wetsleeve wearable hydration on-the-go
  • Youth Blast anti-aging supplement

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Rhythm Nation

Okay, so where am I?

I took a break from the org chart and strategic planning to try and get some Taylor Swift concert tickets for the kid's graduation. It seems to a traditional to send the kid and her BFF to a Taylor Swift concert during graduation season. Last time is was at Staples Center and the capacity was only only 18,000. This time around it's at the Rose Bowl and its 100,000 seats. I think my chances are good.

All of this reminded me how I used to get concert tickets. Back in 1990, Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour was all the rage covering 113 shows in Japan, Europe, and North America. Getting tickets then wasn't so simple. In order for you to have had the privilege of plunking down your money to purchase your tickets, you had to wait in a long line at Ticketmaster that was situated inside a record store (or was it TicketTron back then?) for several hours, often even overnight.

"What's a record store?" you ask. Well, that's a story for another day...

Yes, before the Internet and technology did everything but spoon-fed you dessert, small villages of music fans materialized the day before tickets for a major artist or group went on sale in your city. Imagine that? The scenes were like little pop-up Woodstocks. People brought lawn chairs and sleeping bags. Some brought guitars and boomboxes dotted the line. There was a strong likelihood that the smell of illegal cannabis would fill the air. Stories were trade and lies were told.

Now, you don't have to wait in these lines and you can still get lousy tickets even if you buy them a minute or two after they go on sale if you don't have your special AMEX or Citibank code to get the good tickets. However, most of the time it's Tap-tap-tap and you're all set, taking the easy way out in the process along the way.

Don't get me wrong, the convenience of buying online is unmatched and if you strike out at Ticketmaster, you can always go to StubHub (or another third-party ticket broker) and get the ticket of your choice, sometimes cheaper than buying them from the source. But convenience comes at a cost.

Yes, we had to endure the overnight cold and line cutters, but if you were close enough to the front of the line, there was a legitimate shot you would leave with some really great seats, marching triumphantly with your tickets already in hand. These weren't just any tickets you could print off in plain bond paper from your laserjet, but real perforated tickets with your event, venue, seat location engraved right there into the paper.

Sometimes you were booed out of jealousy by those still waiting in line and sometimes you were slow-clapped out of the door...the sound of hands supplying the fuel to lift your sleep-deprived legs to your car.

The camaraderie shared by music fans was something to treasure. All of us united with a unified taste and love of the same artist. This is lost today in the soulless, robotic online transaction. But on the bright side, I was about to get my kid her tickets without throwing down with the Swifties telling me that the haters are going to hate, hate, hate.

Back in 1990, my Janet Jackson tickets cost $22 each and what a lovely, enlightening date that turned out to be. Worth every penny. Twenty-eight years later, the tickets were five times that plus a hefty convenience fee charge. But once I see those pictures posted on my kid's Facebook, it will be all worth it.


Not that anyone cares, but here was the set list of songs played April 21, 1990:

1. Control
2. Nasty
3. What Have You Done for Me Lately
4. When I Think of You
5. The Pleasure Principle
6. Let's Wait Awhile


7. State of The World
8. Black Cat
9. Alright
10. The Knowledge
11. Escapade

12. Miss You Much
13. Rhythm Nation

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dilly Dilly: Trying to Not to Punch the TV during the Super Bowl Commercials

Okay, so where am I?

I'm digesting the numbers from the Super Bowl and it looks like over 100 million people watched the big game again. I'm pretty happy because the taking the Philadelphia Eagles and plus six points was the steal of the year (uhhhhhm, hypothetically, because I would never gamble, of course). I have the DVR on fast forward trying to look at the commercials again and making sure I hear that Ram Trucks commercial properly.

I mean, was that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stumping for the truckmaker? Was the good doctors speech about about the value of service really being used as a voiceover to sell trucks? Really? Remember when MLK said "I have a dream that one day a recording of a speech I gave about redefining greatness as a function of your readiness to serve your fellow man will be licensed by my descendants for Ram to use in an offensive truck commercial.”

Wait? Whaaaaat? He didn’t?

In a season marked by President Trump battling the National Football League over kneeling during the national anthem, you would think that using MLK to sell trucks is the the wrong mistake. And given everything that is going on in the country right now centering on race, it seems that there too much emotion to go there. In previous years, this high-risk move might have worked. Today? Not so much.

Needless to say, Twitter was set on fire with criticism of the's a handful of sarcasm from the Net:
A little checking discovered that Ram Trucks did not release this spot ahead of time like many of the other companies who spent $5 million for thirty seconds of air time. They were clearly looking for the surprise element, but now they potentially have a big problem with people being irked, the King Center for one:
Fiat Chrysler said in a statement, “We worked closely with the representatives of the MLK's estate to receive the necessary approvals, and estate representatives were a very important part of the creative process every step of the way.”

Eric D. Tidwell, the managing director of the firm managing King's intellectual property, Intellectual Properties Management, said, “Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances. We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others.”

What actually occurred was that the night’s most tone-deaf and abhorrent ad was born and the perhaps THE moral leader of the 20th century is made to shill for Dodge.

What you don't hear in all of this critical white noise is that Ram Trucks resonated with their base using the MLK voiceover. It's a well-known fact in advertising agencies serving the automobile industry that African-Americans do not buy trucks at the same levels that Caucasian-American do. So, the message selling trucks is almost always geared towards white Americans. 

Sorry for the truth here, so don't shoot the messenger...

Onto some of the other spots:

Toyota leads off its Super Bowl ad buy with a spot featuring Lauren Woolstencroft, a Paralympic skier, who has won eight gold medals. While I am pleased that Woolstencroft earned some publicity—her perseverance and determination are very inspiring—but again it makes me cringe on what and whom are used are used to sell cars. Seriously, it doesn’t any perseverance or determination to lease or purchase a takes somewhere between $199 and $499 a month for 36 months, plus drive off fees...

Wendy’s—unofficial corporate motto: “Our Food Is Meh, but at Least We’re Jerks on Twitter”—takes a page from Avis trying harder with direct shot at McDonald’s: “The iceberg that sank the Titanic was frozen, too,” says the ad. In your face, Mickey D's! I love a good fast-food feud as much as anyone, but I feel like Wendy’s would do well to mind that Old World proverb: “Restaurants that sell weird square hamburgers shouldn’t throw stones.”

Easily my favorite ad as Peter Dinklage lip-dubs a Busta Rhymes song for Doritos, and then is immediately bookended by Morgan Freeman lip-dubbing a Missy Elliott song in an ad for Mountain Dew

In my Class of 2017 Media Guy Hall of Shame Inductees column I took aim at T-Mobile for their endless and annoying audio cues. Now Bud Light is doing it with this “Dilly Dilly” nonsense. Don't get me wrong, because I'm not so ignorant to understand that this catchphrase is something of a phenomenon. These inexplicably popular ads also leave me inexplicably wanting to punch my TV as well.

Diet Coke Tasted Mango...I can hear the execs sitting around in the concept room. 
"We need to show everyone that it’s not just for your colleagues in accounting anymore!"
"How about we put a dictionary-definition millennial in front of a yellow brick wall and she can hold a can of Diet Coke Twisted Mango, dance awkwardly, and mumble to herself?"
"We can let the music play for 30 seconds over her inane mumbling and $5 million well spent! Right?!" 
I guess it did its job...I am now painfully aware that Diet Coke comes in mango. 

Here's what the real MLK speech sounded like on February 4, 1964:

Friday, February 2, 2018

LEAKED: Your Guide to the Super Bowl Commercials and Betting Props

Okay, so where am I?

Before I get to the top Super Bowl commercials leaked before Sunday, I just want to say that I feel a huge measure of vindication. "Why?" you ask? Because of stories like this from Variety:
Madison Avenue Hopes Super Bowl Ads Won’t Get Trumped by Politics
Analysis: Big Game. Small Ads?
Madison Avenue heavyweights say they don't want their ads to play off politics or social issues in Super Bowl LII. Will the commercials be as memorable as in years past?
Last year, post-Super Bowl, I said to "Blame Trump" for all of the misguided ads built for the game to combat the President and his perceived (or not-so-perceived agenda). The ads may have resonated for the snowflakes, but those of us who spend money in big quantity on consumer goods were appalled. True be told, I am still a little salty at my colleagues in the advertising world who let these ads push forward. I'll run down the winners and losers (mostly the losers) next week after I digest them in the moment.

Currently, I'm scouring the prop bets for the Super Bowl on Sunday and pretty thankful I placed a few dollars on the Eagles early and got six points back (the current line as of posting is the Patriots -4). What does that mean? I means the New England Patriots can win by five points and I can still win my bet. I'm feeling good about this since the the Patriots have won five of these recently, all by less than five points. Easy money? Ha! Only Las Vegas, offshore books, and local bookies make money on the big game.

Back to the prop bets, I'm considering a few:

-The coin toss is a fun prop that even the most casual bettor can embrace. This bet is slightly more advanced than picking heads or tails, but I like it more as there are some fun trends to note and wager on. Regardless of which side of the coin is called on Sunday—and for the record heads has come out 24 times and tails 27 times throughout the history of the Super Bowl—the NFC has found a way to consistently win the toss over the last two decades. The team representing the conference has won 18 of the last 20 coin tosses. My Pick? The Team That Wins Coin Toss Wins Game: No (-103).

-Color of Bill Belichick hoodie (must wear hoodie for action)
  • Grey +120
  • Blue +140
  • Red +500
-Will winning team visit White House?
  • Yes -200
  • No +150
Total number of Donald Trump tweets during game?
  • Over 5.5 (-115)
  • Under 5.5 (-115)
I mean you can bet on anything, even the halftime show:
Click here for the complete Super Bowl LII Prop Betting List...but before you do, watch the Top 15 Leaked Super Bowl LII Commercials:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Flammenwerfer: To Buy or Not to Buy?

Okay, so where am I?

I'm contemplating buying one of Elon Musk's $500 flamethrowers. I mean, really, who DOESN’T want a flamethrower?

Full disclosure...The long awaited (especially by me) Media Guy television pilot has several mentions of the protagonist Alex Logan shining a flamethrower for his retiring agency boss before things go off the rails. There's even a flamethrower back story supplied by Alex's sexy assistant (why? because every television sitcom set in the office has a petite, sexy assistant, that's why!):
"You know, flame throwing devices date back to the Byzantine era. The modern version came from Germany. It’s translated from the German word Flammenwerfer and was invented by Richard Fiedler at the turn of the 20th century. It projected a jet of fire and enormous clouds of smoke twenty yards long, the way Peter does when he’s upset."
Today, it appears that the Media Guy wouldn't have to go down to his local Army-Navy store to pick up some dusty, decommissioned flamethrower. Now he can dial up Musk's The Boring Company and pick out a new street-legal model. For those of you who don't not Musk, he is the founder of SpaceX, the brains behind Tesla Inc., co-chairman of OpenAI and the CEO of Neuralink.

Media Guy Pilot Script from 2013
“Mark this down as one of the promises Elon delivers on,” The Verge writes, “apparently, because it looks like the Boring Company flamethrower is here. Redditors in a few SpaceX, Boring Company, and Musk-related subreddits noticed earlier this week that [a company] URL started redirecting to a page with a password box. And at least one user was able to guess the original password, too: “flame.”

It is still unclear how the flamethrower functions and I already have so many questions and the $500 needed is already earmarked for cigars:
  • How far will the flame stretch? 
  • What will fuel it? 
  • How much fuel with its tank hold? 
  • Where is its tank? 

For now, I have very little to go on with the image looking like a Nerf gun with a small section of hose at the back. But I do know one thing, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t want a flamethrower. It would could almost be the perfect question for a lie detector test.
Guy Giving a Lie Detector Test: “Do you want a flame thrower?”
Guy Taking the Lie Detector Test: “No...”Guy Giving a Lie Detector Test: “I’m sorry sir, you just failed the lie detector test”.