The hand-wringing about the state of the movie as an art form continued on Monday night at a mixer at the Cat & Fiddle in Hollywood. Final Draft sponsored the event, which featured a talk and Q&A with the screenwriter Ted Griffin.
“TV is a such better medium, there’s much more volume and the writer’s in control,” said Griffin, who is most known for writing the screenplay for Oceans Eleven. He lamented that his 12 year-old self had dreamed of writing screenplays instead of becoming the next Steve Cannell. (Earlier this summer, Spielberg notably called cable television “much more adventurous” than film as well).
The moderator asked several questions about Griffins’ early success (he sold his first spec screenplay at the age of 25). In response, Griffin assured the audience of his bona fides: that this sale occurred only after years of “living in his Mazda” and working at a dry cleaners. I question the extent of homelessness that Griffin, a Pasadena native, actually endured; but his story raises a teachable moment about Hollywood. A lower level, service sector position in Los Angeles at the beginning of a career provides street cred after later commercial success. It’s a rite of passage thing, sort of like all-nighters at a New York law firm or concussions in the NFL.
Indeed, there’s no doubt in my mind that a ranking of cities based on the attractiveness of the waiters, waitresses and bartenders would perennially list the City of Angels at the top due to the abundance of would-be stars and starlets. Apparently that leaves positions at dry cleaners for the writers . . .
In the audience I met another Hoosier, the actor Tommy Hicks, who waxed poetically about growing up in Gary for several minutes after I introduced myself as a native son of Indiana. Hicks, who among many other successes starred in one of Spike Lee’s earliest films, She’s Gotta Have It, undoubtedly grew up in a different generation, with a different Gary. He was so genuinely nice, Indiana Nice, that I hesitate to point out that his stories of a resplendent, vibrant Gary do not comport with the vantage point of someone born in 1962, as listed in his IMDb profile. Alas, he must be pulling my leg about Gary because surely IMDb would only list accurate birth dates.
On Tuesday evening Young Adults of Los Angeles (yaLA), an auxiliary of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles hosted a forum about the world of brand licensing. The first person I met asked me how many Jewish people lived in Del Mar when I lived there, so I think I blended in, at least for the evening. IMG vice presidents Daniel Siegel and Randy Klein gave an excellent overview that, as a lawyer I found occasionally short on specifics, but definitely worthwhile.
IMG represents a seemingly endless number of celebrities and brands and Klein said it was the third largest licensing shop after Disney and Warner Brothers. The licensing unit permits manufacturers to take advantage of existing brand equity and for the owners of the brand to add to their bottom line by extending their reach beyond their core expertise. For example, one product mentioned was Texaco branded boots being sold in Japan. (I researched and found a press release with photos here). At first blush it seems a little silly, but then it makes sense. We wouldn’t buy boots with the logo of a gas station, but in Japan it’s probably just boots with an aura of Texas.
The legal practice tip came late in the session when an audience member asked about so-called morality clauses. Siegel said that an incredibly lucrative deal (this source pegged it at a up to $100 million) between Gatorade and Tiger Woods had included a morality clause, which permitted Gatorade to end the deal under certain circumstances if Woods acted in an immoral manner. Siegel believed the clause had not even been negotiated because at the time of the deal Woods’ reputation was so sterling that no one (Woods or Gatorade) would have even considered the issue and the clause just remained from the standard contract form. Oooooooops. Remember this. If you represent a human being, they fall short sometimes. Require a conviction in your morality clause.
Since moving to California I have been more exposed to Jewish culture and I have continually formed a greater appreciation for their intrinsic thirst for knowledge. Indeed, after the event it struck me that the Youth Catholic activities in Indianapolis never included anything useful like licensing. I’m too lazy to actually do any real research to make my point, but I did check their website and it so happened that their event this week was called Theology on Tap. Which, as best as I can tell, involves getting drunk at a bar and talking about Jesus.
Now . . . this does raise the point that the yaLA event notably lacked in the alcoholic beverage department. All of which serves to edify my current agnosticism. I won’t join any religion until their programming is useful with beer . . .
As I plotted out how to get to the Wednesday evening event for the SoCal Social Club, I saw on the map that Los Angeles has a. . . Little Bangledash . . . who knew!? Chinatown, Thai Town, Koreatown, Little Ethiopia, Little Armenia, Little Tokyo – of course, these I knew. But Little Bangledash? Any tips on what should be experienced in that neighborhood?
In any case after looking at the map, I took the bus to Lock & Key, a new bar and lounge following the speakeasy trend. With an active imagination, sometimes taking the bus feels like having a private chauffer. I caught it a half block from home and it practically dropped me off on the bar’s doorstep. Angelinos: You Can Ride Public Transportation. You Can Do It! And, since I arrived by chauffeur, I ordered the cocktail called Old Money . . .
Finally, at the risk of making this blog briefly like that of a Midwestern mom, I want to plug a stain fighter I tried. Yes. You read that correctly. A stain fighter. I wear Ralph Lauren polo shirts daily, almost like a uniform. Four of these were wounded in the call of duty with spots from clear cooking oil, the intractable type of stain Mom always said could never be removed. Since I had ruined so many, I finally took to researching my options and ended up purchasing a ten dollar bottle of Zout. Truly, a great product, I can say I literally saved shirts worth hundreds of dollars.
Keep up the hustle!
Los Angeles, California