Wednesday, December 07, 2005

It's a Really Big Shoe!

--Or --

"If you Don’t Get the Reference I’m Going to Punch You in the Throat."

So there it was – Four in the afternoon and I had just sent off the last draft of the 2006 Video Hall of Fame Awards script. I unclenched the colon and relaxed. Then Roy, the guy I share an office with and my producing partner, asked me if I was going to the show.

Boy Genius: Yes! Go! Go!
Me: I’m tired...

Translation to follow:

I really hate seeing my work performed live. Hate it. Despise it. It absolutely holds no thrill for me whatsoever, and just sends my blood pressure through the ceiling. The moment I have an embolism is the moment I’m going to be watching someone performing my work live.

I can stand read-throughs because it’s just rehearsal isn’t it? I can watch dailies, and pick out how the editor is going to cut it together to make it work. I don’t get nervous I get focused.

Live? It’s a whole other story.

Besides that, this is an event, and I happen to be the guy who always shows up in a Clash t-shirt and jeans to these things. I know I’m going to be severely underdressed. It’s not worth it.


So Roy picks up the phone and calls The Manager, and says I’m not going to the show.
Oh boy is she pissed!
She has Roy give me the phone. Long story short, I’m putting on a nice shirt and jacket and going to the show just so I can be there and meet people and have a free meal. I just hope that the hearing on the left side eventually comes back.

I call Funny Girl over at The Studio, and catch her as she’s leaving and ask her for a ticket to the show. I don’t need the dinner; I just want to be there. She says to call her when I get there and she’ll get me in the back to watch the show.

Boy Genius: Yippee! We’re going to the show!!!

I tell Roy (who’s already going because he has better connections than I do, and wangled a ticket long before I was even hired) that there better be a good bar there, because I’m going to need it.

Roy: There’s a good bar. Though it might be hard to get to...
Me: Why?
Boy Genius: Uh oh...
Roy: This is Home Entertainment. These people don’t stray too far from the bar.
Me: But can they take a punch?
Boy Genius: Good boy!

So we get to the Beverly Hilton Hotel, right across from Robinsons May there on Wilshire and Santa Monica. We park ($14 for self-park! Aargh!), and go inside. Lots of glass and marble and people in all forms of dress were there. Mostly suits though, and I could feel their predatory eyes on my leather jacket and shirt.

Me: Where’s the bar?
Roy: Let’s get you a dinner first...
Me: Huh?
Boy Genius: Shut up, it’s free food!

We wangle a bit, and talk to the folks from Variety – The Children’s Charity, and get me a free plate at this $200 a plate dinner. Roy has low friends in high places.

We go to the bar and get drinks. No bloodshed involved. (Though there was this older woman who gave me a look. I looked back and she averted her eyes.) Then we bump into Scott Hettrick, our intrepid Editor-In-Chief who tells me everything is going well so far and that people are pleased.

Me: Well, the show hasn’t started yet...
Boy Genius: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!

And then, a beautiful woman walks up, excuses herself and whispers in Scott’s ear. Scott hands her his copy of the script that he’s carrying. The woman then takes the script and turns away to head back into the crowd when Scott pipes up:

Scott: Funny Girl, have you met the writer, Boy Genius?
Boy Genius: Yippee!!!!!!!!!!!

You see, Funny Girl is also a Hottie. Funny Girl = ohsoyummy hotness!

She smiles and comes back over to me! Quick hug and a wonderful sniff of her perfume.

Funny Hottie Girl: I’m sorry, I have to run off. Alex wants to make some more notes on the script...
Me: (To anyone listening) Can I get another drink?

So Alex is making the script, “his own,” and I’m pacing around the bar area drinking vodka tonics like they’re going out of style, waiting for them to open the Grande Ballroom and get the show started. If I hurry, I can eat and finish dessert before the show even starts!

No such luck.

The curtains part and reveal the Grande Ballroom. As we are going inside Roy introduces me to several folks as the writer of the show. I shake hands, nod my head and just stare at the production before me, all the while thinking how I can sew Roy's lips together with the knife and napkin on the table so he’ll shut up.

We go to our table and there’s a big honkin’ salad there ready to go. Cool. The waiter puts my napkin in my lap and graces the lettuce with a bit of ranch dressing. We start in as the wine is poured (Thank you, God!).

I finish the salad and look at the gift bag next to my chair – for me? Oh, very cool. About $200 bucks retail full of DVDs – one of which is the Fantastic Four DVD coming out tomorrow!

Me: Jeeeeeessssssssiiiiiicccccccaaaaaa!
Boy Genius: Shut up, I'm eating.

Then the lights dim and it begins. Nice, modern stage with intricate trusses with all sorts of lights and futuristic gobos swirling color and patterns all over. Three big projection screens with videos and stills dominate the room. A couple of speeches from the charity before my stuff begins...

Then they announce Alex Trebek using my words.

Me: Where’s the waiter. I need wine.
Boy Genius: Shut up. It’s over with. Let it go and enjoy it.

So Alex started talking and I kept listening to what he was saying, and I recognized some of the words, but not all of them...

That bastard wasn’t sticking to the script!

Then he got to my first big joke after his “Welcome speech”...

And I was gold.

Everyone laughed. I put down my wine glass that I was going to shatter and use to carve my initials in Alex Trebek’s chest while I yelled, “How you like that, Alex?” (You have to phrase it in the form of a question)

I breathed deep and went to finish my steak. It was over, and now I could enjoy the show. He was going to go off script as the mood struck, but whatever else was going to happen – it started off with a bang, and I did that.

Me: Wow. I did that.
Boy Genius: Again with the talk? I'm eating here...

The rest of the show moved along well. I ate a cool dessert right when they started presenting the award to Ben Feingold of Sony.

Amazing man. Understated to a point of self-deprecation. This is a guy who truly was one of the pioneers of getting DVDs into the hands of folks like you and me. He was one of the guys who was convinced that the business wasn’t in the rental of DVDs (like video before it), but was in the selling of DVDs. You like the look and format of the Spidey DVDs? This guy had a lot to do with it. You play with a PSP or watch flicks on your PS2? This guy had a lot to do with it.

Then came Avi Arad. The CEO of Marvel Studios/Entertainment/Enterprises. He walks out after a genuinely hilarious speech by Fox Chairman Tom Rothman, dressed all in black like he just got off the front lines of some black-ops war. He has on black BDU’s for chrissakes!

Being a Marvel geek like I am, it was a very cool moment, and it was nice of him to say wonderful things about everyone who has been involved in the creation of the characters that Marvel owns. Arad feels a sense of stewardship toward fans and the characters. He wants the Marvel movies done right. Period.

Then came Warren Lieberfarb – The Godfather of DVD. This was the obstinate muther (I’m being kind, he’s been called worse) who started it all, didn’t take no for an answer; and made all the companies sit down and come up with a standard for DVDs, so that the Home Entertainment industry could move forward.

Lieberfarb introduced Wal-Mart as retailer of the Year. So how did they earn that position?

One-third of all DVDs in the US are sold through Wal-Mart making them the largest DVD retailer in the world. ‘Nuff said.

All in all it was a good evening. I got a few business cards, a few chuckles and I walked out with a ton of DVDs and some more knowledge about the industry and the people in it.

The industry is in a growth spurt, and like all adolescent periods of life, there’s going to be fits and starts, but damn it, it's really exciting too.

Here’s some of the info I promised:

1. Home entertainment generated $25 Billion this year thus far.
2. Theatrical has generated $9 Billion.
3. Television has generated $16 Billion.
4. TV DVD is currently the “saviour” of the DVD industry, accounting for the biggest growth sector of the market and generating about $3 Billion this year.
5. There is a lot of new technologies competing for the DVD dollar – Video On Demand (VOD), IPod and PSP, self serve DVD kiosks in places like McDonald’s and other non-traditional stores, broadcast downloads to cell phones.

Things are changing boys and girls. We have to be prepared to put on a nice shirt and jacket and go to those places where we can change with it.


DMc said...

There is nothing in the #@%%# world like when the first joke plays. It makes you feel like Kal-effin-el.

Interesting stuff. I think the real smartypantsers are the ones who combine that TV-drive of the DVD with the practicality that's always been at the heart of the DTV market.

Original six eps series for DVD? Tell me more.

Free booze is nice...but free stuff is ALWAYS BETTER.

Grubber said...

Free booze is nice...but free stuff is ALWAYS BETTER.

Example A of the difference between Canadians and Australians. :)

Congrats Bill what a night, glad you were forced to go. Couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke.


DMc said...

dude, every Australian I ever met had no problem STEALING booze from somebody...that's .. you know, cool...

...but when you steal STUFF -- you get the smackdown from the John Q. Law.

Free stuff always wins.
Free booze? You can always scam...

RogerRmjet said... glass that I was going to shatter and use to carve my initials in Alex Trebek’s chest while I yelled, “How you like that, Alex?” (You have to phrase it in the form of a question)

Brilliant, Bill! One of your best ever.

RogerRmjet said...

Bill, off topic for this article, but on-topic for the site:
Did you see the new Soderbergh interview in Wired? He's releasing his next film, Bubble in theaters, on DVD, and on cable on the same day.

Bill Cunningham said...

yes, it's his (and Mark Cuban's) way of maximizing the value of a property while minimizing piracy. People are going to want to see a film where they want to see it. There may also be some crossover, as people will see the flick at the theater then buy it right away to have on hand. Interesting experiment.