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Hollywood Comings, Goings & Just Plain Bad Parking 

The latest on the NYT, CAA, HBO and Oprah

Wednesday, Jun 18 2008
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SIT DOWN, SHUT UP, NOW WALK OUT!

I reported exclusively that 14 WGA writers and writer-producers on Sony’s newly ordered animated TV series for Fox prime time, called Sit Down, Shut Up!, walked off the show on June 12. It’s a dispute over who has jurisdiction over the writing staff: the Writers Guild of America or IATSE.

The problem is that all the Fox TV animated shows now being broadcast on that network are covered under the WGA contract, so the writers assumed their new show would be as well. But also, Sony kept assuring the writers that the series would be WGA-covered — even though the show’s maker is Sony Adelaide, which is steadfastly IATSE. Only recently did Sony finally reveal to the writers that the TV ’toon was to be covered by IATSE. So the studio was lying to everyone — even Sit Down, Shut Up!’s show-runner Mitch Hurwitz (of Arrested Development fame), as well as The Simpsons writers-producers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein.

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All the scribes on Sit Down, Shut Up!, a reworking of an Australian series, are pissed that they struck for four months and now Sony is taking away their right to be repped by the WGA’s new contract. This is exactly what WGA leadership was afraid would happen to ’toon writers as more big media companies turn animation over to IATSE’s jurisdiction because of the weaker terms of that union’s contract.

But Sony’s mendacity is shameful in this matter. As one of the scribes explained to me, “For two months, Sony was still saying, ‘Don’t worry about it. The show will be guild-covered.’ And then this week Sony said, ‘Sorry, the guild is off the table. You guys are going to be IATSE.’?” Those WGA writers and writer-producers who walked out have now received breach-of-contract letters. Funny thing is, they never signed their contracts.

NYT’S DAVID HALBFINGER LEAVES HOLLYWOOD

That long-in-the-works article about MGM this month turned out to be David Halbfinger’s swan song on the Hollywood beat. I’m told that TheNew York Times’ movie culture editor, Lorne Manly, was out here last week to finalize Halbfinger’s exit from the Los Angeles bureau. New York City sources say Halbfinger will be going to the Metro desk in New York to report politics.

Generally, the feeling is that Halbfinger “never got his footing” covering the movie beat and devoted too much time to the Pellicano scandal (with freelancer Allison Hope Weiner). But that dead-ended when all the Hollywood bigwigs escaped prosecution.

Halbfinger clashed repeatedly with the NYT’s veteran showbiz reporter Michael Cieply (who used to have Manly’s editing job). And since Cieply and Manly are joined at the hip.... Well, bye-bye, David. Besides, with the regular input of David Carr and last year’s addition of Brooks Barnes, there were probably too many NYT people covering Hollywood, which, in the old days, used to be adequately reported by a lone L.A. correspondent. Meanwhile, I bet Brad Grey, who was ignominiously splashed all over the NYT pages during Halbfinger’s Pellicano fixation, is a happy man today.

THUNDERDOME FOR THE TWO ACTORS UNIONS

Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg hand-delivered a letter to AFTRA’s national office in Los Angeles, addressed to his counterpart at AFTRA, Roberta Reardon, asking to hold a two-hour official SAG-AFTRA debate. I’m all for it — as long as there’s a wrestling ring, gooey mud and blind referees. Unfortunately for me, Reardon turned down the offer.

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE AGENCY — LITERALLY

I found out that Creative Artists Agency is making all its assistants park in the bottom level of the firm’s Century City garage, in horrid stack parking. Plus, there’s only one elevator that goes down there at 2000 Avenue of the Stars. And there’s a tracking system to make sure the peons park in their pen. Also, some of the assistants have been stuck in the garage because the valets lost their keys with the stack parking. (I bet the bosses’ skinny lattes contained unexpected bodily fluids the next morning....)

The internal agency muttering is that it’s yet another draconian CAA cost-cutting measure. But the ten-percentery claims the building/landlord is working to accommodate a growing tenant roster, so parking changes are affecting multiple tenants who park on certain floors of the garage. Chalk this up as one more tale about the poorly treated Industry assistants who get fucked over by their bosses.

This is why the entertainment biz is so deliciously cruel. One year, you’re the heir apparent. A few years later, you’re the has-been. So it is with HBO’s Colin Callender. I’ve been reporting that the next shoe to drop as the pay channel starts to clean house should be the overrated legend-in-his-own-mind, who recently rejected an offer from Walden Media to develop a new production slate and team. And every day there’s a rumbling that Callender is looking at this job or that one.

Now what’s happened to him is worse than when he was stripped of HBO Films. I’m told that, even though Callender’s contract isn’t up for a few more years, HBO brass Richard Plepler and Mike Lombardo had a so-called strategy meeting with Colin, where he was told, “If you want to be here ... be here. If you want to go, go.?...But you don’t need to be snooping around surreptitiously for another job. If you find a better thing somewhere else, talk to us about it like a grown-up.”

 

JUDD APATOW MAKES IT OFFICIAL

There’ll be no formal announcement, but I’ve learned that movie comedy mogul Judd Apatow is not going to jump to CAA, Endeavor or any other agency. He’s staying put at United Talent Agency with his point person David Kramer, the UTA partner who was recently upped to the governing board of the ten-percentery.

There had been a lot of speculation around Hollywood that the multihyphenate writer-director-roducer might follow Nick Stevens to Endeavor, or sign with CAA, where most of his manager Jimmy Miller’s other clients are now represented. Believe me, UTA would have sat shiva if Apatow had left the agency. But UTA did lose actor Martin Lawrence. And Chicago director Rob Marshall left ICM to go to CAA.

OPRAH ... JUDY... JUDY ... OPRAH

I’m told that Oprah is talking to MTV Networks chairman/CEO Judy McGrath about running Winfrey’s new cable network for “empowerment programming” — the latest pop-culture-speak for self-help guidance. Called OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network), it launches in 2010. McGrath has been at MTV for 27 years. Maybe it is time for a change. Then again, no one moves from atop a $7-billion-a-year media powerhouse to an entertainment start-up without a big equity position.

MAYBE THEY SHOULD CALL IT ‘OLD LINE’

Entertainment über-lawyer Skip Brittenham negotiated that first-look producing deal with Warner Bros. for axed New Line founders Bob Shaye’s and Michael Lynne’s new production company. I confirmed that Mark Kaufman is onboard in New York. Both Shaye and Lynne are in town interviewing candidates for head of production, to be based in Los Angeles.

Also, Toby Emmerich has agreed to find New Line projects for Shaye and Lynne. But at the same time, Emmerich is trying to distance himself from his former bosses. Oy. Bounced from their studio by Time Warner boss Jeff Bewkes, the pair are setting up on the ninth floor of their old building on Robertson Boulevard. Very early on, the duo were talking about starting another New Line (and Ted Turner offered to put up some money). But even though Bob and Michael are centimillionaires, they’re still intent on using Other People’s Money to fund their new operation.

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