Why I Got Involved in FIRM by James Jaeger
I hear what you say (below) about taking a set of facts and twisting them around to justify some crusade or explain away ones failure, and I agree that is an irresponsible use of facts. Allow me to give you some background as to why I felt it was important to get involved with a film reform movement and hopefully give you a better understanding that our claims are not generalizations or meant to be targeting any specific ethnic group in general.
I have been in the Hollywood-based U.S. motion picture industry since 1977 and 10 years prior to that working around the Philadelphia and Seattle areas. My bio is at http://www.mecfilms.com/jrjbio.htm. I try to evaluate situations from a number of views: 1) my personal experience, as tracked by my bio, 2) the experience of others, 3) by reading books and periodicals, 4) by watching TV media, 5) by debating in public on the NGs and Discussion Fora on the Internet. I have been a reasonable success in the movie business and have associated with many people that were very successful (such as Lee Garmes who was my mentor and who shot, produced and/or directed about 100 classic pictures, including GONE WITH THE WIND. Lee introduced me to a number of members in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. See his credits at http://www.mecfilms.com/leebio.htm).
Lee, at his dining room table, where we used to work, was probably the first person to say to me, in 1979, that the Hollywood-based U.S. motion picture industry was 'controlled by a group of people that remained behind a veil.' Lee never stated anything about their ethnic backgrounds, but he worked for many of the powers that ran the studios for many decades, starting with Thomas Ince. Lee, like others, was a paid employee for the studios and so he never "bit the hand that fed him" while working in the studio system, but by the time I met Lee, he had defected from that system and was an independent producer. Why did he defect?
I basically took what Lee said with a "grain of salt," feeling exactly as you express below, that in essence, cream will rise to the top, work hard, be good at your craft, treat people with respect and dignity and eventually, "timing and circulation" (as Linwood Dunn, a friend who did the special effects for WEST SIDE STORY, IT'S A MAD MAD, MAD WORLD, KING KONG, etc., said) will provide break-through opportunities.
Well, unfortunately that's simply not true in Hollywood, and I discovered this while developing a movie about Alexander Contract, called STALIN'S BACK ROOM (the project's merits you can judge at http://www.mecfilms.com/dna/indev/sbr.htm) and another one, called THE NIT WITS, staring Mickey Rooney (who was also a good friend of my late mentor, and who I got to know a little through a series of phone conversations while we developed the project).
After spending about $50,000 on these two projects, and shopping them to most of the major studios (and most of the mini-majors) in Hollywood (at the president of production, senior VP, and VP production levels) and both of them were passed on (and remember I had shopped about 18 other well-developed, reader-approved, projects previously), I began to feel something was strange in Hollywood and that Lee might have been right . . . but I didn't act on this feeling, and continued to develop projects as well as publish books favorable to the industry (See http://www.moviepubs.com).
After Lee died, I worked with Errol Flynn's manager, Jackson B. Mahon (http://www.mecfilms.com/barry.htm), for about 10 years and got to meet and learn about the Feature AND TV industry from a reasonably high level. Barry was considered by many a genius in movie financing/completion bonding, as well as a pioneer for new methods of financing movies deals such as using Canadian public master limited partnerships to discount negative pickup deals instead of banks. Barry launched Doris Keating, a powerful CBS/Columbia producer, who produced many CBS MOWs (I worked with Barry at the executive level on about 5 of them, including an MOW on Errol's life called MY WICKED WICKED WAYS). Prior to the movie business, Barry flew over 100 fighter pilot missions in WWII and was the only person to get shot down twice and escape twice from the Germans. The movie, THE GREAT ESCAPE is based upon Barry. I got to know Barry very well, as well as his entire family (Doris was his daughter) and over time I realized that Barry corroborated Lee's views about control in the industry. But being young and idealistic I argued with Barry incessantly, telling him "You're full of shit Barry, your problem is you didn't go to college." And he would say: "James you're full of shit, your problem is you over analyze everything because you DID go to college." We loved each other, but I still took his advice with a "grain of salt" -- that is up until the industry passed on the STALIN and NITWITS projects. Why wouldn't it have not financed these projects, especially when many of the executives knew who I had been working with and knew of my 20 years experience? I thought this was strange.
Then a Christian producer friend, Bill Van Alen, who is partners with Joe Pytka (the highest paid TV Commercial director in the world and director of SPACE JAM and LET IT RIDE) on a project called WHEN THE TRUMPET SOUNDS, recommended that I read a book that a friend had suggested to him. The book was called THE FEATURE FILM DISTRIBUTION DEAL by John W. Cones. The friend who recommended the book to Bill was George Jensen, also a Christian and the executive producer of the $30 million, Proctor & Gamble-financed, MOW called A.D. (which aired around 1985 on network TV as a multi-part special). All of these people had experienced similar problems in the Hollywood-based U.S. motion picture industry. Could it have been because they were Christians, I wondered? Even though I was a Christian-Scientologist for most of my years in Hollywood (1977 -1986), I began to wonder, could the industry be discriminating against people in various religions or with conservative political views? Nevertheless, I took all of this with a "grain of salt," feeling that these people just didn't understand the industry or that they had not "paid their dues."
Eventually, I had enough of my own personal experiences, along with several other producer associates and I began to wonder if it could really be true: IS there discrimination at the highest levels of Hollywood in the 7 MPAA studios and might this discrimination have extended to me, an honest and hard-working filmmaker who had been directing movies since he was 15 years old (and who was even no longer active in Scientology)?! I concluded that it just couldn't be possible because, as you say below, THAT would be "pointing the finger" at those who were 'running Hollywood accusing such of blocking people like me from getting a head in the business, particularly such people who, like myself were WASP males, and . . . this would be a generalization to think such.'
But then I read another book by entertainment-securities attorney, John Cones, entitled, WHAT'S REALLY GOING ON IN HOLLYWOOD! (a full, free, copy at http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/whats.htm) and afterwards, took it also with basically a "grain of salt") until after I read enough of the books in John's "Selected Bibliography" to see where he got his data and what THESE people were saying over the years about Hollywood control. The Selected Bibliography is at http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/resbib.htm in case you want to look it over. After reading enough of these books, including newer books like FATAL SUBTRACTION, and after looking over John's other books on Hollywood control (such as the list of people who have been controlling the studios since their inception at http://www.homevideo.net/control.htm#execlist) I slowly began to realize that there might be some truth to what all of the above people, my mentors and John Cones, had observed about Hollywood's modus operandi. Further, I began to ask the question, first framed by John Cones, is it healthy, in a democratic society of free ideas, for a narrowly-defined group to control the most powerful propaganda machine yet devised by mankind? My feeling was that the answer to this question was "no," and so I finally decided to take action by co-founding the Film Industry Reform Movement (FIRM) with John on March 15, 1998. You can read our Mission Statement at http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/fmission.htm and post your views at the "Current Discussion" c/o http://www.homevideo.net/FIRM/archives.htm
So, I hope this gives you a little background into my motives and the reasons FIRM had to be established and I hope you, and others, will feel free to participate in the on-going discussion. Do to time constraints, I am unable to continue private emails, but I, John, or others, will endeavor to address anything you post in the public forum. Thanks for all your concerns.
----- Original Message -----
To: James Jaeger
Sent: Thursday, December 13, 2001 3:41 AM
> I may have gotten confused as to who was saying what. From what I read, I had understood that you said the Jews are running Hollywood and blocking people from getting ahead in the business, particularly the WASP male, and that they are the ones being ridiculed in the movies, etc. When I hear generalizations like this, I feel compelled to say something. My attack may have been somewhat personal, but from what I have read of racist literature (despite what you said, I do research) they blame minorities for taking jobs away, etc. and that the minorities are really the ones in power and that the white male is really the minority.
> I don't know if it was you, but somebody wrote about Israel being a racist country, etc. I don't want to debate that, but it is just to explain that it was one of the issues that set me off.
> What I was trying to say is that, let's say a woman, could just sit there and say "oh, the glass ceiling. The old boys' club. I can't get anywhere". There are women who have risen to the top, despite sexual discrimination, etc. I just hear so many people blaming others for their failures. I'm especially leery when it's a religious group or any kind of minority. When I hear a hint of "those people" are keeping us down, etc. What I meant was that any argument can be built around a set of facts. That politicians can take exact facts and turn them around in their favor by a twist of phrase.
> If you listen to Kazinsky, Timothy McVeigh, etc., they all took exact facts and used them to blame others for their extreme behavior.
> If this is not your point of view and I was reading someone else's comments, then my apologies. If they were your comments, then I apologize for making it a personal attack. I know how I felt when you turned it around to a personal attack on me, and I didn't like it. This is an issue I feel strongly about and my manner is usually forceful when I feel my point of view is right. I shall try not to turn it personal in the future.
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