Thursday, June 09, 2011

True Crime Stories

I have never wanted to be anything but a professional actor and ventriloquist, so I guess my life has worked out very well, up till now. That last qualifier speaks to the insecurity that the entertainment industry breads. It is usually feast or famine and you are either complaining about being away from home working or complaining that you are at home not working. The roller coaster ride of a career has never been one of the most attractive sides to performing.
I do remember in junior high I had to say what I would like to be when I grew up and instead of ventriloquist (which was not an acceptable answer to this query) I said... Lawyer. My sixth grade teacher smiled in approval.
I knew nothing about lawyers except what I had seen on television. Those lawyers seemed to be performers giving speeches to a very captive audience. In my naiveté the only thing missing was a puppet.
Little did I know that most of a Lawyer's day is spent reading boring case studies and quoting old legalese. Neither did I know that there were other kinds of lawyers who never did get to perform in front of a jury/audience.
However, I have retained a fascination for criminal trials and detective stories. The Casey Anthony Trial has so occupied my attention for the last two weeks that I am beginning to style my hair like Nancy Grace. I miss my cable access to shows like 48 hours and Forensic Files, and Cold Case Files on A&E. That is probably the motivation for this discovery:

At one of my almost daily trips to Wegmans, the food store of the area, I saw a bin of highly discounted DVD's for sale. Most were four bucks with titles that I had never even heard and actor names that rang no bells. I think at first my interest was to see if there was even one title that I might remember. That is when I came across a large collection of several DVD's titled... "Prime Time Crime". Of course that title was not familiar but it caught my eye. For cheap, I might be able to use the DVD player at the "star house", since the television reception sucks. I found out that it was a collection of Stephen Cannell television shows that had been on television during his era as a very successful producer/writer. In addition to favorite episodes of some of his more notable work like, "Hunter", "21 Jump Street", Wiseguy" and "The Commish" the cover also touted 42 episodes of previously unreleased series. One of those series was "Broken Badges" with a photo of the cast. There I was standing with my fellow actors as Stanley Jones in the "previously unreleased series.." on the cover of the DVD.
"Broken Badges" was one of the highlights of my career. Unfortunately it was not one of the highlights of the CBS television lineup. We were cancelled after 7 episodes or half a year. It took almost a year to do the seven episodes from pilot to cancellation so it occupied a lot of my experience.
I learned a lot doing a single camera drama. I liked the pace and I liked my character, a cop ventriloquist, which had room for me to grow and learn as an actor without a puppet. I got to act, chase bad guys, show a badge, carry a gun and do a lot of stunt fights. I might have grown tired of the whole thing over time, but it did not last long enough for me to feel anything but joy. I was very sad when we got the notice at Christmas that year that we would not be back.
I have most of the episodes of the show on video tape, which is fading and disappearing with the years. So I was excited that I could get all the episodes on DVD for nine bucks, less than it would cost to transfer the less than pristine copies I had already. So, I grabbed it up. Very excited that I had saved some of my own history. I brought it back to the "star house" very pleased with my discovery.
But wait. There was my picture and my performances on a DVD for sale at Wegmans in Rochester, New York. It was a SAG show with the standard contract language for RESIDUALS. My excitement turned to greed as I said to myself,
"Where is my dough for this Wegmans discounted bottom bin DVD?" How can they release my picture and my work without proper compensation under union rules?
Quickly I did the calculations based on the 7 shows at the going rate of .001% participation in each episode. Now I don't know what the profit break is on the combination of all these shows and episodes when packaged together. You also have to figure the cost of transferring them to DVD, marketing costs and distribution. I mean someone had to drive a batch up here to Wegmans for sale, and the cost of gas is almost 4 bucks a gallon locally. I figure Johnny Depp will get more for his several years on "21 Jump Street" than I will for half a year of "Badges" so I will have share with him and the other actors. And since the show probably didn't make a profit in its original release to CBS there could be some accrued costs to offset. But I still think that comes out to about .00063 cents a unit. So... if they sell more than 100,000 copies I should almost break even on my $9.00 purchase. But wait, I didn't include he accrued costs of my lawyer who made the deal with Cannell to begin with. So maybe they have to sell half a million copies before I get my nine bucks back. Since I bought the only copy in the bin bargain bin at Wegmans, that may take a while. But a deal is a deal.
Maybe I should have been a lawyer like my sixth grade teacher suggested.
As you were,

1 comment:

Bob Conrad said...

Don't spend it all in one place Jay. I too have experienced the work -no work roller coaster you describe, but am not willing to get off the ride. Incidentally my son used to work for Wegmans as a food safety coordinator.