FROM Gary Baum
Guns and Hollywood John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction Image courtesy Miramax Last week there were two major news events: 58 people were murdered and hundreds wounded by a shooter in Las Vegas. And, the New York Times ran a story confirming an open secret in Tinseltown -- that Miramax co-founder Harvey Weinstein had long "engaged in rampant sexual harassment." Weinstein has since been fired, and more serious allegations have been published. Given the known Democratic leanings of Weinstein and his colleagues, charges of hypocrisy in liberal Hollywood have swirled. This DnA episode considers another dimension of liberal Hollywood hypocrisy -- in connection with mass shootings: namely, the movie industry’s cozy relationship with the gun industry, through the branding, marketing and design development of its products. The Hollywood Reporter has detailed the very close relationship between the movie and gun manufacturing industries in the article, " Locked and Loaded: The Gun Industry’s Lucrative Relationship with Hollywood ." It was co-authored by Gary Baum, who says that "gun companies are huge beneficiaries of the gun culture in film and television," and vice versa. The love affair is demonstrated in the Hollywood Guns exhibit at the NRA Museum in Virginia and at a prop house with 15,000 guns in Sunland, California, which helps movie-makers create the illusion of violence. Guns are then aestheticized in stylish movies that objectify guns along with the cars, fashion and jewelry and the actors and actresses that model them. So does the illusion impact real life? Guns are playing a bigger role on the silver screen. A 2015 report by the Economist concluded that gun violence in PG-13 movies has tripled since 1985. And the Hollywood Reporter found the number of gun models pictured in big box office movies between 2010 and 2015 was 51 percent higher than it had been a decade earlier. Of the deadliest single-day mass shootings in US history from 1949 to the present, only two took place before 1980. That means that the majority of deadly mass shootings have taken place in this period when we've seen a rise of gun violence in movies. Weinstein, producer of Pulp Fiction and other Quentin Tarantino movies, ironically has said he no longer wants to make movies that glamorize gun violence. But Baum says most Hollywood executives don't see themselves as playing a role, even as they start to worry a mass shooting might one day hit the red carpet. "Hollywood defers blame or responsibility for the most part to its audience. It feels as though it is providing an entertainment to an audience that wants this gunplay," he said.
Cracking down on pay-to-play auditions In La La Land, Emma Stone plays aspiring actress Mia, who finds herself demoralized as she faces one failed audition after another. What the movie doesn't show is something that has gone on for years in the real La La Land -- aspiring actors like Mia scraping together $50 or so to get a quick audition for a minor role in a film or TV show. It might be a network show like Criminal Minds or Big Bang Theory -- and with luck, you might get one line, but it could move you closer to getting SAG membership. However, paying to audition is illegal. Last year, Gary Baum of the Hollywood Reporter conducted an investigation into this practice , which has taken root in sessions known as casting workshops. These workshops are supposed to be educational, teaching actors how to audition, but Baum tells us, "In practical terms, it is really just an audition." And not just any audition -- one that you're paying money for -- often $50 a pop. If you go a couple times a month, it can cost well over $1000 a year, which is a lot of money if your main gig is a barista or waiter. It might seem sensible to say, "If you don't have the money, simply don't go to the workshops." But Baum found that the workshops had become so pervasive and commonplace, they had become the cornerstone of how a struggling actor breaks into the industry. Earlier this month, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer filed criminal charges for the first time ever against this practice, naming 25 people involved in running five alleged pay-to-play workshops. We reached out to several of those facing charges but none responded to our requests for comment. We did see an email, sent to clients by one of the casting workshop operators charged by the city attorney. It said its practices are legal and that actors should be free to spend their money as they see fit. We sat down with Baum to learn more about his investigation and what possibly happens next, and with casting director Billy DaMota, who tells us why he has been long-opposed to pay-to-play casting workshops.
The Problems With Pay for Play While film actors still go to traditional auditions to score roles, they’re increasingly trying out in so-called workshops put on by casting directors. On any given day of the week, hundreds pay an entrance fee to hear some tips and be seen by casting directors. These aren’t billed as auditions because it’s illegal to ask actors to pay to audition. But that’s what’s happening, according to a story in the Hollywood Reporter .
A Battle Over the Hollywood Sign Back in 1923, a real estate company erected a huge sign in the Hollywood Hills. It advertised parcels of real estate called “Hollywoodland.” Now, the “land” is gone from the sign, which has become an international landmark. But for some nearby residents, the Hollywood sign is just a magnet for noisy, destructive tourists. We get up to speed on the controversy over access to it.
Hollywood’s Vaccine Wars Politics. Religion. Money. And now you can add another topic to the list of things to avoid in polite conversation: Vaccinations. The number of people choosing not to vaccinate their children continues to rise, especially in the tonier communities of West L.A. and Hollywood. But the trend has health experts worried, especially as cases of whooping cough and measles climb throughout California.
Securing Public Spaces, Super Wealthy Asians Vehicles are increasingly being used as weapons, as seen in the London Bridge attack over the weekend and in New York’s Times Square last month. The Compton-based company Calpipe is designing security bollards to help make public spaces safer. And novelist Kevin Kwan satirizes the “crazy rich” Asian jet set and their luxurious tastes in his latest book, “Rich People Problems.”
Revisiting showrunner Steven Bochco on his memoir Steven Bochco, the writer-producer behind record-breaking Emmy winners Hill Street Blues, LA Law and NYPD Blue, fought battles with everyone from out-of-control actors to network censors in his long career. He isn’t afraid to tell those tales in his memoir, Truth Is a Total Defense. This week we revisit the conversation where he shared some of his favorite stories with us.
Trump says goodbye Paris Accord: What does it mean for U.S. and the planet? President Donald Trump announced Thursday that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, the landmark international agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Trump was to renegotiate a new deal, but will that happen?