Thursday, February 27, 2014
The Real Story (Allegedly) of Why I Got Dumped by FOX
OK, so now that the dust has settled and I got another story on why I got dumped by FOX 35 on Wednesday, I should probably share it with my audience, right? I always keep it real here, and what follows is what I believe to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Some of it is "he said, she said" so where there are no facts, and only reliable sources, I am clear to say so. But you can all make up your own minds.
Let me start by saying, the official story from FOX 35 management is that they are re-evaluating their morning show and have simply decided to make some changes. Well that happens, and business is business, so it would be hard for me to argue with that. So when they called me on Wednesday and told me that, and said they were suspending the segment, I merely responded that I was surprised and extremely disappointed, but that I appreciated the opportunity over the last 3 years and four months. I got a brief thank you for the time I had given them, and that was it. Per my iPhone, the entire call lasted one minute. That's what 3+ years gets you at FOX for a farewell. So after the call I was, to no surprise, still in shock, wondering what had spawned this? I have never once heard any negative feedback from anyone at FOX about me or my work as a film critic. To be fair, it was very rare to get any feedback whatsoever, but when I did, on rare occasion, it was always positive. So perhaps something else was afoot?
But let's start from the beginning. In October of 2010 Good Day Orlando was looking for a film critic. The problem is, they didn't want to pay for one. So they went for the next best thing ... Me! Sure, I had seen more movies than most film critics. And yes, I used all my vacation time from my work as an actuary to travel to film festivals all over the world on my own nickel just for fun, so I had seen plenty of films that hadn't even been released in theaters yet. But no, I had never had any on-camera experience as a film critic. I was merely a film junkie who grew up loving movies, only dreaming of being on TV and getting to talk about what I loved. So I gladly accepted the tryout they offered me on 10/15/10. Under an inordinate amount of pressure, due to the weirdness of live TV via satellite from FOX 29 in Philadelphia, with no experience whatsoever, and no training, no make-up, no hairstyling, and really not much guidance in any way, I did my absolute best to channel my inner Roger Ebert and give my thoughts on two movies in theaters and one on DVD. And it went ok! I didn't throw up or pass out, so I was pretty pleased with myself. And the folks at FOX 35 were pleased too. In fact they were so pleased they asked me back every Friday ever since, allowing me to create the format of the segment myself, and almost always letting me say whatever I wanted to say about the movies I saw. And I was thrilled to do it. It was the dream come true. Sure, I wasn't getting paid. But I was getting to do what I loved. And I have a real job that pays me, so money wasn't an issue. The only problem was fitting this all into my life. And that wasn't easy. I spent virtually every waking non-working hour watching movies, writing about them on my blog, and preparing to talk about them on live TV. It may look easy. It's not.
In my 3+ years on TV, I've seen them come and I've seen them go at both FOX 35 and FOX 29. Anchors, Reporters, Producers, Directors, Assignment Editors, Guests, Security Guards, etc ... Just like any job, it's a revolving door of people. And I actually believed I was friends with every single one of them. At FOX 29, the staff, security guards, and guests would often go out of their way to come over and talk to me about movies. It was great. A side benefit of this gig was that I got to meet a whole lot of people and make some new friends. And at FOX 35 we all had a great repoire, even though it was primarily over email. All was fine and dandy! Sure, I still wasn't getting paid, but I wasn't complaining. It WAS awful strange that I couldn't even get them to provide me a proper custom earpiece that wouldn't fall out of my ear during live segments, which I imagine every other person on the show has. You would think they'd want to invest a tiny bit of money to "produce" the segment a bit. But whatever. So I look a little foolish on TV. I'm ok with it. I mean, I'm getting to do what I love, right?
Now I should tell you that even though I'm willing to look foolish for the common good of making good TV, I am no fool. Over the years, I obviously tried to make this opportunity that had fallen in my lap into something bigger. Heck, if I can't get any compensation, at least I'll try to get as much experience and exposure as I can, right? So for three years I've been offering my services at FOX 29 in Philly to be their film critic. They actually didn't have one, and I was dressed, rehearsed, and ready to go on Fridays anyway. And I work for free! So why not? Yet, the powers that be at FOX 29 remained adamant that they didn't want a regular film review segment. I thought this was silly, but it's their job, not mine to decide what to do with their show. I am merely a guest in their home. And I always thanked them for letting me use their camera. Read my State of the Blog from 1/1/14 if you don't believe me. But every once in a while I just casually mentioned that I would be happy to do their show while I was there. And over my 3+ years they actually had me on four times. Each time I thought went over pretty well, and the limited feedback I got from them was all positive. So I thought I was headed in the right direction at least. But late last year I learned from a friend who watched FOX 29 that they were using another film critic via satellite from DC. This obviously hurt my feelings. So I emailed the news director of FOX 29 and inquired about it. His response, in the nicest possible way, was that they had tried this other guy out and the cast and crew simply thought he worked better for the show than I did. This hurt my feelings even more, but I was professional about it. I thanked him for his honesty and for any future consideration if they change their mind. I knew at that point they wouldn't, but I at least wanted to keep my relationship good with them since they let me use their camera every week to do the Orlando segment, and I liked them all very much. And according to the news director they all liked me very much as well, just not for the show.
OK, here's where it gets good. On 2/14, I published the following on my personal Facebook account:
"So is it wrong that I feel cheated on when FOX 29 uses another film critic via satellite from DC instead of me even though I'm physically there at the studio doing my segment for Orlando? Seems particularly hurtful on Valentine's Day."
Now, I ask you, is that post crossing any line in any way? That was the one and only time I ever dared express my feelings of hurt on social media, and I actually thought it was done in a mildly amusing, albeit true way. I received many comments from friends who thought FOX 29 was silly not to use me since I'm right there. But I didn't trash them in any way. I merely responded that this would be my one and only mention of it and that this was my closure and that I'm now done with it. I decided right there and then I would never ask FOX 29 about it again. If they wanted to use me they knew how to reach me. Well, sources tell me that the folks at FOX 29 didn't take too kindly to this post, intended only for my 300+ Facebook friends, many of whom work at FOX 29 and FOX 35. Rumor has it they were no longer comfortable with me being in their studio and using their camera on Friday mornings, despite the fact that I had been doing so for 3+ years without ever hearing one complaint from anyone who even implied that I was in the way or had made them feel uncomfortable in any way. Trust me, that's the last thing I wanted to do. I really tried to be as friendly and respectful as I could, and I honestly felt that most if not all of them enjoyed having me there, or at worst didn't care.
So sources tell me that Philly told Orlando that they didn't want me using their camera anymore and the rest is history. To be sure, FOX 35 management denies all of the above, and stands firm that they simply decided (coincidentally less than one week after my Facebook post) to suspend the segment. And FOX 29 has not commented on this at all, even though I gave them the opportunity. And yet suddenly I appear to be persona non grata by everyone at both stations. Very few people responded to my kind farewell emails. Very few wished me good luck. It's almost as if anyone who is caught talking to me may get dumped as well. And why? Well I can't say for sure. But it's possible and maybe even likely that it's all because of one harmless Facebook post. I almost killed myself for 3+ years, dedicating virtually every spare moment to try and make good TV for them, for no compensation at all. And now they've all washed their hands of me. (Although since this post, many from FOX 35 have been classy enough to comment publicly on my Facebook or privately via message, and offered me compliments and well wishes. And though it only took a minute of their life to do so, I will always remember it and appreciate it. Surprisingly, many from FOX 35 and FOX 29 that I would have expected to have heard from in some way, have remained suspiciously silent. It certainly appears I was not as welcome at FOX 29 as I thought, though I always thought I was more intuitive than that.)
So wait, I'm sure you're asking yourself, if that Facebook post got back to FOX 29 and FOX 35, won't this blog post get back to them as well? I would think so. But you know what? I really don't care anymore. Am I burning bridges? Probably. But only bridges I have no intention of crossing ever again. I have no intention of accepting another unpaid position, requiring 20 - 30 hours of work a week, only to get banned, dumped, ignored, ostracized, and quite possibly even lied to. So here's a message for any of my "friends" from FOX who are reading this:
If you're truly my friend, why would anything I wrote above set you off? And if you're not, why the hell are you reading my blog? Don't you have better things to do like pretending to be friends with other people to get what you want out of them and then stabbing them in the back when you're done?
If you work at FOX 29 and did actually participate in banning me from coming in and using the camera to do the Orlando segment, you should be ashamed of yourself. Here's an idea: If you had any problem at all with me, why not talk to me about it? Maybe just a quick mention? To you, getting me banned may have just been one quick phone call or email message that removes a headache from your regal presence. To me, it's my life. Thank you for destroying what I have worked so hard to build over the last 3 years and 4 months ... allegedly.
If you work at FOX 35 and dumped me because FOX 29 told you they wouldn't allow me to use their camera anymore, and then lied to me about it (allegedly), you should be ashamed of yourself. Your priority should be making the best TV, not kowtowing to the childish demands made by FOX 29 management? Does the end result serve the FOX corporation in its entirety? I think not. I was free talent that you apparently liked, and perhaps we could have skyped me in from somewhere else. And if you're sticking with your story that it had nothing to do with FOX 29 and had any concern about the segment or with me, wouldn't it have been smart to mention it to me at least once before you dumped me? Maybe we could have made some changes? Where I work, there are proper channels one needs to go through before firing someone. You need to document that you have warned them of the problem first. Sure, I'm not an employee at FOX, but after 145 appearances over 3+ years, aren't I due some consideration? It wasn't that long ago that your executive producer contacted me to ask me if I would do an additional segment with all new material on Saturday mornings as well. (I said I'd be happy to if I could be compensated for my time, though I never heard back from her about it. Heaven forbid you actually give me a dollar or two. FOX might go under!) So you went from liking me enough to want me on two days a week to dumping me without warning? It doesn't make any sense to me. Though I admit I'm not a TV executive. I'm just a simple Ivy League graduate with a degree in math, 20 years experience as an actuary, and a film junkie who sees almost 500 movies a year, maintains a blog, and did 145 appearances on your show for free and without any proper gratitude on your part. What do I know?
And to all of the above, watch out because karma is a bitch. You just might be the next one to get dumped. Remember, I've seen 'em come and I've seen 'em go.
Now you may be wondering, if I could change anything that I did, would I? Believe it or not, I don't think so. I enjoyed and appreciated the experience (up until a few days ago) which I never thought I'd have. But suddenly I feel less grateful to anyone for it. I now completely understand it was simply a business transaction. They needed someone to work for free and I did it. Nobody did me any favors, and clearly I wasn't a living, breathing organism with feelings to anyone involved in getting rid of me. But, you might ask, wouldn't I at least not have posted the infamous Facebook message? Nope, I would do it again. I've always wanted to know just exactly what my value was at FOX, and I finally found out. Even for free, I'm worth less than the offended feelings of some overly sensitive, thin skinned, cold hearted, self serving management babies ... allegedly.
I'm done with you, FOX. Good Day.