Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Penny Wise and Pound Foolish: The FOX Way of Doing Business

As I teased earlier in the week, I'm going to be pulling back the curtain a bit more, revealing all the details on my experience as a film critic 'guest' on Good Day for the last three years and four months. Why am I doing this? Perhaps you think it's because Hell hath no fury like a film critic scorned?  But no, it's really not about that.  (Well OK, maybe it's a LITTLE bit about that.)  But I keep it real here, and always try to provide interesting content that you can't get on every other movie blog.  And this is that! I never intended to be TMZ or People magazine, so this won't morph into a gossip column or bitch fest.  But the overwhelming response to my last post, besides the offering of condolences, was that it was a very compelling read.  So if you want more of that, you got it!  But after I get this all out of my system, my primary focus will return to movie reviews (despite the fact that I get a heck of a lot more page views for drama than movie reviews.)  Of course, I will ALWAYS sprinkle in reveals and tidbits from my personal life.  That's just how I do.  So stay tuned.

First and foremost, this post is just to clear up anything I was vague about in my last post about the
fact that, to date, I have made no money as a film critic.  I make no money from this blog (as you might have noticed there are no advertisements) and FOX gave me no money for my 145 appearances.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  Bubkes.  As in, $0.  But surely, you say, they must have at least covered expenses?  No, never.  But surely you must have reviewed over 500 new releases on Good Day for them, you ask?  Surely they must have covered the cost of the movies themselves, didn't they?  Nope.  I arranged, with zero assistance from FOX, with the local PR firms in Philly who represent the movie studios to get on the invitation lists to advanced screenings for many of them, which were then free to attend.  Of course, any movies where I missed the (often sole) advance screening provided, whenever and wherever it was playing, was on me to pay for and see on my own.  Any movies I watched on Video on Demand at home were on me to cover as well.  But surely there must have been travel expenses incurred?  Of course there were.  Sometimes they were incidental and sometimes they were significant, but they were always out of my pocket.  (And don't call me Shirley.) 

What about all those film festivals you attend?  Did FOX cover any of that?  No I completely paid my own way, exactly as I did before I was a proper film critic.  I never even applied for press accreditation because FOX wasn't interested in me covering the events.

OK, so you didn't get paid, but surely you got some other form of gratitude.  Perhaps they offered to fly you down to Orlando to have you on the show in person on occasion?  Maybe a holiday gift basket?  A card?  The occasional thank you email from management?  A special hug?  Nope, no, negatory, never once, and ... ewww, creepy, and still no.

So maybe they were just waiting for you to ask, or even demand some sort of compensation?  I wasn't ever sure.  So I tested the waters once, and only once, at what I thought was the most appropriate time to do so ... when they called me to ask if I would come in every week on Saturday mornings as well as Friday mornings to do an entirely different segment with all fresh material.  I said I would be happy to, but it is obviously a lot more work to prepare and have to come in for, so I politely inquired if I could be compensated for my time.  I never heard back.  And that's how they roll.  There is no 'I'm sorry, we just don't have it in the budget'.  There's simply no reply (and perhaps even an unspoken, how dare you even ask?)

The only other thing that I asked for that cost any money was a custom earpiece (which everyone else on the show has) so that it wouldn't constantly be falling out of my ear while I'm talking live on TV. They sent me a link to where I could buy one myself out of my own pocket.  Gee, thanks.  I didn't even click on it to find out how much it would be. Even if it were $50, why should I have to pay for it rather than the FOX Corporation?  Seriously, is this a network television show or Wayne's World on cable access?

I also had the audacity to ask a few times over the years, both in Philly and Orlando, if the news directors/GM's would kindly make an introduction for me to other news directors or GM's of other major FOX markets, and act as a reference to my loyalty, professionalism, and talent, so that I could potentially do reviews for them from Philly just like I do for Orlando while I'm there on Fridays.  Though each time I asked I never got a reply back.  So I never pushed it.  Believe it or not, I tried very hard to be low maintenance, easy going, and appreciative for the opportunity.  Though at any other job, you get an annual review, where you hear feedback on how you are performing, and it's even customary to get a raise of some sort.  I got neither the feedback nor the raise.  (Of course even a 10% raise on $0 is still $0.  Trust me, I majored in math in college.)

I even suggested that we try and get sponsorship from a local theater chain or another business to generate revenue for them for the segment.  That seemed like a win/win situation to me.  But, again, I received no response.  Clearly they didn't want input from the peanut gallery.

OK, I'm sure this just sounds like whining at this point.  Clearly I can't believe this is the only time an injustice has occurred to anyone in the TV news business.  No, I'm sure everyone has a similar story in their history.  But this is mine, and I'm just putting it out there for those that are interested.  But if they weren't giving you anything at all for all that work, and you weren't happy with it, why did you continue to do it, you ask?  Great question!  Certainly, no one had a gun to my head. I was free to retire any time I wanted.  But I enjoyed and appreciated the experience, which I conveyed to them often.  And I honestly believed that eventually my loyalty, hard work, talent, and low maintenance attitude would eventually get recognized for bigger and better things.  Good things happen to good people, right?   Well in this instance, it just got me dumped from FOX 35 and allegedly banned from FOX 29 virtually overnight.  (In fact, sources tell me I am now Lord Voldemort, He Who Must Not Be Named, at FOX 29.  How on Earth did that happen?)  For over three years I was mature enough to keep any grievances off of social media.  But now things have changed.  FOX 35 management cautioned me on our last conversation that I was still in good standing with them (even though they were getting rid of me) and I shouldn't do anything to ruin that.  The thing is, FOX 35 management is no longer in good standing with me.  They burned a bridge with talent that was willing to give absolutely everything he had, indefinitely, for free and incurring all expense on his own.  Would anyone else do that for that long?  In the end I only lost a job that didn't pay me and in all likelihood never would.  So perhaps it is them who shouldn't have ruined that.  That's my thinking anyway.

I'm done with you, FOX.  Good Day.