ESSAYS, ARTICLES, & REVIEWS
Dear Fellow Union Members:
Financial-core, or fi-core as it is known, is a quiet conspiracy. The unions absolutely don’t want their members to know that they can do this, and very easily, because it’s not in the union’s best interest; but it is in the member’s best interest. And who is more important? The union or the folks the union represents?
As a 25-year union member, I say us. We are more important by a mile than the union. We’re the folks doing the work; they are bean counters.
As with everything in life, unions are both good and bad. I am a proud member of the Director’s Guild of America, and have been for twenty-five years. I still get residuals on Xena, but on nothing else. The Director’s Guild does not recognize me as a feature director, even though I’ve directed nine features, but only as a “one-hour dramatic TV director.” Except that I’ve been directing feature films for thirty-five years and I dabbled in TV for a mere thirteen years. However, I’d also care to add that all of the head honchos of the DGA are idiotic jerks who have called me out on the carpet twice for not following the ridiculous DGA rules regarding the order of the credits on my films Running Time and If I Had a Hammer, both of which were indies and not under DGA jurisdiction. And when I use the cliché “called out on the carpet,” I actually mean I had to go before these eight morons who had never made a movie in their lives and explain why the production manager credit was not above the 1st assistant director’s credit on two films that were not under their jurisdiction and didn’t have production managers in the first place.
So I went fi-core.
The first person I knew who went fi-core was Ted Raimi while we were shooting Xena in the 1990s. Ted, attired in his Joxer outfit, explained to me that if I simply sent my union a letter stating that due to financial circumstances I had to go financial core, meaning I had to work non-union, because I had to pay my rent and feed my cats, they had to accept it; it’s a federal law. Well, I found that hard to believe, so I checked my DGA rule book and there was no mention of it. Hmmm? But with further research it seemed to be true, so I did it. And now I can work both union and non-union jobs. Bingo.
So Ted and I told our good buddy Bruce Campbell about fi-core, and once we explained it to him, to his utter shock and disbelief – since he had turned down more jobs than Ted and I put together because they were non-SAG, including my movie, Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except , and other films he had wanted to be in – that he immediately spoke with his attorney, then went fi-core in four unions: SAG, AFTRA, DGA and WGA.
Then Bruce, Ted and I convinced our buddy Gary who told his friend, and that’s how you learn about fi-core; word-of-mouth.
A famous case in the early 1970s was when Jon Voight merely inquired about fi-core to SAG. They threw such a hairy fit at him that he immediately went fi-core. I mean, who do these guys think they are? Jon Voight won an Oscar and these idiots have done nothing except get MBAs from Harvard, Yale and U of Nowhere.
Well, my fine-feathered fellow union members, you too can go fi-core any time you want.
The heck with SAG, DGA and WGA. From now on do whatever you want. You are free. The gilded cage is open; fly away. The secret is out.
Now, if every union member across the nation goes fi-core, then we’re all free. Free to be you and me.
When they started, unions were incredibly important because collective bargaining is the only way to deal with management. The J. P. Morgans of the world were more than happy to work people to death and pay them pennies. So were all the movie moguls in Hollywood. Let it be known and ring from the hills that I’m always on the side of labor and not management. Always.
But now, due to a fluke, I am management and I’m making low-budget, independent feature films.
From the first feature I ever worked on, Evil Dead in 1979, there were problems with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which has become nothing but a cauldron of problems for filmmakers.
At this point SAG does nothing but give producers and distributors trouble. Their job now is to make sure that a lot of movies don’t get made, and if they do the producer always gets screwed.
Let’s just take my film Running Time as an example. I shot the film in 1996 before any of us had discovered the secret world of fi-core. Well, I had to have my buddy Bruce Campbell in the lead, so I made the enormous error of going SAG. The film cost $90,000 of my own money (plus the $5,000 I paid Bruce which he gave right back to me, bless his soul). We shot the picture in ten days, a good time was had by all, and the film got very good reviews. Of course it never made its money back, but that’s just low-budget movies.
Cut to me in 2002 living in a single-wide trailer in Jacksonville, Oregon, a mile up the street from Bruce Campbell minding my own business when Bruce calls and says that he was just contacted by a brand new overseas sales agency in Beverly Hills, California, called Creative Light and they want to distribute our films overseas. So Bruce and I think, why the hell not?
The first things these young whippersnappers do is make a deal with IFC to show Running Time 36 times over the course of a year for $16,000. Cool. Since I happened to have been flat broke at the time I could really, really use the money, even if Creative Light was an overseas sales agency and IFC isn’t overseas.
It was great seeing Running Time on TV, but of course, Creative Light wouldn’t give my any part of the $16,000 due to “expenses,” whatever the those were (Bruce and I saw the one flyer they made with his head taken from one photo and clumsily placed on another photo of his body and we both burst out laughing), then they promptly went out of business.
Cut to me living back here in Michigan and who should I hear from out of the clear blue? Why it was SAG wanting to know why I hadn’t paid the residuals to the actors for the 36 showings on IFC? Please keep in mind that at that time I was worse than broke and was about to declare bankruptcy (caused by putting all of my money into another indie feature, If I Had a Hammer, which you can be absolutely certain was non-SAG). So SAG informs me that I owe about $5,800 in back residuals which are accruing interest daily.
Well, trying to explain anything to SAG is impossible. I didn’t get any of the money, I didn’t make the deal, the defunct overseas sales agency wasn’t even supposed to make a deal in the U.S. and beyond any of that, I had paid SAG rates, so the actors were by far the highest-paid people on the film, and it was all my own money which I still haven’t made back twenty-two years later.
And so I was in hot water with SAG from 2002 until 2017, with interest accruing daily, until the kind folks at Synapse Films acquired my films, Thou Shalt Not Kill…Except and Running Time and paid the now $10,000 bill with SAG. That’s ten grand that would have gone to me, but instead it went to SAG.
The point of this lengthy screed is that I’m now making low-budget movies – $100,000 each – and me and my partner on this deal know a lot of actors who would like to work on our films, but believe that they can’t because they’re SAG. But that’s not true.
And that’s why it’s time for all union members to show solidarity and go fi-core.
Unions are great when they start, like here in Detroit with the Teamsters and the UAW, but they soon become mobs that are run by the likes of Jimmy Hoffa, who is now either at the bottom of the Detroit River wearing cement overshoes or is in the cornerstone of building.
Well folks, SAG has become the Teamsters and Jimmy Hoffa is running the show.