Monday, March 21, 2016

"We're Gettin' Closer"

This is one of my favorite times of the year.  And this year brings particularly good news.

“That sounds uncharacteristically optimistic.”

I was being ironic.

“I should have realized that.”

You really should have.

Moving on…

Once a year, Universal Studios (now called NBCUniversal), the company that produced Major Dad which I co-created and which ran for four seasons on CBS and its 96 episodes were subsequently syndicated both nationally and around the world sends me a “Statement of Accounting” reporting how Major Dad is doing financially.

This is no courtesy “We thought you might like to know” memo keeping me thoughtfully in the loop.  My Universal contract gave me a financial interest in the syndication-accumulated revenues.  Which are hardly small potatoes.  For enormous hit shows like Seinfeld, syndication revenues run in the hundreds of millions of dollars.  With Major Dad, however, the profits…

Well, according to my most recent “Statement of Accounting”…

There are no profits.


No, wait.  Let me save “however.”  So I can end this on an “up.”  First…

Behold the saddening story of studio deal making.


The big money in series television is not in salaries.  Those can undeniably be hefty but nowhere near “Syndication Money” hefty.  (Their enormity described ungraciously as “Fuck you money”.) 

The big money is also not in “residuals”, the additional payments writers (actors and directors) receive when their episodes are rebroadcast.  Residuals can, in reality, be miniscule.  I just recently received a “Residuals” check for five dollars and thirty-three cents.  Not infrequently I have received residual checks for amounts smaller than the price of the stamp required to send them to me.  

“Eleven cents!  The drinks are on me!”

“Syndication Money” is indisputably the Mother Lode.  It occurs very rarely – few series run long enough to attain that opportunity.  But when the dam bursts, grab a bucket.  Larry David?  Seth MacFarlane?  Chuck Lorre?  Swept off to Nirvana in a tidal wave of gold.

Not so with myself.

Why not? 

Two reasons.

Reason One: Those writers’ shows were bigger hits than Major Dad. 

Reason Two:  They had substantially better contracts.

“Reason One” is self-explanatory, so I shall elucidate upon “Reason Two.”  As best as I can, not being a studio accountant armed with the training and temperament to devise a scheme crafted to rip off the “talent” to the advantage of the folks who sign the studio accountants’ paychecks. 

And it is entirely legal.  (Though not particularly friendly.)

I will keep this simple.  You do not want “Net” profits, because, as a “Net” profits participant, your profits inevitably fall through the net and you end up with nothing.

In the Major Dad situation, I was fortunately, a “Gross” profits participant, avoiding the abject porousness of the “Net.”

Unfortunately, there is many varieties of “Gross” profits participation.  My variety, as explained to me by my agent with a straight face leading me to wonder if he would not have made a successful actor – or sociopath –  was defined as “Modified” or “Rolling Gross.”

“Rolling Gross” means that although you are in an indisputably “Gross” profits participation position, your profits, as delineated in your contract that your agent encouraged you to sign will inevitably roll away from you.

“Leaving you nothing?”

Leaving you less than nothing.

Which is the message of the annual NBCUniversal “Statement of Accounting.”
I will not go into eye-watering detail of the document I received from Glen Svalstedt, Executive Director, Financial Contract Reporting Department for NBCUniversal. 

Bottom Line (minus fees, expenses, charges and interest payments): 

Major Dad continues to be in the “red.”  (Meaning no “Fuck you money” for Earlo.)

But now the previously promised good news.

2013 – Major Dad was a reported $4,638,312 in the hole.

2014 – I threw the “Statement of Accounting” away in uncontrollable disgust.

2015 – Major Dad was $4,384,016 in the hole.

And, as of February 11th 2016, Major Dad was below the “break even” point – at which point my “Rolling Gross” would purportedly kick in – by $4,323,862.

Do you see what’s happening? 

The Major Dad “deficit” is shrinking!

I am definitely getting closer!

Can you believe it?  I mean, if things continue the way they have been…

I’m looking at a substantial windfall in, “ballpark” figure…

Eighty-seven years.

(Although the accruing profits are annually diminishing.  So it could actually take a little longer.)

Is it too soon to sing, “We’re In The Money”?

I don’t think so.

February 4th, Twenty-One-Oh-Three, or so…

I’m looking at a wonderful birthday present.


Fred from Scarborough said...

Just wondering if you get a minuscule CPP and/or OAS.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

The solution here is clearly to dig up a time machine - anywhere in your yard will do - go back in time, renegotiate the contract, return to our time, a few minutes before you dug up the machine, and rebury it.

Then go in and enjoy inspecting your bank statements.