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Motion Picture Capital of the World!No Filming Allowed.

That might as well be California’s motto. Despite being home to every major studio in the world, California remains way behind the game of getting productions to film here. Or, in this case, keep their business here. I mean, how hard do you have to convince someone to NOT fly across the country and hire a local crew to make their film when all the actors, execs, post facilities, Star Waggons……….

I’m running out of breath here. But seriously, Georgia and Louisiana are production meccas now. All due to tax incentives. Yes, tax incentives govern location.

Now, that makes absolute perfect business sense to me and I applaud GA and LA for being way ahead of the curve.

The California economy is in the dumpster. You’d think we would figure this out. We recently introduced a 20 percent tax credit, but ONLY IF YOU’RE AIRING ON BASIC CABLE. Broadcast network show? No credit.

The born and bred and proud Californian in me understands there is a lot of cache in CA landmarks and icons and blah blah blah. We’re in a heap of trouble, and one of our biggest industries is shipping off - to anywhere else in the nation except where their offices are located - to work.

Get it together, please.

RENT – Live at the Hollywood Bowl

Yes!!!!!!!!  RENT…….AT……….THE………HOLLYWOOD………BOWL.

September of 2008 brought the end of the Broadway run of RENT and in February of this year, the last Broadway company finished its tour.  Yet, we still have some great things to look forward to.

Neil Patrick Harris, who played Mark Cohen in the Los Angeles company of RENT in 1997 has signed on to direct the Bowl performances and the music will be directed by Tim Weil, musical director for RENT for its run of over 12 years on Broadway.  The rest of the cast has yet to be announced, but it’s safe to say that the Bowl productions will attract some excellent talent.

I don’t yet know if the productions are going to include any use of the L.A. Philharmonic, which is common at the Bowl, but it does perk my curiosity a bit.  I mean, RENT doesn’t really lend itself to complicated orchestration, but then again this is a very non-traditional venue and production for Broadway musicals and, well, who knows what they’re planning?

Honestly, I’m just writing this because I’m excited.  When I began working at Guzman Law Group, my only task was to make legal sense of the entire body of work of Jonathan Larson – move rights here and there, assign copyright to this and that – normal lawyer stuff.  It sounded like a simple task, and for the most part it was.

I had seen RENT twice.  It moved me.  That was about all I knew.  I didn’t know that its creator, Jonathan Larson, had passed away only hours before the off-Broadway opening of RENT.  I didn’t know that RENT had gone from off-Broadway to Broadway in three months.  I didn’t know that RENT was in the top 10 longest running musicals in Broadway history.  I didn’t know that, in 1996 (the year RENT opened), Jonathan was posthumously awarded 4 Tony awards (including Best Musical), the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, 6 Drama Desk Awards (including Outstanding Musical) and a Grammy (among others).

There will be three shows at the Bowl – August 6-8 – and en total just over 51,000 people will have the opportunity to see the largest productions of RENT ever undertaken.

Hope to see you there.

The Hurt Locker – About to Get Hurt?

Nominated for 9 Academy Awards, took home 6.  Timely, thought provoking, incredibly shot.  Stolen?

The Hurt Locker has been and will probably continue to be the most talked about movie of the last year, but its longevity will likely be prolonged for some less-than award-winning reasons.  If you haven’t already heard, everyone who had any involvement in the writing, producing and directing of the film is being sued by Master Sgt. Jeffrey Sarver.  Sarver claims that Mark Boal, author of the screenplay for The Hurt Locker, adapted the work from a 2005 article on Sarver he wrote for Playboy magazine.  Sarver also claims he coined the term “The Hurt Locker.”  Short version of the claims:  The main character in Hurt Locker, Will James (portrayed by Jeremy Renner) is based on Sarver’s life.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in New Jersey on March 2nd, alleges six causes of action:  right of publicity/misappropriation of name and likeness, false light/invasion of privacy, defamation, breach of contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and fraud.

For entertainment attorneys and privacy activists alike, it could be a really salacious opinion to read – issues regarding stealing one’s life story, compositing characters, the right to privacy…  It’s also fodder for the layman – in an age of identity theft it appears to be the most gruesome kind.   Forget my credit cards, you took my life story!

These things usually settle if there’s any substantial merit to the claims – even if there’s a scintilla of merit it’s an inherently precarious set of facts to argue.  Add to that a plaintiff that is a hero in a time of war and, well, I think you can do the math.  It may be a surprise to many that The Hurt Locker, despite winning best picture and endless critical accolades, has only netted 15 million to date – small numbers by today’s standards for blockbuster success.

For now, I’ll keep hoping that all that players behind the movie vs. an aggressive plaintiff’s attorney with an ostensibly just cause means the big boys will defend it and the soldier won’t give up.  We may just get a dissertation from the appellate level if all goes well, or horribly wrong, depending on your angle.

At ease.  For now.

Steve Jobs emailed me!

No, he didn’t.  There is a chance that some day he will though.  The semi-undipsuted king of computing does, on occasion, respond to random emails from Apple geeks.  It’s only a Google away to find his personal email address (Hint:  it may be sjobs@apple.com) and you may even run across some of the responses people have received from Sir Apple himself.

So what?
The number one complaint people voice about their attorneys is no communication.  Unreturned phone calls, emails, letters, smoke signals – all amount up to client frustration and often result in client departure.  If Steve has time to field emails form 989apple_rocks!@hotmail.com (The address portrayed in this sentence is a work of fiction, any resemblance to an actual person’s address is unintentional.  But let’s be honest, there’s only about 3 people who still use Hotmail.  If you’re one of them, please let me know if this is yours!), then there’s never an excuse for us as attorneys to let clients fall by the wayside.

We may not be changing the world of communication or culture on a daily basis, but we deal with serious matters for businesses and individuals and our charge is to keep those lines of communication open, most of all when a client has reached out to us.

There is a remarkably intriguing study (and corresponding book) by Masaru Emoto entitled “Hidden Messages in Water.”  You may have run into its mention in the film “What the Bleep Do We Know” if it’s ringing a bell.  It’s a quick read and, objectively, fascinating.  In addition to the pictures of the effect of classical music vs. death metal on a water crystal’s formation (beautiful and destroyed, respectively), there is a recounting of an experiment conducted with grains of rice. Here’s the short story – families were given the task to place three grains of rice in three separate jars and speak to them on a daily basis.  The grain in jar 1 was praised, encouraged and otherwise given reassuring and positive messages.  Jar 2 was subjected to negativity, disgust, hate, etc…  Jar 3 was ignored.  Not surprisingly (or completely shocking, depending on your metaphysical and spiritual inclinations), Jar 1 flourished and sprouted; Jar 2 did not; Jar 3 rotted and decayed rapidly.

Whether you doubt the veracity of the study or accept it without reservation, the anecdotal lesson is a very simple one:  Not communicating is the most damaging thing one can do.  It doesn’t need to be the greatest news in the world, but people need to hear something.  Ignorance kills.

You’re never going to be in Jar 3 on a shelf at Guzman Law Group.

Until next time…

Bold Move Pepsi

Last sunday, 93.2 million people watched the Colts battle the Saints in the Superbowl. I love watching sporting events where the underdog goes up against a seasoned opponent. Its even better when the underdog comes out on top. But, if I'm completely honest with you, what I really look forward to when watching the Superbowl are the commercials. In between the interceptions, penalties and touchdowns, I watched as commercial after commercial ran. Towards the end of the game, I thought where were all the Pepsi ads? Pepsi’s rival, Coke, ran at least two. The next day while reading my latest tweets, I learned Pepsi’s bold move: Pepsi decided to trade in the big expensive Superbowl ad campaign for a social media campaign that promotes positive change in the world. Thru the end of the year, Pepsi is giving away $20 million in grants to innovative concepts that advocates change in a community. Each month they will accept 1000 applications and award $1.3 million to the top ranked ideas in the following categories: Health, Arts & Culture, Food & Shelter, The Planet, Neighborhoods and Education. Since each application varies in size, so do the grants. The $1.3 million will be broken into 32 grants with 2 Grants at the $250,000 level; 10 Grants at the $50,000 level; 10 Grants at the $25,000 level; and 10 Grants at the $5,000 level. Who can apply? Any US resident over the age of 13. Yes, you read that right. I checked my facts. Applicants can range from non-profits to the individual. All you need is an idea and the passion to make a difference in the world. And guess who votes on the best idea? You do! Go to refresheverything.com to submit your idea and to vote on ideas you feel worthy of a grant. And, of course, spread the word via facebook, twitter, or thru your blog. Props to you Pepsi, way to pay it forward.

House: Is He Back In The Game?

It felt good to be back at Plains Borough Hospital in the midst of a medical conundrum… but without House?!? When House announced to Cuddy and Foreman that he was quitting, I thought, “What are those writers up to?” Well for one, trying to find House a new hobby. In House’s need for distraction from his leg pain we found ourselves getting hungry in the kitchen with Chef House and his roommate Wilson. As always, the intelligent and witty dialogue between House and Wilson was exemplified in the cooking class scene with House’s adolescent references prevailing. It was refreshing to see that House’s rehab had not taken away his urge to pull practical jokes on Wilson; House just wouldn’t be House if he weren’t obtain dog urine to pass off as his own.

In House’s absents as the head of the Diagnostics team, the trio, Foreman, Thirteen and Taub, show signs of hardship as they try to settle into the new hierarchy. With Foreman at the helm, he and thirteen have issues finding Switzerland in their professional lives, causing road bumps in their personal lives. Can their relationship last like this? I guess that’s what Foreman was pondering too when he fired his girlfriend from the Diagnostics team. Come on Foreman, that’s just cold. And Taub? He tells Foreman that he came to work with House and is leaving the hospital for private practice. Is that his final answer? With all this action about, the writers managed to throw in a dig at Jeremy Piven in reference to mercury poisoning.

As the show came to a close, we found ourselves back in therapy with House who was still searching to find something to hold his interest and his pain at bay. In session, House revealed a reward check of $25,000 for solving the Diagnostics team case from his computer. In revealing his discovery that practicing medicine can squelch his pain, I smiled and thought: He’s back! I can’t wait for next week to watch House take on James Earl Jones.

Paging Dr. House

After the poignant closing of last season with House voluntarily admitting himself to a Psychiatric facility, viewers patiently waited for the shows return to watch House cause chaos and mayhem in the halls of the Psychiatric ward. Well, we were not disappointed. House’s scheming mind poked and prodded his fellow inmates in his rebellion, as usual, against authority and order. In an awe-inspiring performance by Hugh Laurie, we felt House’s ache and his heart sigh. His transformation from the conniving man-child to a coping, functioning, and feeling human being was subtle and beautiful. The well-written and well-acted episode was a perfect platform to send viewers back to Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital. Although, I was hoping we would spend more time with the doctors and lovable, mentally skewed characters of the ward. You never know, maybe we will.