July 19, 2012
Letters to the Editor: Berman v. Sherman and Woody Allen
Berman-Sherman Analysis Falls Short
As a legislator and a Jewish Journal subscriber, I was deeply disappointed in “Berman vs. Sherman: Evaluating Their Congressional Records” (June 29), Bill Boyarsky’s effort to measure each member’s legislative effectiveness through an Internet search engine.
The effectiveness of a legislator can be judged by whether people listen when they speak, whether they can capably influence the legislative process, and whether the amendments and bills that they offer have a meaningful impact on the debate.
If Mr. Boyarsky wanted to truly gauge the effectiveness of Reps. Berman and Sherman, he could have asked some of their colleagues from the California congressional delegation and surveyed why Sens. Feinstein and Boxer and 25 of the 27 members who have issued endorsements have endorsed Rep. Berman.
He could have probed for a perspective about which member is more capable at garnering votes for key pro-Israel legislation or at smoothing passage of legislation by enabling other members seeking visibility on an issue to take credit. Both are hallmarks of Rep. Berman’s tenure in office.
I not only question Mr. Boyarsky’s methodology, I was also surprised that his article appeared to downplay the significance of Rep. Berman’s success in passing and enacting legislation this year in a gridlocked Congress lambasted for enacting the fewest bills in congressional history. Mr. Boyarsky’s calculations don’t even account for Rep. Berman’s key role in enacting strong sanctions against Iran’s central bank early this year as part of the Defense Authorization bill or his current efforts to shepherd the Iran Threat Reduction Act into law.
I wish The Journal’s readers could have gotten a straightforward analysis that truly reflects the legislative effectiveness of the members.
Henry A. Waxman
Editor’s note: The race is not over, and columnist Bill Boyarsky will continue to examine the two congressmen’s records.
Woody Allen Crowdfunding Is Publicity Stunt
The Journal’s attempt to raise money for Woody Allen to make a movie in Israel is a cute publicity stunt, and editor Rob Eshman may even have his heart in the right place, but as a business model, it’s misguided and ill conceived.
Eshman’s assumption that Woody makes films in various countries, simply because those countries finance the films, shows a lack of understanding of Allen’s creative process. The financing is only half the story. When countries offer Allen financing to make a regional film, his stock answer essentially boils down to, “Thank you. If I find I have an idea that works in your country, I’ll let you know.” Maybe that idea comes in a month, maybe five years, maybe never. And if the idea never comes, no harm, no foul. So Eshman’s comment, “All it would take to get (Allen) to immortalize Israel is a paltry $18 mil” strikes me as highly irresponsible, if not unethical.
Traditionally, the deal with crowdfunding is that if you raise the goal amount, the money is collected. If not, the pledges are released. Does Eshman really believe that Allen will say, “Thanks for the check. I’ll get working on that script right away?” Allen hasn’t accepted a work-for-hire gig since writing the screenplay for “What’s New Pussycat?” in 1965. For argument’s sake, if it takes $18 million to make a movie, and $9 million is collected through Jewcer.com without the matching grant raised in advance, are the crowdfunded pledges then collected, or released? If I were donating to Eshman’s pet project, I’d sure want to know the answer to that one.
And if Woody’s response is, “I’ll let you know when and if I have an idea,” what next? Is the crowdfunding collected and put in escrow, “just in case?” Is it returned and then the process starts all over again if Woody decides to make “Vicky Cristina Tel Aviv” in 2018? Has Eshman spent 10 seconds thinking this plan through?
Lastly, it’s interesting that Eshman is already handing out credits to pledgers such as “assistant director” (the DGA may have something to say about that), and “executive producer” (Woody’s actual Executive Producers may have something to say about that). I could just as easily start a raffle and sell tickets for people to co-star with Brad Pitt in his next movie. But I might be wise to run the idea by Pitt and his team first.
And just watch the backlash if Woody says, “Thanks, but no thanks.” Not only will The Jewish Journal (a publication I read and respect, by the way) take heat for pulling people into a funding scheme that has no basis in reality, but I can already see the letters complaining that “Woody thinks he’s too good to bother with Israel. He obviously prefers his Jews on the Upper East Side.” Just watch.
As my dear Jewish mother used to warn me when my brother and I would get into a play-fight: “It’s cute until somebody gets hurt.”
Robert B. Weide
Rob Eshman responds:
In crowdfunding, if you don’t raise the money, the pledges are never cashed. No bank accounts were harmed in the making of my column.
Two misconceptions: I never offered any movie credits in exchange for donations. That was misreported in some press reports. You don’t become an “assistant director” by donating $18,000 to the Woody Allen Israel Project any more than you become editor-in-chief by donating $100,000 to The Jewish Journal. (That costs at least $1 million, by the way.) I also made clear that Woody Allen doesn’t make a movie just because he gets the money. He’s received offers from Russia and China — clearly we have yet to see “Curse of the Jade Oligarch.”
So, then, what was the purpose of my column?
1) On a very practical level, I wanted to raise the possibility of someone offering to fund a Woody Allen movie in Israel — get it out there among people who have the means, get them thinking about it. Whether it’s an L.A. producer, a wealthy Israeli or an Israeli government film fund, the idea is now out there. Late last week, Mr. Allen’s representatives responded to The Journal that he was open to the idea. This week, Israeli President Shimon Peres said he broached the subject with Woody as well.
2) I also wanted to provoke a conversation about what it means for Woody Allen to present Israel through his eyes. It’s a clash of Jewish self-images, a clash of Jewish histories, or, as I described it to Los Angeles Times’ columnist Patrick Goldstein, a fish-out-of-water story in which both the fish and the water are Jewish.
You’re welcome to take my suggestion literally and worry about all the poor shlubs who will lose their nest egg on this, as if I’m the demon spawn of Max Bialystock and Bernie Madoff, but on the off chance we come up with the $9 million, I made it clear that if Woody declines, the money will go to fund movies through Jewcer. The people who give are doing so to promote movie-making in Israel. If the bizarre amount of publicity my column has received focuses some attention on filmmaking in Israel, it’s all to the good. l
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