Phoenix resident Pearse Cullinane is a gifted and prolific hand-drawing animator. It's a painstaking job he perfected in an era when most animation companies, including Disney, were looking for shortcuts and ways of making feature-length animated film as cheaply as possible.
An amiable, self-described hippie from Cork, Ireland, Cullinane had worked for an animation studio in his homeland for seven years before coming to Phoenix in 1994. He became a hot commodity as consumers, drawn by Disney hit cartoon features, revived what had been a moribund film genre.
After renewing its commitment of turning out quality animation features with The Little Mermaid, Disney's streak of hits seemed unstoppable. Every year or so, another time-proven tale was being made into another Disney musical. Beauty and the Beast. Aladdin. But it wasn't until The Lion King raked in elephant dollars at the box office that all the other major studios sat up and said, "We can do this, can't we?"
No one bolted upright as emphatically as Twentieth Century Fox. One of the premier studios during Hollywood's golden age of moviemaking, Fox is now the pricey jewel of Australian media mogul Rupert Murdoch's $24 billion conglomerate, News Corporation. In the tradition of its control-crazed owner, Twentieth Century Fox decided it wasn't enough just to commission animated films -- it needed its own animation-features studio.
To achieve such Disney-osity, Fox went into partnership with two former Disney animator/directors, Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, who had found success when they struck out on their own in the early '80s. Bluth productions such as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail and The Land Before Time kept animated features alive until an embarrassed Disney rebounded to dominate once more.
Lured to Dublin, Ireland, by low production costs and government incentives in the mid-'80s, Bluth had set up an animation company there called Sullivan-Bluth Studios.
It was there that Pearse Cullinane broke into the business.
After The Land Before Time, the studio rolled out four more full-length features: All Dogs Go to Heaven, Rock-a-Doodle, Thumbelina, A Troll in Central Park. Unfortunately, each one performed worse at the box office than the one before it.
By 1994, Sullivan-Bluth Studios was on the verge of closing its doors. Cullinane and his colleagues fretted about their futures.
The Fox-Bluth-Goldman partnership promised to turn things around. Fox not only offered Bluth-Goldman a solid distribution plan to go up against Disney, it invested $100 million to build a new state-of-the-art animation studio here in Phoenix.
"That was when Don and Gary came around asking us if we wanted to come and work on the next film in America," says Cullinane. "It was an amazing offer they gave us in Ireland. Beautiful color brochures and folders showing us what a great lifestyle we would have in Phoenix. Our careers would be set, working for a major multinational company, and we thought this was it. The industry is so up and down and we thought there's no way Twentieth Century Fox was ever going to close."
Cullinane and some 60 of his fellow Dublin animators accepted the offer to move to America. Other animators were lured from the Philippines.
Cullinane was among the first to arrive at Fox Animation's new Phoenix office at 2747 East Camelback Road.
"The old Charles Keating savings-and-loan building," Cullinane says with a sardonic laugh. "That was a really bad omen."
But life in the United States agreed with him. He took to the climate and lifestyle. He met and married an American woman who has three children.
When a succession of films Cullinane helped create in Phoenix failed at the box office, Fox pulled the plug on the studio here, leaving Cullinane and other resident alien workers little recourse but to accept meager severance packages and, without employment, lose their rights to stay in the United States.
It mattered not to Fox that Cullinane had a contract with the studio through June 2001.
"Well," Cullinane says, "I'm Irish, I can hold a grudge. But I had no choice. It was either take their first offer, which was really silly, or try to hold out here.
"I held out. And I'll stay."
His holdout has been painful. In the past few weeks, mounting bad luck and debt have forced Cullinane to see his home go to foreclosure, to separate his American family out of necessity, to watch his once-good credit plummet and to sell his American accumulations at giveaway prices.
When Anastasia -- the first full-length feature to roll out of Fox's Phoenix animation studios -- premièred in 1997, the local media coverage was a frothing fawn fest of hometown pride.
In contrast, Titan A.E. (After Earth), the latest Don Bluth-Gary Goldman offering -- a sci-fi adventure set after Earth's destruction by an army of gelatinous cyborg goons -- was preceded with a foreboding silence in the Valley. In fact, there was no press buildup for the movie at all save for a sobering June 11 article in the Arizona Republic recounting how the studio was in danger of closing permanently if Titan tanked.
In reality, the studio was already dark.
Fox Animation Studios' dénouement began in earnest on February 10, 2000, when more than 300 of the animators, artists and technicians who had worked on Titan for 19 months were called into the screening room, given envelopes containing their severance packages and shown the door. The remaining 66 were terminated as their departments' work on the film was completed.
With no merchandising tie-ins, aggressive marketing campaign and precious little word of mouth, Titan A.E. leaked out into theaters June 16, came in ninth at the box office in its opening weekend and was shunted into dollar cinemas almost immediately.
Director Don Bluth could not be reached for comment. But in an Animation World Magazine interview conducted after the shutdown, Bluth spoke about the crew he had hand-picked and trained.
"All the people who make a picture work really hard," he said, "and they think, 'We're really going to make something really wonderful.' The people who have control of the distribution -- that's the ruthless part."
When asked if the "folks from the former Fox Studio" were waiting for his next project, Bluth added cryptically, "The 'folks' -- as you put it -- are gone" -- as if they all had abandoned ship.
Truth be told, Fox forced many of its "folks" -- predominantly non-resident aliens from Ireland and the Philippines who were in Phoenix on work visas -- to walk the plank. That's all, folks.
As soon as Fox wiped its hands of these foreign laborers, their visas became invalid -- they could be deported unless they found other employment in the United States. Without contracts, most felt they had no legal recourse but to accept whatever piddling settlements Fox offered.
The six foreign workers who did have contracts were offered 30 percent of the contract value. Pearse Cullinane was one of them.
"After Anastasia, I was given my little crown for top-footage person, for most output on a movie," he recalls.
Fox recognized his prolificacy in July 1999, sent him a congratulatory letter and extended his contract to June 2001.
As the Phoenix studio emptied, Cullinane reminded Fox that his contract still had 14 months left on it. He claims Fox Animation's head of human resources informed him that since "Arizona is a right-to-work state," the contract was not binding. Fox execs also told him that he would not be able to seek employment elsewhere unless he signed the contract waiver.
He chose to fight Fox instead.
On March 8, Cullinane's attorney, E. Bernard Buffenstein, filed a complaint against Fox Animation Studios, charging breach of contract -- a charge Fox lawyers don't even address in their motion for dismissal.
Cullinane's lawsuit also alleges racketeering -- that Fox schemed to hire non-residents to minimize its exposure to lawsuits by employees who could be easily purged once the work ran out.
"They evidently brought a bunch of people over from the Philippines on the same basis," says Buffenstein of the racketeering claim. "I think the [Fox financial plan] was dependent on the success of the work product, but the decisions that were made didn't factor in the obligations to the employees.
". . . they just ignored the obligation because they figured Pearse would be deported and have to go back to Ireland and they'd never hear from him again. Well, he's not in Ireland, he's here. He's got a provisional green card because he married a U.S. resident."
As for breach of contract, Fox did not claim Cullinane was fired for cause, obviously. Fox had just renewed his contract.
"There was also a provision in the contract which compensated for extra footage, and they haven't paid him that, either," Buffenstein adds. "The judge denied Fox's move to dismissal, and that's where we're at in this stage of litigation."
Phone calls to Fox's lawyers and its human resources department were not returned.
If settlement talks do not get resolved, Cullinane's case will probably be tried next spring.
Of the half-dozen or so breach-of-contract complaints filed against the studio, Cullinane's is the only one Fox hasn't settled.
Cullinane says when it became clear he intended to fight for what was owed him, Fox officials immediately told him, "You will not be able to outlast us. We can litigate this thing forever."
That's the luck of the Irish for you.
Unable to find an animation job and with his wife unable to work because of health problems, Cullinane, who is in his mid-30s, can't even collect public assistance because he still hasn't obtained a permanent green card.
"It takes you so freakin' long in Phoenix to get your green card. I have a friend in Philadelphia who got his in two weeks. It's nearly three years for me.
"The people at social welfare told me that if I lose my house, bring statements that say I have zero in my bank accounts and I'm on the streets, they might be able to help me," he says. "So what do I do? Work at Taco Bell or McDonald's until I get my green card? To me the States is the place you make a decent living. That's the whole point of moving here."
Cullinane shakes his head. "I'm not interested in living the American nightmare."
The Dubliner, a lively Irish pub in an otherwise desolate strip mall at 38th Street and Thunderbird, served as a literal home away from home for the 60 Dublin animators who transferred here to work for Fox.
It's also where Cullinane met his wife, Patty, a transplanted New Jerseyite. It's where he made some of his best friends in America. As Cullinane settles to a round of drinks in his former after-work hangout, his conversation is frequently punctuated by the back-slaps of regulars coming in for a few pints.
"Arizona's a weird place," Cullinane says. "People on the street wave hello to you, but I haven't talked to my neighbor since I moved in. It's like The Stepford Wives. It takes a long time to get accepted in Phoenix, but the people here [the Dubliner] have been great. They're real salt-of-the-earth people."
Once a place to seek refuge from the job, it's now become a place to escape round-the-clock calls from creditors and raise a glass to Dublin colleagues who've left Phoenix and Fox behind. Only four of the original Dublin crew are left in the Valley; only Cullinane had a contract.
"It's the first time in 10 years I haven't worked with these people," Cullinane sighs ruefully. "It was very difficult saying goodbye this time . . . we knew we would probably never work together again. We'd worked in so many studios, but we always got back together, and that's what Gary and Don were really upset to see, the team they started in Ireland split up. Some guys who came over are in Australia, Canada, Ireland.
"There's a few small studios in Ireland. A couple of my friends did animation for Madonna's new video, so they're going pretty good. There's work there, but I just don't want to live there. I got used to sunshine, having a swimming pool, just living really nice. I never had money until I came to America, and that's after working for seven years at a studio and coming home with 300 dollars in my pocket. When I left to come here in '94, there was very little work."
Cullinane was 18 and working for the civil service in Dublin when Sullivan-Bluth Studios opened in Ireland.
"Six floors, beautiful building, just great atmosphere. Never worked anywhere like it," he says. "Relaxed, but everyone worked really hard. I applied for any kind of job there."
Having never drawn anything professionally, he became a photographer. "I'd work those big old ACME cameras, shoot the drawings and transfer them onto cels. That's how I got in. After a year and a half of doing that, I went to see if there were any vacancies in the drawing department."
Cullinane got into various other jobs in the animation studio, like sketching the scenes in blue pencil and working up story boards. But he found he excelled at cleanup -- animation's equivalent to continuity, except you must hand-draw every frame between key drawings.
"A cleanup artist's job is to make sure that the character's the same all the way through the movie. If you look in animation movies, there's a lot of silly mistakes. Like clothes that change colors all the time."
Cullinane worked on The Land Before Time and five other Bluth movies before things started falling apart there.
"An American Tail and Land Before Time made loads of money, but then All Dogs Go to Heaven was a bit of a . . . dog," says Cullinane sheepishly, as if a movie that casts Burt Reynolds, Loni Anderson and Dom DeLuise as pooches and asks them to sing could expect any other fate. "That was the end of that. Disney killed us with good business sense."
Linda Peterson Warren, director of the Arizona Film Commission, admits that she's no animation expert. But she does understand the cutthroat nature of the cartoon business.
"The competition was so fierce, and any time there's someone new on the horizon that looks like they might make a dent in Disney's market share, Disney just goes ballistic," Warren says. "They really do. They reissue something on that same release date. Disney has this library that's like a gold mine, and they can just keep rereleasing in limited editions and they have this fabulous merchandising component and they market like nobody's business."
"That's why [Bluth-Goldman] thought the marriage with Twentieth Century Fox was made in heaven," she conjectures. "Not only were they setting them up with the capital to build a U.S. facility, but offering solid distribution as well. And it was a good six years . . . almost."
Although Fox's Phoenix facility was state-of-the-art, working conditions were less than ideal.
"It wasn't a happy working atmosphere. It just didn't click, pretty much from the start," remarks Cullinane. "At the studio in Dublin, you couldn't wait to go in to work. I used to work for nothing on Saturday and Sunday, and when you're 19, you don't care. But here there was no camaraderie. No one would stick up for anyone. Everyone was for me, me, me. Once people brought politics into the studio, I'm surprised they got any movies finished."
The different cultures at the studio didn't mesh, particularly the animators from the Philippines, who kept to themselves. Was there a Filipino equivalent to the Dubliner where they'd congregate after work and trade barbs?
"No, no," Cullinane says. "They basically were very family oriented, did their work and went home. There was some great Christmas parties when it did jell a bit. But once work started on Anastasia, it was pretty much bad vibes all the way through."
Not all the bad vibes at Fox were because of interdepartmental politics.
As Cullinane tells it, "A lot of people had mental problems, a few of us cracked up and had to go and see psychiatrists. Most people that came here were from a coastal city or an island and had never been to a desert or had to drive everywhere. I didn't know how to drive when I got here. I was 27, I had taken public transport everywhere."
As an act of pure optimism, Cullinane actually waited for a bus in Phoenix. Only once.
Under pressure during the last stages of Anastasia, the studio worked seven days, 12 hours a day. While average salaries exceeded $100,000 a year, there were no bonuses following the success of the movie, which made more than $100 million. In its first weekend, it grossed $15 million and came in at No. 2. Not bad for a first movie from a new studio. That same weekend Disney rereleased The Little Mermaid, just to be nice.
Reviews for Anastasia were, for the most part, favorable, but Cullinane can still get his Irish up thinking about the negative notices, including one from this paper.
"Every movie we released was massacred by the New Times. Everyone's seen the old Anastasia movie. And here's this guy knocking it, saying it's not the real story of Anastasia. It's a cartoon! The guy who wrote that was a dickhead, and you can tell him that from me," he says, laughing into the recorder. "I think he didn't even like Braveheart. How can anyone not like Braveheart? It's a great movie."
After Anastasia, Cullinane asked Fox for a two-year contract.
"That got extended to four years when I said, 'Show me the money,'" he says.
Fox's next feature was to be Planet Ice, which never developed past the drawing-board stage because executives in Los Angeles were unhappy with the story. Some elements of the story were eventually rewritten into Titan (The Ice Planet, for one), but in the meantime there were more than 300 artists with too much downtime and no film project. In a crunch, Bluth noted the popularity of one of Anastasia's key characters, an albino bat, and came up with a direct-to-video sequel, Bartok the Magnificent.
Cullinane's department, the most labor-intensive, never got a break. During this fallow period at the studio, he and his co-workers did cleanup work on DreamWorks' The Prince of Egypt ("It was just sloppy, you'd have to go back and redo the whole thing," says Cullinane) and video games such as The Indian in the Cupboard. Cullinane even delivered $20,000 worth of extra footage on Bartok, but "Fox said they didn't have the bonus money since it was a straight-to-video feature."
For the most part, the Twentieth Century Fox brass didn't really bother with the people in Phoenix.
Says Cullinane, "We had no real contact with Fox in L.A. That's why we put 'Area 51' outside our cubicles. We didn't really exist. We were an entity outside of L.A. Sometimes it would've been nice to know a little more about what's going on."
The Los Angelenos were about to make real contact in 2000. And it wouldn't be a Christmas card.
Like the ill-fated ocean liner Titanic, Titan A.E. was launched with great expectations. Touted as the first animated U.S. sci-fi film in decades, it came to Fox from another director and to Phoenix with a short completion schedule -- 19 months. Originally meant to be a live-action film, Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman and CEO Bill Mechanic suggested doing it all in 3-D animation, or CGI (computer generated imagery). When that proved too expensive, they opted to make it half CGI and half hand-drawn.
Progressively, Fox demanded more and more CGI and wound up with 87 percent 3-D animated, which sometimes left the movie's heroes looking like helpless refugees from Toon Town. Twelve 3-D animators in Phoenix did most of the work, with Fox farming out the Ice Crystal sequence to POVDE, a studio in Ireland that does work for George Lucas. Rather prophetically, Fox also contracted the New World sequence to Blue Sky Studios in New York state. After closing the Phoenix studio, Fox would invest a ton of money in Blue Sky Studios.
Needless to say, the mood wasn't euphoric at the Phoenix studio during creation of Titan, either. One hears about Disney animators sneaking a few lurid frames into The Little Mermaid or Pocahontas for a bit of fun.
"It's different when a studio's going well; you have a laugh, you're enjoying your work," notes Cullinane. "Those little filthy things usually get caught in the dailies, but most people don't let that stuff go to the screen."
In Titan, there was one unintentionally funny scene where the big macho Korso is showing pretty boy Cale how to operate the spaceship's joystick; it rivaled The Ambiguously Gay Duo for yuks.
"It wasn't meant to be anything. Here was the part of the movie where it was supposed to be really intense, and we're all cracking up in hysterics. People with really bad minds just picked that out, so we changed all that. But the angles looked hilarious."
Fox was targeting hetero young adult males, 12 to 17 years old, by including rock music by Lit, The Urge, Fun Loving Criminals and Splashdown, and including animation reminiscent of Japan's Anime studio. It was Japan, after all, that produced the last full-length animated sci-fi movie, Akira, in 1989.
Yet nearing the finish line, it looked like Fox might have dropped the ball completely.
Says Cullinane, "When you look at a space movie like that, you could've had some amazing [product] tie-ins. Guns and dolls and spaceships. There was nothing. None of us actually knew why there wasn't any tie-ins. The only TV ads I saw were on the FX channel, which is part of Fox. I didn't see any pre-publicity. If you're not going to advertise, have tie-ins, or kids going around wearing Titan tee shirts and hats, you're not gonna make any money. That just shows the interest that was in it. If it was a hit, it would be a major bonus for everybody, but they weren't going to put any more money into it. They felt they put enough into the studio. When we started the movie, there were great plans, but by the end nothing was happening."
Plenty was happening to Pearse Cullinane in the ensuing months. He was still waiting on his green card, making payments on a home equity loan on top of a mortgage, buying new furniture, leasing a car and marrying a woman with three kids. And he developed "itchy feet" when he heard Fox was opening up a new soundstage in Sydney, Australia, home of Rupert Murdoch.
"I've got family there, I'd like to see my brothers, and they were looking for people at the studio," marvels Cullinane. "Mind you, this was before I even filed a suit. I went to Fox and said, 'Get me my visa, get me a flight, I'll brush the floors, anything,' just to get into a new studio. I would've been in heaven; a city I really love, give me an average Australian wage -- 600, 700 bucks a week -- and I'd be happy. What an easy way out that would've been for them. All my benefits would still be intact, I'd still work for Fox. Why wouldn't you do that? They never got back to me."
The February purge was imminent, but the writing was on the wall as early as January.
Joyce Grossman is Retention Expansion Outreach Program manager for the City of Phoenix (or "REO not Speedwagon," as she calls it). It's her job to encourage businesses to stay in Phoenix once they're here.
"I had been with them doing a routine visit, just before that announcement broke. They indicated that corporate already made a decision that they could do cartooning cheaper offshore and they're taking it into Southeast Asia now," Grossman says. ". . . what I found is that [Fox Animation Studios] were being forced, costwise, to get it down to nothing. They gave no indication that they were about to lay off workers, just that they weren't growing."
Just think of all the devastation one little cartoon about the end of the world has caused.
To hear Fox Filmed Entertainment's bean-counters tell it, Titan cost $80 million to make, a deceptive figure because it tallies in the true $55 million cost and piggybacks the losses incurred by Bartok and the downtime when the studio had no movie projects after bagging Planet Ice. If the meter were still running, they'd probably toss in the $12 million it cost to shut its Phoenix studio for good.
It mattered little that most animation studios carry a crew of 600 and take two to three years to produce one full-length film, and Fox's Phoenix studio did it in fewer than 18 months with a third of the personnel. Nothing screams savings on a ledger sheet louder than eliminating hundreds of jobs, especially since this studio was championed by Fox Filmed Entertainment chairman Bill Mechanic, who was fired a week before the Phoenix studio closed.
Titan's dismal $22.5 million in U.S. box office receipts gave Rupert Murdoch the most recent excuse to can Mechanic. Other recent disappointments approved by the former chairman were Anna and the King, Fight Club and The Beach. It also mattered little that the "robust first quarter" that Fox boasted of one month after Mechanic's ouster was because of films in production during Mechanic's tenure -- X-Men, which has grossed $144 million, and Big Momma's House, which has collected more than $114 million.
Appearance is everything.
Titan's crash-and-burn takeoff inspired a July 24 article in the New York Times that stopped just short of officially declaring traditional 2-D animation a dead cause and cited the lukewarm public reception to other recent efforts: DreamWorks' The Prince of Egypt and The Road to El Dorado, and Warner Bros.' The Iron Giant. DreamWorks recently laid off a good number of animators, with Warner rumored to be closing a studio.
No one knows what kind of golden parachute Don Bluth and Gary Goldman received from Fox, but they are back to the drawing board, looking to the Internet to distribute their films and recruiting new talent, young animators who'll work cheaply and live like gypsies until 2-D animation bounces back into public favor.
Then there's Arizona, which is losing the infusion of revenue from the studio and its employees. After the first layoffs, Linda Peterson Warren, director of the Arizona Film Commission, was told the studio planned to restructure to be more efficient. She heard of the studio closing the night before it happened.
"Few studios close after two films, but if you're Rupert Murdoch you can do whatever you want, and I cast no aspersions in his direction," she nods diplomatically. "They just had this incredible outlay without a return on investment. Maybe [Murdoch] just didn't have the faith in the future."
Instead, he sank money into the soundstages in Australia, where the incentives were wildly attractive to filmmakers. ". . . we can't throw subsidies or incentives at filmmakers that will lure them to our jurisdiction," says Warren. "And Canada does that in spades and has really stolen a lot of production away across those northern borders. Australia, too, they can make those powerful decisions. We don't have those resources, and we're feeling that."
It's all about the bottom line.
Pearse Cullinane's bottom line has been reached, and he's now sinking below it.
Money: "I've spent 40 grand of my own money hanging on here. At this stage, I haven't got any money, no income coming in. My last paycheck was April 10. Ever since then, its been $1,400 a month mortgage."
House: "With the home equity loan on top of the mortgage, I'll just about break even. I just sit around the house on the floor because I've got no furniture left. I've got to go to a chiropractor. Doctors always say it's good for the back to sleep on the floor, but I don't think so. My back already isn't good from sitting at a desk 11 years drawing.
"I look at people coming to my house buying all my things. Everything's gone. I sold a 30-inch TV, stereo and DVD and video player for 300 bucks. It was sickening. I paid two grand for my Italian couches and got 500 for them. Next time, I'm gonna buy from some poor unlucky bastard who gets fired."
Car: "I drove the car to the leasing company personally. I said, 'I'm out of work for seven months. I have zero money, I need you to take this car off my hands. It's depreciating, the mileage is going up. We don't want the car. Please take it and lease it to someone else.' Nobody will take the car. They're looking for their money. They say, 'You know this will affect your credit,' and I just start laughing."
Credit: "My credit is fucked! I had perfect credit a month ago. I paid all my bills up to a month ago. And you need money to feed your family and do essentials. A woman at the bank said, 'Why don't you borrow off someone?' I'm going to borrow to pay off someone I borrowed from? You got some dopey people working at these banks. I've still got all my Gold cards and Platinum cards, but it's not worth it."
Job prospects: "That's the feeling that a lot of people are getting. That we're blacklisted. Fox burned some bridges, so it's possible. I must have sent out 100 résumés and reels. There's so many people out of work in L.A., it's virtually impossible to get any work there. I could go to Canada, but I'd have to go through all that visa crap again. Horrific INS needles and probing every part of your body just to get your green card. I ain't going through it again for Canadians.
"I looked for jobs as a Web designer. And everyone said we really need someone with three to five years' Web experience."
Family: "I have to get health care for my wife. She developed serious heart problems and had to get a valve replaced in her heart, so she's basically out of the work force. She worked for MCI. My wife's ex-husband is taking the kids, and that's for their sake. I've been their father for the last four and a half years, but at this stage I can't afford to give them health care, buy their school books, pocket money . . ."
Green card: "Still waiting. Because I haven't got a green card, social welfare wouldn't give me a penny. After working here six years and probably paying over $500 in taxes a week, I've paid for a lot of people's social welfare, the least they can do is give me some back. 'Cause in Europe if you're laid off, you either don't pay taxes for a year or get all the taxes you paid the year before back to keep you going. That's a little bit of socialism, but I like it."
Lawsuit: "Fox made back any money they lost. I don't get how they can be so inhuman and not give people what they're owed. I thought they were a big corporation, they must follow the law. But they fight you tooth and nail not to pay you any money. They're paying lawyers to drag this out. I don't know what's holding it up. It's not like they owe me a million dollars. It's a pittance. A drop in the ocean for them. It's one year's wage for an average worker at Twentieth Century Fox. It's not like I'm looking for Bill Mechanic's wage.
"If this is not settled and I have to just drop the whole thing, I'm going to write down everything I know," he muses, rubbing his fingers together. "Stuff I can't tell you now because it's pending. But there'll be a lot of red faces in Hollywood. I'll call it 'You'll Never Sketch in This Town Again.'"
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.