Sunday, December 14, 2014


I'll say one thing for North Korea. They certainly know how to get revenge.

Who could have imagined, honestly, that releasing a Seth Rogen movie would lead to the biggest leak of internal emails, financial information, unfinished versions of films, and terabytes of confidential information, in movie studio history?

No one at Sony, that much is certain. Definitely not the primary targets, Amy Pascal, the Co-Chairman of Sony Entertainment and Academy Award winning producer, Scott Rudin.

Personally, I don't know how to feel about the situation. I believe it was wrong for the (allegedly) North Korean hackers to steal Pascal and Rudin's private email trail, amongst many other documents, and publish it. I really do.


I would be lying to suggest the insight their email discourse provides, into the filmmaking behemoth of the American studio system, didn't pique my interest.

And that ethical conundrum is the element of this saga which isn't getting significant traction in the press.

Yes, Rudin and Pascal traded offensive comments about Barack Obama liking Kevin Hart movies.

Yes, Rudin made less than flattering comments about Angelina Jolie, labeling her a "spoiled brat" that would ruin both his and Pascal's careers with the developing project 'Cleopatra'.

Even legendary Hollywood agent Ari Emanuel, the inspiration for the hilarious Ari Gold character in 'Entourage', weighs in at one point.

But none of that interests me. Nor many other filmmakers. It's tabloid fodder.

What is of interest is the process by which alleged Hollywood experts developed, prepared, then bickered, and eventually parted ways over the 'Jobs' film. Ultimately Rudin was so dismayed at how Pascal and her Sony executives managed the project, that he took 'Jobs' to Universal, to studio-partner the film, instead.

Even in death, Steve Jobs manages to be a polarising figure, it seems.

The irony is that the ethos around Steve Jobs appears indirectly related to why his film biopic derailed at Sony.

Steve Jobs, you see, was famous for respecting the contribution of talented people. At Apple, Jobs was known to have an inner circle of trusted technologists. A cadre who had proved themselves against his high standards.

If you decide to read the leaked email trail, and I wouldn't be shocked if you didn't, you will notice none of this same respect within 'big Hollywood'.

They bicker like petulant children.

They speak about talent, like the excellent Michael Fassbender, as if he were cattle; consequently reducing their summary of him to a discussion on his genitalia.

The tone of the emails even inspired Hollywood star Zoe Saldana to comment:

'Being #hacked sucks but not as much as being an actress at the mercy of these producers tongues. Now everyone knows! #rudin #pascal #email'

So, taking a big picture view, what can anyone learn from this whole sorry mess?

Perhaps it is that you shouldn't mess with North Korea.

Or that, if you are a major media and technology company like Sony, you shouldn't short change the IT security department.

Various industry people, like Judd Apatow, are suggesting that this incident should teach us to respect people's privacy and not read the emails.

Others have stated that we should learn to be more civil in our electronic communications with each other, because nothing is private and EVERYTHING has the potential to be considered news.

I have a different take on it. There's two universal lessons on display here.

First, respect your peers, even if you don't like them.

I have written about this before, from my own experiences, but essentially the world is truly not a huge place. You will cross paths many times with the same people in a given vocation. Sometimes, a person will rub you the wrong way. That's life.

In the grand scheme, Rudin may not be tickled by the idea of working with (or even in the vicinity of) Jolie, but he was wrong to dismiss a fellow industry professional who has proven herself with critics, audiences, at the box office, and even with the Academy. She's not a Kardashian.

That lack of respect has now reverberated back to him. Karma is cruel.

Second, respect the work.

These people are supposed to be high ranking Hollywood experts. The very top of the filmmaking ecosystem. From the outside looking in, at least.

While Rudin at least appeared to be focused on making the best film possible, even tagging David Fincher to direct, neither he nor Pascal seemed to be able to get past themselves to make the project a reality. They had become two titans, locked in an endless battle of pride, will and ego.

The project bore the consequences.

So, never forget what Rudin and Pascal clearly have.

There are no gurus.

There are no definite smash hits.

There are no formulas to success.

There are only those who are willing to think harder, learn, respect others, and push the quality of their work.

Why can't that be you?