Walter M. Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
HARRISBURG, Pa. -- It took two directors, two executive producers, three=
producers, four writers, and very bad acting to ruin "Down to Earth," a re= cent movie starring Chris Rock as a Harlem comic who dies before his time, = then is sent back to earth in a different body.
In Hollywood's share-the-blame standards, this film is a Paramount rele= ase of a Village Roadshow Pictures presentation in association with NPV Ent= ertainment of an Alphaville 3 Arts Entertainment production.
The 2001 mid-winter bomb is the current remake of three previous critica= l and box office successes -- "Here Comes Mr.Jordan" (1941), with Robert Mo= ntgomery as a boxer who returns to earth; "Down to Earth" (1947), featuring= Rita Hayworth as a muse who tries to rescue a failing musical; and "Heaven= Can Wait" (1978), nominated for seven Academy Awards and starring Warren B= eatty as a quarterback. All versions were based upon a Broadway hit in the = late 1930s written by Harry Seagall. It took a director, four producers, an executive producer, a co-produ= cer, an associate producer, and a couple of writers to create "Sweet Novemb= er," another recent bomb, this one starring Keanu Reeves as an uptight ad e= xec and Charlize Theron as a free spirit with a terminal secret who entices= and enchants men, forces them to explore their lives and values, then leav= es them a month later. The 1968 movie, starring Sandy Dennis and Anthony Newley, and written = by Herman Raucher, had only two producers, and significantly better writing= , acting, and directing. More important, it easily had twice the charm of t= he remake, which showcases the Hollywood new age reality that cameras and e= diting can make even mediocre actors appear on screen as multimillion dolla= r properties.
"3000 Miles to Graceland" credits three producers, two associate produce= rs, a co-producer, and three executive producers, more than Elvis himself h= ad at the height of his fame. "See Spot Run," with a mastiff outacting Davi= d Arquette and almost everyone else, required eight writers, three producer= s, three executive producers, and two co-executive producers.
"Heartbrea= ker," a sometimes funny story of a mother-daughter con team (Sigourney Weav= er and Jennifer Love Hewitt) who seduce wealthy men, needed three executive= producers, two producers, and one line producer, all of them men.
"Chocolat," nominated for Best Picture, but more realistically a cream a= mong junk food, carried three producers, four executive producers, and a co= -producer.
"Traffic," the poster-childof the DEA and also an Academy Award nominee,= required threeproducers and five executive producers.
"Gone With the Wi= nd" and "Citizen Kane," unarguably the greatest films ever created, each ha= d only one producer.
For television productions, to the mix of producers, executive producers= , line producers, co-producers, and co-executive producers, add in a few su= pervising producers. For talkshows, add at least a half dozen associate pro= ducers, most of whom are responsible for making phone calls.
On newspapers, the reporter who rewrites press releases might be the one= -person automotive editor/real estate editor/air transportation editor. Her= boss -- who also supervises the books editor/films editor/fashion editor -= - might be the associate managing editor for features who reports to a mana= ging editor for features, supposedly a separate-but-equal title to the mana= ging editor for news, the managing editor for sports, and the administrativ= e managing editor.
In the corporate structure of the larger book publishing companies are a= plethora of editorial assistants, assistant editors, associate editors, ed= itors, senior editors, executive editors, and a mix of various levels of vi= ce-presidents, some of whom may even be literate.
Banks, like most of the print mass media, pay their staffs poorly. But, = in an age when titles are handed out to minimizepenury salaries, anemic ben= efits, and pathetic workingconditions, banks hand out vice-presidencies wit= h as muchregularity as they create new fees. At the Wells Fargo Bank, inadd= ition to one chairman and a president, are seven vice-chairs,55 executive v= ice-presidents, and 253 senior vice-presidents. TheBank of America has six = vice-chairs, 22 group executive vice-presidents, and 10 executive vice-pres= idents. Lower-level vice-presidents at most banks, even the friendly neighb= orhoodcommunity bank that prides itself on smily $8 an hour tellers,are a w= ad of senior vice-presidents, deputy vice-presidents,associate vice-preside= nts, and assistant vice-presidents.
The American auto industry, adept at downsizing hourly production worke= rs, apparently needs its upper-level management to act as a buffer to the w= ork force. General Motors has three executive vice-presidents, two senior v= ice-presidents, and 46 ordinary vice-presidents. Ford has four executive vi= ce-presidents, four group vice-presidents, and 31 vice-presidents.Daimler C= hrysler, a leaner trimmer company owned by Germans, boasts only three execu= tive vice-presidents and 18 vice-presidents.
Academics, the cradle of grade inflation, has also succumbed to Title In= flation. At the mid-size university where I teach are four vice-presidents,= each with an assistant vice-president. If corporate America, which already owns the government, could figure = out a way to amend the Constitution, we might now return to a structure of = electing an elite board of directors, which we'll call the Senate, which wi= ll then elect a chairman of the board and CEO who will oversee thousands of= vice-presidents, instead of just thousands of politically-appointed specia= l assistants, deputy special assistants, cabinet secretaries, undersecretar= ies, deputy undersecretaries, and assistant secretaries.
Walt Brasch is a national award-winning journalist, isprofessor of = journalism at Bloomsburg University. He says theonly titles he wants are th= ose of "husband," "father,""journalist," "teacher," and "social rights acti= vist."