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Op-Ed: UTA Cancels Its Oscar Party – By Bob Lefsetz

Peter Benedek was beaming at dinner Wednesday night and I had no idea what he was so happy and proud about.

Turned out UTA had canceled its Oscar party and was donating the 250k to the ACLU and was holding a rally, all in support of its client Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of “The Salesman.”

I saw it. At the Royal in West L.A. A four o’clock screening on a weekday that was nearly sold out. I was the youngest person in the theatre, it’s the oldsters and the youngsters who are keeping the cinemas alive, but I couldn’t miss it, because of “A Separation.”

One of the best films of the twenty first century, I highly recommend it. What did Depeche Mode say, people are people? Doesn’t matter if they live in Iran, they’ve got families and aged relatives who need care and “A Separation” won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2012, deservedly so, and “The Salesman” is nominated in that category this year, but Asghar Farhadi couldn’t come, because of the Trump travel ban.

That’s when Jeremy Zimmer decided to take action.

What kind of bizarre world do we live in where the execs take more risk than the talent? I’m still waiting for the musicians to stand up. To get down in the dirt and try to hold back the momentum of the D.C. juggernaut. Because, after all, musicians represent everything they hate. Their free-flowing lifestyles with the drugs and the alcohol and the sex before marriage. You’d think they’d want to protect their interests, but they’re afraid. They don’t want to potentially alienate some customer who doesn’t care anyway.

And I’m gonna let you in on a little secret, that anybody on the front lines is familiar with, and that’s that the right wing works the refs. Say anything against them, anything in support of left wing positions, and they come out of the woodwork saying “There you go again,” along with a bunch of false facts. The left wing doesn’t do this, because the left wing is lazy and disorganized. But what ends up happening is the refs cave, the media and the newsmakers, and we’re led to believe that the right wing position prevails. It doesn’t, certainly not on abortion and immigration and so much more. So when are you gonna stand up for your rights?

Now I’m online all day. Checking the news apps and sites. How did I miss this UTA announcement?

So while Peter is talking at dinner I decide to Google. And it turns out the only mainstream publications who went with the story that day were the New York “Daily News” and the UK “Daily Mail.” It was all over the trades, Deadline, “Variety” and the “Hollywood Reporter,” but in the straight press, nada.

This is the world we live in. When you don’t realize you’re in a bubble. You think everybody knows what you’re doing and they don’t. Getting the word out is a long, sustained process. And it’s less about spreading the word on one story than continuing to create stories.

So self-sacrifice is in. Turns out so many of us are willing to pay more taxes, willing to live without for the greater good. We are all in this together, right? Our only hope is for left and right to unite for economic security for all. That’s what this is all about, jobs. No one really cares about foreigners, they just want food on the table and the foreigners are scapegoats belittled by an entitled class that has left the disadvantaged behind. I mean how the hell am I supposed to pull myself up by my bootstraps if I’ve got none and know nobody in power?

I believe in globalization, I believe manufacturing can’t come back to America, or if it does, most of the work will be done by robots, but I do believe in the right of every person to have a roof over their head, food on the table and economic opportunity. Those are the problems we must solve, which does not involve giving the rich more money and supporting faded industries like coal which has been eclipsed by natural gas and fracking.

The world changes, the cheese gets moved. Ever since digitization we’ve had groups lamenting this, wanting to jet back to the past. But coal miners are like workers in CD plants, their heyday is in the rearview mirror.

Now after UTA announced their cancellation, WME said it was gonna start a PAC. And that’s how it works, it’s a domino effect, one person stands up and then the rest do. Imagine if Gaga said she would not perform at the Grammys, and if the show had to ultimately go dark or feature C-level talent. The word would get across. That’s the power of a musician. Not that I think the Grammys need to go, not for this reason, but the point is you leverage your advantages and stand up for something.

And UTA just did this.

What are you gonna do?