'Trevor' from Trailer Park Boys talks about Cory and Trevor leaving one of the best shows on television due to low pay and poor work conditions.
Libcom.org uploader's note: These comments by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Jackson_(actor) - aka. Trevor - are reposted from here.
most people know that i don’t really like to talk about TPB and i really don’t. in my mind it’s in the past and it isn’t worth talking about. recently, i’ve had a lot of TPB fans message me and ask what happened and why i’m not on the show anymore and that it isn’t the same without cory and trevor. this is flattering but it wasn’t my intention when i decided to leave the show. i can’t answer all the questions that i get and TPB isn’t something i like to talk about but i will give a summary of what happened and why i left the show. this is going to be the truth and probably not what a lot of people want to hear and i don’t mean to sling shit at certain people but sometimes it has to be done. if you enjoy the show i hope you continue to enjoy it.
the first season of TPB was really fun and i felt we were doing something really creative and it felt like a group effort. a lot of the scenes were improv’d and i don’t remember even seeing a script during the first season. during this time we were getting paid scale which is the lowest the producer’s were allowed to pay us and still have it be a union show (ACTRA). this was fair as we really didn’t have any acting experience and i don’t think anybody thought the show would be successful. season 1 bombed and the ratings were low and i don’t think anybody really understood what we were trying to do with the show. i remember a superfan from ottawa organized a party at a bar here in halifax and the only people that showed up to it was the entire cast of the show and this one superfan and his girlfriend. it was humiliating but really funny at the same time. luckily for us Showcase didn’t have a lot of shows and they played the episodes over and over and over. eventually people took notice and the fans spread the show by word of mouth. this didn’t have anything to do with marketing or business plans or focus groups. we all owe everything we have from this first group of TPB fans. i think we were all amazed when we were informed that we would be shooting a second season. it was weird because a lot of the production staff and an awesome lady named judy seemed to get let go before season 2. i’m not really sure why this happened but it seemed kind of shitty. i bet mike volpe and barrie dunn would know something about this.
clattenburg wanted me to have a mullet for season 2 and i’m not sure why i let him talk me into this but i did. i also somehow signed on to be a grip for this season. the show had a new woman named karen wentzell who might have worked with barrie dunn at CBC. i had to go in and meet her and do my deal memo for the grip gig and she made me an insanely low offer and pretended not to know what kit rental was. for those that don’t know kit rental is what you get paid to rent your own equipment to a production. normally a show would have a gaffer and a key grip and anywhere from 3 to 5 grips and 3 to 5 electricians. i understood that TPB was low budget and didn’t need a huge crew but they didn’t have any electrics and i was the only grip. i don’t know a lot about electricity and they had me running extension cords all over the trailer park and eventually the breaker would blow and it would somehow be my job to figure it out. the camera dept. had 1 guy who held the camera when it wasn’t being used, a guy who operated the camera and a guy who held the slate. the lighting department had me running around like a nut. eventually they let me bring in raddie dave to help me but this was no way to work. eventually i told barrie dunn that it isn’t my fault they don’t know the difference between a grip and an electric and that what they were doing was dangerous and i took my tools and went home. i had worked on a lot of movies and this thing was a fucking joke. working as an actor on season 2 was ok and we were still getting paid scale and i think that is fair as the show still wasn’t very popular. bubbles played a much larger role in season 2 but he was still a great character. i’m so proud of the first 2 seasons of the show. i really think we were doing something special and for the most part it was a lot of fun. i wish the show would have ended here. what a legacy we would have had. oh well.
i’ll be honest, i didn’t want to do season 3. the show had grown a lot in popularity from season 2 to season 3 and mike volpe and barrie dunn refused to pay more than scale. barrie dunn told me that i have to think long term and to think about when they sell the show to the US or make a movie. karen wentzell was back and she made a lot of really bad decisions. she had rev bob basically working 24 hours a day trying to dress/build the sets and refused to let him have enough people to help him do it properly. he worked his ass off and did an incredible job. he had to deal with a schedule that constantly changed and really bad communication. he didn’t come back for season 4 and in my mind the man should be sainted. season 3 was actually pretty fun to shoot.
when i read the season 4 scripts i couldn’t even believe what had happened to the show…talking puppets, mountain lions and bubbles dressed as a wrestler. i was disappointed with this direction change as well as the fact that the show seemed to focus more on bubbles and less on julian or ricky/julian as it had in the past. i didn’t want to do season 4 and during negotiations this time around we got what i think was a 25% raise but we were still getting paid per day and not per episode. finally we were making a bit more than scale but this raise came with a price and that was a 3 year contract or what i think might be called an option in the entertainment industry. with this option the producers only had to pay 15% more each year. i tried to negotiate a better contract and barrie dunn told me that everyone was getting paid the same and if he paid me more he would have to pay everyone else more. for some reason i believed him and the idea of us all making the same somehow seemed fair. later on i found out that almost every actor on the show was making a different amount of money…some a lot more than me and some even less than me. andy miller came on as the art director and he did an amazing job but faced all the same problems that rev bob faced. i think at this time the show finally gave in and signed one page agreements with both the technical union IATSE and the DGC. this is important because with a union contract the producers contribute to the retirement and medical coverage for the crew. i could be wrong and maybe this happened later on. it’s funny because karen wentzell wasn’t in the DGC so her job of production manager was changed to production supervisor. it’s pretty sad when the person in charge of organizing the show isn’t actually in the union. shooting season 4 was painful.
we got our 15% raise and were still getting paid by the day. at this point we were making about scale and half. i have friends who work on commercials and they would get twice scale for a tim horton’s commercial. here we were on what was probably the most successful canadian tv show making just a bit more than scale. we put 4 years into the show, we created our own characters and this was our reward. karen wentzell was still doing her organizing and the crew was working harder than ever. i couldn’t believe how poorly the crew was treated and the crew turnover was ridiculous. it’s normal to not always use the same crew but TPB was lying and pretending this thing was a huge family and everyone was friends. the people who worked for low rates and didn’t complain stayed on and anyone who complained about the sickening bathrooms, the lack of organization or mouldy trailers were blacklisted. obviously i didn’t want to do season 5 but i always really liked clattenburg and he always was able to talk me into it. clattenburg is a great guy and i’ll always think that, i think. i think we won a gemini award the fall after we shot the xmas thing and nobody even told me that we won or offered to pay for the award. my mom paid for my award because she is proud of me. each award is about $400 so i guess it would have cost the show about $5000 to pay for the awards. i worked as a production assistant on this hour has 22 minutes in 1998 and they always paid for any awards the show won. shame on you volpe and dunn. i can’t even begin to guess at how much mike volpe and barrie dunn were making at this point from dvd sales, merchandise and from the show. millions of dollars easily. anyway, let’s continue on.
the xmas thing
the xmas thing was more of the same from a writing standpoint and was disorganized and rushed. i remember we were shooting in downtown dartmouth in a parking garage and i was hungry and the craft service girl came around with some sandwiches and i tried to take 2 and she told me i couldn’t. then i watched the boys all grab 3 or 4 each. it was as though a memo had been sent around and to treat the rest of us like shit or something. i don’t think there was such a memo but fuck it was gross.
the big dirty
in the late spring mike volpe phoned me and he was really excited that they were going to be making a movie. i was like cool…whatever…i don’t really care and then he was like…we didn’t get as much money as we wanted so everyone is going to have to work for scale. this was the payoff…this was the movie…this was the US and because it was no longer the TV contract they dropped us back down to the minimum they had to pay us. i was so upset that i sold my season 4 scripts on ebay as one of my performance art pieces. this was really low. the other thing they tried to do was to get us all to sign 3 movie contracts with the rate of pay already being determined in advance. so say the big dirty made a billion dollars well we’d be acting in the big dirty 2 for twice scale. that was craziness and i refused to sign my contract. volpe said i was the only one with a problem but i learned later on that almost everyone had a problem with this. i was given the big dirty script and because of my ebay stunt our names were now on the scripts and we had to sign some sort of non-disclosure agreement. again, i was disappointed with the script and i didn’t finish reading it. conditions on the movie were bad. karen wentzell was in way over her head and instead of hiring a security guard to watch the unit over night on the street where it was parked, she hired extra drivers to bring everything back to the park and lock it up over night. this was so expensive and was really hard on the transport guys who were working an extra 3 or 4 hours a day now. there was a lot of other communication and organizational problems and i hate to blame one person but if you are the production supervisor on a film then this is your job. several times the schedule was fucked up and they would send a transport guy to my house to wake me up and say they needed me on set in 30 mins. in my mind this isn’t very respectful and i always went in but i knew it wasn’t right. i didn’t want to make the movie but because i love clattenburg so much i did it. i knew the deal they offered my was unfair and i still did it. i really tried to do a good job in the movie…for clattenburg. i knew that whoever was involved in this movie from Hollywood was ruining it but i tried to do my best. halfway through the movie i decided that i had had enough….all the bullshit, all the inequality had taken it’s toll and mostly i wasn’t having fun. it wasn’t the same show anymore, the people weren’t the same. when i looked around i just saw a bunch of people that were fat and tired. i told volpe in an email that season 6 would be the end for me. i told him that i would finish the movie and do as little or as much as they wanted from me for season 6 because i didn’t want to fuck clattenburg. volpe just kind of ignored me and didn’t seem to take it seriously. i’ve never watched the big dirty. actually, i haven’t watch any episodes since season 3. i remember telling clattenburg that the only thing that could make me feel worse about my life would be to play bass for nickelback. TPB had become a sitcom and was the same jokes over and over.
around the same time i decided to leave the show i took on a job recording a band and i emailed karen wentzell and told her that i wouldn’t be available for 2 days during the shooting of season 6. i also asked for the list of dates that i would be working and for my contract and she replied saying she would give me the dates and my contract the next week. well of course i didn’t get them and of course the day before the day i was to record the band the 2nd AD called to tell me i was working the next day and i was like…i can’t…i’m booked and i told karen this about 2 months ago. volpe called and we talked and i told him about karen and the email and he took her side and told me that i had given up on the show and was trying to do a bad job on purpose. this was easily the most hurtful thing the show ever did to me. i’m not a good actor but i always tried to do the best job i could. even when the writing wasn’t great i tried to create something special and to have a greedy lawyer without a creative bone in his fucking body tell me this really hurt. i will never forget this. hey volpe…eat a dick. the scripts and production was rushed for season 6 and everyone was exhausted from the movie. it was weird because i told them i wasn’t coming back and i kind of thought they would shoot a scene of us leaving or give us a good ending and they never dealt with it. when season 6 wrapped up i knew it was over and i knew that they would just say cory and trevor moved or died or whatever and i knew that it would suck and that the fans of the show deserved more. i met with barrie dunn before season 7 and we had a nice talk and i really like barrie dunn the guy, barrie dunn the actor but barrie dunn the lawyer/tv producer isn’t someone i can trust. after this meeting i knew it was over and nobody ever thanked me or said i did a good job. it just ended. they said they wouldn’t do it without me but i knew they would and they should and i’m glad they did. i had one year left on my contract and i’m thankful that mike volpe and barrie dunn didn’t threaten me or sue me. as much as they fucked me they let me off easy on that one…thanks guys.
i spent 6 years working on TPB and the only person who was ever promoted during all of this was karen wentzell. i can’t remember at what point but sometime around season 6 she became an associate producer. all of the crew who worked their asses off because of her incompetence never got a producer credit and what i’d imagine would be a significant raise and maybe even a share of the back end. what an insult, what an outrage. i also remember ann marie was hired to make a behind the scenes documentary and it somehow was changed to be about the crew and this family bullshit that really was never there. never once did this special mention rev bob and how poorly he was treated or andy miller and how poorly he was treated or todd murchie and how much he gave to the show to later not be brought back. what about richard colpe? it seems as though this family they talk about doesn’t include a lot of people that worked their asses off.
i was disrespected as an actor and as a person and i know that me standing up and saying fuck you i’ve had enough hasn’t changed anything. i was ripped off financially and that kind of sucks but mostly i just wasn’t having fun anymore. the show isn’t the same show that it was in the beginning and life is too short to not have fun. i’m not a greedy person and i never tried to hold out for more money but we all should have been paid a lot more than what they were paying us. this includes the crew and the cast.
thanks for everyone who watched me for 6 years and to everyone who has shown support in my decision. sorry about the long rant, you haven’t seen the last of me.