Bruce Sterling on Mon, 15 Apr 2002 09:40:10 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> FW: Actor's Death Linked to Interactive Sitcom Sweatshop

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From: "futurefeedforward" <>
Date: Sun, 14 Apr 2002 13:47:58 -0600
Subject: Actor's Death Linked to Interactive Sitcom Sweatshop

February 8, 2016

Actor's Death Linked to Interactive Sitcom Sweatshop

ANAHEIM--In court filings Monday, Orange County District

Attorney Bruno Chen alleges that the death last April of actor

Matthew Perry was the result of months of "coerced labor and

forced detention" in "sweatshop-style facilities dedicated to

the production of interactive situation comedy programs."

Declining to comment on the ongoing investigation, DA Chen

announced the formation of a specialized taskforce committed to

investigating and prosecuting the owners of sweatshops who

"[exploit] actors in pursuit of a quick buck."

Discovered by a neighbor in an abandoned Anaheim condominium

allegedly owned by the brother-in-law of Carrie Gloo, president

of a production company specializing in interactive situation

comedy, Perry's body reportedly showed signs of dehydration,

malnutrition, and advanced exhaustion.  "It was terrible,

really terrible," recalls Able Carney, who has lived in the

neighborhood for more than 13 years.  "The conditions, just

appalling.  Those ugly bars on all the doors and windows. People

going in and out at all hours of the day and night.  We all knew

something was going on in there, but nobody seemed to know what."

Interactive programming, like that on which Perry was

reportedly working, permits members of the audience to fully

immerse themselves in the show and to interact with the

characters, shaping the plot and influencing the development of

the characters.  Typically achieved through a combination of

high-end computer simulations and pre-recorded 'cutscenes,'

interactive programming, though popular with advertisers, is

prohibitively expensive.  "Few people really understand the

economics of the whole thing," notes Variety reporter Dan Dime.

"Because the ad revenue's there, everybody wants to be in

iProgramming, but, because there're huge, pre-pilot

development costs to build the simulations, coupled with the

very real chance of a flop, there's lots and lots of pressure to cut


A number of studios, including Warner Brothers, the owner of

Perry's contract, have begun to outsource 'scenariation,' the

cycle-consuming development of the computer-based

simulations upon which interactive programming depends.  "It's

really pretty simple," explains Dime.  "The studio hires out

development to a mom-and-pop shop that turns around and saves

money by using antiquated motion-capture equipment and working

the actors to the bone."

To avoid the costs of deriving algorithms complex enough to

adequately simulate the movements, poses, and gestures of

actors, producers use digital equipment to record actors'

movements as they respond to hundreds, and sometimes thousands

of possible contingencies.  "iProgramming unfolds

dynamically, in response to audience input," explains Dime.  "So

the show has got to be ready for lots of possibilities.  It's almost

like a chess game.  At first, there are only so many possible moves,

but, if you're trying to anticipate even just three of four moves

on down the line, it gets pretty out of control."

Police reports filed with the court by District Attorney Chen

indicate that Perry "suffered injuries consistent with

prolonged and abusive motion capture," including "bilaterally

symmetric spot-bruising at key corporal vertices consistent

with unsanitary affixation of motion capture reflectors."

Reports further describe ankle-bruising matching the "grip

signature" of shackles found by investigators chained to a cot in

an upstairs bedroom in the Anaheim condo.

"All evidence indicates that Mr. Perry was held for a number of

weeks during which he was made to enact 'scenarios' for his

situation comedy for between 16 and 19 hours a day," notes an

investigative memo.  "Aggressive, exemplary prosecution of

both the property-owner and the employer are recommended."

Representatives of the Screen Actors Guild, applauding the

District Attorney's initiatives, noted that the Guild "has been

actively drawing attention to the increasingly grave and

abusive working conditions faced by many of our members.  Our

sincerest hope is that something good, in the form of better legal

protections for actors, can come from this tragedy."

Though promotional spots for 'Friend,' the comedy on which Perry

was working at the time of his death, continue to be available in

most areas, production of the show has been halted, pending

outcome of the litigation.

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