If you have watched television or movies in the past 35 years, you likely have seen Sam McMurray in numerous shows and films. Among his many film credits are Raising Arizona, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, L.A. Story, The Wizard, and Drop Dead Gorgeous. On television he was a featured player on THE TRACEY ULLMAN SHOW, played a recurring role as Chandler's boss on FRIENDS, and appeared in THE KING OF QUEENS, Disney's RECESS, FREAKS AND GEEKS, and THE SOPRANOS. Now McMurray is bringing his talents to the web with a two-episode arc on hit comedy series THEN WE GOT HELP!
In Part 1 of our three part interview, McMurray revisted his early career including stints on daytime soaps THE DOCTORS and RYAN'S HOPE. In Part 2, he shared his experiences working on THEN WE GOT HELP! In the third and final part below, he discussing the future of entertainment and making money on the web.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: You've been in all kinds of feature films and TV shows. What's different about a web series?
Sam McMurray: We shoot everything in one day. It's done for shits and giggles. And the truth is, that that's the future. I think. The studios haven't a clue, honestly, and I've been out in L.A. for 25 years, so I can speak to this to some degree.
That's why they cancel the Soaps. All they're doing is looking at the quarterly reports, and they're going,“You know this soap opera costs us X amount of dollars, let's say this asshole chef costs us a buck or two [less]... they're strictly accountants.
Two years ago, they said, “Sitcoms are dead. From now on, it's all going to be, WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE, or whatever the flavor of the day was. They don't understand, that if they look at a trend, these things burn out immediately. It's like network executives on crack. They see a show [like MILLIONAIRE or AMERICAN] and think, “Let's do that, and then let's show it seven times a week!” They're myopic, in asense.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: How will there ever be money to bemade in a web series?
Sam McMurray: Nobody has made any money off the Internet—yet. And they absolutely screwed us with [rights and residuals from digital media outlets]. And you can publish this in bold type—AFTRA weakened SAG's position, making a deal early, just as the DGA did with the WGA. That's my take on it.
So it's a brave new world, and nobody knows where it's going.
WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Do you have any ideas?
Sam McMurray: I do, actually. With the exception of one movie... about a month ago, with Kim Catrell, called Meet Monica Velour, I haven't had a theatrical release in years. I've been in a bunch of movies, and they all just languish somewhere. Maybe they'll sell them off to HBO—like one I did called Tennis Anyone. There's no more “Let's go to Sundance and we'll all make a million.” Robert Redford had to petition to get into Sundance with his movie!
I think what's going to happen is that they're going to find that with [a new service similar to Video on Demand] the studios, despite the movie theater owners' protests, are going to open movies over TV or on your computer first. Once they get that codified, I think that's the third stream. A first-run feature that you can see at home.
Something has to happen, and it's going to be through the Internet, I say. It seems to me, but what do I know? I do know that TV is completely scattered now. There has been, in a way, more work—but the money has dissipated.
It used to be, with Networks... that was a meritocracy. You didn't have to be a movie star, you could be a good actor who got lucky. And make a good living doing it. But for the most part, that's gone away.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Watch McMurray's first appearance on THEN WE GOE HELP! below.