11/13/2007

News Flash: The CEOs Aren't Playing Fair

We shouldn't get all misty-eyed at the revelation that the studios are happy the strike has happened.

Jeff Zucker picks up an easy $40 million by terminating overall deals. Peter Chernin is the face of reality when he boasts, "We save more money in..., you know, story costs and probably the lack of making pilots than we lose in potential advertising."

We shouldn't be surprised that a cable network told a tv-writer last week that her movie will go into production, but before they green light her project, they need the tiniest of rewrites before they green light. They know the WGA doesn't want her to do the work, but maybe she could 'supervise' someone else who could. Wink, wink.

And we shouldn't be shocked that the studios have backed themselves into a corner by paying too much for high profile deals. Whose problem is that? Theirs? No, they tell us, it's our problem. As Nick Counter says with condescension, "Don't ask for more money. The movie business is unprofitable."

Was anyone surprised by the AMPTP's full page ad in Variety and the LA Times claiming that writers were already being paid for their work on the internet? Since when are the studios the source of accurate accounting?

Ok, so nobody's surprised by any of that. We all know that the CEOs aren't nice guys. But there's too much talk about the strike being over in a couple of weeks.

We have to be realists. Sure 90.1 % of the membership voted for the strike authorization. 4,000 rallied in front of Fox Plaza last Friday. But consensus isn't enough.

We need determination.

The strike will last at least 60 days, because, as Peter Chernin happily says, the short-term bottom line is so good. There has to be time for CEOs, like Jeff Zucker, to bend over and pick up the loose change dropped from terminated deals.

Sooner or later, reality will catch up with the CEOs. Although they don't like it, they need product and that means they need writers.

What will bring the AMPTP back to the bargaining table in the near future? Continued pressure from our picket lines. Increasing public support for the strike. Political influence. Back channel phone calls.

Yes. All of that and more.

We are negotiating for meaningful issues. The AMPTP is a difficult adversary. It's essential to pace ourselves. We have to be prepared for the long haul. And we will win. We absolutely will win!

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

FWIW, the police estimated 5,000 people were there Nov 9.

If Fox was any indication today, the picket #s are not dropping either.

This will be a marathon. Keep up the pressure, everyone!

Anonymous said...

Sooner or later, reality will catch up with the AMPTP. Although they don't like it, they need product and that means they need writers.

Considering that at least 10% of the membership didn't vote to strike and allowing that just because the voted to strike it doesn't mean that when times get tough (as they quickly will), Zucker, et al might not have to worry about finding writers to jump the line and scab in secret...

This afternoon at Starbucks I overheard one writer discussing a script he had in development and that strike or no strike it was going to go forward by mid-January regardless of the status of the strike.

And...

A reader at CAA I know said she was still reading new scripts that had just come in over the last few days...

So, you see, so far Zucker and friends aren't too worried since they know that sooner or later somebody will do the grunt work.

We shouldn't be surprised at this, just disappointed.

signed,
Color Me Disappointed

Anonymous said...

If this continues into January, which it most likely will, another possible strategic move would be to inspire or organize a viewer boycott of American Idol. Perhaps get the bloggers involved. AI is not only one of the main reasons that the AMPTP isn't worried about the strike, it's symbolic of all reality television. And if AI can be killed, then Fox comes back to the table, and likely others too, since AI is the big Daddy of reality shows. Sort of like taking out the big guy when you are surrounded by a hostile gang.

I think viewers might be willing to do it, so save scripted TV. AI has jumped the shark anyway, so veiwers should be ready to give it up with the hopes that it will bring back Lost, Heroes, etc.

Captain Obvious said...

I finished a feature spec a few days before the strike but I won't be marketing it until the strike has been resolved. I'm not a member (yet) but I stand with you all in this. As the slogan well-states: we're all on the same page.

I may send it to someone close to the project (and unrelated to any struck companies) for their review, but that's as far as it might go. That's the only reason it might end up in some reader's hands, and I won't be pursuing or entertaining any deals.

Anonymous said...


Considering that at least 10% of the membership didn't vote to strike


Uh, that's a bit of a stretch. Only less than 10% of those who voted (roughly 5,000) voted against the strike. That means that of the ~12,000 membership of the WGAw, about 500 or just over 4% of the membership felt strongly enough to vote against it.

Those that didn't vote at all effectively voted with the majority.

I overheard one writer discussing a script he had in development and that strike or no strike it was going to go forward by mid-January regardless of the status of the strike.

If he turned the script in before the strike deadline, the studio can shoot it... as-is. He- and any other writer-- can't do any more writing on it. So assuming "go forward" means "shoot" and this is a struck company we're talking about, they're stuck with whatever they got in before the strike deadline.

This is my understanding anyway. So if it's wrong, I'd like to hear.

John Aboud said...

DJ: Please note that the Producers Guild issued a statement pointing out, correctly, that we are not fighting "the producers." This strike is against the conglomerates that own the studios and networks.

You might want to edit your post accordingly!

Lori Kirkland Baker said...

Thousands of people, families, other unions and an entire industry *need* us to get this right. There will be tears and ulcers and blisters and... probably debt. But there can't be quitters. If we're gonna do this, we must commit ourselves to seeing this through to its ONLY solution: a good contract.

I know picketing is tough -- I do double shifts as a gate captain at Universal's main gate by the freeway where I'm sucking sewer and exhaust fumes for 8 hours. I'm dead at the end of the day (and I have two active toddlers to go home to), but I will never stop. Never. This is our future and every single one of us needs to turn out each day and pound that pavement. We WILL win this thing.

Captain Obvious said...

Yeah I saw that statement. Pretty hard hitting when even the "producers" are disowning the AMPTP's position and advocating ours while distancing themselves from the bad press...

DJ said...

Fair's fair. I was using 'producers' generically but the Producers' Guild is right to protect their good name.

well then, jenji said...

"We save more money in..., you know, story costs and probably the lack of making pilots than we lose in potential advertising."

Yeah...save more money in..., you know, the dumbing down of America.

And it's true, sooner or later someone will do the "grunt work" in our infectious culture of all-about-me'ness.

Color me the same shade of "disappointed,"
jenji

Anonymous said...

Playing devil's advocate.

What happens if the studios decide to drop their signatory status with the Unions altogether?

New Line is a good example of this. They are not a signatory studio, but simply have a signatory sub corporation that produces "some" of it's features. LOTR...not union movies and they seemed to do alright.

Non-signatory means they can hire whomever they want and tell all the unions to go f**k themselves.

I think that once the writers are out long enough (6 weeks) for the studios to enact force majeure do you know what's going to happen?

They will have the right to cancel any production deal and any project in development can be tossed out without any compensation to anyone.

That's a lot of work stuck in development hell that they get a get out of jail free card for.

RIchard said...

These deals the executives crow about now being able to force majeure tend to have short terms with yearly options anyway. So if cutting them loose were truly in the companies' interests, they would have done so already.

I get why they would try to portray this as a WGA blunder, just not why so many seem to see it as one.

Anonymous said...

But what are the real WGA numbers? HOw many are actually working, and how many are sorta, kinda? And how many of those who didn't vote aren't actually eligible?

Anonymous said...

If this strike will last 60 days at a minimum, why are we out there?

See you on the lines in two months, once it matters.

David Grenier said...

Lori Kirkland Baker is my fucking hero.

Anonymous said...

Shame on you for besmirching the good names of the talented and committed AMPTP. Didn't you read their ad in the LA Times today? It really cleared things up for me.

These guys and lassies are on the front line, each and every day, working tirelessly to bring America such riches as Farmer Takes a Wife. Show some respect. They are under a lot of pressure trying to figure out a way to monetize this internet fad all the kids are talking about.

Nick Counter Eats Farts.

Yes, I'm childish but my feet hurt and I got to ogle Sarah Silverman today. All in all, a fine day.

Anonymous said...

Oh. And the above Nick Counter line was stolen from Sarah Silverman's sign.

Somebody wrote that.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about these CEO's yesterday, wondering how, over the holiday season, they could show their faces around town knowing how much potential suffering their decisions will cause.

How does Jeff Zucker go into a restaurant for dinner, knowing that the restaurant's business will suffer, all because he wants to cut loose some talent deals and save GE a couple mil? What goes through Jeff's mind when that busboy who's about to be laid off pours him some more Fiji?

How does Les Moonves buy a book at Barnes and Noble knowing that their sales will be impacted by the thousands out of work? The guy at the counter, the one who will get pink slipped next week -- does Les even see him?

How does Robert Iger show up at the premiere for "Enchanted," enjoy some catered delights, but not realize that the catering company just had to lay off 28 people because their holiday business has dived? Does Bob accept another salmon-crusted crouton from the waiter who's three days away from unemployment?

How does Sumner Redstone--oh forget it, Sumner probably never leaves his gold-encrusted home.

But the point is, do these people really have no sense of community? Don't they care about the town they live in? Can you just tool around in your 760Li and not see anything else? If you make $20 million a year, do you somehow lose all semblance of actually caring about people?

Sad to even ask that question. Sadder that the answer might be yes.

So what to do? Well, maybe nothing. Maybe if you're that rich, maybe you really do lose all sense of shame.

But here's one possibility that cheered me up.

What if every business in town -- every restaurant, every book store, every bar, every car wash, every department store, every movie theater, every Lexus dealer, every Apple Store -- what if all of them put up a sign tomorrow in their front window, a sign which simply said, "GO BACK TO THE TABLE." And below that would be the names of the 8-10 individuals who have the power to negotiate in good faith, to resolve this issue, but CHOOSE NOT TO because it might hurt their own bottom line.

Because when you think about it, those businesses are suffering because of the greed of 8-10 individuals. They have as big a stake in this as anyone else.

I know this takes the standoff to an extremely personal level, singling out Les, Peter, Robert, et al. But when someone's in a cocoon where they don't see the effect their greed has on an entire community, maybe getting personal is what it takes.

If businesses need helping making the signs, count me in.

Anonymous said...

Fuck 'em. I can keep striking. The workout is good.

And the force majeure thing when it comes to features is total bullshit - they spend less and less on development than ever. One step deals, etc. Ain't a lot to dump. Tentpoles get the big bucks and they're desperate for those.

TV, Film - the studios are not in the business of NOT making entertainment.

It just may take a while which blows b/c the effect on below the liners. I hate that.

Lori Baker, you rule. If anything, though, the more I strike the more resolute I feel ya.

Anonymous said...

So you deny this to be true:

""WGA members are not compensated for use of their work on cell phones,
online streaming, etc. when the user doesn't pay for them. If they do
(pay-per-view, video-on-demand, etc.), the residual rate is the same as
the home video one - 0.3%. The guild is pressing for the following:
"1.2% for features whether streamed or downloaded, 1.2% for TV product
when the viewer pays, and 2.0% for post-1984 TV product or 2.5% for
pre-1984 TV product when it is free to the viewer.""

Ïe, they are getting money from the internet if people pay for it

Anonymous said...

YES ANON, I DENY IT TO BE TRUE

B/C there is a clause that says anything on the web can be classified as promotional use and promotional use is free (even if it's a full length episode of the office complete with commercials that are making money off of, which is happening right now).

They get to defined what promotional use is, hence it's all promotional and free.

They are sneaky with their lies.

You think writers are strikin' for nothin?

Anonymous said...

asswipe anonymous...

""WGA members are not compensated for use of their work on cell phones,
online streaming, etc. when the user doesn't pay for them. If they do
(pay-per-view, video-on-demand, etc.), the residual rate is the same as
the home video one - 0.3%. The guild is pressing for the following:
"1.2% for features whether streamed or downloaded, 1.2% for TV product
when the viewer pays, and 2.0% for post-1984 TV product or 2.5% for
pre-1984 TV product when it is free to the viewer.""


let's explain. network television is FREE. and writers are paid for it... why is it free for the user? because the networks don't make money off users paying for it -- they make money off of advertisers. does that mean that because users aren't paying for it, writers shouldn't be compensated? no. the fact users aren't paying for it is irrelevant

Anonymous said...

According to the Wall Street Journal, the networks will feel no pain until January, but after that, the meter starts running, and the costs compound exponentially. By springime they start losing adversisers to Google. PERMANENTLY.

So steel yourselves, folks. This is not a short-term battle.

Dave said...

If this continues into January, which it most likely will, another possible strategic move would be to inspire or organize a viewer boycott of American Idol.

...

What if every business in town -- every restaurant, every book store, every bar, every car wash, every department store, every movie theater, every Lexus dealer, every Apple Store -- what if all of them put up a sign tomorrow in their front window, a sign which simply said, "GO BACK TO THE TABLE."

Wow, some of you guys have been sucking in too much exhaust while walking those picket lines.

artdeptgirl said...

If this continues into January, which it most likely will, another possible strategic move would be to inspire or organize a viewer boycott of American Idol.

You won't win a positive from this kind of negative. Instead, rally the viewers to write to the advertisers, the media, and the Alliance, that the viewers support the WGA because the viewers support quality television.

Make it a positive. Turn it around. Prove with cards and letters and emails that the fans aren't dumb and they are NOT willing to settle.

Be SURE to target the companies that advertise on favorite shows. Eat at KFC? Saw their ads on your fave ep of whatever? Send KFC some receipts and tell them you saw their ad on the show you love.

Be a positive force for change.