Or, what the heck do those crazy writers want, anyway?

I don't know about you, but at Thanksgiving I'm going to see a lot of relatives. Mine are all in Blanco, Texas, and I'll be explaining to them -- whether I want to or not -- what's going on out here. Or trying to, anyway.

And it better make sense to the one person who matters -- Omie, my grandmother, my children's great-grandmother, who at 91 is sharp as a tack and really uninterested in long, involved explanations. If you can't get right to the point, she's pretty sure the point isn't worth getting to.

So here's what I'm going to be telling her, just in case the reductionist version is useful to anyone else. And again, as always, these are just my opinions, not any official anything from anyone.

What's the biggest issue?

Internet and New Media.

(I'll be saying it loudly, figured might as well up the font size.)

What are we asking for in Internet and New Media?

Two things:

1. Residuals for reuse of content (like replaying tv shows) on the internet.

We're asking for residuals of 2.5% of revenue -- that means for every dollar they get paid, we'd get 2 and a half cents. It's a flat percentage, so if they're right and they're never ever going to make a penny, well then, we won't either. No harm, no foul.

Since 2.5% is our starting point, in any normal negotiation we'd end up somewhere between what they want to pay (.3%) and what we're asking for (2.5%). I'd guess 1 to 1.5 %.

2. Coverage and protections for original content (new stuff we create for the internet.)

We're asking for basic protections so that when we write original stuff for the internet, we have rights -- health and pension, minimum amounts, credits and separated rights (so if we make some amazing character or show, we get the right to share in its success.)

We're just asking for the same protections we already have for writing in tv or film. Nothing new or weird. Just the basics.

What are the other issues?


Currently we get .3% per dvd, we're asking for .6%.

Translation: now we get 4 cents per dvd. We are asking for 8 cents per dvd. Since most dvd's cost at least 10 bucks, that doesn't exactly seem like a bank-breaker. Whatever.

Enforcement of Coverage

There are lots of shows, like game shows, documentaries and talk shows, where writing is supposed to be covered under our contract. The companies sometimes just ignore the contract -- which means folks don't get health and pension, and if they ask for it, they get fired.

We want them to stop that, and honor the contract they signed.

Expansion of Coverage

We want to cover stuff where writers are working without coverage, which means without health and pension and other protections. The two big areas are animation and reality. We think those writers should be covered.

You don't actually think you'll get all that, do you?

Personally? I think in a perfect world, negotiation involves, well, negotiating. That's give-and-take, where we get some of what we want and they get some of what they want.

So far, they just keep showing up at the table with more and more things they're saying they're going to take away -- rollbacks on health and pension, gutting of separated rights, that kind of thing.

But they gave back those resid-whatever-thingums, right?

Sort of. They took that one rollback off the table -- but since they're not moving on "digital delivery", and since pretty much all content is going to be digitally delivered in the coming years, well... we'll lose those residuals as soon as that happens. So without internet coverage, it doesn't mean much.

And it's really not a lot more complicated than that.


1 comment:

Dennis Upkins said...

I wanted to let you know that I've been following the strike and like most people I'm in full support of the WGA. I'm planning to address the issue on my blog and my online column.

Keep up the great work and stay strong.