11/16/2007

Story Notes for Nick Counter

(Nick Counter and the AMPTP (The Media Moguls) paid for an expensive ad in yesterday's "Variety" -- for those of you who don't work in the industry, "Variety" is an entertainment business magazine that is in the pocket of the Media Moguls.

For further information on "Variety's" biased reporting, check out Nikke Finke's post.

Since we don't have tons and tons of money like the Media Moguls do, we'll have to respond here - on the Internet - which they don't entirely own and control ( but they sure would like to).

Below, WGA member Phil Alden Robinson gives Nick Counter "story notes" on his advertisement and general "script".)


From: Story Department

To: Nick Counter

Dear Nick:

While we are still very excited about your project "Stonewall", we feel there are still some serious script problems that need to be addressed.

1) As every writer knows, the first rule of fiction is to at least SOUND believable. But you have a character saying dialog like "writers do receive residuals for digital downloading (regardless of whether the download is temporary or permanent)". Then why do you have the WGA character have to arbitrate to get what's already in the contract? Wouldn't the AMPTP character have more credibility if he just told the truth and did the right thing?

2) You also have a character say "the notion that we are not sharing new media revenue with writers is simply not correct." Wow. If that's what you want him to say, then we suggest you delete all the scenes in which entire episodes of TV shows - with COMMERCIALS - are streamed on the internet for millions of users, and the studios earn advertising revenue, but pay the writers nothing. This is a major logic problem with your script, and needs to be fixed.

3) Major typo: you've got a character saying "the Writers Guild is asking that writers get a percentage of what the Internet site owners receive in advertising revenue". But it's not. The WGA's proposal is for a percentage of "company's accountable receipts". It has nothing to do with Internet site owners.

4) In earlier pages (the Sunday night negotiation scene), you had the AMPTP character say that progress was being made, and then you have that character abruptly walk out of negotiations. We've asked you to fix that, but you still haven't made sense of it. This sort of behavior is usually reserved for the villain. Is that your intention for this character?

5) The WGA character keeps saying they're ready to return to the bargaining table, but you still haven't had the AMPTP character respond. Suggestion: why not have the AMPTP character call the WGA and return to the table? Along these lines, we suggest you put a pin in the 1st and 2nd act problems, and just concentrate on the ending.

In short, we still have high hopes for you, so please don't be discouraged. We're looking forward to the next set of pages.

Warmest regards,

Your friends in the Story Department.

p.s.: Aren't you glad we didn't give you a one-draft deal on this?

26 comments:

Kate Purdy said...

Dear Astro Turfers AKA Sock Puppets AKA Trolls,

I know you're being paid to post negative comments by the AMPTP, but have you really considered the bigger cause. Have you considered how this affects you, your family, the entire nation? This is about giant media conglomerates who are used to getting whatever they want by pouring money however they need to. This is about workers getting a fair deal and fair compensation for their work. Just realize you aren't only taking a paycheck. You are responsible for your actions.

Peter said...

Best. Notes. Ever.

Captain Obvious said...

This is absolutely classic...

Guild Girl said...

"kate purdy" - Why do you think that it is so impossible that a person would be upset about losing their job and would post about it? Is it really logical for you to automatically assume something like this?
Do you maintain that it is a complete fallacy that people have lost their jobs and are really, really scared about it? If you speak such nonsense nobody is ever going to consider a word that you say. Also, this attitude really alienates people who support your cause but are negatively impacted by the strike. They need to have their sacrifice and hardship acknowledged and respected.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, but if the AMPTP knew anything about literature, they would not be having someone named Nick Counter being their spokesperson. Counter sounds like a Dickens surname-along the lines of Mr. Bumble and Uriah Heep. Hearing and reading "Nick Counter" brings forth visions of a sleazy, toadying showbiz type locked in a penthouse, COUNTING all the millions the moguls have made in dollar bills.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the grammatical mistake above-it should be "Nick Counter BE their spokesperson". Shouldn't eat and type.

Kai Tave said...

"kate purdy" - Why do you think that it is so impossible that a person would be upset about losing their job and would post about it? Is it really logical for you to automatically assume something like this?
Do you maintain that it is a complete fallacy that people have lost their jobs and are really, really scared about it? If you speak such nonsense nobody is ever going to consider a word that you say. Also, this attitude really alienates people who support your cause but are negatively impacted by the strike. They need to have their sacrifice and hardship acknowledged and respected.


I believe that people have, and will, lose their jobs due to this strike, including people who aren't squarely in either camp. That situation is genuinely unfortunate, and I wish that it wasn't the case. Coming from someone who's flat fucking broke, I know how much not having money sucks.

Kate's got a point too, though. I've seen, here and on some other blogs, a lot of anonymous posts that read something like this:

WGA these tactics you’re employing are disgustingly selfish. You're driving the REAL middle class out of the industry, people who; don't have agents and multi-million dollar deals, have to work just as hard and as long to make it in the business and then deal with the same job uncertainty you do with much smaller pay and without residuals every month… these are the people that will suffer from your selfish strike because they can’t afford to be unemployed for 6 months like you... and it will take them years to pay off the loans and debt they have to take on to survive your strike.

That post up there was copy-and-pasted into three separate entries on this blog, one after another. Take a gander at that...disgustingly selfish. Those aren't the words of someone calling for greater attention being paid to the collateral damage of a strike. The bit about "multi-million dollar deals" has been refuted by just about anyone with a pulse and a brainstem. Unless he's addressing this post to the two-dozen screenwriters that could actually be said to engage in multi-million dollar deals, then it's hard to see this guy as anything but a troll at best, or a shill at worst.

I would love the strike to be over tomorrow, with the studios agreeing to fair compensation, everyone returning to work, and shows not being cancelled. But the studios aren't ever going to agree to do something so foolish as paying their writers when they could get, instead, not pay their writers. Which means, sadly, that the strike is going to last a long time, and put a lot of people out of work. It sucks, but unless you have a radical solution that involves the writers getting their dues and the studios to accept that fair compensation won't bankrupt them, I don't see how this could go any other way.

From a long-term point of view, writers not getting residuals is going to result in things like service and crew layoffs anyway. If the writers got hit with the mind-control lasers and all took the studios' offer, things would coast for a little while longer, but eventually you're going to have a harder time convincing young, aspiring writers that TV-land is the place to be. Who's attracted to a job that pays shit? There's a fine line with a lot of performance/artistic jobs like music, acting, or writing. A lot of people in those fields will take work that pays less than they might have gotten with, say, a business degree or something, because their love of the craft is enough to help offset the financial shortcomings. But if you make that fine line any finer, people will start to drop off no matter how much they love it, because love doesn't pay the bills, and even artists have to eat.

Worse deals mean fewer writers. Fewer writers, fewer shows, which means less service industry and crew needed.

Angel said...

Dear AMPTP: Get a continuity editor.

Anonymous said...

God. You people just can't stop being creative can you?

You're supposed to be on strike. I thought this was against the rules.

But Nick Counter is a fagbag.

Brett said...

This was all well and good - but I am interested in the specific facts where the truth was a little obscured here by the comedy.

My questions are this:

1) Are writers getting paid residuals for digital downloads like iTunes? If so, at what rate?

2) What is the writer's side on those 200% and 700% increases the AMPTP is talking about? Is it an increase in percentage, and if so, from what to what?

3) What are the problems/omissions with the AMPTP's current proposal on streaming media?

Hopefully someone on this blog or in the comments can get really specific with the information and numbers - I think it is important to understand exactly what the AMPTP and WGA are asking for.

Also, if anyone wants to refute the AMPTP letter point by point, that would be great.

skippy said...

a bit off topic, but here's the account where skippy walks today's picket line at nbc and sees the top of john edwards' head (with pictures!)

JohnH985 said...

I'm behind you 100% and have been talking about the writer's strike on my blog a lot, it may not mean much in the long run, my blog isn't one of the big influential ones, but I figure every voice can help your cause. I know some people reading my blog have already commented that they didn't see it from the writer's side until they saw some of the videos I posted and it made them think. As much as we want our tv shows back on, don't give in...keep up the good fight.

Dorkman said...

1) Are writers getting paid residuals for digital downloads like iTunes? If so, at what rate?

According to the WGA's response to the AMPTP's accusations, writers are NOT "getting paid residuals". Some companies have OFFERED to pay such residuals, offering them the unacceptable DVD rate of 0.3%, which they have never agreed to.

2) What is the writer's side on those 200% and 700% increases the AMPTP is talking about? Is it an increase in percentage, and if so, from what to what?

Those percentages are somewhat accurate, but incredibly misleading because they make it sound a lot bigger than it is.

In the first case, the 200% refers to the writer's wish to increase their DVD residuals from 1/3 of a cent for every dollar the studios make, to 2/3 of a cent for every dollar the studios make. So in terms of raw percentages, yes. The writers are asking for 200% of what they're currently getting. But since they're currently only getting a THIRD OF A CENT (which rounds off to approximately that 4 cents to every 20 dollars that's always bandied about), asking for another THIRD OF A CENT isn't actually that bad. It only SOUNDS bad when you call it a "demand for 200%".

The same thing applies to the 700%, as the writers are asking for 2.5% of what the studios make (TV residual rates) while the studios are offering 0.3% (current DVD residual rates). Again, "700%" makes it sound like a lot more than it is and is only possible because the residual rates are so insultingly low in the first place that any reasonable increase can be made to sound unreasonable by turning it into a relative percentage instead of an absolute one.

But the 700% figure is doubly disingenuous because, as mentioned above, the WGA never agreed to 0.3% residuals for internet downloads in the first place.

3) What are the problems/omissions with the AMPTP's current proposal on streaming media?

The AMPTP wants to be able to show streaming content -- with embedded, revenue-generating advertisements -- for a 6-week "promotional" period without having to pay the writers a portion of that revenue. After the 6-week "promotion", the writers would receive a portion of any remaining revenue. And after 6-weeks, anyone who was planning to watch the content would have done so already. The revenue, and their residuals (especially at the proposed abysmal 0.3% rate) would be nonexistent.

Anonymous said...

To continue playing the numbers game, I'll just point out a little bit of something here:

Internet revenue is projected to be in the neighborhood of $4.6 billion in the next three years. Even pretending that the studio's reprehensible "promotional" window didn't exist, let's look at how much 0.3% of $4.6 billion is:

$13,800,000

Whereas 2.5% is:

$115,000,000

So basically, one side or the other is being asked to give up $100 million over the next three years.

For the Big Six, that means taking $4.5 billion instead of $4.6. That's what a difference of 2.2% looks like.

For the writers, that's...well, it is indeed a difference of 700%.

So the AMPTP was telling the truth, but it doesn't exactly make them the victims:

For the studios, split among the Big Six, it's the difference between revenue of $766,666,666, and $750,000,000.

For the writers, split among the between 8000 and 12000 members (heck, we'll even say 4000 just to give each one more money), it's the difference between a mean residual income of $3,450 per person over three years, and $28,750 per person. Over three years.

Even if the writers get what they want, that's less than minimum wage. And the AMPTP doesn't want to give it to them.

Anonymous said...

God. You people just can't stop being creative can you?

You're supposed to be on strike. I thought this was against the rules.


The rules prohibit them from writing for struck companies. They can write for themselves and their own cause as much as they want, and boy does it show.

It seems the AMPTP picked the wrong group of people to argue with: a group whose command of language enables them to express their views clearly, creatively, and compellingly.

The AMPTP began with an unpopular position and simply made it worse with hypocrisy and a lack of demonstrable facts.

It's funny things like this skit that prove that you folks are the lifeblood of Hollywood. The story is the beginning before anything else, and it is the drive that preserves momentum. Without it, the system becomes anemic.

Keep up the fight! Continue to make your voices heard and refute the opposition!

- An eager fan

Brian said...

Thanks, dorkman, for that informative break-down.

The AMPTP's "Open Letter" (and just hearing them call it that is groan-inducing) also ran in The New York Times yesterday. It's unfortunate that such a wide readership was exposed to their hypocrisy and misrepresentation. I only hope that those traits are left at the door when negotiations resume on the 26th.

Until then, for an extra bit of AMPTP hypocrisy, recall the recent NBC-iTunes negotiations debacle. To refresh: it was reported that negotiations between NBC and Apple (regarding the sales of NBC content on the iTunes Store) broke down when NBC said that it would pull its shows from iTunes if it wasn't given a portion of the revenue that Apple earns from its iPod sales. (http://www.news.com/8301-13579_3-9806737-37.html).

Put another way, the studio wanted a piece of Apple's revenue in exchange for the valuable content it provides.

Put another way, one group asked another group to be fairly compensated for their contributions to the latter's big bottom line.

Sound familiar?

A separate issue I had with their ad was their inflammatory second to last paragraph. They said:

Simply put, what the Writers Guild is asking for has no precedent. No labor agreement in history has given writers, actors or directors a portion of advertising dollars. There is no way that this change can be deemed reasonable.

What they should have said:

"Simply put, what the Writers Guild is asking for has no precedent. CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW LUCKY WE'VE BEEN? AND BY THE WAY, PRECEDENTS SHOULD NEVER BE BROKEN--HAS THAT EVER LED TO POSITIVE CHANGE? No labor agreement in history has given writers, actors or directors a portion of advertising dollars. HOW DO YOU THINK WE AFFORD OUR GULFSTREAMS? There is no way that this change can be deemed reasonable. THERE, THAT SETTLES IT. TIME FOR MORE BABIES' BLOOD!!!"

Simply put, it's really too bad that their muddy reasoning was injected into the pages of my favorite newspaper yesterday. Here's hoping that all goes well, for both parties, the week after next.

-Brian

George said...

as a sag actor i have walked the picket lines and created a video with photos from the lines

http://www.metacafe.com/watch/924338/the_writers_cause/

it also explains in slides with pictures from the strike lines how google may take over from the studios and how a quote from marc andreseen creator of the first popular browser netscape (and thus the world wide web) as we know it says the studios reaction to the strike may accelerate their demise.

for more info or background you can go to my very mediocer volunteer blog at vivzizi.com

Captain Obvious said...

"It seems the AMPTP picked the wrong group of people to argue with: a group whose command of language enables them to express their views clearly, creatively, and compellingly."


Yeah we're tough cookies! :)

Anonymous said...

"- are streamed on the internet for millions of users, "

Wow, what the hell is that fool smoking - I'd be surprised if it is more than 50000 thouands who'd want to see it in a browser in a shitty resolution.

Non-smoker said...

Anonymous asks "What the hell is that fool smoking? - I'd be surprised if it is more than 50000 thouands who'd want to see it in a browser in a shitty resolution."

Well, Anonymous, prepare to be surprised.

Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger, talking last March said about the Disney.com website: "We're streaming, at least in the four weeks that's it's been up, about 100 million videos a week."

Faustus said...

Solidarity from across the Atlantic. It seems you guys have it bad too! All support and good wishes from British writers.

tvscriptwriter.blogspot.com

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Anonymous said...

The thing is, I'm not sure whether ad-supported streaming video is currently profitable. Internet advertising doesn't bring in that much money, and bandwidth isn't cheap.

As I recall, YouTube never managed to turn a profit despite being the most popular streaming video site, not having to pay for content, etc.

Non-smoker said...

You're REALLY not certain internet streaming will ever be profitable???

Please watch "Voices of Uncertainty". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8a37uqd5vTw

The CEOs of the major studios seem extraordinarily certain that they're going to make billions from the new media. Do you know something they don't know?

dave said...

The thing is, I'm not sure whether ad-supported streaming video is currently profitable.

Gee, make sure to point that out to the companies who are paying for the ads. Or are the studios giving those away?

Anonymous said...

Sneakers sucked.
Field of Dreams is a can of year old treacle.
And didn't Phil Alden Robinson also make that hideous gigolo movie with McDreamy? In The Mood for Love?