11/10/2007

What Are We Striking For?

Reading through the comments to many of the blogs, there are some of you who ask why are we striking?

To Julian and Mercutio who asked that question in a recent posting, I'd like to recommend that you look at the video called "Why We Fight"; the link is on our main page.

Simply put, we want to be paid for what we create. The producers don't want to pay us.

As with every union, we're negotiating a 'minimum wage' for all the members.

In the recently concluded United Auto Workers' agreements, they have specifics in their contract covering the minimum wages for different jobs and they have health and welfare provisions that protect every worker.

All those agreements have one idea in common: you work, you get paid. All companies are in business to make money. They hire workers to help them do that.

The same is true in our business. There's 'glamor' associated with our product, but that shouldn't cloud the issue. We're hired because we help the companies make money. We're paid because we work.

Writers, actors, and directors (and there are others too) are paid in two ways: 'up-front' when the work is completed and 'deferred' later when the product we've created makes more money for the company, usually because it was sold into a new market.

One of the key provisions of the current negotiation is based on that simple fact: we're paid for our work in television or a film; now that work is being sold on the internet, so there should be a formula that calculates that additional payment.

If you have the time to watch "Why We Fight" and still have questions, please let us know. We're trying to find the best way to explain our position and we'd like your help.

93 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say keep fighting this good fight. I find it baffling that they don't want to give the writer's the due credit they deserve.

Rachel Elisabeth Little

Anonymous said...

Edward Allen Bernero has blogged in an open letter to the fans here detailing the run up to and reasons for the strike.

As someone not in the industry I found it a brilliant 'telling' of how the current situation came about. I'd go so far as to say it's a must read.

Also, Kung Fu Monkey - John Rodgers blogs about the financials in a post entitled The Albatross and details the why's and wherefore's of the strike 2 posts below that.

Both deserve a link in the sidebar IMHO.

B.
www.fans4writers.com

Mercutio said...

Hey! I made the front page of the blog! Cool.

My most important question, however, was not why you're striking (though I DID ask that, and did so AFTER I watched "Why We Fight" -- and good Lord but ole Frank's title has been getting rehashed a lot over the last few years hasn't it?) but rather why you felt a strike was required. Yes, your contract was up, but wan't it at least POSSIBLE to keep working while talking?

And frankly I'm a bit tired of the "We're doing this for all of us" argument!

When the below-the-line folks get residuals from the internet too, THEN you're doing it for everyone. Until then Hollywood's class-based union structure remains intact and only slightly more fair than the studios themselves.

Of course the studios are exploiting this situation and trying to stir up conflicts between the unions by laying off below-the-line workers. But, and here's the rub, YOU KNEW THAT WOULD HAPPEN!! You knew they'd lay those people off. PEOPLE WHO STAND TO GAIN NOTHING FROM YOUR STRIKE EXCEPT MOUNTING BILLS AND DWINDLING FUNDS. You knew it and you let it happen anyway.

Anonymous said...

I understand what Mercutio has said about the layoffs. What everyone should try to realize is that it has been over four months since the WGA went to the table with their wants. I believe many of the below the line workers knew that this was coming. Most even support it. It is awful that this has come at this time. At the last minute, WGA even took some of their demands off and still the studios wouldn't budge. It's only fair that someone should get paid for the work they create in any media. Just my opinion.

Lindsey

WM said...

Hey, THEY knew it and they let it happen anyway. The writers are ready to negotiate RIGHT NOW. The producers aren't. Please remember that the AMPTP walked away, not the WGA.

In your heart of hearts, who do you think would truly take the side of the below-the-line people, writer schmos like me, or your buddy Jeff Zucker?

Who laid you off -- the WGA or the production company that employs you? The networks have deep pockets. If they cared about labor, they'd keep you on the rolls.

I would love for everyone to get residuals, but if we don't get them, will anyone?

Anonymous said...

Okay, I get the "why" of the striking. My question(s) deal with other issues:

1. what happens to a writer who, a.) isn't a WGA member but decides to seek writing work a non-signatory production company, b.) a WGA writer who decides to work on a script already in production, c.) a company who decides to hire scabs (I'm thinking--like happened last strike--of soaps who hired non-WGA writers (and those WGA writers working under assumed names) and continued producing their daily content?

2. The question of who holds copyright on a script is one I'm not totally clear on. To wit, if I've created a script (a spec script) and it's bought by a production company, why aren't I the holder of the copyright? I know if I'm hired to write something that's been created by others it's different, but spec script copyright baffles me.

3.What about films already in production and writers? Are they contractually obligated to fulfill their agreement to write and edit as required for changes that occur doing production or must they
be on strike as well?

4. What about non-WGA signatories, can WGA writers seek work from them?

David Latt said...

Mercutio,

Strategically, we had to strike now because the networks and movie studios were stockpiling scripts, which meant that if we delayed the strike, they would be adding ammunition to use against us so that the strike wouldn't affect their business.

The producers are only going to sit down with the WGA and give up revenue if it hurts. That's what a strike is all about: getting the other side to feel discomfort so they'll give up something they'd rather hold onto.

About the crew who don't get residuals: has IATSE tried to negotiate that? Why would anyone attack one union because it got something the employer was willing to give them and not someone else? That's an argument for the workplace that doesn't hold up.

We are doing it for everyone, even if that sounds self-serving and sentimental, because the overall intent of the AMPTP is clearly to turn Hollywood into a non-union town. In that sense, all of the unions help all the others when we hold firm for our rights and continued importance in the marketplace.

As to your point about the crews and office staff and everyone else who has to suffer during the strike: we knew that would happen, we don't like that it happens, but that's one unfortunate consequence of a strike. If SAG strikes, we'll suffer. Or IATSE or the DGA or the Teamsters. We are all in this together. We do affect one another. Hopefully, more often than not for the good. We don't want anyone to suffer because of our negotiations.

But, a question for you? Are you emailing and writing and complaining to the AMPTP members about their holding on to a postion that has caused a strike? I hope you're making that point to them.

Thanks for adding to the dialogue. We really do appreciate it.

boadicea said...

Mercutio, I'm really curious as to why you think they "let" the strike happen.

Check out the video here for a little more background about how the strike came about.

The same writer in this post makes a very important point. The producers side is not acting in good faith (just to be clear, those are my words, not his, and I am not a WGA member. Just a blogger chick who can smell bullshit when it's being manufactured upwind of me.

There is no offer to be discussed, because the producers are refusing to make one as long as the new media's part of the discussion, and new media is their growth product line. That's BULLSHIT, plain and simple.

The PRODUCERS aren't willing to talk unless new media is completely off the table-at the very time they're gearing up to sell more and more online themselves, and get revenue from advertising at the very least.

It's a risky business-and both labor and management are expected to share the risk in the existing model. But management wants to make all the profit themselves from the new distribution model

They know they've got not a leg to stand on in that argument, so they refuse to even open up the discussion. THEY'RE to blame for that.

This strike won't make a lot of difference in the highest amounts paid for screenwriting, but it will make it possible for those at the minimum to make a living at a craft they clearly love.

That's the issue. Not whether others of us are underpaid for the work we do.

Mercutio said...

wm,

Good point. But let me ask you this (in a non-loaded but actually info-seeking kind of way): did the AMPTP ask the WGA to "stop the clock" on the strike and keep talking and, if so, did the WGA refuse, and if so so, why did they?

And again I'll reiterate that I'm ON YOUR SIDE!!! I just don't go in for unquestioning adherence. Many many of the posts on this site could be summed up by the following headline:

"Chorus to Preacher: YOU"RE RIGHT!!"

I don't give my support (worthless though it may be), mush less my sympathy (even less of worth), blindly. It has to be earned.

In way I guess all I'm trying to accomplish in my rambling incoherent screeds here is to go on record as saying that if this does lead to the end of scripted TV as we know (a remote possibilty but a possibilty none-the-less), I wanted to know why.

grimes said...

Mercutio - - - the pension and health plans of the below-the-line crafts unions are funded by residuals. If we establish residuals for the internet, it will benefit the crafts unions by funding their health plans.

In other words, if we don't establish now that internet delivery/reuse is residual-generating, those health plans will find themselves unfunded.

Don't think the companies don't know that.

Anonymous said...

For the record, when the below the line people work overtime they get paid "golden time." And they are required a twelve hour turn around. When my wife comes home at 1, 2, or 5 am from her "cushy writing gig", she gets no extra pay, just 4 hours to sleep before she has to head back. And when the show ends and they are waiting to hear if she gets picked up, SHE CANNOT work on ANY OTHER SHOW. Sure - this is the life she chose - but so did the below the line people, and when they think their contract is unfair, they strike, too.

Ruffles

Diana said...

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) has come out in support of the strike. Their website should be updated shortly (http://www.sfwa.org). In the meantime, see http://community.livejournal.com/sfwa/35109.html

Urban Writ said...

Aren't writers above the line? Shouldn't they be paid like they are?

Mercutio said...

Boadicea,

Maybe. But I still find it hard to generate sympathy for a cause fronted by millionaires (and I said FRONTED not composed entirely of), even if it is against billionaire. And please understand that I'm not talking about realities here, but perceptions.

You (the WGS not Boadicea) want public support then get the famous folks away from the cameras! Putting them there, of course gets you media coverage, but hey, didn't many someones here already point out that the media is owned by the very people the WGA is fighting? If you give them rich celebs demanding more money that's what they'll happily run with. I'm surpised they haven't sent the WGA a thank you card for giving them such great propganda material to work with.

If this strike is truly about the many many poor-to-lower-middle-class writers out there (and they ARE out there), then put them in front of the cameras. If it really is about them, then make it ABOUT them.

OF COURSE the writers deserve to be paid more for their work (and AT ALL for downlaods). OF COURSE the studios and networks are greedy pond scum.

That's not what I'm arguing here.

What I'm trying to get at, in my clunky, badly spelled, speedily typed, and grammatically suspect kind of way, is why they HAD to walk.

NOT WHY THEY WALKED!!!

I know WHY?

I'm just not convinced that this was the only way to go here. I am, however, more than willing to BE convinced. No one has done so yet though.

And, frankly, Boadicea, I take offense to your last line. Actually. I'm not all that underpaid for what I do (I just don't like it very much right now -- but that's the way it goes sometime).

That has never been my concern (though looking over some of my previous posts I can see why you have that perception). I'm just trying to say that, away from the cities, in what many on both sides of this strike likely(and insultingly) refer to as "fly-over-country," PERCEPTION is key.

The WGA is fighting, at best, an uphill battle in that area. They might try to do a little less shooting at their own feet.

My (incredibly presumptious)charges to them are as follows:

1. Explain why you're striking. By this I don't mean the reasons for the strike ("Why We Fight" does this excellently) but why a strike was needed.

2. In connection with the above; Rationalize why you felt your needs were strong enough to cut off the livelihoods of so many folks, including below-the-line talent and (in LA especially) all the sattelite workers dependant on your industry.

3. Make a clear and convincing case to the rest of us as to why we should care. You want our support. We want to give it you. But tell us why we should, other than by resorting to tired cliches about how its "us against them." You are all (or least the folks you keep putting in front of the cameras)very clearly not US.

Anonymous said...

WHY WE STRIKE

Why We Are All Missing The Point

For some bizarre reason, everyone seems to keep focusing on the smaller issue (residuals) and not the much larger, Guild-busting issue...which is JURISDICTION OVER ORIGINAL, MADE-FOR-THE-INTERNET CONTENT.

United Hollywood, please address this on your main page!

If the WGA does not have jurisdiction (and solid minimums and mandatory P&H contributions) for original, internet content - then when the day comes where ALL the TV we watch on our living room screens is delivered via internet pipelines...then the WGA will have jurisdiction over nothing. AKA the end of the union.

That is the message we must keep hammering home. THAT is the real issue here.

I know why the studios are focusing on residuals...because the entire concept of residuals is a wedge issue for people (see Mercutio's posts as a perfect example).

Why are WE doing it? We are we letting the AMPTP frame the conversation in a way that misses the larger issues and just weakens our argument...so we have to get into these debates about residuals...when residuals are not the biggest threat!

And speaking of that debate (see? it's a trap), to Mercutio who wrote...

"And frankly I'm a bit tired of the "We're doing this for all of us" argument! When the below-the-line folks get residuals from the internet too, THEN you're doing it for everyone.."

A) Residuals are not part of everyone's business model (just like waiters and busboys live on tips but not everyone involved in the restaurant business does). Residuals are part of the business model that allows writers to earn their living.

B) Inventors, book authors, and musicians get royalties on all their work (but not EVERYONE involved does). Are you posting on their web-sites to decrying this unfairness?

(see my point? at the end of the day, society is enriched for the incentives - and, in may cases, necessary minumum income streams - that royalties provide -- it's not always just extra income...it's often necessary MINIMUM income )

We are doing it for everyone in our union, the majority of whom will, at some point, need those residuals to survive. Without them, instead of the top 5% of the Guild being able to earning a solid living...it would be the top 0.1% because most people would just have to leave this business. An already virtually unsustainable business model...would become TOTALLY unsustainable for most writers.

Furthermore, you wrote...

"Good point. But let me ask you this (in a non-loaded but actually info-seeking kind of way): did the AMPTP ask the WGA to "stop the clock" on the strike and keep talking and, if so, did the WGA refuse, and if so so, why did they?"

The question is a good one. The answer as to why there was no clock-stopping is that a strike (now) is the only leverage the WGA had. In asking to stop the clock, the AMPTP could clearly not be trusted to be doing ANYTHING other than trying to stall so they could get their pilots in and more TV shows in the can. This "stop the clock" argument is a straw-man argument. There is absolutely no reason the AMPTP couldn't continue to negotitate during a strike - as they will have to do anyway...as all management does when their labor talent is on strike. And furthermore, the AMPTP was told at the START of the day, the clock would not be stopped.

Look, the AMPTP may very well have some valid issues. But the reality is they are repeatedly lying, distoring, and twisting reality in support of their issues. Now...if those issues really had any kind of validity...why resort to such tactics and misinformation?

Mercutio said...

David Latt,

You actually answered a number of my questions very well. Thank you. You've given me somethings to ponder (dammit!).

However, in answer to your final queastion, the answer is no. I don't want to have anything to do with the AMPTP. I don't have enough respect (or even any) for them to try and engage them in a conversation. As contrary as I appear (perception again), I find the atmosphere much more congenial and worthy at this site.

I guess what i'm trying to say is that, because I expect more from the writers I demand more from them as well.


As for IATSE, a union I actually have smidge of experience with from my college summer stock days, I don't know why they haven't fought for residuals yet. But I bet if they did they'd be opposed not only by the AMPTP but maybe by SAG, the WGA, and the DGA as well.

Cries for solidarity only seem to come fom those needing something.

I'd like to think I'm wrong about that, but nothing in my experience of the world and the people in it, has led me to believe otherwise.

RIchard said...

Just a quick shout-out to Norman Mailer, for literally going above and beyond in support of our cause.

Anonymous said...

What I don't understand is why you should have been forced to strike. I cannot see any reason that the studios should not pay you for the work that you do. There is no reason for it. Maybe that's why people have to keep asking you to explain yourself because what you are asking for seems so simple and just they figure there must be some catch.

I do understand why people are bitching at you about the suffering of "below the line" people who will be losing their jobs over this, even though it makes no sense to blame the striking writers instead of the studios who refuse to fairly compensate them for the work they do.

One reason some people are holding the writers, rather than the studios, responsible for the suffering of the "below the line" folk, is because we expect artists to have souls and compassion; we know better than to expect that from a corporation, of course.

Also, it's because the studios don't have a blog. If they did, what would they say? They'd say, "Piss off!" I guess.

I'm not buying dvds and I'm not watching anything online until I know the people who create the work I enjoy are benefitting from my enjoyment of it. I have written and called the studios and the AMPTP saying as much.

Mercutio said...

Anonymous above,

Well, that certainly, for me at least, clears up the "stop the clock" issue.

Now I am forced to agree that striking was probably the only resort for the Guild. So thanks for the well put answer.

Still, I am compelled to ask, if the risks of a strike don't outweigh the (potential) rewards?

That's rhetorical question (though you are, of course, more than free to answer).

My feeling is that you're fighting a very lopsided fight against a more powerful enemy with better weapons at its disposal.

I want you to win and get what you deserve. I just don't think it's lock for you at this point.

As I've been so incomptently trying to say, it all comes down to perception.

If this is a fight that will hinge on public support (and to me that's far from clear -- I think the other Guilds and the advertisers will have more pull than we John Qs), they're better armed than you. Just look at the New York Times and EW pieces (and Joss Whedon's posts on the whole thing have been great!) to see what I'm talking about.

And especially, and as this site has pointed out, the stuff comeing from Variety.

Websites, ironically considering the context of this struggle, can only do so much.

Christy G said...

Hey. Ok, I have a question. If it's already been addressed, I'm sorry- I only found this website a couple of days ago. All the actors seem to be supporting the writer's strike, but do the actors actually get paid for their work shown over the internet? Or are they fighting the same thing? Just something I was wondering. Thanks so much.

Anonymous said...

TO MERCUTIO who wrote...

Explain why you're striking. By this I don't mean the reasons for the strike ("Why We Fight" does this excellently) but why a strike was needed.

A good question. You are talking tactics now -- and reasonable people can easily disagree on tactics.

It comes down to the following points. You may disagree with the conclusions in these points (which is another discussion). But these are the points nonetheless:

1) The AMPTP is not negotiating in good faith.
2) Their proposals will destroy the union by not giving the WGA jurisdiction over what will CLEARLY be the dominant media-delivery platform in the near future.
3) They either don't care their position will destroy the union or that is their goal. Same diff.
4) A strike is the only leverage the WGA has.
5) Striking now is the best time to strike -- and by best, I mean, that it will cause the most damage so that they strike will be the shortest.

You ask who we are striking for? I'll tell you who I am NOT striking for. Me. I've already lost more money from this strike than I will ever get back from any agreement.

I was able to get to the point where I am able to make a living in the business because of my residuals...and because of the people who risked their own butts 20, 30 and 40 years ago so I could have them.

I am simply paying it forward.

The AMPTP...they are simply trying to get as much control and money in the long-run as they possibly can no matter who it hurts or whether or not they have to lie, trick, manipulate and hurt to do so.

Mercutio said...

To another anonymous,

Now that is a DAMN good answer!

I, of course, still have quibbles and outright quabbles (?!), but that one issue has been fully resovled for me now.

I hate that you're striking (and that you had to) but now see that you did, indeed, have to.

Thank you. And please forgive me if I seem pig-ignorant, naive and combative. That's just how I roll!

Anonymous said...

Some things are crossing here in cybermail... so excuse me if others have answered this (as they already did some other things I posted) but this is a good point Mercurtio raises:

"My feeling is that you're fighting a very lopsided fight against a more powerful enemy with better weapons at its disposal."

That was my feeling at first. Until I saw the solidarity. Until I realized the internet...ironically, the same thing the studios won't give the WGA jurisdiction over...is the great equalizer here.

In '88, they had pay phones and dial-up bulletin boards (if that). We have e-mail, text messaging and YouTube. The AMPTP is fighting a far different "enemy" here. I believe they may have underestimated the ability of the membership to push it's message, connect with each other...and most of all, scare the bejesus out of these public companies shareholders when our big name talent says f-it, and starts bypassing the networks altogether.

Yeah, sure, there's a lot of crap on TV and in the theaters. We also have some of the best minds and communicators in the world.

They have lawyers.

I can't say who will "win". But at the very least, an interesting match-up, wouldn't you agree? :)

And that makes good drama.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Mercutio. You don't see pig-headed at all. You asked good questions. You listened to the answers.

Sorry I've been posting anonymously (though one of those in there wasn't mine). I didn't know I'd post more than one - otherwise I would have created an account.

Name is John R.

Mercutio said...

"Yeah, sure, there's a lot of crap on TV and in the theaters. We also have some of the best minds and communicators in the world.

They have lawyers.

I can't say who will "win". But at the very least, an interesting match-up, wouldn't you agree? :)

And that makes good drama."

Boy I'll say. It sure has taken up a lot of my time (no big loss really been a lazy Saturday so far).

But folks like me will eventually drift away from this won't we? We're interested in it right now because tis new and hot but as the streike drags on we'll lose interest. We might eve GASP! start reading books again.

What happens then?

Anonymous said...

Sorry. Didn't mean to sound all foppish with that "tis." just a typo.

Timothy Barrington-Smythe said...

I'm a writer myself. Not WGA. Freelance, but work has been very scarce lately unfortunately.

The "Why We Fight" video was incredibly informative, and cemented me even further into the WGA camp. (I already supported the writers.)

I have an unsold screenplay sitting here. I want to shop it around, but I won't. With the strike it just seems wrong to do so. (Despite not being a WGA member.)

Keep fighting guys! TV will either go dark, or we'll get endless reality shows. Both are as equally unwatchable.

Only show I really watch on TV is "Lost", and I'm happy to wait as long as it takes for it to return. Some things are more important.

Keep it up! Wish I could join some pickets!

The Answer Man said...

What about non-WGA signatories, can WGA writers seek work from them?

In a word: no. Not at any time -- during a strike, when there is no strike -- may a WGA member work for non-signatories in covered areas.

Mercutio said...

Answer man,

And how is that any more fair than not paying residuals on the web?

What I mean is, someone above posted that the AMPTP is trying to turn Hollywood into a non-union town. And while I agree that that is wrong, isn't it just as wrong to insist on an all-union town?

Why should someone be forced to join a union they don't want to join in order to work in the field they want?

And no, I'm not nor will I ever try to be a wriet and this question isn't asked out of jealousy or spite, just curiosity.

Matt said...

When I was but a wee lad this new way of getting television signals to consumers evolved. It was satellite television. Back then, in the early eighties, if one possessed a sat dish the size of a swimming pool, you could pull down whatever shows, whenever you wanted - all free. My father started up a satellite installation service and sold dishes, and the boxes that converted signals for the televisions. The business boomed - until the networks and companies showering half the globe with their digital signal saw the profit they could render. My father was put out of business overnight when the corporations decided to scramble their signals and sell their services via satellite. This, as everyone knows, went on to become the biggest competitor of cable - a multi-billion dollar a year business.

So please stop telling us how the televising of shows via the internet are 'free' and 'open' for everyone out there. Any 'free' or 'open' loophole in that system will soon be shut off. The networks have already secured their shows so that they can only be streamed, not downloaded, not saved and never shared. And all commercials inside the stream must be watched - no fast forwarding now! This revenue stream is already on track, just as the satellite model was back in the 80's.

Why do people keep getting kyboshed into siding with Goliath? I'll never understand

Liz said...

Good luck and know that a lot of people support your efforts. I've even posted a story about the strike and boycott of online episodes on my blog, http://lizleighlarter.blogpost.com.

Cassandra Complex said...

as an actor i completely agree with "why we fight." we fought for the same reasons (commercials/internet/new media) in 1998 and didn't fare so well with public support. we thank you for taking this stand and doing it at the right time to avoid stockpiling. the producers are digging in because they know that once any gains are made at all in new media all unions will follow. thank you for blazing this trail.

the question i have, as it relates to below-the-line labor is this: when "promotional" internet material is shot do the grips, DPs, PAs et al work for free? it would shock the hell out of me if they did!

i know our work is "glamorous" but it is still work. most folks think they would do it for free, but could they do it for free forever? who's going to pay their bills, feed their kids?

and i see you've come around mercutio, but this argument about putting celebs in front of the camera undercutting the message to the "flyover states" really rubs me the wrong way. (it reeks of arguments against celebs coming out against the war) 1/celebs are humans and citizens too. they have the right to express their opinons and support a cause they see fit 2/don't blame them if the media puts them in front of the camera instead of a better suited expert. if it keeps the issue in the news, good. the only thing i've seen in the media from the producers' side is draconian threats and i think it makes them look like jerks.

ANTI-ONION SOCIETY said...

offering support from Michigan - wish there was more I could do.
Pulling for the writers.

Keep going.

Julia said...

Support from CSU Northridge. One of my professors was helping the writers' strike last week. I hope the producers will smarten up and pay you guys for your hard work. Keep it up and don't buy into the producers' BS.

Mercutio said...

Cassandra Complex;

Your argument comparing celebs on picket lines to opposing the war is a false one imho.

Celebs seen opposing the war may engender the same opposition in the public (some anyway); "See? Marty Sheen agrees with me!'

Celebs seen striking for money, on the other hand, may very well engender resentment: "Oh poor jay Leno doesn't think he gets enough money! Oh boo hoo!"

And yet again (sigh), I'm NOT saying this is the reality, it's the perception that MAY be engendered.

To an unemployed mill worker the sight of movie and TV stars demanding more money (regardless if its for themselves or not) might, I say MIGHT, just not go down very well.

And the AMPTP will sure as shootin' exploit that angle for all its worth.

Again, this is just my opinion.

Also, I didn't "come around" because I was already there -- I just had some questions; some of which have been answered and have not.

Rodry® Biosner® said...

con nada solo con el miedo hay que hacerse el opa por que con eso
yo pienso que todo esto es raro lo que esta pasando en santa cruz bolivia
en especial a las personas con discapacidad mental

DREW said...

just wanted to you wish you the best. hope it works out!

Mercutio said...

Well, as I am not on stike, I must now haul my sorry, lazy self into work.

Thanks to everyone who responded to my questions!

I'll leave the board with one last completely unrelated (but hopefully still contrarian and combative) point:

Thus far in my meandering screeds I've only addressed the strike's impact on TV, ignoring its looming impact on cinema. There are two reasons for this.

1. Obviously, TV will be affected first.

2. Simply put, TV is soooo much better written than movies these days. Don't believe and/or agree with me? Consider this: When we're talking about the state of modern American movies we're talking about an industry that took a brilliantly sleek and efficient 90-minute Hong Kong crime thriller and turned in into a 2 1/2 hour exercise in bloated excess in which it was alomot literally possible to see Jack Nicholson's teeth marks on the scenery. Nope. I think a good long break from American feature-film writing could do us all a lot of good.

I'll greatly miss the quality of much of the current state of TV writing. Movies? Not so much.


As always: A blah blah blah on both your blah blah blahs.

BKLA said...

The issue underlying this, that many even in the Writers Guild do not see, and the one that the Studios don't want you to see is this: Jurisdiction.

Currently, there is a distribution channel, the internet, in which the Entertainment Unions do not have any jurisdiction. As early as two years ago - Distribution of Film and television content via the internet was difficult. But everyone involved knew that it was coming. And it is here. And progress in this area is moving forward - and advances are made - not yearly - but WEEKLY. And within the next few years - easy, seamless and simple distribution of even Hif-Def content in Joe Everyman's home, will be the reality.

They want to hold the line to keep unions out of internet production. Because, if they establish that divide - they can make a big move to break union power.

Here is how it will happen: it will start with a few "Internet only" shows. The content will be delivered over the internet, produced completely "Union Free" and because of the technological advances that ALREADY EXIST and are being used today ( i.e. Apple TV, HuLu, Sling Box and Unbox) - Watched on the big screen TV's of people at home. Then, they will shift towards making all of the Shows they make to be Internet Content - And then do the Second, "promotional" release via the television. (Several shows have already produced "Promotional, internet only" episodes - which they did not pay the writers for.

It won't happen all at once.

Once they starve out union members from union work - they know those same people will take, non-union work making internet content - because they have to work. And then, they will move towards making all content for internet release first and then release it through traditional media "re-purposed."

(The reverse is happening - most every show that you can see on TV is available within hours or minutes of it's television release on the internet -not much of a stretch to flip that release schedule... You favorite show available, first run at 8 pm on the internet.. Re-broadcast on ABC at 10! Check your local listings.)

Check out iTunes to see how many shows released pilot episodes or seasons premieres days or weeks before the show was on air.

If you think it won't happen - look around. People are in a panic and it's only been four days. What will they do if it's four weeks, or months? They will do what they have to do.

Every studio is already in production on Internet content - Episodic Series - Many of which have budgets of over $100,000 per episode.

Seems like a lot for a "no money media". But peanuts, compared to the cost of television series episodes. Do you really believe that the studios would spend Millions of dollars creating content for a medium that they feel is uncertain with no monetary return? That Rupert Murdoch would spend a half billion dollars to acquire myspace, if he thought there was no money in it? (Most Fox Shows Can be watched on My Space now)

The kids of today already have moved away from TV and Radio. They listen to music on MP3 players and spend their entertainment time on The Internet or playing games. Most of the shows you work on and watch are already on the internet, with advertising, and making the studios money.

I wish everyone the best through this hard time. But get informed on the big picture.

This IS about people trying to screw you out of your paycheck - but it ain't the writers who are doing it.

Anonymous said...

I don't get this. A programmer that writes an application gets paid once, no matter whether that application is translated, re-used, or the code is included elsewhere.

What is the reasoning behind the fact that in case of additional revenues writers should obtain more too?

Your services were bought and paid for already, or am I missing something? If you weren't (i.e. residuals) then you're free to negotiate a one-time payment too.

NN

PS let's not get into a discussion on whether or not programming is creative, it is, just as writing isn't a matter of putting some words in the right order either.

Anonymous said...

Mercutio, Answer Man here... though I'll just focus on this one request (though there was a lot more to weigh in on):

Mercutio wrote: "What I mean is, someone above posted that the AMPTP is trying to turn Hollywood into a non-union town. And while I agree that that is wrong, isn't it just as wrong to insist on an all-union town?"

Background: The WGA is the writer's union with jurisdiction over certain areas. Signatory companies sign agreements to only hire WGA members in those areas (though non-WGA members can EASILY be hired...but then they must join the union).

The WGA insisted on this back in the day because it was the only way to maintain their collective clout aka ability to bargain on behalf of all writers. Without this union-only clause, all writers in this town would easily be taken advantage of because their union would never survive.

But think of it this way: the WGA isn't some mythical entity...it is made up of writers. It was the writers themselves who insisted on this clause. As a tactical, practical matter, it is a necessary condition for their collective bargaining power.

So, if you accept the premise having a writers' union is a good thing, there simply MUST be this can't-hire-non-union writers clause.

Looking at your quote again:

"What I mean is, someone above posted that the AMPTP is trying to turn Hollywood into a non-union town. And while I agree that that is wrong, isn't it just as wrong to insist on an all-union town?"

So, no, it's not "just as wrong" - if anything, you could call it a necessary evil. The flip-side isn't only an UNnecessary evil (really low pay) but I lot more "evil" over all.

However, the situation is even less black & white then your question implies.

When non-union writers work, they must join the Guild, yes...but what does that, to join the Guild? In all practical reality for most people, really all that means is they have to pay 1.5% of their duesable income -- in exchange for...health insurance.

So you can look at the situation this way...in exchange for selling a $31,000 TV show - you are basically being "forced" to "join the union". Or to state it another way, in exchange for selling a $31,000 TV show - you are being "forced" to pay about $400 for really great health insurance.

So compare that "unfairness" of that to the unfairness that would result if there were no union. Not the same thing at all, right?

And for my finale...I'm saving the best part for last. The Supreme Court has ruled that you actually do NOT need to join a union...or more specifically, you go what's called "financial core" -- you give up voting rights, only pay dues related to your health insurance and pension (which is fair because, after all, the people paying you WILL be making health and pension contributions) and you basically can do whatever the hell you want to.

The End

:)

Matt said...

Ah, yes, all the great arts - painting, sculpture, music, writing and PROGRAMMING. Do you think that STING would go into a Sony music studio, create a new album, take a check and not get a percentage of how many millions of CDs sell? How about novelists? Should Stephen King take a single check from Random House, then never feel he's entitled to another cent from the creation he brought to life?

When we start seeing programming code on display in art sanctuaries, you might have an argument.

Anonymous said...

In more mature parts of the internet mercutio is what's known as a "troll". These are people who come in to conversations simply to disrupt and redirect them and to attract attention to themselves. They are not interested in real discussion or honest debate. The more obnoxious trolls simply throw out insults. The more sophisticated trolls engage in pseudo-debates but continually insist that their points have never truly been addressed.

For the most part trolls go away when you stop feeding them. They like attention. They like to see their names mentioned. If they don't get these things they usually go away. If they do see these things they are only encouraged to keep disrupting. If they are ignored they always become ineffective.

The WGA is responsible for its members only. It is not responsible for any others. All employment negotiations work that way, union or not. It's called capitalism. I'll certainly be disappointed if my favorite shows come to a stop, but that's not the WGA's fault (or, for that matter, the AMPTP's). It's the nature of employment negotiations in a free society. All the discussion about the impact on others who work in the entertainment industry is just misdirection. In fact, it's really just an attempt to smear the WGA.

Some years ago the industry I worked in took a downturn. I got laid off. I don't remember mercutio, the "below the line" people, the WGA or anyone else running to my aid, to the aid of my company or even to the aid of the industry. In a capitalist society sometimes bad things happen. You pick up the pieces and move on.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at November 10, 2007 11:48 AM:

1. what happens to a writer who, a.) isn't a WGA member but decides to seek writing work a non-signatory production company

[My understanding is that this is technically okay and fundamentally lame.]

b.) a WGA writer who decides to work on a script already in production

[This writer WAS a WGA member, because this is technically wrong and fundamentally atrocious.]

c.) a company who decides to hire scabs (I'm thinking--like happened last strike--of soaps who hired non-WGA writers (and those WGA writers working under assumed names) and continued producing their daily content?

[If it's like what happened last time, all of those writers are fired when the real writers return and are reported to the WGA by the SAME PEOPLE that hired them. Those writers names will NOT be secret. Their TV and film writing careers are basically over until the next strike. 10 weeks of scab work - and the few scabs that were hired in the last strike weren't hired until over 3 months had passed - should not be viewed as a fair trade for a lifetime of lost opportunity.

The realistic situation is that WGA scabs would select "financial core" status that allows them to work and be covered by WGA benefits, rather than work under "assumed names," but they get fired after the strike just like the other scabs and their WGA careers are over.]

2. The question of who holds copyright on a script is one I'm not totally clear on. To wit, if I've created a script (a spec script) and it's bought by a production company, why aren't I the holder of the copyright?

[Because you SOLD IT. If you have a television and you sell it to me, don't expect that you can tell me what to watch on it. You can do that only if I invite you over and ask your input on what we should watch. That's not a perfect analogy, because there is not one big transaction for the script - unless I just want to pay you out because I want another writer.]

3.What about films already in production and writers? Are they contractually obligated to fulfill their agreement to write and edit as required for changes that occur doing production or must they
be on strike as well?

[There's never one big check. There's little steps along the way and film writers are paid fractional amounts as the steps are completed. They are only paid for the steps that are completed.]

4. What about non-WGA signatories, can WGA writers seek work from them?

[Only if they're super secret about it. The problem with scab writers is the same as treasonous spies. Not even the country that gets information from the spy thinks highly of them and is eager to get rid of them after their usefulness is gone. Other WGA members won't think well of other members that seek loopholes. Not even the companies employing those writers care about them.]

NOTE: I DO NOT (AND DO NOT PRETEND TO) REPRESENT THE OFFICIAL (OR UNOFFICIAL) POSITIONS OF THE WGA.

Anonymous said...

It's called "BUYER's REMORSE" You can't give your house back once you've signed the papers...I would suggest getting better agents. And, yes, I watch the video on You Tube...it still doesn't excuse the fact that, though this is a wage issue, it is an individual by individual wage issue...The writers who have more credits, cred and know-how (ie precedent) will get what they want from their deals. The one's that don't whine to their union rep. Do you honestly think Jud Apetow doesn't get a cut of internet sales and broadcast?

Frankly, the strike doesn't bother me. In fact, I'm hoping it brings out better writers, giving young an hungry writers the chance to strut their stuff...Why not look at it as a weeding out process so the writing actually gets better?

It used to be that unions fought against abuse and prevented children from being labored unlawfully...now it's all about greed and elitist network/ supervising producer types...such a shame.

Anonymous said...

I don't get this. A programmer that writes an application gets paid once, no matter whether that application is translated, re-used, or the code is included elsewhere.

What is the reasoning behind the fact that in case of additional revenues writers should obtain more too?

Your services were bought and paid for already, or am I missing something? If you weren't (i.e. residuals) then you're free to negotiate a one-time payment too.


Programmers usually sign away their I.P. rights for a larger, more regular base salary and assorted benefits that scriptwriters don't get.

Ultimately, the argument is this; should people who create something get money when that thing is used to generate somety-hojillion dollars worth of profit? If they sign away their rights, then no. That's fair. TV writers didn't do that. They asked for residuals, GOT residuals (even if they were a bit crap), but now the studios have decided that online material, even full episodes with commercials, doesn't count for some reason. And so, if the writers allow this to go unchecked, then when online broadcasing goes from "new media" to "regular media", the writers get fucked. They get nothing for streaming downloads, they get nothing from iTunes downloads, they get nothing from ANY of that. So imagine what happens when all of that starts to replace things like DVD sales and regular television service.

Shitty Pipe Diaries said...

I myself am a WGA writer but haven't had "real work" in close to a year. I for one am in favor for a strike (even though a lot of the things that are being fought for are monies we couldn't get our hands on immediatly)... this strike will effect our future for all facets of the business be it actors, writers, directors, etc. The way we get our media is changing and I for one don't wanna be left out once my career starts hitting off. Picket on brothers, I'll see you around the next few days.... SPD

Shitty Pipe Diaries said...

I myself am a WGA writer but haven't had "real work" in close to a year. I for one am in favor for a strike (even though a lot of the things that are being fought for are monies we couldn't get our hands on immediatly)... this strike will effect our future for all facets of the business be it actors, writers, directors, etc. The way we get our media is changing and I for one don't wanna be left out once my career starts hitting off. Picket on brothers, I'll see you around the next few days.... SPD

Nicholas Borelli said...

Don't denigrate yourself by comparing your union to the UAW. Writers add real value. Writers don't featherbed. Writers aren't looking for more pay for less work or even no work. The writers are the creators. Without the writers none of it would exist.

It's a little different than some guy with a high school education turning a bolt time after mind-numbing time on a Chevy.

The suits want to carve you out of it. Relegate you to the status of a serf. Don't let 'em!

Anonymous said...

a different anonymous said...
"I don't get this. A programmer that writes an application gets paid once, no matter whether that application is translated, re-used, or the code is included elsewhere."

then matt said...
"When we start seeing programming code on display in art sanctuaries, you might have an argument."

I don't recall seeing very many scripts in art sanctuaries either. Well, actually, there are books that deal with the "art" of programming. Some of them even have that title. Yes, people actually read computer code for pleasure and for the intrinsic beauty of it. Software writing hasn't been around quite as long as playwriting (which isn't quite scriptwriting) but you can still find some of the work of Charles Babbage in a museum. Take a good, close look the process of writing scripts and writing software. They just aren't that different. The fact that you don't understand that just makes you ignorant.

On the other hand, there are many other differences between that software and scriptwriting industries that account for the union vs. non-union and residual vs. non-residual issues. For one thing, the median salary for scriptwriters is $45,000/yr. That's a beginning salary for software writers, the median is well above that. Also, most software writers are regular employees, not contracted workers. Software writers can generally count on their job being there next week. Most especially, they can count on their job continuing even when the project they're working on is cancelled. They don't need residuals or unions to get them through the down times. Yes, some software writers do work as contractors, but they take even greater pay as compensation for the risks of contract work.

Comparing the software industry with the scriptwriting industry is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. Still, I actually think the software industry model would work better for scriptwriters than the contract/residuals models. Unfortunately, I suspect it wouldn't work as well for the production companies.

Yes, both scriptwriting and software writing are much alike, involving creativity and the generation of intellectual property (unlike, say, the labor-oriented work of actors and construction workers) but they have different histories and live in very different industries. Most specifically, production companies wouldn't want the overhead of permanent employment for writers. Software houses wouldn't enjoy the insecurity of the high turnover of contract employees, since software has a much longer life span.

Finally, if the outsourcing of software development and the increase in H1B visas continues, unions may well come to the software industry in another decade.

((they're, their, there - I hate all three of you))

Susan Isaacs said...

My brother in law was the assistant controller for MCA Universal. He saw where the money went. It's reprehensible. Writers deserve more than four cents. They deserve that 80 percent in back payments.

DJ Heinlein said...

Thank you for creating the blog site for the writers strike. I've posted a link to this blog on my blog site, Matte Havoc, and have referred my visitors to this entry that explained why your group went on strike. I'll be stopping by here occasionally for some updates about any events that happen over the next couple of weeks. Good luck guys!!

Anonymous said...

This might help it certainly helped me understand what the WGA is fighting for.

Yesterday someone posted this ULR: http://www.videobusiness.com/info/CA6436202.html. In short, 2007 first quarter sales at 5.6 billion bucks.

This quarterly report breaks down to rental sales at 2.1 billion. I haven’t the slightest idea what cut WGA members would get here so I won’t even attempt it. However, the 3.5 billion for DVD purchases I’ll take a flying stab at, with the formula provided by the WGA, at 4 cents per unit paid. Now the WGA had an average price per unit at 19 dollars and some odd cents, so, I decided to round this off to 20 bucks per unit.

3.5 billion Divided by 20 is 175 million units sold in the quarter.

175 million times 4 cents (.04) is 7 million. Now that’s a hell of a dip into AMPTP’s pocket. Divided by 12 thousand WGA members is a whopping five hundred eighty three dollars and eighty-four cents. Ooops, there is only 52% of the WAG members actually working. Goddamn, how does this union even survive? Back to my math exercise, 52% working membership works out to be 6240, 7 million divided by that is 1122, and 4 quarters in a year is 4488 dollars. Less tax and other fees about 50% back to 1122 beautiful, dropping in the world currency market, green backs. And, to think the WGA what’s 8 cents per unit. Greedy Bustards!

HELL NO! This is not even a drop in the bucket. It’s not even a bucket in a 14 billion, and rising, gallon water tank. I’m a Union Carpenter working in the heavy concrete construction field, getting 38.75 an hour plus benefits plus 2 dollars an hour vacation. I make more money than writers do via my vacation checks then they get via residuals on DVD’s. It is apparent to me, a person with the equivalence of a high school education, the AMPTP are the real bastards here.

Matt said...

I was making the argument that there is a difference between being a creative artist and being someone with learned skills such as a programmer. Artists are born artists. I can go to India and train 50 people to be programmers. I cannot, on the other hand, go to India and train 50 people to become comedy writers.

Being an artist is an intrinsic ability.

And next time I frequent LACMA during the springtime's French Impressionists exhibit, I will try not to complain too much that we never really see true art - like computer code - on the walls.

In the end, the entire WGA argument against the studio system is that the studio has all the money while the unions have all the creative talent. Therein lies the rub for the studios.

Alexandra said...

I absolutely support you and this strike and I understand the reasoning behind it. Yet, I sympathize with the production crews who are being laid-off and hope that the corporations stop "being dicks" and give you your well-earned residuals to end this strike quicker than that of 1988.

As merely a 15-year-old fan in NJ and (hopefully) future WGA member, what can I do to legitimately support the strike?

Matt said...

You could lend support to your local union, WGA East, as they're striking, I believe over at 30 Rock, Fox, etc. in downtown NY. Of course, I would make sure and have a parent or guardian's permission first.

Good luck with your writing career!

Anonymous said...

There is another problem with the "programmer" versus "writer" debate vis a vis residuals.

Programmers who work on a program...contributing their hard work, do not get monies for every unit sold...but they guys who INVENTED the product do.

Likewise, hard-working people who contribute to a TV show do not all get residuals. The writers who INVENTED the story, do.

It would seem to me, unless you are the patent-holder on the program, you can't compare the programmer to the writer.

You CAN compare a regular programmer to a RE-writer of a script and, most of the time, unless the re-WRITER gets credit (which is rarer than not)...those writers also do NOT get residuals.

Anonymous said...

I just want to know why we are using hypocrites like Seth MacFarlane as our figureheads. It's no secret that Seth is employing non-union writers on his multimillion dollar project with Google as we speak. isn't this in direct conflict with what we are fighting for? How can we ask for internet revenue from the studios and make back door deals with the internet companies at the same time. This is going to totally undermine our fight. Let's please get some better faces to represent us. I actually think we are losing and i care about this fight.

Anonymous said...

http://www.fuzzuck.com/2007/08/16/seth-macfarlane-inks-deal-with-google/

Please expose Seth MacFarlane as the hypocrite that he is. He can't represent us writers in the fight for internet revenues and then produce content for Google with non-union writers. It's not fair and will completely undermine our negotiations. Please let this come out now so that we can get the right people representing us at the table.

Diva said...

I watch the shows on the internet when i'm busy and can't see it on tv. And networks do put in a bunch of slow moving commericals in the middle of the shows. All i can say is that saturday nite live is showing a re run tonight and it's the beinging of the sesson. So i say pay the writers what they are owed. Untill then , i'm boycotting reruns. CBS said they have a bunch of reality shows they were going to air. Who wants to watch that?

The viewers are going to boycott re runs, why? Cuz re runs suck. GO WGA!!!

Anonymous said...

Showrunners have already found ways to make money during the strike. A few of them are now writing non-union for google and trying to hide it. Why is this ok? We as WGA members need to stop this or the studios are going to crush us. Our leadership needs to clamp down on this kind of hypocrisy.

http://mashable.com/2007/08/16/google-video/

evo said...

well I'm just playing devils advocate but if they give in to your strike, everyone in hollywood will go on strike asking for higher pay. but i am behind you guys.
on a lighter you should check out my blog on a great gpt site

Brad K. said...

I remember PATCO vs. Pres. Reagan. The union got disbursed, air traffic control took a beating, but the planes kept flying.

If WGA has such talent and is so very essential to the industry, and isn't worried about all the outsiders that would *love* a crack at the work - enjoy the strike.

But please don't tell me that the strike will 'save my favorite programs.' Extortion is extortion, whether you call it a strike or otherwise threaten harm and cause damage. Which a strike does. Every time. That is the whole point of the strike - to cost the industry or company or other target so much cost and loss of business, that changing a business plan that *had* been employing thousands has to change.

The only one that wins a strike, is union leaders. They win recognition for being able to damage opponents, they win big profits and profit sharing for the union and themselves. And they make money.

If there was really such unfairness, and the WGA really wanted to prove a point, let them launch competing channels and demonstrate their 'wants' (demands, extortion, etc.) are workable.

Enjoy.ex

Roger Green said...

The argument about why should someone get paid again for something they've already paid for came to mind when I went to a 5-year-old's birthday party today. There was this toy chipmunk singing Birthday (the song from the Beatles' white album), badly, I might add. and Paul McCartney and the estate of John Lennon got money when they licensed that toy. as well they should.

Anyway, I think the disingenuousness of management in this matter - TV on your cell phone or your computer is "promotional" and therefore not subject to payment for the writers is what crystallized the issue for me.

Anonymous said...

Brad K...

YOU WROTE: "If WGA has such talent and is so very essential to the industry, and isn't worried about all the outsiders that would *love* a crack at the work - enjoy the strike."

Every writer is aware of the scab risk and resulting potential loss of jobs. Not sure what your point is. No one will enjoybeing replaced. The fact we are risking all for this should say something to the rightness of our cause (unless you choose to take it as a "those crazy greedy writers! look what they're risking!)

YOU WROTE: "But please don't tell me that the strike will 'save my favorite programs.'"

Not sure who said that or that non-sequitor has to do with anything. This is about fair pay, not saving the public's favorite programs.

YOU WROTE: "Extortion is extortion, whether you call it a strike or otherwise threaten harm and cause damage. Which a strike does. Every time. That is the whole point of the strike - to cost the industry or company or other target so much cost and loss of business, that changing a business plan that *had* been employing thousands has to change."

You are right that a strike is, to be precise, a form of exhtortion. And if you are against all strikes under all circumstances, than that is your right and your argument is sound. Are you against all strikes under all circumstances? Or are you just against THIS strike, using a disingenuous argument that ALL strikes are bad so this one is bad? And if they're NOT all bad to you, if some strikes ARE justified...then talk about why (or why not) this strike is justified...don't just issue blanket statements.

I guess if you're anti-union, there is a consistency to your argument. If you are NOT anti-union, a strike has its place in the union's arsenal of weapons....in the face of gross misjustice.

As to all those people out of work, it is a tragedy. But why is the tail wagging the dog of your thinking? Why are you saying, "Gosh, this is really bad for a lot of people, those writers are horrible for doing this!" and perhaps wonder, "My Gosh, the writers must REALLY be getting screwed over to do something like that."

YOU WROTE: "The only one that wins a strike, is union leaders. They win recognition for being able to damage opponents, they win big profits and profit sharing for the union and themselves. And they make money."

I'm not sure what union leaders you have had experience with, and that might be a very real risk under different circumstances (a friend who handled a garbage strike warned me about those considerations). But I know a lot of these negotiators personally. They are no different from the rank-and-file. They win, we win. However, to others reading this, clearly we need to make sure that that is the case and not blindly follow anyone.

YOU WROTE: "If there was really such unfairness, and the WGA really wanted to prove a point, let them launch competing channels and demonstrate their 'wants' (demands, extortion, etc.) are workable."

That is a silly argument (and yet at the same time, not silly). No one is trying to "prove a point" - they are using the only leverage they have to negotiate a fair deal. I mean, what are you really saying? What principle are you espousing? That, for example, if coal miners are being treated unfairly they should open their own coal mine? Come on. And you say "workable"? You don't still really believe the studio disinformation that the WGA pattern of demands is "unworkable" do you? Maybe you should spend a little more time researching and a little less time judging.

That being said, you are exactly right. We writers and producers ARE going launch competing "channels". One day, we are going to create our product independent of the networks through independent financing and distribute it via independent channels. It's called the internet and the networks are going to get cut out as the middlemen they are if they keep this up.

Anonymous said...

Matt said...
"And next time I frequent LACMA during the springtime's French Impressionists exhibit, I will try not to complain too much that we never really see true art - like computer code - on the walls."

And I'll try not to complain when that we never really see true art - like television scripts - on the walls.

As for your comment about India, I'll take the cheap shot and remind you of Bollywood. There are scriptwriters in India and guess what? They aren't members of the WGA and they do speak English.

You can't take 50 people from India or any other country and teach them to either program or write scripts. If training people to program was that easy the starting pay for programmers wouldn't be the median pay for scriptwriters. On the other hand, if you can't teach people to write scripts why are there all those writing classes in universities and writing seminars elsewhere. No one is born writing anymore than anyone is born programming.

You seem to be enamored of the idea that artists are creative and the rest of us are just dullards. Creativity in fact exists in many fields, not just art. Einstein's genius was in his creativity. Good science requires as much creativity as good art, whether you like it or not. Creativity may be innate. Neither art nor science are. And if scriptwriting is so creative why are there so many formulaic movies and television shows out there?

The argument that you're the special, creative people that all us dullards are so dependent on is not the argument you want to make. It makes you look arrogant, selfish and just plain wrong. It's insulting to the dullards that actually watch the shows and make the residuals possible as well as doing the creative work that made this blog site and the internet itself possible.

The story I've heard is that writers are losing income as television transitions from broadcast to internet and writers don't receive the same pay for internet. That's a good argument. The other story I've heard is that work in writing is not regular and writers need the residuals to get through the slow times. That's a good argument.

The first step in becoming replaceable is assuming that you aren't.

Anonymous said...

I really don’t know much about this strike but I find it funny that actors/actresses are joining in on it. Why don’t they offer to take a paycut so the writer’s can get get paid more???? I hardly see that happening, big help they are, huh? They just want the press and attention, that’s all.

Anonymous said...

If people want to distinguish between the inventor of software and the programmer then they also should distinguish between the creators and the writers, that is, those who get the "created by" credit and those who get the "written by" credit. Creator equals inventor. Writer equals programmer.

The difference in compensation between writers and programmers is not in the nature of the work they do. It's in the differences between the industries they work in. That's the difference that matters. That's also the difference that should worry writers, especially those worried about non-WGA writers going to work for Google. Residuals for the "new media" is just the beginning of the impact the "new media" will have.

If you really need to distinguish between writers and programmers get over the absurd creativity nonsense and think in terms of risk taking.

Anonymous said...

With respect to the threats to Late night host Jay Leno to "go back to work or see the non-writing staff laid-off" it is time for a 'work slowdown'. See the IWW (International Workers of the World) website for the details. If Leno returns, each and every monologue and guest should be ABOUT THE STRIKE, or ABOUT FAIR LABOR PRACTICE or IN SUPPORT OF THE STRIKERS. The audience should be advised to avoid supporting advertisers who back the extortionist tactics of NBC. Boycott advertisers that support SCAB shows (like Ellen Degeneres). Do the job sufficient to meet contractual obligations, but no more than that. Make NBC look like the bad guys they are in using unfair strike breaking practices. If you want to play hardball, lets do it.

Anonymous said...

I watch the shows on the internet when i'm busy and can't see it on tv.

http://mouramaso.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

I have two points, one in response to the main piece on today's blog and the second in reference to the term "producers".

1) The comparison with the auto workers is silly. You are not negotiating for "minimum wage". The minimum wage for a studio feature script is over $75,000. If it took a year of your life to write, which many scripts do, you are making nearly twice the average household income of an american. The second problem is that the typical auto-worker gets paid for the work they do but it would be absurd if someone suggested that they get paid for each car they worked on ultimately selling. They don't get residuals so you are making a real stretch.

2) The argument that it is the "producers" that are being stingy is absurd. The studios, sure. The networks, fine. The producers? You're kidding yourself. Most producers, especially ones that don't have overhead deals at studios or don't have last names like Bruckheimer or Grazier don't get a penny of "residuals". They work longer than anyone else, they risk more than almost anyone else and they get paid long after you have made the residuals you currently get. You should be thankful that independent producers don't get together and demand of you a piece of the residual pie!

Mercutio said...

Mercutio the "Troll" here,

Not at all surprised to see myself belittled and degraded as I was.

So what? It's all just ephemeral zeroes and ones anyway.

I'm not a Troll, actually. I meant everyword I wrote and question I asked.

I've NEVER posted on a site like this before on any other issue. I don't care to call attention to myself but am, instead, very much interested, frightened, and frustrated by this issue.

And for a number of reasons, including the fact that I study this industry for a living.

But, hey, let's not let the facts get in the way of a good name calling.

And, with all due repect, I would simply tell the anonymous poster who called me a Troll to go have sex with his mother (again), she's likely just upstairs from the basement "apartment" he lives in -- but just until "things start happening for him."

F**ker...

Whew! That felt good. Mean-spirited, unprofessional, and childish, but good!

Should I post here again I'll strive for a more respectful tone.

Mercutio said...

Answer man,

Thanks! I'm really impressed by the quality and thoroughness of the answers my uninformed questions have been given.

Explained the way you do, the union thing does make more sense to me.

Not all that clear on the "financial core" stuff, but then I have trouble figuring out the correct change from the pizza guy after tip so....

I'll read your post again and try to clear it up in my head.

Seriously though, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and for doing so in a kindly and repectful way.

I would have responded sooner but someone else grabbed all my attention when I logged on here after work...

Thanks again.

Ken Lowery said...

@Mercutio: You're okay, man. Only one guy had a problem with you; everyone else engaged you just fine. It's good to stay flexible, and you've done a good job of helping us with that.

@anonymous 8:27: Residuals are deferred payment, not bonuses. A scriptwriter may get 75k for a sold script, but then he may not sell another script for three years. There is no promise of consistent work, unless you're one of a literal handful of writers in the Paul Haggis class. What's the annual income look like then?

@Everyone talking about friggin' programmers: The analogy is a bad one, and you're wasting space. Stop.

@anonymous 7:51: The actors are striking because they know it's their asses on the line, too, down the road. It's not about "just giving some of their money away," it's about setting the precedent for what deals will be arranged for the foreseeable future. Just giving some of their cash over would be a band aid on an open wound.

Mercutio said...

Ken Lowery,

Thanks! And I agree, everyone else I've ...um... e-discussed this with here has been great, even when we don't agree.

Maybe it was my tongue-in-cheek appraisal of THE DEPARTED that set him off..

But, again, thanks for the thought.

C said...

Speaking as someone who has worked both as a software engineer and as a writer, I agree that the art or not-art argument is beside the point. However you feel, the creation of something from nothing is a common feature to both and I do see an analogy that could be made between copyrights (for writing) and patents (for engineering).

As another poster pointed out, there are differences in the way the work happens, with software engineers working more regularly rather than working on a project by project basis. But the other thing to mention though is stock. In most engineering companies, stock plays a secondary monetary role, so when the company does well, the workers make more out of that. Looks like Hollywood writers had worked out this residual system instead due to the nature of the system and work experience they found themselves in.

The two types of business structures also arose quite differently. For example, in the TV world there are only a small number of companies that control the limited amount of bandwidth available. Right now a competing "Writers TV Network" would be impossible because they would be locked out of any bandwidth.

With the Internet that situation hopefully will not always be true. I would absolutely love to see the day when venture capital starts teaming up with writers to start businesses, the same way it happens in engineering. Anyone know any VCs who might be interested to take a look at my project? :-)

Anonymous said...

Someone else said...
"2) The argument that it is the "producers" that are being stingy is absurd. The studios, sure. The networks, fine. The producers?"

I'm confused here, as an outsider. You're saying the the "Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers" doesn't represent the producers? Is it not entirely reasonable to refer to an organization that refers to itself as an association of producers as the "producers"?

Anonymous said...

Nice job and good luck.

Question: Are you planning on leveraging Facebook?

Considering the size of this issue and the massive amounts of support that can be raked up on that site, I've been a little surprised not to see anything. The biggest group only has around 3500 people. It's like (reflecting real life, at least on my campus) no one knows that it's happening.

Ken Lowery said...

With the Internet that situation hopefully will not always be true. I would absolutely love to see the day when venture capital starts teaming up with writers to start businesses, the same way it happens in engineering. Anyone know any VCs who might be interested to take a look at my project? :-)

Brother, this is exactly what I hope happens. The studios may well be hastening the obsolescence of their TV format by being so stingy. It would be uncommonly poetic justice.

Mercutio said...

Anonymous 9:44,

Give it time, they will.

Anonymous said...

With the exception of the off-putting artist known as Matt, you all have answered questions about the strike that weren’t addressed elsewhere in a way that made sense to me. Thanks for taking the time to explain. I know you’ll prevail.

Anonymous said...

I really don’t know much about this strike but I find it funny that actors/actresses are joining in on it. Why don’t they offer to take a paycut so the writer’s can get get paid more???? I hardly see that happening, big help they are, huh? They just want the press and attention, that’s all.

Also, because nobody hit this yet, not all actors are paid fabulous sums of money, just as not all scriptwriters make $200,000 a year. Small, select numbers of them do, yes. Many do not.

This goes along with the comment posted earlier about being a bandage on an open wound, and the fact that any precident set here regarding the writers will eventually be used on the actors as well. "We don't need to pay the WRITERS residuals, so why should we pay the ACTORS residuals? Hell, why are we paying them so much, anyway? After all, we're the only game in town, so they'll take what we give them and be greatful."

Anonymous said...

I can't believe I misspelled "grateful" so badly up there. Damnit.

Anonymous said...

To make a series, who puts up the startup monies?
whomever does imho owns the series.
Can do what they wish with it. They have to handle the initial outlay of money, the loss of money if it doesn't work, thus they should get the most benefit.
If a writer makes a deal to write a script and he does and it doesn't go to production does the writer have to give his money back?
So many, mnany shows fail, who covers the failures?
If the writers want more pie, i think they have to contribute more. Writers score as they are getting paid upfront with no threat to their pocket and if they are lucky and their show scores...they want more but if it sucks...and makes no money..ok because a writer is paid upfront
I support the WGA right to ask for more but I also understand why the AMPTP will not.

biscuit said...

Just heard about and signed the petition.. as a viewer I support you 100%!! wish I could walk the picket lines with you.. the fact that you aren't being paid for new media is ridiculous!!!! I hope for your sakes, and the sakes of all the crews that this is resolved soon. Don't back down.... you deserve to be paid.

Cassandra Complex said...

as an actor who already expressed support for WGA, i can attest to the lack of fabulous salaries.

we are talking about the middle class here folks. middle class writers, middle class actors. the aforementioned $75K does sound great to my family back in texas but they absolutely gasped when i told them that i was paying $1650 a month for our 800 sq. ft. apt. in glamorous hollywood (that means i've got urine on my doorstep). but i'm not complaining. i'm an urban girl and my husband walks to work at his studio job where they've laid everyone off and he does everything from answer the phones to make runs to hire artists to bid projects to catch the lawyers' mistakes when they deign to show up at work (and guess which job they pay him for -- hint: after 7 years they just stopped calling him a temp)

meanwhile, we paid $700 to three different performing unions last year and we have constant costs of marketing and pr. then there's the agent's percentage... and gas is $3.30 a gallon here... i'm not sure what writers' costs are but i'm sure they are comparable.

the point is, middle class in LA is more expensive than other places and we have to be here to do the work. the big names suck up the big money and the rest of us look like ingrates when we ask for a living wage. i'm not whining, i'm used to being mocked for my career choice. i'm just trying to add some info into the mix.

Lupin said...

I'm entirely in favor of the strike. (My wife is a member of the WGA due to some episodic TV written in the late 80s.)

That said, there are two issues that make me feel less sympathetic towards the WGA in general.

One, writers have shown little or no solidarity towards others in the past. I'm thinking of the SAG commercial actors strike in 2000. Nothing we can do about that now, but every time I hear calls for solidarity from the WGA, I want to puke.

Two, I'd like to see Production Designers and/or Artists who genuinely create all the visuals of a film or a character get some royalties too. To use an analogy, as far as the WGA is concerned, SPIDER-MAN is all Stan Lee, fuck Steve Ditko.

I've also seen the WGA trample all over the rights of the creators of source material, including in US remakes of foreign films.

None of this changes the fact that you guys should be getting a larger piece of the pie, including for new media.

Jason Sanders said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roberta said...

Hello people,
some great comments and thank you writers for explaining to us properly the reasons behind the strike...

As someone who has been doing some freelance writing over the past few months (not a TV writer just a writer) I know first hand how low the wages can be and how fleeting the contracts can be as well.
There will always be 2 sides to every argument, but in my humble opinion it makes every sense that you want to negotiate the terms...
New media or whatever you want to call it is going from strength to strength and for you not to negotiate the terms would be bad common sense/bad business sense/foolish in extreme.

Also as someone smart enough already suggested before me, set up an account on facebook, there is the demographic that you want to target because they are the ones who are downloading...
Just my 2 cents. I have put up your banner on my blog and I keep writing regular updates, every bit helps :)

Keren said...

Hello! This fan from Philly supports the WGA completely...

question:

Are writers for comics (i.e. Gaiman, Straczynski (sp?), Bendis, Turner, Moore, Ennis, etc...)considered members of the WGA? Does it mean no new issues will be published for the duration of this strike?

Also:
I am sure that I'm far from alone on relying solely on the internet for my TV fix. I can't afford the obnoxious fees cable companies want to charge, so I was excited about downloads and company websites showing the previous night's episodes...which all come with commercials that I *must* sit through in order to enjoy my favorite shows.

Until this strike is done with, and you all get your demands met, I will not be utilizing the web-streamed eps, nor will I use Unbox or iTunes.

Keep strong, and keep going.

If you haven't already, check out Ed Bernero's statement on the Criminal Minds fan blog
http://criminalmindsfanatic.blogspot.com

-Keren from Philly, PA

Anonymous said...

I support the WGA right to ask for more but I also understand why the AMPTP will not.

No, no you do not.

Jesus, how hard IS this to grasp? Writers are striking because, if the studios get their way, writers will end up making LESS MONEY THAN THEY MAKE EVEN NOW. Not "the same amount of money", LESS money. And, as media moves more and more towards the internet as a means of distribution, they will continue to make less and less and less. And this sort of thing will happen, eventually, to a lot more people than writers. It will happen to actors. It will happen to directors. Hell, the Metropolitan Opera has started experimenting with web-broadcasts of it's shows. And all it takes is the precident to be set, and all of that stuff will be dubbed "promotional" and, thus, something that nobody gets paid for but the studios.

Saying "go work more if you want more money" is so bogglingly inane that I can't honestly tell if you're being serious. What do you think the writers are doing all day, then? Writing for a living is fucking hard work, whether you believe it is or not. These people already work the equivalent of a full-time job for pay that is, frankly, uninspiring. Telling them to "work more" is daft. It's straight out of the Dilbert school of management.

Dorkman said...

I really don’t know much about this strike but I find it funny that actors/actresses are joining in on it. Why don’t they offer to take a paycut so the writer’s can get get paid more???? I hardly see that happening, big help they are, huh?

Um, that's because it doesn't work that way. If the actors take a pay cut, all that happens is that the studio pays the actors less. They're not going to turn around and give that money to the writers, they're going to keep the money.

It doesn't benefit the writers at all for the actors to offer a "pay cut," because the point is that the studios aren't going to pay anyone if they don't have to, according to contractual obligation. The WGA is striking to demand the studios agree to the obligation of paying the writers for re-use of their work. It has nothing to do with the actors, the actors are just sympathetic because the studios will be only too glad to give SAG the same screw-job when their contract is up.

Ken Lowery said...

Two, I'd like to see Production Designers and/or Artists who genuinely create all the visuals of a film or a character get some royalties too. To use an analogy, as far as the WGA is concerned, SPIDER-MAN is all Stan Lee, fuck Steve Ditko.

Not sure how you got that the WGA was thinking that. The crew gets residuals in the form of health care and pensions -- did you watch the video? Because a lot of questions that have already been answered a dozen times keep coming up...