DGA/WGA Member Letter to Other Members

This was submitted by writer-director Melissa Jo Peltier. She was compelled to write it and share it with her fellow DGA members after hearing many misperceptions about the WGA strike spreading among her fellow guild members.

...and praying for this damn strike to end already...

...but please, PLEASE fellow DGA members! PLEASE stop spreading false rumors about the WGA strike issues.

I'm in both guilds (as is my husband) and we are both as eager and needy to get back to work as anyone. BUT....

...the rumors being spread hurt everyone in the creative Hollywood unions, not just writers. These myths in particular have GOT to be corrected:

Myth #1) "The only sticking points with the WGA are reality and animation."

Truth is, there were four other sticking points on the table besides reality and animation - and two of them were issues the AMPTP cares MUCH more about than reality and animation. These issues are:

1) The fact that the WGA would NOT agree to abstain totally from work stoppage in solidarity with other striking unions (like the DGA or SAG or IATSE)...

...and 2) The fact that the AMPTP wanted us to take "distributor's gross" out of the formula for internet residuals, and accept "producer's gross" instead.

Anyone who has ever had a piece of a successful film or TV project and had to fight for their fair share in the courts knows that when studios are forced to open their books, "producer's gross" turns out to be translated in studio speak as "Whatever I SAY we made" - (and usually, what they say they "lost") on the film.

WGA/DGA member Paul Haggis has this to say about it, writing on UNITEDHOLLYWOOD.com:

"There's one thing you should know because we know it for sure: Their ultimatum wasn't about reality and animation. It was an insincere attempt to get us to give away the whole negotiation. They knew our negotiating team couldn't accept it, and here's why.

First of all, they insisted that we take all six issues off the table. Not one or two… all six. And the sixth issue on their list wasn't even a demand. Rather, it was a concept embedded deep within our most important demand (you know the one: coverage for the Internet). They insisted we remove from the table any reference to "distributor's gross" instead of "producer's gross."

This distinction is even more vital on the Internet, where distributor's gross is relatively easy to monitor and producer's gross is (as before) much smaller, and, more significantly, impossible to monitor. If we accept a piece of "producer's gross", we'll be taking whatever they decide to give us… and you know what that means.

So, they knew we wouldn't and couldn't accept their ultimatum. They placed a gun to our heads and asked us to pull the trigger on ourselves, or else. The upside on that one is hard to figure."

Thank you, Mr. Haggis.

Myth #2). "Studios will never accept animation writers as part of the WGA"...and/or "Animation writers are already covered under IATSE and don't want to be WGA."

FYI, here's some TRUE history: about ten years ago, THE SIMPSONS television show writers fought tooth and nail and finally DID win the right to be represented by the WGA. (No one could argue convincingly that THE SIMPSONS wasn't "written", although FOX surely tried to!).
Accordingly, THE SIMPSONS movie WAS written under a WGA contract. And rightly so. So the argument that the studios will "never" accept animation writers in the guild is proven fallacious right there.

Feature animation has been highly scripted ever since the day that Mike Eisner famously said, "I don't get storyboards." Thereafter, most feature animation has been developed in the same way that live action features have. Without WGA protection, writers of 120-page dramatic scripts who create concepts, characters, backstories, dialogue, etc. can be asked to deliver draft after draft, and have no share in back end that runs to the hundreds of millions and often includes more mega million dollar merchandising such as toys, games, clothing etc. Remember, these are the same films that are paying superstars like Cameron Diaz, Mike Myers, Tom Hanks, and Owen Wilson their going rates (per their SAG contracts) to do voiceovers.

It's true that currently, a tiny fraction of A-PLUS list mega animation feature creators cut their own very lucrative deals with studios...but what of the other writers called in after the fact to do complete rewrites, create new characters, polishes, dialogue passes. etc? Currently, they can't even bargain for credit.

By the way, feature animation writers aren't represented by IATSE; though currently television animation writers are. Consider television animation hits (aka SPONGEBOB) that eventually go to feature. What happens to the writers who created the feature
storyline and characters? I'm sure IATSE is a great union but it is not set up to represent the unique needs of writers in credit and arbitration disputes, as well as the enormous back end issues at stake here.

And, finally…

3) "Reality writers don't even want to be in the guild."


This one really gets me because I am a writer IN the guild and most of my work is in reality. I also co-own a reality production company that is a signatory to both guilds. We were one of the first in cable reality to do so, I'm proud to say, and over the past decade we have helped convince other small production companies to do the same.

Because our budgets are so small (a one hour non fiction cable show can be around the same as the craft service budget for one episode of a scripted drama series), and because the cable networks rerun our shows ad nauseum, we use a limited buyout deal on the Hitchcock formula that we negotiated with the WGA. Our writers get their P&W covered, and they are protected by WGA laws including arbitration in case company owners like myself and my partners unscrupulously decide to take the writer credit for themselves. In fact, our writers have earned several WGA awards nominations for reality/non-fiction/documentary writing that would not have been possible had we not been guild signatories. We also get the best writers in non-fiction this way. BECAUSE THE BEST WRITERS ARE GUILD AND THEY WANT TO CONTINUE TO WORK WITH GUILD PROTECTION.

What writer in her/his right mind wouldn't want that kind of MINIMAL protection?

I have yet to speak to a fellow reality/non-fiction writer who doesn't want to be in the guild.

Directors don't have to worry about reality/guild issues because producers like Mike Fleiss and Mark Burnett already hire DGA directors for their primetime mega hit shows. Hosts of these shows and special guests (not contestants) work under their SAG/AFTRA contracts. But writers are called "producers" "segment producers" and even "researchers" - so they don't even get credit for their work - and the mega reality show producers can work them all they want with impunity.


I understand and am part of the frustration about this strike. I am not 100% confident in the WGA leadership's direction so far. I wish we hadn't struck and had waited it out until the DGA/SAG contracts came up. My husband lost a hit series and a pilot, and I have a hit reality series currently shutting down.

And saying all this, I realize it's very possible that reality and animation writers will once again be shafted in the Guild's need to establish jurisdiction in new media. If so, so be it. I'm sure even the most rabid animation/reality advocates agree that New Media is the life or death of all the guilds at this crossroads in history.

But my fellow DGA members do no one in any of the creative unions any favors by vilifying the WGA with rumors and lies, especially before we directors have our own newly signed contract in hand.

Hate the WGA all you want, but PLEASE stop perpetuating these dangerous and divisive myths online. At least get the facts right.

Melissa Jo Peltier

1 comment:

pissedoff said...

what reality company do you own? what are the many awards you say your writers have won