A Strike Captain's Opinion: AMPTP Strategy and the DGA

This is excerpted from the email that Warners strike captain Brian Hartt sent to other captains this week, with permission. Brian is an Emmy-nominated writer who coordinates all of the Warners picket teams, as well as being the showrunner on Mind of Mencia who helped get 4 West Coast and 2 East Coast shows on Comedy Central covered by the WGA contract . His tireless work and dedication are inspiring.

As I'm sure you all know, the AMPTP walked away from the table Friday.

You all should have, by now, gotten John Bowman's response to the "nice try" press release by the company's lap dog. Let me stress something that John mentioned - their press release came out minutes after they walked away.

Our negotiating committee has, from day one, talked about how they try to have actual conversations, but only get pre-written responses and sound bites back from the other side.

The point is: these aren't negotiations. They are plot points in a script the AMPTP wrote a long time ago.

A press release that needs to be approved by CEO's, lawyers and PR companies of six huge corporations does not magically appear before Nick Counter is in his car. Especially one with a pointed nod to reality, coinciding with our Fremantle rally yesterday.

One of the Union busting stages - as outlined in Tim Lea's great E Mail from a few days ago (which was a little long, but he got notes on that) - is to discredit our Chief Negotiator. So, they talked about how inexperienced David Young is in "Entertainment Negotiations" to make the rank and file lose faith in him and question his ability... bring to a boil, let simmer, add bullshit to taste and serve!

Divide and conquer.

Believe me, if they really thought David Young was so incompetent, they'd be singing his praises to the rooftops. Why are they going to all this trouble to try and get rid of him? To get writers to turn on him? It ain't because they're worried about us.

They have no logical or moral high ground, so they have to do THIS. And no matter how many ex-agents - who made their priveledged living off the sweat, creativity and hard work of writers - go on the Network's/Networks to spin the truth, they will still only have THIS.

So, we have to keep putting pressure on them and wait THIS out. And here's something many of us can do to help.

I know we have Guild to Guild contact about the "DGA situation" but, tomorrow I'll be calling a few directors I've worked with, to get them to personally call the DGA and tell them to hold off negotiations until we settle.

Could the AMPTP be trying to set us up publicly as being difficult, then go to the DGA and do a deal that does not address our main issues (that doesn't give up jurisdiction on the net) only to put pressure on us to make a bad deal? Could that be the reason they seem obsessed with making sure any agreement says we have to cross SAG's picket lines if they strike, or get fired?

Noooooooo.... but, call some DGA members. Just in case.

thank you,


Keyword Scam Buster said...

Laeta, I can't seem to find an email link for you and I want to send you something.

St. Michael said...

For the common good, I call for a series of “Dark Days” (i.e. turn the lights off at all the studios, stop work in all the offices, stop equipment from being delivered, stop props from being returned).

The only way to break the resolve of the AMPTP is to act as a collective, to deliver a swift deft blow that knocks them to their knees, and then follow up with a blow to the head. The WGA says that they have struck, but without the support of all guilds, unions, non-union labor, vendors, and the viewing public the WGA’s action isn’t even a slap on the AMPTP’s fat overfed chubby face.

Some have asked the DGA to stand down from negotiating until the WGA has completed their talks. I say enough with talk. The AMPTP’s plays by the rules set down by Machiavelli and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. They don’t negotiate. They go into battle to decimate their foe. Even archangels are fierce in battle. You can’t talk a bully out of beating the shit out of you. Sometime the smallest have to band together to defeat the giants in their path. To win a war you must cut then off the enemy off at their knees, crush them, do not allow them to retreat and reform to attack again.

SAG, the DGA, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 80, Local 600, etc, have to act as one. Without solidarity the WGA will fail and everyone will suffer through their hopeless fight.

It’s not a coincidence that this strike comes at a time when our country faces great economic strife. People are already losing their homes. Months ago an article in The Wall Street Journal foretold of foreclosures, 4.4 million foreclosures due to the sub prime loan market. Banks are writing off billions of dollars. People are already financially overextended. People are already losing their jobs. The dollar is plunging. America is on the brink of a recession.

Of course, Big Business knows that the best way to leverage themselves against their workforce is to keep them just above starvation levels, to keep them so concerned about feeding their family, keeping a roof over their heads. When the workers have to struggle to survive then they don’t care about anything else.

So a protracted strike is not in the best interest of anyone. Reality TV will be used to fill the gaps, carpet baggers will become robber land barons, the film industry will see a surge in theaters goers, DVD rentals will increase. This will all lend aid to the AMPTP’s conifers and cause. If the community of artist and workers in the entertainment industry do not pull together as one, they can not expect to accomplish their goals. I say to everyone, stop being so self-centered and self-serving. We all want to work and take care of our families. We all want the good life.

The police call it the blue flu. I say sacrifice one day a week of your pay, which after taxes for the average BTL worker is only a few hundred dollars less a week. But if the strike is a protracted one, who gets hurt most, the BTL worker. Who loses their home, the BTL worker, who doesn’t have massive savings, the BTL worker, that’s who.

As a BTL worker, I say that we all should in unison turn off the lights once a week. Every week until this matter is settled, everyone in the industry should call in sick, take the day off, not go to work, not deliver the services or products. If we turn off the lights once a week and knock the wind out of the AMPTP’s inflated sails, if we all look at the reality of this situation and the long term devastation that this WGA strike will deliver, we should all see the logic in deft, decisive, unified action.

I call for rotating “Dark Days”. I call for the collective to act and be heard. Otherwise, it’s ever man, woman, or child for themselves, then chaos will rule and the AMPTP will prosper.

I don’t call for anyone person to sacrifice alone. I call for unified, organized actions, before the BTL worker, the people who really make the movies and televisions shows are devastated by the pride and principles of the AMPTP and the WGA.

BTL Guy said...

Why does the WGA not want the DGA to start bargaining?

It seems to me that the AMPTP is not going to seriously negotiate with the WGA until they know where they (AMPTP) stand with both SAG and DGA.

I honestly think that the quickest way to resolve the strike is to urge DGA and SAG to start talks NOW.

Would not working with the other two Guilds be a sign of the union solidarity that WGA keeps seeking?

Why are you not working together with them to spell out what everyone NEEDS (as opposed to WANTS), and bargain together -- strength in numbers?

Is the DGA perceived to be that weak? And if they are, isn't SAG strong on the same issues as WGA?

Thanks in advance. I know some people aren't crazy about ol' BTL Guy, but this is an honest question...

azuckerborneveryminute said...

If David Young wasn't a good negotiator, the WGA would already have accepted a deal. And it would suck.

If the WGA has to ignore the AMPTP's tactics until the Upfronts barrel (with several network presidents crammed inside, drunkenly bellowing "Goodnight Saigon") gets closer to the edge of the waterfall, so be it.

fake consultant said...

the comment about upfronts takes aim at a divide and conquer tactic the wga can use against the producers-the disconnect in interests between tv networks and other producers.

producers who sell to networks are undoubtedly hearing about about makegoods and cashbacks, networks have an oversold commercial schedule, and they have carryover makegoods from times past.

as producers and sellers of advertising, tv networks are ripe to be broken off from the other producers....and writers have an opportunity to "nervous" the networks into pressuring others for a better settlement, sooner rather than later.

ChuckT said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
PootieTwo said...

I would like for the DGA to go ahead and negotiate a deal. This one is at a standstill and we can't afford to have any more work delays. Let's get the DGA deal done and out of the way.

makomk said...

Reading of http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/2007/12/wgas-response-to-amptp-breaking-off.html:

The AMPTP really don't want the external auditing, animation, reality tv, and distributor's gross based payments. They're not willing to back down on any of these. The WGA are equally unwilling to back down on any of them; this is clear from their public statements. The AMPTP knew this, which is probably why they could get out a press release. Let's think about this:

- External auditing. Not wanting this is suspicious, but without figuring out exactly what this entails I can't say for sure.

- Reality TV. This'll push their costs up (not sure how much), the WGA has an odd definition of "writer", it overlaps with other unions, and finally it means the WGA have their balls in a vice when the next contract negotiation comes up. Could someone explain HowTF getting this seemed possible?

- Animation. I don't know much about this, but I do know it's an interesting area.

- Distributor's gross based payments. Not sure exactly what this is or why they're objecting to it. (Thinking about it, surely the distributor could be a firm entirely seperate from the company, even outside the traditional industry in the case of Internet distribution. That could make things interesting.)

The reality TV is unsurprising

MrKlaatu said...

The WGA may give up all or some of the "six", but not without an offer. An promise to negotiate if they are taken off the table is not an offer. $X for Internet if they are taken off the table is.

VDOVault said...

If you want to put some fans and viewers to work on calling or emailing DGA members we can definitely help you here...just pop in at:


If there are certain directors whose works we will need to avoid seeing, let us know.

We're in it to win it!

MrKlaatu said...

If the DGA wants to make a bad deal now, that's their right. The WGA will not automatically take the same deal. In fact, if the DGA leaves money on the table, maybe the studios will use that cash to make a better deal with the writers.

BTL Guy said...

Why not have WGA, DGA and SAG negotiate together with AMPTP? This would give you true strength in numbers. It would eliminate AMPTP uncertainty (ie, the studios complaint that they can't negotiate with WGA while the other two Guilds' negotiations are still out there).

Even if DGA goes it alone, and make a "bad" deal in the WGA worldview, at least this would remove a layer of uncertainty from the AMPTP mindset.

Why would a bad DGA deal "force" WGA to fold? As MrKlaatu says, a poor DGA deal would only leave more of the pie available to WGA.

Becca said...

I second what VDO Vault said.If you want the fans to make calls, please post it on the UH site. There are plenty of us out here who would love to step up for ya.

Memeology said...

"Why not have WGA, DGA and SAG negotiate together with AMPTP?"

As it happens the WGA reached out to its sister unions prior to negotaitions and got a very positive response from the actors who have had representatives at the currrent negotiations. DGA's response was basically (and not surprisingly to people familiar with their lone wolf union), "Good luck with all your endeavors." And that was it. At least officially...
The reason why early DGA talks would hurt the writers is because when the AMPTP negotiates with the DGA they ignore the WGA and the strike continues even longer than it otherwise would have. Thus, it hurts everyone except DGA and the AMPTP. It doesn't mean the WGA will fold though, not by a long shot.

Cas said...

I'm just an interested outside supporter of the WGA strike, but I've got a question.

What is the possibility of getting together with union members across the industry and creating a worker-owned company that is willing to pay everyone fairly for their work? Yeah, I realize these things take lots of money, but it seems like there are enough high-paid union members in each key union to generate the necessary capital. Do an end-run around the AMPTP entirely. Finance a bunch of new projects outside of the current system until the AMPTP member companies beg for a settlement so they're not made entirely irrelevant. Is there something in labor law that prevents this from happening? Is this just not a viable economic possibility for some other reason? I'd love to see something like this put the big guys out of business.

Captain Obvious said...

We've been discussing that since the strike began, Cas. There are some issues involved. Don't think they're legal, though.

Really just need to get the right people together and the right financial backing. Not only from those directly involved, but also from the mythical crop of "Angel Investors" out there that are sitting on mountains of gold and have personal misgivings about the state of the American media.

Waddlesdpuffin said...

So far a great job has been done by the Guild getting their points across but I think one has been overlooked and this could be the clincher.

Namely the AMPTP's proposal is actually bad for the the studios. The WGA is in keeping with the realities of internet downloads. It makes perfect sense if you're using iTunes which does not charge fees for its services. When combined with the WGA proposal, there are zero initial costs per individual file. Basically the difference between the WGA proposal and the AMPTP proposal is the difference between choosing 0 initial costs and $250. Small as $250 is, it's still more than 0. And why would you choose to take on an initial cost if you don't have to?
Given the wide selection that will be available there's bound to be more than a few that won't cover the initial $250 under the AMPTP proposal. Under the WGA proposal, a file that gets only 10 downloads all year still produces a profit. Under the AMPTP proposal it creates a loss. Now it's speculation just how many files won't cover their AMPTP pittance, but under the WGA proposal it doesn't matter because under its guidelines, no single episode or movie can post a loss on the internet. The WGA is giving them the gift of no losses. That's something that should be pointed out very clearly.
But an even worse trap awaits the studios if a particular movie or TV episode IS a big hit on the internet, namely TAXES. Say for example a TV episode gets a million downloads on iTunes. That's about 3 million dollars against just $250 expenses. Here comes the taxman! Now before you start with the "oh they must have considered this," remember these people aren't in retail, they've never been in retail, most of them have never even seen a retail business tax return. It's possible that they haven't quite figured out that internet new media means they'll be going into retail and what that really means. What it means is that they'll need an expense to match against every unit sold or else get reamed by our friends at the IRS. The key words here are expenses that you can DEFINITELY match against units sold. When it comes to files on the internet there aren't a lot of expenses other than intellectual property rights. There's no manufacturing costs, no transportation, no packing (remember the downloadable file would be considered related but separate from the original theatrical film for tax purposes since it is being distributed in a different manner)

In short, a case can be made that the AMPTP proposal is a posion pill for the BUSINESS, not just as a writer. It creates losses that aren't necessary and diminishes success by inviting gigantic tax penalties.