Taking the Struggle to the AMPTP, the "Scene of the Crime"

On Tuesday, specially trained picketers, members of the Criminal Writing Division of the WGA spread across Hollywood, marking each studio as a "crime scene" with yellow tape. Photographs were taken to document the event. A sister group gathered in Foley Square in Manhattan.

Sponsored by Rene Balcer, Bill Fordes, David Slack, Kit Boss, Mark Goffman, and Lynne Litt, a three-count Bill of Indictment was filed by writers from over 35 crime and police television series, charging the AMPTP with, in part:

"Conspiracy to steal the Internet and all revenues therefrom and deprive by fraud, trick, and deceit entertainment industry workers of their financial future and well-being, and with conspiracy to conduct meaningless negotiations with depraved indifference to the truth and with malice and mendacity aforethought."
Luminaries from the WGA and SAG joined in the rallies, shining a bright light on the "crimes" of the AMPTP.

In New York Gina Gianfriddo, Linus Roche, and Jeremy Sisto along with dozens of others braved the cold to state their case.

More than 500 picketers filled the sidewalk in front of AMPTP Headquarters in Encino.

Marg Helgenberger read the indictment. The casts of CSI, Lost, Num3ers, The Unit, Dexter, The Shield, Law and Order, Bones, Reno 911, and The Sarah Silverman Program were represented by, among others, Harold Perrineau, Gary Dourdan, Regina Taylor, Robert Patrick, C.S. Lee, Alana de la Garza, Benito Martinez, Cathy Cahlin Ryan, David Rees Snell, David Marciano, Rob Morrow, Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Kerri Kenney, and Brian Posehn.

Rene Balcer spoke to the heart of the event when he said:
"As crime writers, we navigate a morally ambiguous world but we do so without ever losing sight of the moral center. We know what's right. Through our characters of working-class cops and private detectives, lowly-paid lawyers and prosecutors, we speak truth to power.

If we know anything at all, we know bad behavior when we see it. And we’ve seen plenty of it from the AMPTP in the last six weeks. We're in a war on the middle class waged by multinational conglomerates. We're witnessing an assault on fairness, on a basic tenet of American enterprise - that if you create something, you should share in its success. We went on strike in defense of that principle. And it's for that principle that we remain on strike."
After the speeches were made, the AMPTP was invited to come outside and engage in a dialogue. But the AMPTP was nowhere in sight. They weren't at the City Council Meeting the next day either. Maybe everyone had left for an early vacation.

Who knows?

If the AMPTP reps were looking out their windows on Tuesday, they saw that the picketers were unified, vocal, and focused.

They had heard the chants before. "We're at the table, where are you?"

They heard it again on Tuesday. "2-4-6-8, Counter won't negotiate!"

They'll keep hearing it. "Come back to table. Give us a fair deal."

The strike isn't going away because the congloms want it to. The strike will stop when the AMPTP comes back to the table and discusses the issues, fairly and honestly.

This report was filed with the greatly appreciated assistance of David Slack, Lynne Litt, Chad Daniel, Bill Fordes, Kit Boss, and Rene Balcer.


Not-A-Troll said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
EmployeeMegan said...

The cast of Bones was on hand as well, and very friendly!


Fred said...

That's pretty much solid evidence of their villainy. What criminal in his right mind stays around the scene of his crime?


ChuckT said...

They weren't in the building. They left for vacation earlier this week (and the end of last week for some). Get a grip. They aren't coming back to the table.

They are going to use your strike to benefit their business models by cleaning house and getting rid of old financially crippling old models (like pilot season). The strike played right into their plans to restructure the business. They will come back to the table after they've finished what they've set out to do and not a moment sooner.

Dissident said...

From the article: "The strike isn't going away because the congloms want it to. The strike will stop when the AMPTP comes back to the table and discusses the issues, fairly and honestly."

Yes, and the best way to accomplish that is by staging infantile publicity events like this one. Next, were going to leave bags of dog poop on Nick Counter's doorstep and light them on fire!

While the DGA, its negotiating committee comprised of adults, calmly readies themselves to meet with the AMPTP and hammer out a contract, the WGA, their strike becoming increasingly irrelevant as more and more TV shows return, are out there making complete fools of themselves.

The one consolation I take away from this event is that I feel we're at a kind of tipping point. I'm hearing from more and more writers that they're sick of this situation and want to go back to work (I mean of course, the small percentage of striking writers who actually have jobs to go back to... we all know that the majority of the strikers -- and usually the most militant -- are people who rarely make money at their craft, and therefore have nothing to lose even if the strike goes to next August).

I think that when the DGA makes their deal, which the conventional wisdom says will happen in January, the WGA leadership will have to find some way to conclude an agreement or face a tide of members going financial core. I know I'm seriously considering the move, and I know at least two others are as well.

January-February are going to be interesting, folks.

Emily Blake said...

This isn't going to suddenly make the AMPTP take notice, no, but it's a great publicity move. This keeps the actors in the public eye and in support of the writers and it keeps up the public view of writers as friendly people who enjoy their work and are working to make a deal while the big money guys don't even care.

Stuff like this keeps up moral. I say keep it up.

Caliban said...

Er, chill out chucky and dissidenty. These things are just a bit of fun and they do give a shot of morale to picketing writers. Those who try to make something else of them (besides our need to maintain a public presence in the face of two PR firms costing 100 k per month) either don't understand the issues or pretend they don't.

I'm a working writer and none of my writer friends are fraying at the edges as you would have us believe. It would be a nice surprise if the strike were sorted soon but we're all realistic about the EMPTY P not being a real decision maker but rather having to run home to mommy and daddy before they can do anything but say no.

Cory said...

I have said this again, and I will say it once more.

follow the lead of writers like Seth MacFarlane who supposedly has already made a deal with google. You have itunes and many other options and this move is both offensive and a great business move on your side. The smart CEOs will see this (especially if it starts making you guys a ton of money) and they will freak out and probably be running back to make a deal with you guys. Strikes are ok, but a better idea would be to go directly to the media and drop the middle man. you have all the writters. and I am sure you will have companies like google on board too. ( and will get a better deal from them)

Oh and please respond to this ( one of your WGA writers, I want to hear your take on this and why you havent done this already)

Captain Obvious said...

There has been much talk of going independent, Cory, but there are many issues involved, too. I, for one, would like to explore those options; but need to find the right interested parties.

Cory said...

well I am going to undertake a hardware option/ software option this weekend.

Is there anyone I can speak to about my idea? it definitely is viable, but might not be cost wise (unless I get investors)

I am a graphic designer/ Webdesiger with many friends who are web and computer programers.

Stencil Revolution said...


That's like hearing a studio boss say: Don't greenlight this scenario , it will make people think!

We're not going anywhere, get used to it.

Graffiti is not an option.

Cory said...

that makes no sense stencil revolution, all you are doing is a two fold move. Like moving your pawn in chess to set yourself up for another move two moves down the road.

Here is my train of thought:
By going to another venue you:
1) create a new revenue stream that
a) could become very lucrative down the road and your only means of distribution
b) could be an additional stream of revenue that scares the AMPTP into coming the to table and giving you a better deal
2) just stir up the idea of this and scare the AMPTP to get back to the table.

I am not asking you to forgo the studios I am just telling you to open your eyes and see that they arnt serving you so why not move forward. I hate to say this but you seem like an old dinosaur just like the AMPTP. Your medias power was in its TOP DOWN design. the new media IS BOTTOM UP if you dont understand that then you already are dead in the water.

Cory said...

oh and add to the fact that the move I am telling you to do is one that will make people think. They will think this:

" why dont I go out and watch/ purchase this content which is better written than the stuff on network television?"

It seems to me you are facing a problem is one that us graphic designers face too. We have to decide are we in this business for the business or in it to create art. You seem to be in this to make your art. And I applaud that, however because of this mentality you not only probably get trampled on in the business world but you see what I propose as compromising thus you state that my statement is like a stupid studio boss's which is totally not true. as I hope you see

Not-A-Troll said...

Hey Mr. / Mrs. moderator,

I'm not going anywhere. I will continue to repost every single time you delete me. Its funny that when I wrote in on United Hollywood Live I was treated kindly and my questions were taken as serious ones, yet in post form you delete or bash me as some evil corporate plaything. Trust me if I was getting paid for this I would at least put it to good use and support my friends who are out of work.

Original post:

"We're witnessing an assault on fairness, on a basic tenet of American enterprise - that if you create something, you should share in its success"

Really? I thought writer's already did share in the success of their scripts. In fact don't they still share in the success of the bombs as well?

Take the Golden Compass for example. There is a movie that cost 200+ million to make and is sitting at 43.5 million Domestic!!!! But don't worry the writer not only was paid up front for the script, probably upwards of 200k, but also they will receive their nice residual check for when the DVD's sell. So even if it only sells a million they will get 60k more. 260k doesn't seem fair?

You want to share in the success of what you create then put up your own money, shoot it yourself, and own it outright. Stop complaining about wanting more of something you sold the rights to.

Captain Obvious said...

"Stop complaining about wanting more of something you sold the rights to."

The "more" you're talking about is part of the deal. It's part of the sale. I really wish some of you guys understood more about copyright law and the history of screenwriting. It'd help you to realize why everything the writers receive is appropriate.

Stencil revolution said...

Hey Cory, who do u think controls the new media? the very same conglomerates that control the old media.

The same people who control the so called Independent festivals and just about everything. Every rock you pick up, they're under.

Am I the only one who understands that the Internet is chaotic and even if I wrote and produced original content and put it on a website the majority of the population would not see it ?

Not everyone uses or cares about the Internet. At least not yet.

As for the APPPP nothing will do will scare them because their show biz investment is zero.

They don't pay taxes, nor the government any money for making commercial use of the public airwaves, they don't pay the creators, do u see a pattern?

Would u lose any money if you didn't spend any?

You're right the new media is up partly because of normal human curiosity but the old media have not even reached their full potential yet.

Because they're run by people who are not related to this world but the underworld.

The old media can be very fun if writers are allowed to write and if the system opens its arms and embrace the artistic community.

The only thing we can and will do if this keeps up, is sue their asses and take all their media and run it, without them.

The laws are very generous in our country ...

Artists are not stupid, they maybe romantics but they are definetelly not stupid.

Cory said...

Stencil Revolution,

It seems to me you are afraid of not being seen on the web, most likely due to your limited understanding of said technology. I hate to say this but you are truly ignorant. Video on the web is just the same as on a TV the web is just a vehicle or distribution of the same content. IF you can not see this please by do some research.

I have friends who have gained success only through the use of the web. They are making large amounts of money selling things from comics, necklaces, and many other things.

There are people who make money and have made a name for themselves on the web through your media and utilize video or animation to sell products that tie in to their work or dvds of their videos. sounds familiar right? yeah its the same media and means of making money the studios use with your products. These people and their sites are well known because their work is high quality and or gained a fan following.

Yes when you give the power to the people there will be a lot of crap, that is a give in but also another hting that will happen is that more creative and new ideas will come from said power and if one thing people will learn and have learned of ways to tell others what is quality and what is a waste of time.

So in closing it seems to me that either your products are ho hum and will be lost in the shuffel of the web, and that is why you are affraid of the new media. Or you dont understand it and like the studios would rather stick with the thing you know even if it will fail you and literally fuck you over with shitty wages and a shitty deal.

let me add too why is it so bad to add another revenue stream? we freelancers due this all the time. if it doesnt work out you have other options if it does more money and a portfolio will grow from this . to me its a no brainer.

Greg said...

Thanks for your support and your proposal. I know of two writers, Edward Zwick & Marshall Herskowitz, who've started an internet series--"quarterlife."
The reason *all* the writers can't do it is because many of them still make a living from writing for TV and film and hoping to resume doing that once the strike gets resolved, and are currently spending all their time picketing.
The other reason would be that the money it would cost to produce 13 full-length high-quality episodes of a narrative show, even online, is prohibitive. (If you know anyone crazy enough to fund something like that, a la the guy who produced & syndicated "The Muppet Show," by all means, send 'em my way.)
*However,* as a long-term plan to break the studios' hold over writers, it's an excellent option; it's certainly something I intend to look into, and my guess would be a fair number of writers will be going that way some time in the future.

Stencil Revolution said...

Dear Cory

Thought I should start by calling you names like u did but for some reason I just don't care.

You remind me of a friend, 10 years back who said the Internet and lets start a web site, the digital revolution e.t.c

If you're a great innovator great, good for you, go innovate
but don't generalize cause that's the a huge sign that you're not a great thinker.

And who are you friends that have made money off of the web? Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and the Google guys ?

Cause those people are the exception,not the rule.

"They are making large amounts of money selling things from comics, necklaces, and many other things."

I'm sorry but I don't make necklaces or ashtrays...

You also said I have a limited understanding of technology which makes me want to hack into your computer and kick your ass...

Another great quote
"your products are ho hum and will be lost in the shuffel of the web, and that is why you are affraid of the new media"

My products are not ham, they're bacon!

"why is it so bad to add another revenue stream? we freelancers due this all the time."

Hey freelancer, guess what? I'm a freelancer too.

I never said the Internet was a bad idea, but before you move on to the future you have to take care of the present.

The present is our working conditions, our contracts, our residuals etc

Get it? Or do u not understand English?


Cory said...

Dear Greg,

Thank you for both understanding and responding to my posts with constructive criticism and with a positive manner. I understand these restrictions but believe that there are ways around this.
1) ( i dont think this will happen just a potential concept so dont shoot me for this)is a sad one which is that like houses in this country your field has been inflated in pay for a long time, and you may have to take a pay hit in this new venture ( but one that could pay off where if you become successful you can start getting better wages later on in the game)
2) is a positive one and one I truly believe could happen which is that there are so many un used talent trying to and that havnt gotten their break. You guys could find and use them, pay them less with intent to give them a piece of the profit pie later on if the show or shows work out. Sort of like the residuals you want for the internet shows.
This way everyone starts out making less but the payoff if done correctly will be large for all.
(i know there are more things that are issues or problems but that is par the course of owning and opperating your own company) I just think if you take control of the medium that you create you could do wonderful, creative and profitable things that will benefit you all.

Dear James,

"I never said the Internet was a bad idea, but before you move on to the future you have to take care of the present. 

The present is our working conditions, our contracts, our residuals etc "

I understand what you are saying and your fears of the present, but why dont you understand that my idea/ option (though generalized) is a good one and will help out your present situation? I have done some more research and find that there are others who have the same idea and writers are supposedly looking towards this idea.People like Seth MacFarlane have gone or are working on things with google.

I found this comment on an article that discusses the same idea and issues I have been trying to get you to understand: http://www.writeslikeshetalks.com/2007/12/17/striking-writers-try-move-to-internet-supported-by-venture-capital/

"It’s easy to forget that the traditional news and entertainment media have been a combination of content and distribution, and they controlled both. The print media have presses and trucks. The radio and TV networks have transmitters, cable systems and satellites.
The Internet decouples the content from the distribution, and makes distribution available to everyone. I spent my career with CompuServe, and we were one of the first folks to enable that decoupling. A few newspapers joined us in the experiment - like the Columbus Dispatch and the Washington Post - and that was 20 years ago. But the real revolution was the creation of a medium for the masses. Our most valuable content wasn’t produced by professional media organization, it was by our customers.
Hooray for the TV writers for figuring out that they might be able to do the TV production companies and networks what the musical artists have done to the record companies (who also had a lock on distribution until the Internet).
But the writers will find that they have the same challenge as the music industry - pricing and piracy. They will be tempted to look at the income statements of the networks and say, ‘hey, all that money could be ours.’ The truth is the shift to the Internet will radically decrease the aggregate income of the whole industry in the first wave, and later create a hypercompetitive marketplace that makes it hard to anyone to make money. And unlike the musical artists, the screenwriters can’t do concert tours to make up the difference.
At this moment, the Internet may still lack the capacity to take on load that would be created by a wholesale shift of video programming from traditional broadcast media. That probably means that for a lucky few who figure it out early, there’s a lot of money to be made right now. Everyone else will get shut out. Think of what it was like to get a show on prime-time TV in the 1960s when there was only three networks.
The internet will eventually became a seamless network of broadcast (via satellite) and on-demand communications channels, and the distinction between TV networks and Internet networks will evaporate.
Meanwhile, the transition will be fun to watch."


Cory said...


I want you to know that I am not yelling or making fun of you or calling you names. I am, at least on my side just having a heated debate with you. I am not angry at you at all, and if you have taken what I have said as such I apologize and hope you accept.


Stencil Revolution said...


There's no need to apologize.

you have your opinion and I have mine.

I wish you Merry Christmas and good luck in all your endeavours.