12/13/2007

We Extend Our Condolences to Les Moonves

United Hollywood is keeping CBS mogul Les Moonves in its thoughts and prayers. As Bloomberg news reports, Moonves signed a new compensation package worth, on the low end, $30 million dollars per year. But shockingly, his base salary was cruelly cut from $5.6 million in 2006 to a mere $3.5 million in 2007. Such a devastating loss of income must be particularly difficult around the holidays. It certainly is for all of us on strike or put out of work.

Perhaps when this strike is resolved -- and we writers, below the line crew, actors and directors have our income restored -- we can all chip in to help Les Moonves through his time of need. Until then, Les, if you need a place to crash, I have a futon.

UPDATE: Okay, ha ha, joke joke, vitriol. Hijack! The point here is that the companies can not claim poverty or claim that compensating workers fairly will "destroy the industry" while, in the case of CBS, they are compensating one man -- in one year -- twenty-one times what it would cost CBS to compensate the entire union everything in its proposal over three years. (The WGA propsal would cost CBS only $4.6 million per year.)

As I've written before, somewhere Nick Counter's elementary school math teacher is shaking her head.

74 comments:

Thomas Cunningham said...

And people have the gall to talk about "rich" "greedy" writers. C'mon, now.

Jeffrey said...

"Rich" is all relative
one person may be richer than the next person but poorer than the person after that

thus is the woes of living in capitalist society

Greg said...

When someone earns 2, 3 or even 10 times more than you, you can say he's richer. Some writers sure are in this case (and lots are not) but when it goes to 1000 times..... I mean, in just ONE month this guy earns more than a middle class worker for his whole life !
That's terrific.

VDOVault said...

What I think shareholders over at CBS need to be asking is just what are they getting for the $10,500 an HOUR they are paying the Moonbat?

He's only delivered 2 quarters in which CBS has beat the S&P 500 index since he's had this job.

I say we work to get them to fire his overpaid underperforming ass.

ceedee said...

Reading of the moguls' plight, I now feel *so* guilty about downloading the odd tv episode that probably will never be broadcast here in the UK.

I'll rush over to Amazon and buy a couple of full-priced DVDs right this minute...
NOT

Good fortune in your struggle!

Jeffrey said...

There are thousands of people that are below middle class and paid less than screen writer- low class workers like immigrant alien that have just come to America, they get exploited by companies and are paid below minimal wage. where are the people fighting for their right to earn a higher wage. how come nobody is striking for them. huh??? o thats right they have no unions
o well to bad so sad
deal with it screenwriters stop trying to get sympathy, sure you deserve to get a paid a decent amount but come on their are people worser off then you are

Jeffrey said...

I'm saying that screenwriter don't deserve more money for their work, maybe them do. but nowadays very thing is about making money-"how can i make more money for what i do?"

i think people need to put perspective on this thing, that the writer could be worser off and that they should appreciate what they
their are thousands of people living in poverty in the united states and they get by

they work multiple job, to say that the writer deserve more residuals so they can deal with time when they are not working between just seems greedy, get a second job or third job, etc... and deal with it like the people living in poverty.

you can disagree with me but that is my opinion

Jeffrey said...

*error first sentence - I'm not saying that the screenwriters don't deserve more money, maybe they do

Pamela Jaye said...

VDO - missed the chat/show yesterday due to sending all our customers Christmas gifts at the last minute day.
I try to put as little in Les' coffers these days as possible. I watch How I Met Your Mother, and nothing at all on the WC
(but then, I've hated Les since 96 and sent him some of those unaccepted pencils just for the sake of that.)

Memeology said...

To Jeffrey: So what exactly is your argument? That the writers shouldn´t demand a fair deal from their employers because the companies exploit other people far worse? That´s pathetic. Non-union exploited workers should take the example of the writers to heart and maybe then they could stand up for themselves (and other unions would support them). Maybe, if youre concerned about the plight of the exploited workers you could ORGANIZE them into unions which would then have the leverage to demand fair contracts from their employers. In the meantime there are plenty of middle and lower class unions (SEIU is an awesome example)and workers who DO strike on their own behalf and also support the writers´ fight because they understand that multinational congloms are stomping all over workers hard UNION won rights and organized labor action and solidarity are the only way to stop them. If you expect the government or the little angels on the companies´ shoulders to reign them in you will be far more disappointed than you are right now with the writers.

hollarback said...

Oh, so THAT's where all the money they used to pay the middle class went.

David Grenier said...

Jeffrey,

The answer to workers being exploited and underpaid is organizing. That's why so many low-wage workers are flocking to SEIU and UNITE-HERE. Even more would be joining if we had labor laws in this country that weren't so ridiculously tilted towards the employer - which is why we need the Employee Free Choice Act to pass.

Greg said...

To Jeffrey: Tell this to your boss, he surely will be happy to know that he can pay you just above the minimal wage and you wont complain.
Money that writers are asking for is not virtual, it comes from profits made from their work and going directly to the studio's pockets.
The more money is made, the more they should be paid (just like actors, directors etc...) what's wrong with this ?

Brett said...

I say we deliver some pencils to Mr Moonves to let him know we're all behind him during this time of financial belt-tightening.

hotline said...

Maybe he could now afford a soul.

ChuckT said...

Les Moonves will never have to scrape for pennies the way most people have to throughout their lives. He's been working this business as a chief honcho for decades and has amassed a fortune. If you don't think he has tens of millions invested and spread all around this world, you're even bigger fools than I thought. His investments ensure that he makes money even while he's sleeping. How many of you will even make half a million in the next ten years total? And here you stand begging him for pennies that he pisses on a daily basis. Reality kids: Moonves is laughing at YOU and your financial woes that he will never know or understand. Get some perspective already!

hollarback said...

Jeffery,
Excessive CEO salaries/deals and the decline of unions and the middle class are connected with the general decline of the US economy. CEO’s don’t produce; they take. There are so many studies on this on I don’t which to list.

I hear those striking IATSE stagehands in NYC made $150,000 a year! Wow! Why did they go on strike? It’s a typical management tactic used to paint the striking party as greedy and overpaid. Compare their wage to the average worker to try to stir up jealousy. The truth is valuable employees who make their employers a lot of money are always highly compensated in any field. (except for Les, he just gets paid) That would be capitalism – i.e., the American way. You can ask any writer who worked his way up to a good paying screenwriting gig. Ask John Sayles, or Stephen King …they worked in factories and as manual laborers before their writing careers took off. Or maybe you would like to ask writer director James Cameron, he used to drive a truck and write scripts in his down time. Scratch the surface of most writers and you will find someone who worked their way up. Same with most actors. These people didn’t just wake up one day and become a well paid writer, they worked their way up. And payment for reuse of their work, residuals, relates to copyright of creative work, it is the same as a book author and the same as a songwriter or composer. The writers aren’t asking for more than they deserve, they are asking that they be paid what their work is worth, a fair percentage of what their work is sold for. Fair is fair, regardless of the dollar amount.

You are basically stating the case of why unions are needed.

hollarback said...

Good morning Chuckt :)

Ah, but even with his riches, Les does not have the respect of his fellow man...now that is perspective, friend.

Stephanie said...

I have to ask in general - why has CEO compensation gotten so out of control, and what can the average person do to curtail it? It's like these people have become the robber barons of the 21st century, and there's nothing we can do because of "free market" forces.

Unions can be helpful but beyond the union - what can be done to get these salaries trimmed down to reasonable levels? ...besides trying to convince these greedy CEOs that another million dollars still won't make up for daddy not loving them enough.

The system is seriously broken and needs to be fixed. Unions can help but they still aren't the final answer.

PS 100% in support of the writer's strike!

John Aboud said...

I have never met Les Moonves, but everything I have read or heard about him indicates that he is a very charming and friendly guy who loves this business. He started out as an actor after all. My hope in posting this information is that it will go to show that the money to fairly compensate workers is there, despite the AMPTP's dire half-truths. Even in this time of transition to a digital Hollywood, the resources are there.

One of these moguls has the opportunity to step up, break the deadlock and get hailed as a hero for a generation. Look at all the good feelings people have about by Lew Wasserman (despite that "plumber" quote). I hope one of them does it soon. I'm ready to sing the praises of the one who does the right thing.

DNY LOVES CRIMINAL MINDS said...

Anyone who signs off on the exploitation of children for the making of a buck has no soul. Kid Nation was a disgrace. I am not surprised he is screwing writers. He screwed children! The man has money and now he needs a conscience.

ChuckT said...

hollarback said...

Good morning Chuckt :)

Ah, but even with his riches, Les does not have the respect of his fellow man...now that is perspective, friend.

++++++++++++++++++++

Your point (which is valid) is debatable. Still, I don't disagree that he has surely earned his fair share of enemies and haters along the way. I've sat in meetings with him. He is actually likable (he has a good sense of humor believe it or not), but I do not claim to know him or his character nor do I defend him (he's got enough money and enough lawyers who can do that for him - and a few friends as well I'm sure). (and NO I do not work for the studios - give it a rest).

JimBob said...

It amazes me that shareholders in CBS don't rise up and drag LM out of his office into the street. He hasn't done anything brilliant for them. Nina Tessler has developed all their best shows. Are they afraid if they don't shower Les will zillions he'll leave in a huff? They should be hoping he does just that.

Sweet said...

But he needs that money, guys: Expensive alimony, teeth-whitening.

I don't know why you're all being so harsh.

Smarter said...

What did the writers do when the teamsters went on strike the last time? They walked right past the picket lines. What happened the last time production assistants tried to organize for a minimum salary and health benefits? Did the WGA support them? No, they were all fired and it was hard for them to find work after that.

Oh, and what about the writers who get a couple to a few million dollar residual checks every MONTH? Or even just a few hundred thousand a MONTH? No one seems to complain about their excessive amount of pay. CEOs are making an excessive amount of money, but so are writers. You guys care nothing about anyone else but yourself. Quit trying to spin this as if you are doing this for the little guy. As soon as this strike is over, you will forget all about this union mumbo jumbo and get back to stepping and crushing others as you try to make it to the top in Hollywood. Has no one noticed? They call themselves union during the strike, but as soon as it is over, they will go back to clarifying that they are a GUILD.

JimBob said...

Chill, Smarter. This is a thread about Les Moonves.

Evan Waters said...

Isn't the writers crossing the picket lines on other strikes an inevitable consequence of the "no strike" clause in their contract, something they're trying to get repealed? Similarly, now, individual teamsters and technicians may decide not to cross the writers' picket line, but their union is not on strike and they receive no benefits if they don't work.

That's a problem- right now none of the unions can really fully support each other, whereas the studios can set terms as a collective. I'm not sure if repealing the no-strike clause will be a possibility when negotiations genuinely resume, but there's always the hope.

Bill said...

Smarter said what every Teamster knows whether they suppoet this strike or not. When you ask for respect and solidarity after previous lack of the same paid, you must expect to hear a yes or no and deal with it.

You had your shot
Bring on the DGA

John Aboud said...

I just added this update because in emailing my fellow strike captains, they were stunned by the numbers.

UPDATE: Okay, ha ha, joke joke, vitriol. Hijack! The point here is that the companies can not claim poverty or claim that compensating workers fairly will "destroy the industry" while, in the case of CBS, they are compensating one man -- in one year -- twenty-one times what it would cost CBS to compensate the entire union everything in its proposal over three years. (The WGA propsal would cost CBS only $4.6 million per year.) As I've written before, somewhere Nick Counter's elementary school math teacher is shaking her head.

John Aboud said...

To "smarter" and "bill" :

Writers aren't rich, but they would be if they had a nickel (or even 4¢!) for every time they were accused of it. A few successful working writers get huge up-front money. They get that from creating hits. This strike isn't about them, the hitmakers. Our proposals are vital to the survival of the vast bulk of our membership who depend upon residuals. Common decency (and good business!) demand writers be fairly compensated for creating content that can be monetized over and over and over again for decades.

Since that content could never get out to audiences without the other unionized workers in the business, above the line and below, this fight has huge implications for their pocketbooks too. The issues on the table affect us all, like it or not. The strike happened over our contract, but only because we had the misfortune to go first. Maybe the DGA can break the logjam. If so, I'd be thrilled. But it should be very clear now that the companies wanted a fight with the WGA. They don't want to deal. If they did, they wouldn't have run away from the table... twice.

As far as writers supporting the other unions in the past, I can't account for the actions of past guild leaders or past guild members. Two-thirds of the current WGA membership wasn't in the guild in 88. That was then, this is now. And now we have no illusions about how interconnected all workers in the industry are and what the stakes are.

Perhaps it took something as earth-shaking as the Internet to wake the guild up. I hope it will have the same effect on everyone. Like the banner at the top of this site says, we are fighting for the future.

Stephanie said...

To "Smarter" -

I am not a member of the WGA and I have no interest in becoming a film or television writer. However, I do live in Los Angeles and this strike affects many people close to me.

Anyone who comes on here and gripes about overpaid TV writers obviously doesn't live in Hollywood nor do they actually know anyone in the industry.

The vast majority of TV writers I know (people who have written for top shows) are not rich and are generally scruffy guys wearing faded flannel shirts, a pair of blue jeans and some sneakers.

Down to earth, REAL people.

I'm sure there are also writers who make a killing and perhaps with their vast riches fly around in private jets and wear only the finest in haute couture, but I don't know any of those kinds of writers.

Regardless, you cannot possibly compare them to CEOs who make $30 million dollars a year while doing a crappy job. The CEO makes that money regardless of his performance, while the rich writer earns a million because the project did well and brought the company 100 times that in profits.

James said...

Les, now that you've really been fucked by the Man, please turn on the comments over at the AMPTP site. I'd love to tell those motherfuckers what I think about you and your situation. kthxgbai.

Oh, and jeffrey and smarter? If you won't just STFU, why don't you at least think about it? You're making people think you're dumb as a box of hammers.

hollarback said...

Bill/Smarter, the Teamsters are the ONLY union that can cross a picketline. Every other union has a no cross written into their contract. Even the studios know that you do not F with the Teamsters.

If you were industry, or even just paying attention, you'd know that. You would also know that many Teamsters are not crossing, and some of those that the studios wanted replaced because they honored the line were then hired by the WGA to drive their vans.

The unions are strong and they are organized. Get used to it.

Now back to Les, the topic...remember?

Not-A-Troll said...

Stephanie I live in LA, in fact I work in the industry. I know writers on TV shows and no for a fact that the base rate per week is close to 5k if not 10-15k on just a half hour show. How can someone who makes that type of cash no be considered rich.

Sure maybe they don't make as much as your Paul Haggis, the hypocrite king, but they still make well above middle class wages. How they spend it then is their own problem.

Any writer banking on residuals to pay the bills obviously, didn't spend their money wisely. If you want more money and more security work it out up front.

Stephanie said...

Not-a-Troll,

Just because you make $10K on a project does not mean you make that money consistently. I once made over $50K on a single website job - oh gee, that must mean I'm rich! Gimme a break.

I know a writer who worked on The Family Guy. With all his "riches" he was able to afford a tiny one-bedroom condo in Culver City and drove around in a tiny old hatchback. Boy, what a rich man he was!!

What you don't seem to get is that he did not write for them every darn episode and that's how it goes for a lot of these people. I know someone else who wrote for SNL for years and I don't even think he can afford a car right now. And no, it's not like he spent all his money on blow or something.

Even actors on top shows get paid a lot, but then in between the show they can go for a long, long time making NOTHING. $10K will last you three months in LA with living expenses.

So I ask you: So WHAT that someone supposedly made $5K on one episode? You make that and then make NOTHING for a long period of downtime. The work can be sporadic. That's the point of having residuals.

If you are so bitter about writers making money then why are you even here in the first place?

Lorelei said...

Writers making millions a month? Where, Where? Making plenty-o-dough per month? You bet, we have those. There are maybe a couple hundred writers making the big money some folks imagine. Are the rest of us worried about them? Nope. We're worried about the middle-class folks. I picket with a couple who have two young kids and are debating when to move in with the grandparents. They write on a television show. Big money there, huh?

What is happening to the Teamsters who get fired for refusing to cross our lines? We're hiring them to drive our strike vans.

Why should the other unions care about us? Because their Pension and Health contributions from the studios are calculated from our residuals. Still think we should take the Internet deal offered, which was 1/80th of the rerun residual rate? See how they're planning to bust all the unions?

What should BTL workers fired because of the strike do? File for unemployment. Writers can't. And no, we are not receiving any money for picketing.

Not-A-Troll said...

Stephanie -

You are so delusional it almost makes me feel sad for you. When you are a staff writer on a show you get paid EVERY week, EVERY episode. Want to know why? Because while you may write an episode it still always comes back to the group for punch-up - so in turn a writer is paid that weekly rate for episodes they didn't "write".

Secondly the staff writers on a show make their weekly rate again the first time, and that is if, an episode repeats on air.

And so when you start telling me about your poor broke friend on Family Guy or SNL I again have to laugh. They are talking about top rated shows! So unless they got fired after a week or were never staff writers I don't know why you would even attempt to use them as "real" examples of hardship.

Stephanie said...

"Not-a-troll" (who is obviously a troll) -

Not everyone who is a film or TV writer is a staff writer. This in no way lessens their value or their right to ask for Internet residuals. And the SNL guy was a staff writer. For something like 6 years.

You know, I don't go up to everyone I know who has a TV writing credit and ask them to show me their bank accounts. All I can tell you is that most of the writers I know are not rich, do not live in large houses, and aren't driving fancy cars.

Oh wait - there was one writer's house I was at, who had some successful film credits to her name. She owned a beach front home in Marina del Rey. All of two bedrooms but nice, with a loft area. Swank. I guess that's who you are comparing to the CEOs. Because obviously with that nice home she was earning the equivalent of a CEO's salary. Umm. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

So what is your point anyway?

Carrie said...

Yes being a staff writer on a show is a great thing while it lasts. How man shows are cancelled within the first, two, three seasons? Do you think that staff is magically transported to another project. The answer is no. And, how many of the membership are staff writers? Uh not as many as you seem to think. In fact, they're the minority. At any given moment the majority of the WGA membership is out of work. This strike isn't about protecting the few fortunate people who are living above middle class. This is about protecting the majority of writers who are in fact middle class.

Vance said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vance said...

I am not a writer, but indeed in the same industry. I’m a worker bee in a large media company. I feel that I make a big contribution daily, and get paid a market rate wage for my efforts. I don’t think I could do Moonves’ job overseeing 20,000 to 30,000 employees and making million-dollar decisions all the time. I wish I would get residuals for my efforts, but I don’t think that will ever happen.

Having said that, heads of multibillion dollar public companies routinely have pay packages in the tens of millions of dollars. I remember that Michael Eisner once was paid the equivalent of over $400 million in stock comp one year- and that was many years ago.

Les Moonves probably feels that he works hard and wants to get every last dollar that he can. Why not? The bottom line is that Moonves did a good enough job and made the CBS board of directors happy enough that they gave him a generous salary that is in-line with what other rich moguls and rich CEO-types get. He probably did everything they asked him to do and didn’t do anything to antagonize them.

I don’t resent writers in wanting to get every last dollar, although their tactics for getting a raise seem different that Moonves’. Writers must feel that by marching around in circles, disrupting traffic, chanting, pumping fists, etc. and generally antagonizing the companies, they will get a nice big raise. From where I stand, it doesn’t seem like it’s working; it appears that it’s only getting worse for all the little folks who have no interest in whether writers or actors get even more money for their work they were paid for in the first place. I would not be surprised if the company bigwigs will make the writers wait much longer for a deal because of the union’s misguided tactics. I keep reading that the companies will start benefiting from the strike now that they can cancel overall deals, and that the strike will cause more reality programs to be created. Sitcom writers especially should be terrified since 90% of the viewing public would rather watch a reality show that navigate around the phony laughing tracks of the sitcom program format. This strike will likely hasten the demise of this dying format.

And, by the way, let’s not forget that the writers are the ones who walked out on their paying jobs. Please don’t complain how hard it is to pay bills now- you should have thought of that when you walked out. Those other workers who have been laid off because they have nothing to do are the only ones who have the right to be angry that they are out of work during the holidays.

Finally, I only hope that everyone gets back to the tables soon, and stop worrying about how much Les Moonves makes- it’s not so horrible when compared to $25-50 million that Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Adam Sandler or a dozen or so other actors get per film- and they only need to work a few months to earn it and have almost no responsibility other than to show up and be professional with their craft. I want to go through the gates of my employer without a bunch people standing around and blocking my entry. After all, I’m just trying to make a living.

bob said...

Stephanie,

There is no other way to put this. You're an idiot when it comes to the numbers you are spouting off.

Writers on shows don't just get paid for the episode they write, they get paid episodically (or in some cases weekly depending on the level of the writer).

Just for clarification for everyone out there that thinks that writers who work on tv shows don't qualify as "rich" here are the rates for writers.

Staff writer (entry level) - staff writers salaries depend on how many weeks they are emplyed and it changes a bit depending on the length but its between 2,977 and 4,005. Lets just use 3,300 as that is the closet rate that most are employed for. On a 13 episode order its about 22 weeks, so that's $72,600. If the show gets a back nine that's an additional $29,700. Not bad for your first tv writing gig. .

Story editor - same math as Staff Writer, but the weekly rate for a Story editor over 20 weeks is $5,311. Wow!!!! Show me another industry where in your second year you get a $2,000 a week raise. 13 episodes = $116,600, 22 episodes = 164,300. Again, not bad for someone in their 2nd year of a job!

After that it is a bit simplier as it is basically an episodic, not weekly rate.

Exec story editor, Co-producer and Producer range is as follows - low end is $10k/week. 13 eps = $130K, 22 eps $220. this is mostly ESE and Co-P. Producer is usualy a little higher, 12-15 (lets go with 12). 13 eps = $156K, 22 eps = $264K. Also, once you get to the ESE level you get paid an additional $20,956 for any episode you write if its a half-hour and $30,145 for an hour. That is ON TOP OF your episodic rate.

Supervising Producer is anywhere from about 15-22K. Lets just say 17.5K 13 eps = $227.5K, 22 eps = $385K

Co-Exec producer - anywhere from 17.5 to 30K an ep. Again, lets go on the low end at 20K. 13 eps = $260K. 22 eps = $440K.

Exec Producer - anywhere from 25K on up. (I know EP's who aren't even the showrunner who make 50-60K per episode). Lets just say 40K an episode which is on the low end. That's 13 eps = $520K and 22 eps = $880K.

Also, this is not a full year's work people. Production periods usually begin after the 4th of July and end in November or December for 13 episode orders and March/April for 22 episode orders.

These numbers are not made up and are basically what every single writer on a network television show gets paid. Cable is a little lower, but not by much.

This also doesn't include the residuals they get for repeats during the season.

So please, spare me the whole "the average writer" bullshit. If you don't make enough money, get another job like the rest of the world.

90 percent of the working writers I know couldn't give two shits about an extra couple thousand bucks from internet usage. They are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars because of this strike and at this point will never recoup the lost money.

Get your facts straight people.

Not-A-Troll said...

Bob,

You rock! Thank you for backing up my point with hard, factual numbers.

Stephanie said...

Bob,

There is no other way to put this. You're an idiot when it comes your reading comprehension and you completely missed my point.

1. I said right off the bat I was not in the industry. I make no claims to having perfect numbers and I never did.

2. My "numbers" were based on the idiot numbers spouted off by a *previous poster.* I was responding to their hypothetical. Had you followed the thread correctly, you should have slammed that person and not me.

3. Finally, using YOUR idiot numbers: $76,000 for a 13-week series, which is about as long as they seem to be these days with quick cancellations, is hardly making anyone rich. It's about the salary you might make at a decent white collar day job these days.

However, the difference between the nice day job and the writer is that the day job will probably last longer. As carrie so succinctly put it ahead of you, not all TV writers are staff and even those who are have a tenuous job security as it is.

Finally, I base my observations on the people I know - they are not rich. This does not mean they are loser slackers who need to get day jobs. Many I know also earn money in non-entertainment ways...just so they can follow their dream of being in this crazy industry.

I don't begrudge them their residuals, and I wonder why you or anyone would.

Unite said...

Bob- Okay, so I work in technology, and it seems like your saying something like - everyone who works in technology has it as good as the guys at Google. Dude, I Wish!

But seriously man, could it be that you only hangout with successful writers? I mean, they must be really successful to not give a crap about the internet. Seeing as we are working hard to get everything put on the internet, you would have to be...well, an idiot...to dismiss internet revenue. You're not a troll are you?

Watcher said...

Not bad, Bob.

Let's say you're a staffwriter who gets $79,600 for the first 13 episodes.

Let's say you are very, very lucky. It's your first good gig, and the show gets picked up for the back nine. But wait, your contract doesn't. Sorry, Bob, best of luck to you.

That happens a lot. But suppose you do get picked up? Terrific! Let's add that back-nine money to your salary: it now comes to $102,300. Congratulations, Bob! Damn, it's a shame your show didn't get renewed.

Get out there and study up on the incoming shows, 'cause as a staffwriter you've got maybe a two-week period to try to get hired for a new job. ...Oh, that's a shame you didn't make it. There are only so many shows out there, and there are an awful lot of writers. And lots of shows don't have the salary to hire talent without more experience.

But that's okay. Start writing a new spec script for TV. And while you're at it, start researching a feature.

Hmm. Weeks are passing, Bob. I appreciate that you're working, but the point is, you're not selling. With no income coming in, your average salary between last year and this year is now $51,150. Good thing you don't have kids, Bob.

But count yourself lucky. Very few writers ever get on staff at a network show at all. Good luck to you, and enjoy that gig at Starbucks.

The idea that every writer in the WGA makes network TV money every year of their life is ridiculous. That's like saying every novel writer is Stephen King. How many networks are there, with how many primetime shows? And how many WGA members are there?

I think there *is* someone here with a math problem, but it's not Stephanie.

bob said...

Stephanie,

To address your points:

1. If you're not in the industry, get off of this site. I'm sick of all these non-industry people who come on here and are like "Yah! Go Writers!!" when they clearly have no clue what they are talking about (like you).

2. You captured exactly what is wrong with blogs like this, thank you! Uneducated people (re: the industry, not in general, I'm not slamming your intelligence) read a post that has hugely innacurate and sometimes just flat out wrong information and then post about it as if it's a fact. To you and all the sympathizers out there, I suggest you educate yourselves about the information in a post before replying.

3. You're not reading my post very closely. If you were, you would see that $76K is for a staff writer. That is entry level! You're right when you say that's good for a white collar job...that someone has been working in for many years.

I'm not claiming $76K is rich. But it's pretty damn good for 20 weeks of work. So that entry level writer can either a) go get another job for the other 32 weeks of the year (although they will never make that kind of money in any other entry level job) or b) budget accordingly until the next staffing season and then go out and get another job.

That's the nature of this business. You have to hustle for new jobs if you aren't on a steady show. You don't like that or you want to complain about it...go to another industry.

And one last point to your comment about most series getting canceled before becoming a hit...good point, guess who takes the multi-million dollar loss on those episodes. (Hint - it's not the writers who still got paid for all of their work). That's right, it's the studio, who footed the bill for producing the series and will never recoup the cost because you can sell 13 episodes of anything in syndication, dvd or anywhere else.

To give you an idea of the numbers...lets again assume the low end which for a single-camera comedy is about 1.8 million an episode x 12 episodes = 21.6 million plus a pilot (which is typically 3-4 million for a pilot).
So 21.6 plus 3 = 24.6 million dollars of a loss for the studio.

Yet the writers still got their full fees and don't have to give a dime back to the studio.

That's how the business works.

bob said...

unite - i should have clarified my internet point further. I do believe they should get paid for internet usage. But at a much lower rate. And I hang out with working writers because I'm a mid-level studio exec. I talk to my now out-of-work writer friends daily and as I said, 90 percent just want to get back to work. When you make 6-7 figures as they all do, another 5-10 grand a year from the internet is gravy.

And to Watcher - yes, people don't get picked up for the back 9 or even when their series get a second year. Do you know why??? Because the showrunner thought that the quality of their work wasn't up to the standard of the show so they get fired and hire another staff writer. Just like any other job, you're not good enough, you get fired.

Every writer that gets fired off of a staff is the decision of the showrunner, not the studio. As a studio exec, my job is to support the showrunner's creative vision. If he or she doesn't think someone is cutting it, they come to me or one of my counterparts and explain why they would like to get rid of someone and hire someone else.

This is a tough, cut-throat business where nobody hands you anything. From writers, actors and directors to studio execs and CEO's. People get to the top by busting ass. And if you're a low-level writer who got fired because you're not good enough you have two choices: 1.Keep writing, get better and more talented and you'll work again or 2. Move aside because their are thousands of people hoping you'll leave town so they can have their shot.

hollarback said...

Vance, it's not "a raise". It is a contract negotiation for an entire union, including healthcare and pension issues. It also is addressing tech advances that did not exist prior (internet delivery/reuse)which means that the union is not being compensated properly.

Please stop trying to dumb down the argument. While you are in the media industry, I doubt that intellectual property laws or copyright issues come into play in your personal work. I say this as you state that you are not a writer. Since you are in media, you could maybe compare this part of the debate to a patent. So in essence this would be a patented invention being used without compensating the inventor and passing off that theft of royalties as "promotional". Or even more easily, compare it to stealing a song/composed music without consent and not paying the writers/composers while charging an audience to hear said song.

The writers strike is legal as they have no contract. I assume that you are working under some sort of contract or legal agreement/job description? You mention actors being professional -SAG still has a current contract and cannot legally honor the WGA, so most are still reporting for work, but come next summer, they will strike as well. Probably Mr. Dep too. The writers are simply expressing their first amendment rights by marching at a struck company site/your workplace. Labor strikes are as American as apple pie and are what got todays workers their weekends, hourly pay, 8 hour days, sick leave, child labor laws, maternity leave and holidays off.

Why do you hate America Vance?

ildirector said...

Hey all, can we all get back to the Les Moonves thread here?

hollarback said...

Bob, this is not a meeting, this is a public site where even a dev ex is welcome. You don't speak for everyone; please stop being so dismissive. Those who are not part of the industry have just as much a right to comment as you do. The USE the product. Stop being so insular. I was going to use another word, but chose to keep it civil.

Unite said...

Bob-
Wait, I don't understand why writers should be compensated at a lower rate for internet usage. For one thing, when I watch actual television it's usually programs I have recorded on DVR - meaning I skip right through the commercials. Online I am forced to actually watch those same commercials. It seems as though online advertsing has a greater value than traditional TV advertising and will only increase in value as we bring more and more content to the internet.

Anyways - with that said - what do you think the writers should be compensated for internet usage? How should it be determined?

And to stay on topic - I think Les Moonves should start earning his keep at CBS and start writing episodes of CSI. I'm curious to see his creative side.

Thomas Cunningham said...

Bob, not a troll, etc.,

Let's take the 76 grand figure. Now factor in taxes. 10% to an agent, maybe another 10% if you have a manager. Now factor in the fact of the cost of living in LA.

If you're careful with your budgeting and living modestly you're getting by.

Oh, your show got cancelled. Now, you're streching that money even further. Getting by on your residuals. Oh, more and more reality shows, more and more people watching stuff on the internet and downloading? Your TV residuals dwindling and no compensation for the internet? Or Hey! Maybe 250 bucks! IF the studios don't feel like calling it "promotional" and then paying you nothing. Yeah, that's really greedy and unreasonable.

Some of you posters act like it's highway robbery that a writer might make more than a grip. Like writing that is used again and again to continue to generate income for studios should be worth no more than delivering pizzas?

The Strike IS NOT ABOUT GETTING MORE MONEY! It's about making sure that writers don't LOSE residuals as more content is distributed through the internet.

If you know writers that don't give a damn about the internet because they're losing more money over the strike, well they're pretty short-sighted because in a few years if the WGA took what the AMPTP is currently offering and they saw all their residuals gone, they'd care then.

I dunno if you people are actually shills (if so, it makes sense) or the strike has directly affected you and you decided to place the blame entirely on the writers for some reason. I honestly just don't get what the bitterness and animosity towards writers is about.

If you work in the industry and this is affecting you, well it's affecting writers too. You admonish writers to get another job or budget better, well the same could be said for any worker in the industry. Shows get cancelled, strikes happen, people get laid off, it's the nature of the business. Why begrudge writers for fighting for what's reasonable? Do you not think it's reasonable? Do you think what the AMPTP is offering is? Or is just that writers make more than BTL people so, they shouldn't ever demand more or, even demand they not be cheated out of what they already get when the playing field changes?

I'm trying and really I just don't see the justification of your animosity towards writers. I mean if ya just hate writers as a rule, fine but I'm not seeing the logic behind the intense animosity.

Carrie said...

And, lest we forget, the AMPTP companies do not want WGA to have jurisdiction over original content created for the web. That means the writer would be paid a flat fee for the work and never see any residuals from it.

Some people argue well that flat rate is the fair market value for the work, so what's the big deal. The big deal is the flat rate doesn't actually determine the market value of the work. It's an upfront cost of a script but the value of the script is actually determined over a long period of time and can only be determined by the eventual success or failure of the work. A residual system protects both the networks and studios from overpaying for scripts that may or may not succeed and protects the writer from underselling it.

Unlike other goods and services a scripts' fair market value isn't known at the time of sale. I hope that makes some sense.

bob said...

Hollarback,


My apologies, you're right, they are the consumer and should be heard. However, no one should have license to rant about the injustice of the system without knowing what the hell they're talking about.

Unite - good question, I'm so glad you brought this up because most writers don't understand the financial side of the argument so I'll explain it to you.

First of all, most TV viewers are not like yourself. DVR penetration is hovering around 20 percent of the country right now. Yes, it's growing but for now and probably the next 10-15 years the majority of the country will watch tv the old fashioned way...starting at 8pm/7pm central.

Second, networks can't charge advertisers the same rates that they charge for on-air spots. In fact, it's really not even close. A lot of the time, the ads you watch embedded in online shows is part of what's called "added value" for on-air advertisers.

Let me explain that last part in more detail. Let's say Proctor and Gamble buys 100 million dollars worth of advertsing on a network for the breadth of their products. To sweeten the deal for P & G, a network will say to them, look, if you put the majority of your ad dollars with us, we'll throw in some added value spots for free when we rerun the shows online.

The point is that spots on-line are nowhere near what on-air spots cost. Not even close. Therefore, residuals for shows rerun online should be as severely reduced as the amount of advertising revenue is. It's basically an apples to apples argument that the WGA is making when in reality the revenue generated is apples to oranges.

So until there are as many people watching first run episodes on line as there are on air networks can't charge advertisers the same rate. I do believe this will happen someday, but it's not next year or even 10 years from now...it's more like 30-50 when the technology is there and when GenY and younger no longer have use for their traditional TV that grandma and grandpa use.

I'm not in a position to determine what the fair amount is...lets just say I think it should be less than the $11,000K or so that the WGA is asking for and more than the $250 the AMPTP is offering.

And back to Les...30 million for a CEO, of course to most of us that kind of money is ridiculous. But compare the number of jobs CBS Corp creates (I'm guessing tens of thousands) versus the number of jobs your typical 1 million dollar a year writer provides (I'm guessing maybe 3-5 if you include nanny, housekeeper, assitant, etc.) then isn't Les the better value??

Also, there are a hell of a lot more 1 million dollar a year writers out there than 30 milliion dollar CEO's.

Thomas Cunningham said...

Addendum (to bring it back to topic):
Yeah, writers get fired if they're not doing a good job. And if they don't make more money for the studios (their investors) they can't demand more money than the minimum. As it is in almost every job.

So, uhh, why doesn't that apply to the moguls?

bob said...

thomas,

Since the people slamming me keep fixating on the 76K number, even though I have stated several times that that's the entry level pay for a staff writer, let me address your incorrect comments.

Everyone pays taxes...so please don't cry about something that everyone has to do....even the 19,000 a year PA has to pay taxes so I don't see your point.

Also, just to educate you, if you have an agent AND a manager as a staff writer you're an idiot. The majority of writers even at the highest levels don't have both. Take my advice if you are a low or mid-level writer...you don't need a manager. And if you do then you're a sucker and deserve to lose that extra percentage.

Re agents 10%: the majority of agencies either don't commission staff writers or they defer those commissions until the writer is making enough money to pay them.

And please stop whining about the cost of living out here. It's expensive, it sucks, but things like cost of living is the same for everyone out here. From the 10 dollar an hour barista to the million dollar writer or exec.

Way to devalue the service a grip does btw...I'm sure all the BTL's reading appreciate it.

It's been real people, hope everyone learned something. I'm out.

bob said...

addendum to thomas...

jesus man, do the bare minimum of research before making a post.

Moguls get fired all the time. They don't perform, they get canned.

Carrie said...

Bob, it's true that everyone pays taxes and we all accept the cost of living in LA, and at the same time looking at those things does change the value of the 76K. 76K in LA does not have the same value as 76K in Austin, TX. So, those things do actually color the numbers that your talking about, because any discussion of pay isn't strictly about dollar amount. It's also about dollar value. And personally I don't care that Les Moonves makes 30 million. I care that he makes 30 million while saying that studios and networks can't afford to increase DVD residuals when home video profits have INCREASED since the 1980's.

JimBob said...

"Moguls get fired all the time. They don't perform, they get canned."

Yeah, but it's a little different from the rest of us being canned. Golden 'chutes and all that. Look at what happens if Les M. gets "canned." His salary goes up, he just doesn't get to use the executive wash room. Boo-hoo.

hollarback said...

I believe the point, 300 comments ago before we all got sidetracked into other debates, was that apparently the studios have money to pay the people they want to pay, so they can't realistically cry poor.

Which is true. So where is the money for the people who create the product? Regardless of the job people think Les or the WGA or SAG are doing - the money is coming in, it's there, so pay the people properly. Hell, Henry Ford would. You cannot pay a CEO so much more than any other worker or even any other CEO and then cry poor. And you cannot have a published pay rate like that and walk away from negotiations leaving thousands jobless at Christmas time and not look like the Grinch.

Come to think of it, did the networks stiff Suess on the Grinch too? That would be the Grinchiest move of all.

Thomas Cunningham said...

Bob,

Carrie already clarified my point about living in LA. Of course it applies to everyone living here but there IS the value of that compared to somewhere else where a figure like 76k sounds better than it is. Also, unlike other professions if you want to be a professional writer especially for TV with a few exceptions you have no choice but to live in NY or LA.

Okay fine most TV staff writers don't have managers. And fine everyone pays taxes. Still the point was without residuals that 76 isn't all that much even if you're lucky enough to get that.

I wasn't AT ALL trying to insult any BTL workers. Their work is valuable and essential and I'd NEVER suggest otherwise. But it's different kind of work than writing . It's valuable while it's being performed whereas writing's value is determined at least in part by its success over time. So, I wasn't dissing BTL people. If they were getting a shitty deal, I'd be picketing beside them supporting them. I don't think suggesting that the writer should earn more than the grip devalues the work that a grip does. Saying a pro athlete should make more than a teacher doesn't imply that what teachers do isn't extremely valuable, merely that if the efforts of the pro athlete make millions for other people then they should receive a reasonable percentage of that. If you wanna argue that the world is a messed up place because of that, fine. But that's not the athlete's fault.

And Bob? No need for the hostility, dude. I was only trying to understand where you were coming from not win the argument. And I still don't ultimately get your point. Is it writers should quit and get other jobs if they don't feel they're being fairly compensated rather than strike? That their shouldn't be a writers union? Writers are overpaid? All the above?

You said the writers should get "less than the $11,000K or so that the WGA is asking for and more than the $250 the AMPTP is offering."
Okay, fair enough but to get to that middle ground the AMPTP would have to be at the table negotiating and they're not.

Vance said...

Resonding to Hollarback…

You seem to fall under the category of “a little information is dangerous”.

Usually, when someone seeks to get more money, they are looking for a raise. Let’s not fiddle with semantics. And as an employee in the media business, intellectual property laws and copyright come into my personal work space every day. I’ve even created a television series- albeit years ago. Many people, including the companies have a hard time paying more for the same amount of work because of the “Internet” argument. The shows are still being broadcast to the same amount of eyeballs- it’s just that some people have ceased watching on television and prefer the convenience of the Internet. Why should companies pay more because technology has made it easier for younger folks to see the same shows outside the traditional “fixed-time on television” model?

Secondly, if you work for a company and create something which is patented, the company owns the patent and resulting royalties. If you work for yourself and create something for which you are *not* paid, you own the patent and royalties subject to you being able to bring the item to market and effectively exploit it and protect it. In your example of the songwriter, are you aware that most writers are not paid by companies to come up with songs? They do it on their own, and if they are lucky, they may have a preeisting deal with a record label to take the record out and promote it for them in exchange for a big piece of the action.

I am well aware that the writers have the legal right to strike. I just wish they would stop whining to the press about how they they aren’t being paid for their work. I don’t ever recall Les Moonves complaining about how much Sumner Redstone makes- and he was able to get a pretty rich deal for himself.

Emily said...

"But compare the number of jobs CBS Corp creates (I'm guessing tens of thousands) versus the number of jobs your typical 1 million dollar a year writer provides (I'm guessing maybe 3-5 if you include nanny, housekeeper, assitant, etc.) then isn't Les the better value??"

Really? If Les went on strike, how many people would be out of work?

Smarter said...

lorelei -

The other unions health and benefits are not calculated from writers residuals. Why would that happen? The WGA, just out of the graciousness of their hearts, give their residuals to the other unions? Writers get their residuals and then separately the studios pay into the health fund for the other unions. They are not connected. And unemployment pays the bills?

Stephanie -
All people in production have to look for work all the time. You think it is just writers who lose a job when a show goes down? There are about one hundred people who lose their jobs. And most are making a lot less, and I mean a lot less, than a writer on a show is making.

Bob -
You are almost right with numbers, but I would say that they are HIGHER than what you said. Most Co-Execs that I know are making 25K - 40K an episode while ExecProd are making more like 40K - 60K, and this was on a show that was only 2 years old.

And to all of you writers out there: If there are not enough writing jobs out there for you, go find another job. That is what every American has to do. They don't whine and complain that they can't have the job they want, they go find a job to pay their bills and survive. That is capitalist America for you.

S said...

You guys want to complain about pay inequality? Do any of you know how much a Production Assistant makes on a show? They make about $8.00 an hour, and most work without getting benefits. This is the real outrage. Production Assistants are not allowed to organize and everyone sees them as expendable. They, like everyone else who works on a show, have to search for another job when theirs ends.

Do you know what happens when an above the line person asks for more money? They will drop a Production Assistant from the payroll. I've seen it happen.

This fight will not help one single Production Assistant. It will only hurt them.

VrySmllPig said...

Smarter: You and Bob are both comparing apples to oranges. "Average working television staff writer on an established show," which is what you guys are talking about, is completely different from "average WGA member." Yes, many writers out there make a lot of money. Many more don't. The WGA is obligated to fight for all of them as well.

And I wish people would stop saying that writers are "whining" about how hard they have it. No one is whining. You shouldn't feel sorry for anyone who's out here writing (or acting, or whatever). They made a choice to do this; they do it because they want to. It's just that those who are barely getting by are tired of being called spoiled millionaires by people who have no idea of their real situations. Are there, in fact, spoiled millionaires in the WGA? Sure. But they are by far in the minority.

And yes, some writers do get other jobs to help pay the bills. They do whatever they have to do. But as in any specialized profession: doctors, teachers, what have you, they want to be doing the job they love, and when they are able to do so, they should make a fair wage.

And, S, yes, production assistants have a crappy deal. I totally agree. But that is a different argument. Are you saying that anyone who makes more than a PA, or has a better situation in any way, should just bend over and allow their bosses to take advantage of them? Your complaint is valid but is more about PA working conditions than WGA strategy. Any union, if unable to attain a fair deal, will take the actions necessary to protect its members. The fallout is very sad...but we should be blaming Big Media (which treats almost everyone like crap), not the writers.

Captain Obvious said...

Writers to Les: Are you kidding me? You want to give us less for a year of internet reuse than you make in 2 minutes at CBS? For shame.


Oh and the "The average working WGA writer makes more than a SURGEON." thing on the AMPTP site is real, real cute. I suppose we need to post our own "The average media magnate makes more than ALL PRESIDENTS OF THE UNITED STATES COMBINED." here in rebuttal then, eh?

VrySmllPig said...

It's been said before and it should be said again: put Tom Cruise and 99 unemployed actors in a room, and the "average" actor there makes a million dollars a year.

S said...

Vrysmllpig-

My point is that the WGA is trying to make this strike about fighting Corporate America, but it is hard to make that argument when some people are making just over minimum wage with no benefits. I'm not saying that it is the WGA's fault that production assistants make this wage, it is just that the WGA doesn't have much of an argument when it comes to pay inequality.

Production Assistants are not, and cannot organize. If they did try to organize they would be fired. And do you know what the writers on the show would say? "Get another damn minion in here to get my lunch NOW!!!" And because the studios have to pay the writer (and actor and director) more and more money, they tell that kid who just got into town that he/she will have to work 80 hours a week and only get paid for 40 hours. As long as the writer has his/her lunch, the dry cleaning picked up, their kids homework delivered to the school, etc., they don't care anything about that Production Assistant.

Carrie said...

S we all know what's it like for PA's, because with rare exception, people who work in production, including writers, started as PA's. It sucks. It isn't fair, and it doesn't take away from the fact that writers have a legitimate beef in this strike. If that PA has any hope that he/she will move up the ladder and earn any type of livelihood their future lies with the efforts of the unions representing the various positions in media production. WGA saying they're fighting for the future isn't just a nice tag line.

Smarter said...

vrysmllpig: If a majority of WGA members cannot find work, then why are they depending on writing as their career? I understand that the WGA wants as many members as possible for union dues, but how many writers are ever working and getting paid at any given time? If you move to Hollywood to become a writer, you have to realize that you most likely will not find work and will not make it. Just because you wrote one episode on a sitcom 10 years ago doesn't mean that writing will be your career. And it also doesn't mean that you should just be able to depend on that one episode for the rest of your life. I know the strike is for the WGA as a whole, but who does the strike benefit if they end up "winning?" It will only benefit a WORKING writer, not a non-working writer (and by this I mean writers who are working at any given time), because you only get paid residuals if you work: aka get paid for writing. So the salaries of working writers does contribute to this debate. It would be great if all 12,000 WGA members could work, but that is unrealistic.

As for my earlier statement of millions in residuals for some writers, I do concede that it is a very nominal few, but that is a realistic number. That is what all of you writers out there are trying to achieve: that one hit that lasts forever and makes you millions and millions for years to come. And that is why you guys are out there fighting, because you have that dream of having that hit. I say more power to you, but just be honest about it.

VrySmllPig said...

Smarter: When I started in this business, I wrote a script for a hit HBO show. The script was bought, produced, and aired. I made $30k, which is the standard script fee ($17k after taxes). That was all I made that year. I got a residuals check the next year for $5k, and as you can imagine it made a huge difference for me. No, I can't depend on that one script to support me for the rest of my life. I have to keep hustling and working (I now am one of the lucky ones with a steady job). But the residuals did sustain me through a tough time. It wasn't a lot, but it made it possible for me to continue striving in the industry.

The thing is, there are a lot of writers who make a living selling a few scripts a year. They are not on staff and they aren't rich. And yes, of course the richer writers probably do get the most residual money (since they probably have more shows out there)...but they aren't the ones who really need it. Their deals pay them far more. They could kiss residuals goodbye and still be fine. The writers who really depend on residuals are the ones who aren't millionaires (and again, I would submit they are by far the majority of guild members).

As I said before, writers DO have to get other jobs to support themselves. Or I guess they could go on unemployment when things are tough. But isn't it better for society if, when I'm unemployed, I get some financial assistance as a percentage of profits that I helped create? Yes it's probably true that there are people out here chasing a dream of mega-wealth and stardom (though I would submit that if that's your goal, you should probably become an actor) but a lot of us just want to keep working, doing what we love.

S - Yes, some people are getting screwed by Corporate America even worse than we are. But that doesn't mean our fight isn't just. (And as Carrie says: PA's put up with these conditions because they know it's one of their best chances to advance in the industry. Most writers I know started out as assistants.) It does make me sad that you think I (or most writers) don't care about the assistants on our shows. I'm sure there are the few who don't (just as there are in any industry). But I and the writers I know are very close to our assistants. We do our best to help them up in the business and at the moment many of us are giving them financial assistance to try to help them through the strike. Some of them are picketing with us. Their deal is crappy but they are here for the same reason we are: they love the business and want to get a foot in the door and make a living in this town.

hollarback said...

Smarter "...That is what all of you writers out there are trying to achieve: that one hit that lasts forever and makes you millions and millions for years to come...."

Actually that is what the networks/studios are hoping to achieve, the writers just want a percentage of their work upon reuse, whatever the medium of delivery