I’m going to weigh in on something that I feel strongly about.
But before I do, I want to point something out that should be obvious, but maybe isn’t: every story that Fabiani and Lehane are shilling for the AMPTP right now has the words “reality and animation” in the first couple of sentences. It’s there for a reason; they know this is a wedge issue for writers, and they want to create dissent within the membership to weaken us.
But in some ways they’re doing us a favor. Because we needed to have this conversation sooner or later, as a membership, so even though I’d prefer we had it together where we could hash things out privately, it doesn’t look like that’s what’s going to happen.
And for clarity -- because it's being spun that these are "new demands" we're putting on the table -- reality and animation have been on the table since this negotiation began.
So here goes:
I’ve been a WGA member for 14 years. I remember screaming bloody murder – twice – on the dvd situation; but that was in the old days, when dvd pay rate was considered “a screenwriter issue.” It turned out, obviously, to affect far more writers than just that group.
Now there are some voices in the blogosphere and on the picket lines saying that reality and animation should be nothing more than a bargaining chip -- “if the strike is about the internet, we should quit talking about anything else.”
Leaving aside the fact that the last time the congloms convinced us to give something up, we got pretty much nothing in return, I think we should consider a few things before we all go rushing to jettison reality and animation writers in search of our own internet deal.
We’ve gotten a huge leg up from other unions and organizations in this fight. Teamsters have lost their jobs standing up for us; SEIU and Change to Win and countless others have brought their support to bear in ways that have made the WGA part of a larger community. Thanks to other unions, the firm of Fabiani & Lehane have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars for trying to break us, and will continue to lose more.
I’m not sure how we can turn around to those working men and women and say that we can’t be bothered to include other writers in reality and animation because somehow our interests outweigh theirs. Dvds are income that we all wish we had, and it's terrible to have lost both the income and the bargaining chip. But people’s health, pension and working conditions are not, and never should be, something we are willing to throw aside for ourselves.
I’ve heard some people saying that reality writers are “scabbing” and shouldn’t be allowed into the union. That’s a bizarre argument – their job isn’t covered by the WGA, if they walk out in a sympathy strike, they’ll all be fired. They want to join the WGA.
And as for the argument that we should reject them from membership because they’re providing content during the strike – that's because they're not covered by the union. If they were, then tv would be completely shut down, and we would be in a much stronger place strategically than we are now. Which argues for including them, so we never find ourselves in this place again in the future.
Then there’s animation. I’ve been working with a cutting-edge director for several years now on various projects, and since I’ve signed NDA’s on all of them, I can’t talk about any specifics. But I CAN say that the word “animation” is misleading. In the very near future – like the next two years – photoreal CG will become a way to make movies like 300 and Transformers and when that happens, many more big (and small) movies will cease to be WGA covered films.
That means no health, no pensions, no residuals, no separated rights (just ask Rossio & Elliot how much they made off creating Captain Jack Sparrow in the Pirates of the Carribean films – if those movies had been animated, they wouldn’t have seen a dime of that money) and, frankly, no respect.
This is already happening; Robert Zemeckis’ company, Imagemovers, has a deal with Disney to create CG films (like Beowulf) that expressly and explicitly requires that they not use WGA writers. And the technology on that film is far, far behind what will be rolling out soon.
Animation may look like a small niche issue now. It’s not. Reality may look like something that doesn’t matter to most of us. It’s not.
Which brings us right back to dvds. This blog is about “fighting for the future.” And if the dvd fiasco should have taught us one thing, it’s that no one can ever predict what shape the future will take.
Put in the most bald terms, even if you don’t care about those “other” writers and think all this is about someone else – it’s not.
The only thing that makes us strong is “all writing covered.” Yes, it’s a struggle. Yes, it’s difficult. But last time I looked we were already knee-deep in this fight. If we give those things away now, we don’t win. All that happens is we weaken ourselves, now and in the future.
It's still about the internet. It's still about the future. And it should be about writers -- all of us.
Posted by Laeta Kalogridis at 12/11/2007 06:42:00 PM