John Sayles Talks Labor, Movies and the Strike

Over at HuffPo, writer-director John Sayles gives an interview with Bob Eisele about unions, the entertainment industry, the strike and how the changing world of Internet delivery is intersecting with the consolidation of huge corporations:
What we have today are fewer unionized workers, especially if you don't count public service workers, than you've ever had before. And the movie industry is one of the most unionized industries left. I feel a lot of what this strike is about is corporations looking at their entertainment division and saying, "What's the deal here? As the paradigm changes, can't we turn this into Wal-Mart?"
Read the whole conversation here.


Not An said...

Wish I had a nickel (or even a penny) for every time the word paradigm has been used in the last three months.

I respect Mr. Sayles for his talent and for the way he has upheld his values.

Some points:

I realize that John Ridley also posts on HuffPo but the vast majority of the WGA articles on it seem to be pro-WGA; does that strike anyone odd in light of the fact that the site is built to a large degree on work for which there is no pay?

Mr. Sayles makes many excellent points but they stand without overreaching. The SEIU I believe can legitimately claim that many industries are trying to keep (or turn) their workers into WalMartlike employees; however, the WGA has many, many members who will never, ever be anywhere close to WalMart workers. Yes, I know that the median wage is $62k but that is because a lot of members make very little. In fact, I am often struck by how cleverly the high wage earners have seemed to align their causes with the low wage earners in the union. Reminds me of why we will never do away with the inheritance tax: only a small, small percentage of people will ever make enough to pay it but as long as there is some hope of making enough to have to pay it, then people don't want it to be there. It's like the interim contracts, high end writers who had contacts or previously in line scripts almost immediately went back to work and those low on the totem pole were kept in line because they now once again had some place to sent their spec scripts.

Every organization in some way has masters, the AMPTP, the WGA and eventually, yes, new media will spawn companies that will try to maximize profit in any way possible, some of those who do so may even be sainted writers. In a truly free marketplace talent will out.

My heart is with those who had jobs, walked on them as loyal union workers and are staying on the line. They deserve our kudos, our heartfelt thanks, they are the ones who will win this battle not rock star negotiators or seemingly friendly so-called "journalists" who amp up their names with their breathless exclusives and calls to constantly refresh for the latest news.

I'm deaf to any names you may call me.

Respect to all in the quantity which they deserve it.

Captain Obvious said...

Great article. I really like the conversational nature of it.

"There are writers whose first big break was just about to happen, and then the strike hit. So it's always tough. But the WGA has to say, 'Look guys, we're not giving up. We're asking for something very reasonable, which is ...when you figure out with new media how to make a dollar, we want two-and-a-half cents. And you still get to do the accounting.' So it's not really going to be two-and-a-half cents. But that's it."

I'm one of those writers that was on the cusp of breaking out when the strike hit. That changes nothing for me. As you can see, I'm still here fighting, and since only a fair deal will do; I'm more than willing to keep fighting until a fair deal is reached.

Captain Obvious said...

...and to add to that.

Since I write on spec, you don't own me AMPTP. Whether you make a fair deal with the WGA or no, you will still have to make a fair deal with me if you want my content; plus my bonuses.

If you're not willing to do that, I'm sure there's someone out there that will. Boom! You've now brought about a self-fulfilling prophecy of your worries about the future of entertainment. You've driven us elsewhere.

Good job. Be sure to collect your bonus on the way to the garbage heap.

It doesn't have to be that way. The future has not been written yet. Notice the importance of writing in that statement. It's important. We all know this. It has its place in the grand scheme of things.

Each day that passes a more fervent death knell is sounded for the industry as you know it, AMPTP. You may think you hold the reins when it comes to how the lump of clay you leave in your wake will be reshaped, but at the same time each day that passes your grasp on the industry grows ever-weaker.

Let's hope you understand this and come to the table with serious proposals. Let's hope this is why you're idly throwing around the notion the strike will be over in 2 weeks, Zucker.

Let's hope you feel whatever you've gained from moving away from a locked pilot schedule makes you feel more generous and more willing to touch far closer to our $150 million peg; and understand the logic behind many of our concerns about where the existing AMPTP proposals are trying to take the industry and how much of a slap in the face that is to the entire body of creative individuals, everywhere.

If this is the case welcome back to reality. If you intend to continue to fight dirty don't be surprised if the rug gets pulled out from under you at some point.

Luzid said...

Captain Obvious, if you walk the line at FOX I need to find you and shake your hand for your integrity.

Many about-to-break writers might be feeling tremendous (selfish) anger at the timing of the strike, but not you.

Always good to see people standing up for what's right even when it's inconvenient in the short term (which describes most posters here).


Bill said...

Luzid said...
"even when it's inconvenient in the short term"

Inconvenient in the short term to lose a house and watch your credit destroyed and the industry you work in brought to near ruin?

While many of you writers work elsewhere for a living and freelance scripts in the hopes of having one picked up, the reat of us BTL are full time and depend on the industry for our living.

While I have always backed any labor cause I must tell you that I feel insulted and betrayed when I hear things like "inconvenient", or "I won't accept anything less than 5 times the current offer".

Yes the strike will probably end with a face saving offer as most strikes do - so what? A fair deal never involves a big apology by the company; just a deal OK?

BTL 399

Captain Obvious said...

I appreciate the sentiment, Luzid, but I'm doing my writing from "flyover country" and this leaves little opportunity for line-walking. Line-dancing, maybe...

So I let my fingers do the walking, both here and elsewhere.

I'm more than happy to accept a virtual handshake, or a rain check.

Sometimes it is important to make short-term sacrifices while focusing on long-term objectives. Some people fail to grasp the importance of this. These individuals tend to be rather impulsive, and they often obsess about instant gratification.

Conventional wisdom, common sense, pure logic, wisdom, analysis, what-have-you dictates that we hold out for nothing less than a fair deal. Any voice that asks for anything less is not the voice of reason. Any voice that asks us to accept a deal that has not yet been explicitly defined is the voice of pure lunacy.

I can understand, to a degree, how some new writers may be miffed or even angered by the strike derailing their big chance; especially if the issues of the strike do not affect them directly. Everyone should understand, though, that we cannot hold this fraternal union bond and care only for ourselves. It's all for one, and one for all around here. The very word "union" cannot be used to describe anything less than this. We're joined for a common cause: To wrest appropriate and just terms of engagement from difficult and often rapacious business interests.

If one cares little for this strike because it fails to affect them directly, how can they then expect others to care for their particular needs in the future?

While the vast majority of the strike's issues do not affect me, Luzid, and progress on my work was halted because of it; I do feel lucky that it happened before I finalized any deals. Due to the nature of my work I will be greatly affected by new media residual rates and the surrounding issues. I realized that, had I signed anything before this strike occurred, I likely would've sacrificed the lion's share of future revenues from my work as it migrated into new media venues.

...just another example of long-term issues trumping the short-term sacrifices. It's true for every member of the creative community; even if you don't believe you have a horse in this race. The tenor of this strike will come back to haunt you if the fat lady fails to sing.

Luzid said...

Al, I'd ask you not to assume too much about who I am or how cavalier I am about the suffering of BTL folk. I do feel for your economic issues - some of which have more to do with the current recession (caused by decades of anti-worker policies supported by both Dems and Repubs) than the WGA's insistence that a fair deal include not slashing tv residuals 90%.

CO, very important words. I wonder about the issue of solidarity, though, because while BTL folk are not in the union they are suffering more than the AMPTP - is there a way that the *entire* community, from idea creators to grips, will ever be able to support each other financially in a situation like this?

Would that make the strike stronger, and lead to better results for all?

Just been wondering about that one lately. (And you definitely get a rain check for lunch when you get out to L.A. Ham n Cheese or PBJ, your choice!)

Captain Obvious said...

By the time I make it out there, Luzid my friend, lunch will be on me; and your suggestions will definitely not be among the choices.

...although I may reserve a PB&J for future snack purposes.