The Last Act

This was contributed by Thania St. John, WGA member since 1988.

We did it. We accomplished the impossible. We got the AMPTP back to the table and finally received a counter-proposal to the one we made them so many months ago. The deal they made with the DGA is the first true sign of negotiation they’ve shown since we started asking them to do so back in July.
That, my friends, is a great victory. And it was slowly but surely (and sometimes painfully) won by every step that each one of us took outside our studio gates for the past 11 weeks.

While we have been solidly and steadily holding the line, the AMPTP has been trying to wait us out, wear us down. But they blinked first. They desperately need a deal or else their corporate bottom lines are going to start plummeting. No new TV. No new movies. What will feed their strategically planned, very expensive pipeline?

I certainly know the realities facing everyone who works in this town. We all have our own private bottom lines. Every night in bed I lay calculating how long I can last before my family’s stock hits rock bottom. But then I realize that the CEO’s are doing the same thing, not worrying about their own families of course, because of the massive personal wealth they have amassed, but worrying about their corporation’s losses. And wondering what their shareholders will do to them if they tank their own golden gooses (not to be confused with tanking the Golden Globes, which really worked out well for them, huh?) And that lets me sleep another night, knowing for once we’ve evened the playing field with these guys, just for a moment in time.

But it ain’t over yet, folks.

As a writer said to me yesterday, we’re at the end of Act Two now. (Or the end of Act Forty-Seven if you work in TV nowadays.) The external force has hit the immovable object. Substitute you’re favorite genre scenario: asteroid/earth, playboy/virgin, Mr. Smith/Washington. The entity that vowed never to give an inch has become open to change. So now it’s time to move toward a resolution.

In our case that means the start of strong bargaining. We must use the strength and the tools we have gathered up until now to reach the goals we set for ourselves in Act One. A fair deal in New Media. Nothing more, nothing less. Now it’s all about the definition of fair. The DGA and the AMPTP have given us one definition, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for us. Would any of us have our protagonists settle for less than what they knew was right when there was still a whole act left to be written?

It’s often said that negotiations are won or lost in the final stretch. Now is when we need to find the inner strength to go the distance. We’re all tired. And worried. And broke. But every member of the WGA owes it to themselves and to our leaders who will be going back to that negotiation table to see this through.

Personally, that means I’m putting myself back into the mind-set I was in those first few weeks of November, when I was younger and stronger. When I realized that most of the world was honking for me because I stood up to the immovable object and asked it to consider a change. And I’ll never let myself forget that my own actions really accomplished something.

The last act is always the toughest, but hopefully, also the shortest.


Jake Hollywood said...

I think for a lot of us on the line that the DGA deal would seem to mean that victory (a fair and reasonable contract) is just minutes away.

And it's easy to think that is true.

It isn't.

The enemy often fights hardest when you get nearer to their homeland. This war between the AMPTP and the WGA isn't as close to be over as The Last Act would imply. In fact, I think the AMPTP is going to dig in even harder and fight even stronger to make sure there's no improvement (which it surely needs) to the deal with the DGA.

Is there room for optimism? Maybe. But this is no time to get careless or let our guard down. No, that's how wars are lost. And make no mistake, the WGA and AMPTP are still at war. And they will fight harder to beat us down more than ever before, we're almost in their front door. The WGA membership has to stand tough and remember just how tricky and devious this enemy can be.

So, come tomorrow (or today at NBC for some of us) it's back to the front lines. And that's where we have to stay until a true victory is won: a fair deal.

Charlie said...

Dear god. Are you delusional? Is this the same delusional euphoria that made you believe that the tactics taken by the WGA leadership was working?

Newsflash: THE DGA GOT THE AMPTP BACK TO THE TABLE. If they had not sat down and hammered out a deal in 5 days (something you guys couldn't do in SIX months), you'd all be still scratching your heads, walking the picket lines and crying "what next? Come back to the table! Wah, waaaah, waaah."

THE DGA. THE DGA. THE DGA DID IT. Not YOU. You're just benefiting from the intelligence, maturity and tactical genius of the DGA (which your own leadership lacks to an embarrassing degree).

T said...

Hold the line folks. Discussion, yes. Whining, no. Stay tough. Let's win this thing.

scribeguy said...

Well said, Thania. See you on the picket line.

troll-proof said...

Dear United Hollywood, Not sure how to contact you otherwise. Please post a link to today's article in the LA Times re: Tivo bridges internet and your TV.


Part of the avalanche of developments which reveals the AMPTP's lies about the "unknown" future. Also good news for entrepreneuring creatives who wish to distribute content directly.

United Hollywood said...

Charlie --

Even the DGA admits that the WGA gave them the leverage they needed to get things (like distributor's gross and a higher EST rate and Internet-first jurisdiction above $15K/minute prod cost) that they weren't even going to ask for. They've said this privately over and over, to WGA members and to their own members. The struggle that they had in their "informal" talks to even get New Media on the table only succeeded because the WGA gave them a club to bash the companies with, and they used it. Their strength and smarts are real, but they don't exist in a vacuum, and trying to pretend that the DGA was negotiating as if the strike wasn't happening and didn't have an effect on what they could get is ill-informed and naive.

That said, I can see how it makes a good soundbyte.

Caitlin said...

I'm pretty sure you've been told this before and are just completely ignoring it so you don't have to admit you're wrong, charlie, but the AMPTP went back to the table with the DGA as part of their strategy. From the start they were planning to go to directors over writers, thinking they'd get a quick victory there and hold it over the WGA. But they didn't. The WGA, DGA, and SAG all together stood against the AMPTP and the congloms weren't expecting it. Much as I've complained about many elements of how this strike has been carried out and how long it's lasted, you can't blame good DGA negotations on the WGA.

I'm hoping against hope that we're on the verge of final jeopardy here. It's time, as this says so well, to stay strategic and level-headed, but also to, if not let go of the (very rational) anger towards the execs, at least withold it enough in the bargaining room to negotate calmly, fairly, and with an eye towards getting everyone back to work. This doesn't mean there will absolutely be a good contract soon- we can't assume there will be or we'll lose our leverage. But it means there can be, should be a resolution within reach in the hopefully very near future, so long as we focus on staying strong but also getting this done.

kimmy2007 said...

I agree with charlie, the DGA did get the WGA back to the table, if its was'nt for them there would be no back channel talks at all,So why does the WGA think it was the fact that they made the AMPTP desperate? They made themselves see the light finally, hopefully it won't take another 11weeks to get a deal done, hey the DGA did it in five maybe they can do it in lets say less? I can see at least a little bit of hope in the coming days or weeks, but do not mess with the Oscars , no one needs another press conference.

jimmy said...

charlie - if the DGA wasn't waiting in the wings to make a deal, this strike would have been over long ago.

why? because the AMPTP would not have had another union more likely to take a deal they like, and they would have been forced to deal with the WGA.

isn't it obvious that this was the plan all along? paint the wga as unreasonable, get the directors to make a deal fast, then force the writers to make the same deal.

The DGA, the DGA, the DGA deal doesn't really matter, though. They don't negotiate for writers.

And these are the exact same geniuses that took the home video residual 22 years ago. Pardon the writers if they don't genuflect to the DGA deal.

It's a step forward. A move toward a resolution. There are some real groundbreaking aspects of it. And some real stinkers. And if the DGA members are happy with the deal and approve it, more power to them.

Doesn't mean the writers can't take some time to improve it.

Bill said...

Yes the WGA might be the tip of the spear and helped give the DGA leverage, but who really cares? If prolonging the strike it is about an ego stroke or pride then I for one don't want to have to pay for waiting for the AMPTP to give the WGA the pat on the back they seem to be waiting for. I see lots of posts here that seem to be written with the sole purpose of poisoning any chance of dealing with the AMPTP, what good can come of this? Why not just wait and see what your leaders have to say about what went on in the informal talks - or have you lost faith in them too?

BTL 399

Not An said...

First, J Hollywood - I'm in there for the long haul but damn those macho, crotch grabbing Sun Tzu like comments (the enemey often fights hardest...) are so lame, leave them for soldiers in Iraq or striking coal miners who can have their kneecaps broken not just their pencils.

Troll-proof -

Interesting article(although almost an advertorial for TiVo) and I certainly think all writers and other producers of content should be exploring these options - that being said -

I currently download things like Southpark and run on my big screen - $1.05 a hit - and that price is for a known quantity. There will be a couple of break through unknowns who will become rich doing this sort of thing - however, people don't want to pay even a dollar unless they know they are getting something worthwhile. I know the strike vids have been getting a lot of play but they are free and when they start having a price there will be fewer views and more people figuring out how to bootleg them.

Going to new media has costs: start up costs, production costs, advertising costs, bandwidth costs and if you think splitting online advertising bucks with some host is going to make you rich ask people with blogs how much money they make - some a whole bunch, most not enough to cover the cost of the blog. Plus, look a Quarterlife, the whole idea of the online presences apparently was to get a deal.

Yes, things are going to change but hey, Andy Hardy, people aren't going to pay to see a show you put on in your aunt's barn. People download Lost and Hannah Montana and funny bits with Will Ferrell, the rest of the stuff is just like going to a multiplex, why buy a ticket if you can sneak into a second show for free? I don't steal content, I don't buy bootlegs, I don't sneak into movies (no, you're not just screwing the studio, you are also screwing everyone who had a part in making the movie) but a lot of people do.

Have a good day - respect to all.

PJ said...

End of Act 2?

I wish, more like end of Act 1.

It seems to me we are at the beginning of Act 2 and it will last a long time, probably well into the 2nd quarter (early summer). But the sacrifices we take now will be worth the wait.

Just saying... because we need to stay strong, stay united and remember our SAG Brothers and Sisters are waiting for us and with us.

Brian said...

A lot of the comments on the discussion boards remind me of my younger years. Like High School Rivalries. " We're Great - you stink!"

It is unproductive and solves nothing. There are two very distinct groups of people in town - Those who exclusively derive their money in this business from paychecks ( no show- no pay) and those who Derive it from paychecks, sales and residuals.

If you don't depend on residuals as part of your income - It can be very hard to understand what the fuss is about. When we take a job BTL and our job ends - there is a very good chance we can be working on another job tomorrow. It doesn't work that way for most writers, actors and directors. There is a lot of down time and between those jobs, residuals help to make those times livable. And when you look at it - take the Superstars out of your mind - look to the average Staff writer and day player actor -They are the majority of the people affected and they make the same or less than most BTL folks who are working steady.

To the occasional rant that I've seen " If you don't like it get a real job" I say - this is a freelance business. This town has been very busy , so for many, it appears that it is a "regular job" , but it's not. Having come from the business in the midwest - Being off two, three four months or more between gigs is more the rule than the exception. And while it is hard, I think coming from a slower production environment makes you understand and prepare for this more.

But, what keeps people in it there is the fact that because of the gains that unions have made for people working in the industry - It is still a desirable business to be in. And the battles that were fought to get those gains a long time ago - are the result of people thinking long term and dealing with short term discomfort.

We are at a crossroads in the industry again. Much bigger than the advent of Television and Home Video. And in a time where technological advances are made in months - not decades. And this is the moment where a fair deal needs to be made. No one is going to benefit or be ready to strike again in three years if we get it wrong. And then any possible correction will be lost forever and to the detriment of all the unions in town.

No one wants to be out of work. There is progress, finally. But, if the WGA takes a deal just to end the strike, without making every effort to secure a fair deal that will help the entire industry grow in the long run - it will be a double loss. We will have lost the present day income of the last few months - and the future security for all the employees of this industry.

You can scream and yell that i wish this strike never happened - but it did. And all the ranting will not make that go away. Where we should be now is at the place were we look at what "is" (There is a writers strike going on) and figure out how to best go forward to the most beneficial resolution ( A fair deal for all involved) accepting what the reality of the situation.

I Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

I hope a fair resolution happens soon. But I am preparing myself mentally for it taking a little bit more time to finally resolve this.

I would rather see a fair deal in six weeks than a bad deal in six days.

dp said...

The DGA wouldn't have gotten the same deal if there was no WGA strike. Maybe, maybe not, no one will absolutely know for sure.

The AMPTP strategy was to deal with the DGA first. Yes, that is apparently their strategy during the strike.

The DGA went into informal talks 6 months before their contract was expired. The way they always do. The way every other union does before a contract negotiation. We do this in part because that is the way the AMPTP likes to negotiate and because everyone wants to avert a strike. Sure, you can say "why does the AMPTP get to make the negotiating rules". Well, when the amptp starts driving to the WGA to negotiate and not the other way around then I guess you can pick what's for dinner.

The point that everyone is forgetting is: Why didn't the WGA want to engage in informal talks in 2006 when they were asked to do so by the AMPTP? Was a walkout necessary? Could the strike been averted? Was the step up in reality development and production on every level increased after the WGA refusal to engage in 2006?

This is something we should not forget. Just like we shouldn't forget that there were no WMD's in Iraq. No one seems to talk about that anymore.

I support the writers because what they are asking for is fair, just and the right way to treat artists. I am questioning wether or not we had to go to war, spill blood, and take casualties when we clearly had the option for diplomacy in 2006. The DGA used diplomacy and research to get a deal for their members. Their deal addresses the needs of their membership which is different from yours, no one disputes that.

Imagine if we had done some research and found that there really were no yellow cake sales in Africa and used diplomacy instead of threats to get UN inspectors more freedom in Iraq?

Remember how to negotiate. Identify your needs, listen to their needs, realistically identify what is truly attainable, and remain calm and act with dignity and respect for yourself and the other side.

boadicea said...

Stop replaying whatever happened in 2006 regarding talks-whether mistakes or not that water is not just under the bridge-it's miles downstream.

If you're going to argue about strategy, at least make it current strategy.

vfx_Kid said...

PJ-You'd be happy waiting well into the summer? Most of my writer friends would not be. My question to you is are you a writer who works often? I mean no offense by this, but have noticed a lot of my non-working writer friends are taking a much harder line than those that are working on a regular basis. You will have to weigh the total losses of not working, possibly for the next year because the fall schedule will be most likely shot, against any gains. A lot of these new media gains are theoretic today. Just my 2 cents. Good luck.

dp said...


2006 is relevant. Your goals about what you may have thought was possible in 2006 can not be the same in 2008, yet everyone wants to hold out for that.

Remember that the key to negotiating is identifying what is attainable. By forgetting the beginning you will have no end. More importantly you will repeat the same mistakes.

Surely you're mature enough to realize that you don't get a mulligan.

PJ said...


Who said I, or any other Writer, will be "happy" to wait this out?

You must be joking...

I don't think you read that sentiment posted by me.

I'm a Features Writer but the reality is most Writers I KNOW, in TV and Film, understand that we will probably have to put more pressure on the Companies to secure a fair deal.

That is why we hear "We are in this for the long haul" echoed on the picket lines by TV and Film Writers.

And that point is more likely to come when the SAG Contract nears expiration and the threat of a Complete shutdown of Production is directly facing the Moguls.

It's pretty much the elephant in the room. I think almost every Writer I know is aware of this.

And unless the Companies realize this now and deal with it fairly so we can all get back to work, it will take more time and cause more pain.

And NO ONE is happy about that.

vfx_Kid said...

PJ, I wasn't speaking about you personally, but one person here, who I was responding to, and have forgotten their name, did mention that it would probably be "well" into the summer before you're even close. I completely understand being in this for the long haul, but if you should fall a bit short in this "battle," there will still be an ongoing "war." It's a fact that the WGA will not get EVERYTHING they desire and the sentiment of quite a few here is just that. Hold out until it's perfect. That could be for "infinity."
Also, in regards to corporate profits . . . I want the companies I work for, or are paid by, to have large profits. When profits are high, there is more money put toward development, etc. But most importantly, writing a check to yours truly. Let's not lose sight of that. It's independent of how the pie is split. High profits are in everyone's best interests. CEO salaries are what are currently out of hand.

Ana said...

Congrats!! I've been following the events from afar but really having my fingers crossed so you would get what you deserve. I am so proud of your unity and strenght. Hang in there. The light in the end of the tunnel is dazzling bright, my fellow writer!! Best Wishes, Ana

Brenda said...

We did it? No, not at all. The DGA did it.

They got a deal done in less than a week when we couldn't do for months. We're piggybacking off the DGA being more level headed and not greedy.