Just to stress -- check the tag, which says "Member Opinion Piece." Below are the thoughts of a noisy screenwriter who writes movies with explosions, decapitations, gunfire, swordfights, and the occasional disembowelment. This isn't offical WGA anything. It's me. -LK
When Nikki Finke published about the group of WGA writers who went around the NegComm and leadership to "negotiate" on their own with DreamWorks Animation's Jeffrey Katzenberg, we at United Hollywood didn't have any comment. Primarily, we said nothing because those folks failed to make any progress, and criticizing them seemed a lot like kicking people when they were down. Their intentions were good, and if they didn't know before that the the hardliners (Barry Meyer and Nick Counter in particular) were going to scuttle any deal that involved writers getting anything on the Internet, well, they found out for themselves. Despite what that group believed, the current impasse is not about Verrone and Young's "personalities" (ahem, what are we, in high school?) and it's not about reality or animation jurisdiction. It's about the Internet. And the moguls don't want to give one inch.
But with the latest story from Nikki about a small cabal trying to resolve the strike, I have to say I'm starting to feel a little tired.
So here we have yet another group of (hopefully) well-intentioned writers -- as in, not professional negotiators -- who have decided they're going to take things into their own hands and, in Nikki's words, "force" the leadership to take whatever deal the DGA makes, just to end the strike.
Here's what bothers me. First off, this group has no idea what the DGA deal will be. No one does, because they haven't made it yet. It's pretty much never a good idea to agree to something when you have no idea what the terms are.
Second, their goal is "forcing" people to accept a DGA deal? Yeah, um, guys? It's a democratic union. We'll all be voting on the contract. And no amount of expensive ads in the trades or anywhere else is going to convince this membership to accept a deal that doesn't address our needs.
And personally, trade ads paid for by "A list" writers, if anything are less compelling. Folks who get paid "A list" rates, far over scale, aren't the ones who will be relying on residuals when work gets slow.
Maybe we're going to have to watch one group after another try to "take control" of negotiations because they just can't process that the problem isn't Verrone and Young, it's the moguls. The conglomerates haven't played fair from the very beginning, and that's not going to change just because someone with really great credits tries to talk to them.
That said, the corporations may indeed make a decent deal with the DGA -- it's certainly possible. If advertisers start demanding money back at a painful rate, if politicians start getting involved as the toll on California's economy mounts, if Wall Street starts getting antsy about the weird illogic of media giants trying to crush all the Hollywood unions to save such a small amount of money -- cutting a solid deal with DGA could short-circuit all of that.
But if they do make a decent deal, it won't be because a group of frustrated writers came to them promising to disable the leadership and go "directly" to membership. Yes, there's a lot of frustration and anger right now. Yes, we all want to go back to work, and there are moments when we get really pissed at our leaders (although in our case it's usually for a bad press piece, or a missed opportunity for an interview or comment that gets our position out there). I've said many times, and I still feel, that up until now the leadership's PR has been really uninspiring. I'm hoping in the new year it improves.
Again, we're a democratic union -- which to some degree means we shout at each other all the time. But it would be a huge mistake to assume that the anger translates to a willingness to swallow some AMPTP Kool-Aid and sacrifice our economic future.
Quite the opposite.
So yes, a DGA deal, if it comes, may be good enough to put the town back to work. Or it may not. I plan on waiting to see what it says, and then deciding for myself.
Nikki quoted a WGA "insider" talking about the failed Katzenberg gambit, and how the writers felt afterwards:
"They totally understood now what the negotiating committee has been through for the past six months and were very apologetic that they had questioned leadership up until now. 'Sheepish' was the word I heard used," one influential WGA insider tells me. "Although now there really aren't two differing opinions anymore. We all think the AMPTP sucks and that our guys have been sandbagged throughout this process."
So to my "A list" friends, I say save the ad money, guys. Send it to the Industry Support Fund or the MPTV Fund, to help non-writers affected by the strike. There are lots of people who could use it.