This was submitted by Phil Alden Robinson, writer-director-producer, and member of both the WGA and the DGA.
First, there's nothing in the DGA deal relating to Separated Rights, since directors don't get them. Only writers do. I think everyone agrees it's mandatory we shore up these rights in New Media. Our negotiators are working on this as we speak.
Next, there's Jurisdiction. The DGA deal establishes budget figures below which they can employ non-union directors (and, ostensibly, writers). Unfortunately, these figures are way too high. Higher even than our current Pay Cable budget thresholds. Virtually all of today's made-for-Internet production fall well below these numbers, so if we want to cover made-for-Internet production, we need to fix those numbers. And our negotiators are working on that, too.
And then, there's the Ad-Supported Streaming proposal. The companies are suggesting that they be allowed to stream TV shows on the internet for free during a lengthy window, after which they can re-run the show as much as they want for a year and pay the writer $1200. When the DGA proposal was announced, a former WGA president released an email praising this proposal. Those were the last kind words I've heard about it.
Since then, I have read scores and scores of emails, received countless phone calls, and spoken to an ocean of writers on picket lines, and I have not heard one person say they liked this provision. Not one. Reaction has ranged from "We need to improve that" to "It totally sucks". Everyone I know wants that proposal improved by a lot. And with good reason.
The entire philosophy of our efforts as they relate to New Media has been "If you make money, we make money." That's why we proposed a percentage residual, not a fixed residual. Under a percentage residual, we stand to do well if they make a fortune, but we also might make nothing at all. Frankly, I'll take that risk every time.
Because under a fixed residual, the companies can make huge amounts of money, and buy us off with pocket change. That's the mistake we made in the 80s, and we must never make that mistake again.
Now, a few people have suggested that this is a TV writer's issue, and that screenwriters have no real stake in it. Well, I personally will probably never see a penny from ad-supported streaming of TV shows. So maybe it's in my economic interest for us to cave on this point so I can go back to work. I sure as hell want to get back to work, and, truth be told, I need to.
But here's my problem: I believe in unionism. I know that I have profited handsomely throughout my career from the sacrifices of previous generations of WGA members. I have a Health Plan, a Pension Plan, minimums, and residuals because writers who came before me stood together for the common good. It wasn't easy for them - it cost them dearly - but they did it, and we're much the better for it.
So if TV writers - who stand to win or lose a lot depending on how hard we push on this issue - say they cannot accept this part of the DGA proposal, then I can't either.
The good news is, our negotiators are working hard on this one, too, and I believe they could use our help. We need to let them know - loudly and clearly - how we feel. They are only as strong as we are, and now is the most crucial time to show our strength.
It's my strong conviction that if an unaltered DGA deal were put before our membership for a vote today, it would fail resoundingly. I'm not sure the companies fully grok this yet. If they insist on trying to shove this deal down our throats without improvements, this strike will not end anytime soon.
But if they come to understand that we won't accept it without adjustments that serve the specific needs of writers, this whole thing can end pretty quickly. That's why I'm convinced that the fastest way to end these negotiations successfully is for us to vocally and visually support our negotiators.
Make some noise.
If you'd like to let the leadership know how you feel about getting a deal that meets writers' needs email AFarriday@wga.org, and she'll send your thoughts on to the leadership and NegComm.