1/07/2008

United Artists and WGA Sign Interim Agreement!

The following letter was sent out earlier today by the WGA east and west. We'd have brought it to you sooner, but SOMEONE called us a "spam blog." Nice timing, huh? Anyway. -JA

To Our Fellow Members,

For our first joint communication of 2008, we are pleased to report very good news. This morning, United Artists signed an independent agreement. This company, now co-owned by Paula Wagner and Tom Cruise, has been legendary for its collaborative and cooperative relationships with writers and the talent community, so it is only fitting that it be the first film studio to make an agreement with us.

This agreement is virtually identical to the agreement signed by David Letterman's Worldwide Pants (posted at: http://www.wga.org/contract_07/wwp_exec.pdf). It features all the proposals we were preparing to make when the conglomerates left the bargaining table a month ago. Those proposals include appropriate minimums and residuals for new media (whether streamed or downloaded, as well as original made-for content), along with basic cable and pay-TV increases, feature animation and reality TV coverage, union solidarity language, and important enforcement, auditing, and arbitration considerations.

We expect this deal to encourage other companies, especially large employers, to seek and reach agreements with us. As those deals are announced, we will report them immediately to you. In the meantime, let us maintain our picket line presence and the pressure that it places on the conglomerates. We look forward to more e-mails like this one in the near future.

Best,

Patric M. Verrone
President, WGAW

Michael Winship
President, WGAE

40 comments:

Geo Rule said...

Right on. :)

ReelBusy said...

Way to go WGA! This is a smart move on Sloane's part as well as Paula's. MGM has very little in development production-wise. That's why he has UA after all. MGM is busy with acquisitions of film for distribution. Sloan gets his cake and eats it too as long as he can take the heat from the other moguls who are too afraid to think for themselves or for the good of their business and not what's best for their competitors like they are now.

bobalouie said...

Bravo!! Good for you guys!! As a film fan it is nice to see not everyone has their heads up their collective arses. Now who is next??!!

ChuckT said...

I guess this deal will be very comforting for the writers next week when the studios implement force majeure. The writers are going to lose their development deals with the major studios and networks but at least they can work with UA and Worldwide Pants.

uhreechamoe said...

Very good news. Now if only more companies would follow... (that's right NBC, I'm looking at you.)

stadia said...

You have my support and best wishes that more of the powers to be fall to the needs of the little guy.

Brenton said...

Good.

It will be interesting to see the smaller studios be able to produce WGA movies for '09.

It will also be interesting to see how this affects feature writers.

B said...

But an analysis of the deal suggests the writers may be gaining less than they think.

Indeed, an agreement with United Artists would not alter the balance of power in the strike. More than 100 production companies signed interim agreements with the union during the last strike to little effect, and United Artists, despite the spotlight Mr. Cruise brings, is a small player. The company is set up to make only four to six movies a year.

Moreover, the writers could be undermining their position by seeking agreements with independent producers because it would allow the big studios to use the fleet of smaller independent producers as processing factories. In the fluid world of Hollywood, where companies often collaborate, a studio could team up with independents, positioning itself to withstand a longer strike.

Would someone please address the above from the NYT? I still don't understand how this isn't just a way around the strike for distributors.

TY

mheister said...

Nikki Finke's reporting that Lions Gate, the Weinstein Co, and LucasFilm could be the next to break ranks with the AMPTP.

Bravo Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner. This is good news all around and a further vindication of the WGA's strategy!

Helen said...

chuckt:

What are you hoping to accomplish with your mean-spirited taunting? Do you think you're providing us with a dose of harsh reality? Believe me, writers' lives are filled with plenty of harsh reality these days. (And I don't mean "American Gladiators.)

Samantha said...

Can someone please explain how DVD residuals factor into this agreement, if at all?

Simple Mindz said...

That is great news!

M. Jake said...

b: If big studios want to get "around the strike" by using smaller studios under the WGA's preferred terms, what's the problem? Let them get around it. More writers (and others) are working, they're getting fairly compensated, and in the meantime the studios are being kind enough to demonstrate that they can in fact make profitable films under the WGA's proposals. I don't see a downside.

Frustrated Bystander said...

Oh too bad Revolution Studios is out of business. Wouldn't it be interesting to approve Interim Agreements with certain Independent Production companies who have deals with certain moderate Studios, like Sony, who would be willing to sign a less draconian agreement?

I wonder how it would make the hard-liner AMPTP members feel when they see Sony's co-productions getting Interim Agreements so they could continue to develop their movie pipeline with their Independent producing partners having signed a reasonable WGA Interim Agreement.

hollarback said...

I think Chuckt is getting a bit demoralized, so little to foretell doom about...

ChuckT said...

"Helen said... What are you hoping to accomplish with your mean-spirited taunting? Do you think you're providing us with a dose of harsh reality? Believe me, writers' lives are filled with plenty of harsh reality these days. (And I don't mean "American Gladiators.)"
+++++++++++++++++++++

I am by no means "taunting" you or being mean-spirited. You should be thankful for opposing voices, it keeps you from plunging headfirst into euphoria over updates that don't warrant such reaction and it keeps you on your toes. As far as the writers experiencing "harsh reality"... newsflash: EVERYONE is experiencing harsh reality (especially people in the business who are not sitting on bank accounts and the wga strike fund).

Geo Rule said...

Hey, b. . . what does the acronym AMPTP stand for?

Further, if every single producer signs a deal on WGA terms, does it matter if "distributors" never do?

The Secret Drinker said...

Congrats, WGA Members!

I'm not a member but I realize that more deals like this mean that my favortie shows (Heroes, Chuck, Journeyman [please?])will be back sooner!

JimBob said...

Today's Slate.com cartoons section has 18 'toons about the Writers' Strike, most of which -- not all -- are favorable. They're from all over. People are noticing!

jimmy said...

Ty, yes, it's a way around the strike for SOME distributors.

Don't forget, the AMPTP is an alliance of dirty, greedy, competitors. They play nice during the strike because it is in their mutual interests to beat down the unions.

CBS and NBC have late night shows back, which is revenue the other companies don't have.

Now MGM will have new movies before everyone else because of the deal for UA.

The moguls HATE, HATE, HATE this. They put pressure on Harry Sloane of MGM to try to nix the deal and he tried, but failed. How do you think the other CEOs view Sloane now? He's a competitor making money when they are not.

This divide and conquer strategy is not about the effort to cut off production, but to pit the companies against each other and to let their true position as bitter competitors start to define their negotiating position. They simply can't let others open revenue streams and explain to their shareholders why the deal is good enough for their competitors, but not for them. It's pressure.

Pressure. Pressure. Pressure.

This is exactly what the AMPTP was hoping would happen to writers. That they would start to argue amongst themselves and lose focus.

But it seems like the WGA is getting the better of them right now.

buzzearl said...

"chuckt" is sitting at his terminal at Fabrication and Liar-hane Inc. He has to spout crap in every pro-WGA comment section or he will lose is "P.R." job with the AMPTP.

BTW "chuckt"--those Force Majeure provisions kicked in @ 12/21/07Just ask you collegue, John Ridley, about them.

BuzzEarl

Geo Rule said...

geo joins the secret drinker in mourning "Journeyman".

/sniffle

B said...

Thank you, m. jake and geo rule for responding to my question. I hate to keep harping on it and let me make clear that I am very glad some writers will be working and do hope that it does work to the overal strategy.

Here is my worry:

As we all know it takes a long time to bring a script to the screen. So, scripts are developed maybe even get made during this time. Since none of these companies (UA and possibly Weinstein and Lionsgate) to my knowledge do animation or reality those clauses don't even matter so they aren't going to be giving up anything there. Also, until the films actually hit the screen there obviously aren't any DVD sales or downloads so again the small companies that have signed don't have to pay anything there for a long while.

In the meantime, the majors know that there are movies in the pipelines, scripts are being developed, so they don't feel as much pressure and on down the line the strike is settled in a way that is advantageous to the AMPTP. The smaller companies have favored nation clauses so they don't have to abide by the terms of the previous agreements.

Of course, in a perfect world, these agreements would be the impetus for getting the AMPTP back to the table but I'm a worrier.

As always, thank you for allowing open discussion and responding in a rational way.

b.

ChuckT said...

"The moguls HATE, HATE, HATE this. They put pressure on Harry Sloane of MGM to try to nix the deal and he tried, but failed. How do you think the other CEOs view Sloane now? He's a competitor making money when they are not."

This makes no sense. It's my understanding that the agreement with UA DOES NOT include MGM - period. But even if it did include MGM, it would be in the best interest of Sloane to help the other studios work around the strike because that way the studios can hold out even LONGER which would hurt the writers even more yeilding a better deal for the AMPTP. THAT's what UA, WWP, MGM and all members of the AMPTP want -- they don't want the interim agreement to be the final agreement (they would NEVER agree to that which is why the clause is including in the agreement that they can ditch this one and go for the AMPTP deal at the end of the strike IF it's better - face it, it WILL be better and everyone knows it). In essence, this is helping the studios hold out even longer while get writing services at the same time.

T said...

b,

With this deal, smaller companies like UA make money. The vast bulk of any profits from a film will go to the producers of the film (UA) and the distributors (MGM) will basically get a distribution fee.

Meanwhile, Iger (Disney) and Chernin (Fox) are pissed off because they have nothing in the pipeline and question why exactly they are going along with Counter's nonsense. They don't want to explain to their board of directors and shareholders why UA and MGM are making money and they aren't.

This is good. Very very good.

Caitlin said...

Good news. One at a time. I'm just waiting for Ugly Betty to get back to production. Keep at it, WGA. Get these guys coming to you, more and more every day. Maybe we can have this over sooner than I fear. And ChuckT, if you really think anyone takes you seriously any more, you're dellusional. Even most of the WGA skeptics don't give you the time of day, Your cocky attitude reeks of desperation.

willow said...

chuckt, I hate to feed you, but even if I bought the rest of your argument I have a hard time buying that WWP is anti-writer.

Casey said...

I'm confused. Did UA sign an interim deal or a real minimum basic agreement with the WGA? An interim deal has historically been an agreement to accept whatever we have negotiated with the Alliance at the end of the strike. That's why it would be worthless.

My understanding is that the deals with World Wide Pants and UA are actual WGA contracts.

Would someone please clarify?

Thanks

B said...

Thank you, t. Sometimes I need some perspective.

Monty said...

And this is hurting the studios how, again? Tom Hanks on Letterman promoting his AMPTP movie?
Hurting the studios how?

jimmy said...

chuckt, MGM is the distributor for UA. so if UA has movies, MGM has product to sell.

And your theory would work if these companies were not competitors. But they are.

Your theory would also work if all of these companies wanted to get completely out of the development business and just be distributors.

MGM can distribute UA's films, but because they have no agreement with the writer's guild, they cannot buy or develop any properites of their own.

If that's what they want as a way to get around the strike, fine. The writers have made agreements with companies who have agreed with their demands. If MGM and the others would like to allow all of these little production companies to own the scripts instead of themselves, great.

That's not what they want.

So this ticks them off.

And Casey, from what I understand these are real contracts. Independent agreements. But it's true, all of them could revert to the final AMPTP deal when one is done.

And I don't think UA actually controls the internet distribution rights for their films, they don't do television or reality, etc. so many of the issues at dispute are not resolved by them agreeing to it.

But this is also a battle of public opinion. It's a battle of perception. It's a battle of morale and momentum. But mainly it's a battle to get your adversary to lose their cool, to fracture, and to drop their stonewalling for once and for all and make a fair deal.

If the AMPTP companies were actually quite happy about this, don't you think they would leave Sloan alone? Leave Jay alone? And not belittle the strategy?

It's a bottom-up strategy to set a precedent. We'll see if it really works...

Crestmere said...

That is great.

Bonnie said...

ChuckT if you're not a mouthpiece for the AMPTP you are the next best thing. If you believe that all writers are sitting on fat bank accounts, you're beyond ignorant. You're a stooge. Worst of all, you expect us to thank you for all your moronic comments because he is an opposing voice. We already have opposing voices. They're called the AMPTP.

It's too early to judge or second guess the outcome of this strategy. The WWP pants deal can't be compared to Colbert and Stewart because Letterman OWNS his show. People have to get that through their heads. There is NO inconsistency on the part of the Guild.

ChuckT said...

"Jimmy said... And your theory would work if these companies were not competitors. But they are.

Your theory would also work if all of these companies wanted to get completely out of the development business and just be distributors.

If the AMPTP companies were actually quite happy about this, don't you think they would leave Sloan alone? Leave Jay alone? And not belittle the strategy?"
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jimmy, we clearly disagree. You are right that the companies don't want to get out of the development and distribution business, but they DO want to completely restructure (matter-of-fact, they MUST do it in order to survive). Which brings me to your other point. You are right that the companies are competitors BUT in extenuating circumstances, competitors unite under one cause for the good of all (for example: look at how democrats, republicans AND independents have united to push Obama - a black inexperienced candidate - to the top of the political pile - Iowa was unprecedented because of that unity because those voters feel a desperation for immediate change in order to survive).

Again, their goal in this strike is not JUST to break the union (that's very 1988); their BIGGER goal is to restructure the business. Period. That means business "as usual" (even in the case of an ordinary strike as it would have happened in the past) is thrown out the window (just like politics as usual in this country have been thrown out the window by Barak Obama).

I think you are underestimating the desperation of the need to survive on the part of the AMPTP - stop looking at this strike as if this were 1988. Desperate times, desperate measures. You guys HAVE to get with the times. This is not your father's strike but you're using tactics like it is.

ChuckT said...

Caitlin said... "And ChuckT, if you really think anyone takes you seriously any more, you're dellusional. Even most of the WGA skeptics don't give you the time of day, Your cocky attitude reeks of desperation."
++++++++++++++++++++++++

The fact that people are responding to my comments (including YOU) proves your statement to be false. Whether or not you like it, I have been right about everything I've said. Gee, I wonder why? When the studios implement Force Majeur within the next two weeks - think of me.

intrigued said...

casey,

to answer your question both the WWP and UA deals are interim agreements. they include a "favored nations" clause that allow entities to dump the current terms in the contracts signed in foavor of the eventual AMPTP terms.

anybody who claims that these deals are a win for the WGA or show that the WGA's terms are fair and reasonable are just blowing smoke. these deals are simply a tool the WGA is using to try and create a divide amongst the AMPTP.

if anybody believed the terms in these deals were good policy there would be no favored nations caluse (which makes these interim deals). they know any eventual settlement will have terms far better for the producers.

but understand that if the WGA is going with this divide and conquer strategy they have to sign interim deals - NO COMPANY IS GOING TO SIGN A BINDING AGREEMENT THAT WILL EVENTUALLY PUT THEM AT A DISADVANTAGE once the strike is ended, especially these small companies that are already at a disadvantage against the giant congloms.

Mrs_garrett said...

If there is any question as to whether this is a binding agreement or not once the AMPTP and WGA actually do finalize a contract, this final line of the agreement between WWP and the WGA should answer it:
"Favored Nations: If the successor to the 2004 AMPTP MBA contains different terms and
conditions, those terms and conditions shall be applicable to this Agreement."
While interim agreements are fine, make no mistake, they are interim and have little bearing on what the final agreement will be. The reality and animation clauses are just plain silly. IA will never let go of its claim over animation writers. Reality shows are so widespread, they will never get coverage. And will somebody please explain how the WGA is insisting that they want to negotiate when in actuality the companies that now have deals are deals that are exactly the terms the WGA wanted- no compromise at all on their part? I'm trying to be sympathetic to the WGA members' cause, but it is becoming increasingly more difficult.

Helen said...

chuckt:

Are you a crew member? Could you provide your union affiliation (if any). I'd like to know where you're "coming from" to help me understand your position.

hollarback said...

Seriously Chuckt, I really hope that this is a paying gig. Otherwise you are just tiresome.

Negotiations usually take a long time, all is going accordingly, the boat is not taking on water.

Splash all you want.

Oh, and what is the answer to Helen's question? Where are you coming from..?

survivor of the fandom wars said...

And will somebody please explain how the WGA is insisting that they want to negotiate when in actuality the companies that now have deals are deals that are exactly the terms the WGA wanted- no compromise at all on their part?

Perhaps because the deal is just that reasonable. Go figure.