2/11/2008

Basic Common Cents

This was submitted by Thania St. John, WGA member since 1988. For some additional historical context, we recommend also reading this post from Michael Russnow.
There was a green envelope in the mail Friday. A good one. Good enough to take away a little of the sting. But after my husband and I rejoiced for a moment, we realized how much larger that check would’ve been if the show that I now proudly work on hadn’t been aired on basic cable. Which made me start thinking again about how I felt every time I turned in the same 55 pages that my colleagues do on a network show, only to be given 2/3 of money they get for theirs. Believe me, it’s certainly the same amount of work. Sometimes more. But somehow it counts less.

I understand things like business models and eyeballs and ad rates and pie pieces – all terms, by the way, the congloms are using in our current negotiations about new media – but that doesn’t make me feel any better about the fact that because I love my show and want to stay on it, I have to make less than I would somewhere else.

Creatively, there is no more “stigma” about working in cable. It’s not a place where talent goes to die, it’s a place where it can be reborn, rejuvenated, discovered. Old, young, we’re all doing it. And the cable nets are some of the most profitable divisions of their corporations. Mostly because they pay less for what they get. Are you going to tell me that The Closer or Monk or Battlestar Gallactica aren’t as good (or better) than most of the things on “real” TV these days? Seen any awards shows lately?

I’m not bringing this up now to complain. What’s done is done and I have to live by those rules. Which is why what I’m experiencing on cable right now, 20-odd years after the deal was negotiated, suddenly feels so relevant. And I’m hoping it can be used as a cautionary tale for what’s to become of us in new media. Toeholds are crucial right now. We’ve got to get our collective foot in the door. But the most important thing we can do is remind our leadership to keep revisiting the gains they are trying to achieve for us this time around. Revisit them three years from now. Six years from now. Nine years from now. And remind ourselves that it’s okay to do so.

I think we’re all forward thinking enough to realize that transparency, the ability to access important financial information from the companies that our negotiators are trying hard to work into this current contract, is the key to a fair and equitable future for us in new media. But it’s just the opening of the door. Our fight for fairness must continue long after we go back to work. Now don’t go calling me strike-happy. Call me negotiationally inclined. I just keep looking at my green envelope, wondering what would have been inside of it if the WGA leadership over the past 20 years had been more negotiationally inclined as well.

Sometimes peace is born from struggle. And sometimes resentment is born from compliance. There is nothing wrong with wanting a fair share of something that you have helped build. And there’s nothing wrong with revisiting a contract every three years, especially when there is a changing marketplace involved. Not making any gains for the sake of peace is the same as sealing up a pot of water and turning the flame on low. Eventually something’s gonna blow. (Like the size of my check, for example.)

This is what we should all be trying to instill in younger writers, the ability to take their livelihoods into their own hands. To stand up and believe in themselves and what they do instead of taking the easy offer just so the boat doesn’t get rocked. To live in an era of fair, not fear. And I hope that the legacy we leave for them in new media will be better than the one I am living with in basic cable (and DVD) today. That legacy starts with this contract, but doesn’t end here. I’m not afraid of the future. It’s the past I wish I could change.

52 comments:

Dan said...

I always wondered why the WGA spent so much time and money on the failed reality organizing campaign, instead of concentrating more on the basic cable market, which was/is being written by mostly WGA members. A great deal of Basic Cable is traditionally scripted programing as well, which makes it even that much more of a no brainer as an organizing effort.

angsgoos said...

I couldn't agree more. Cable has been shortchanged for twenty years, ever since the WGA gave the companies a break because it was a business in its infancy. And yet, twenty years later, with cable now making tons of money and still enjoying a cut rate, we give them ANOTHER cut rate on streaming. Not only is the streaming formula for non-network prime time is still set at a fixed rate for the entire term on this new contract, but as I understand it, it's based on a percentage of the lower cable residual base. Cable continues to be locked into sub-par compensation. Not only can you change the past, but it appears that we can't even undo the injustices of the past going forward into the future. The AMPTP continues to get to treat cable like the redheaded stepchild, even though it that stepchild is making them rich beyond belief.

Steven Hale said...

I think this is very important and perceptive advice. A humble suggestion: the leaders AND new media creators shouldn't wait till this contract period ends to revisit the terms. They would do well to establish an ongoing study of new media development, marketing and revenue models. Given the history of studio accounting "principles," transparency will require more than access to a few spreadsheets. The people accessing that data will have to understand all facets of distribution, as well as emerging trends not covered by previous contracts. A foothold is not a good place to stop when climbing a mountain.

mfarshusband said...

Amen. I sent the following email to the WGA leadership on Saturday:

Dear Negotiation Committee:

While I want to thank you for your hard work these past months - and while I want to get back to work - it is with great disappointment (albeit with little surprise) to read the following analysis of the tentative deal:

Cable Residuals and Minimums

Cable takes it on the chin, in two ways. First, the improved residual rate for ad-supported streaming (2% of distributors gross rather than a fixed dollar amount) applies only to network TV shows streamed on new media (the Internet or cell phones). In contrast, streaming of cable TV shows is subject only to the fixed dollar residual.

Second, basic cable minimums were not increased to the same degree as achieved by the DGA. Specifically, under the DGA deal, directors of high-budget basic-cable programs got a 12% pay increase. However, under the proposed WGA deal, writers of such programs do not receive an equivalent bump. (Note – this issue is not related to new media.)

Given the increasing amount of scripted content on cable (basic cable, such as FX, USA and AMC, as well as pay TV such as HBO and Showtime) – and the decreasing amount on network TV, at least for the time being (since strike-replacement reality programming is occupying time slots formerly held by scripted programming) – it seems shortsighted and unfortunate for cable TV to suffer second-class citizenship.



It is unlikely that I will vote against the deal as I am not an independent operator and believe in the brotherhood of the union. I only wish the same consideration was given to all of us who toil in basic cable - for 50 cents on the dollar on script minimums - and yet provide the same services (and hours and sweat) as our network brethren. While "new media" stole the spotlight and the headlines (not wrongly, mind you), there are real, tangible and lucrative streams of revenue that have been overlooked throughout this process. To quote from the board's mantra "we are all in this together" - it's hard not to feel that we are all in a fight that not all of us will benefit from.



Michael Feldman

Jake Hollywood said...

It's bad enough writers on cable shows make less than writers on network shows, but then you read in today's LA Times Business Section about how this whole deal came together. Then you'll realize just how we got played by the few really powerful TV showrunners and that by holding out just a little while longer REAL gains could've been made.

And that's just one reason why I'm voting "No" on ratification of the contract. And I hope there are enough of us to carry the day.

lordmanji said...

i second everything mentioned here. the leadership's priorities should have been where the money was for its CURRENT members: cable tv resids, dvds, and of course, a better deal for new media. but it feels like im beating a dead horse now. what the WGA needs for the next contract negotiation is someone who has a finger on the pulse of the membership and someone who feels the same righteous indignation of them.

Tom Davis said...

After thinking about this for a while now, I'm inclined to vote "no." I feel like we drove the ball all the way down the field to the opponent's one-yard line... and then, for no apparent reason, decided to punt. We didn't even get a field goal.

JimBob said...

I thought Thania was headed in one direction, but then she veered in another. Yes, you're paid less in cable now because of a deal that was made 20 years ago. And guess what, negotiators have TRIED to revisit that deal without success. Why? Because whatever they give as a result of a strike, the companies, knowing there won't be another strike for a long time, never add to. Which is exactly why establishing a "toe hold" in New Media is a mistake. That's all we'll ever have, is a "toe hold." Now, with the power of three months of strike in our hands, is the time to establish a real beachhead in New Media, with built-in guarantees of increases down the road based on the principle that "when you profit, we profit."
And by the way, I hope everyone does realize that New Media (including Old Media run through a New Pipeline) will soon be All Media. So think of the cable deal, only not as part of the "business plan" but all of it. Nice picture, huh?

jimmy said...

I am hoping to be able to join the guild very soon, and when I do I will be asking a question that so far, I have not been able to get a very good answer to.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is an umbrella organization for a group of competitors.

There's been a lot of talk that this organization is on shaky legal ground, but they've been around for what, 30 years now? I think that ground is pretty firm.

So, my question is why can't SAG, WGA, AFTRA and DGA form an umbrella organization as well that hires a big shot negotiator that will bargain with the AMPTP?

Yes, the guilds all have different needs. CBS and Time-Warner don't? As much as the guilds fight each other, it is nothing compared to the hate these companies have for one another outside of the negotiating room.

As long as the guilds are separate, negotiating with a single entity that is a group of billion-dollar multi-national conglomerates, there will never be a true balance.

Whatever legal precedent exists for the AMPTP to form, must certainly be taken advantage of for the guilds. Can't it?

And we are very likely to enter into an era of a democratic Congress and White House that might make sure this is possible.

Imagine how these contracts would work if all of talent was talking to all of management.

There would never be strikes. There would never be games and stalling and stupid offers and fighting over chairs. Guilds would not be pitted against each other. IATSE, which really does have different needs so I didn't include them (though there's an argument for it) would benefit greatly as well.

There would only be serious negotiations between organizations of equal power.

Deals would get done. Fair deals.

And whatever foul cry the AMPTP might make against an organization of guilds would also be an argument against their own existence. Wouldn't it?

How can they claim the unions can't join forces, when they have?

And a legal battle ending in the tearing apart of the AMPTP is just as much a victory as allowing the unions to negotiate together.

In my opinion, there must be a real and serious look at how to level the playing field against these conglomerates or there will never be a fair contract again in this town.

Because it's more than just the writers that are all in this together. It's evey director and actor too.

Dani Payson said...

I had no idea basic cable writers were getting screwed like this. one of my favorite shows, Psych, is on USA (The Monk Network) and to think that the witty writers are getting less than those who write for Cavemen makes me sick to my stomach.

dp said...

Jim-Lord-Jake-Tom:

You're too late to be brave now. No Monday morning quarterbacking here please. The movie has been shot and you don't like the box office numbers-guess what? No reshoots.

You were all part of the crowd that either espoused patronizing comments like, "shill" and "troll" to anyone with a critical view of leaderships strategy and how they manage members expectations. Or you sat idly by too afraid to stand up for everyones right to have a different view, which makes you culpable with those shouting "troll and shill". Instead there was a huge movement of loyalists that insisted that unless you blindly supported leadership you were a union breaker. Sounds kind of like Bush and his reaction to those opposing the war as "unpatriotic". Even if you said nothing you are culpable for letting that type of climate to exist.

YOUR leadership has brought you the best deal that THEY can get for you.

Now you want to continue the strike. Which would mean you changed your view on leadership. That makes you a hypocrite for changing after the race had been run and a lemming for following blindly through.

Only one person was brave enough to stand up and voice his opposition on Saturday night only to be boo'd and heckled. That was a brave person heckled by cowards with a mob mentality.

Everyone is watching. The pain of this strike in all its ramifications has been endured by many who have nothing to gain but have lost much.

What will the legacy of the WGA and its members be remembered as if you now turn on leadership?

Geo Rule said...

Of course this is part of the AMPTP's worst nightmare. Why they insisted so long on rollbacks. They hoped to settle at status quo. Why? Because they knew if writers won some actual concessions and advancements that they'd start getting "uppity", and then who knows where things might go.

Content is content. Flat fees should be minimums subject to upside based on percentages. . . no matter where, no matter where.

But you can't undo 20 years of boot-licking overnight. That's not a reasonable position either. However, if you're willing to show this kind of resolve every three years for a few cycles, you could be where you deserve to be around 2016 or so!

Dan said...

Jimmy-
Do some research into Labor history, and negotiations. There is nothing illegal w/ multiple employers negotiating together with the same bargaining unit. You are right, if the unions all negotiated contracts at the same time, they would get better deals, and that is how it was structured at one time.

Another sad fact you will find as you research, the federal gov't, has rarely, if ever, passed any kind of pro labor legislation. Either party.

There are various umbrella groups out there, with varying amounts of leverage, including the AFL-CIO , State and County level Labor federations, none of which the WGAw has seen fit to join.

JimBob said...

dp, your logic is...well, it doesn't really qualify as logic. It's just words. In this country, we don't follow leaders simply because they're in leadership positions. We elect them, then we watch them very closely. They have our trust until they don't have our trust. And by the way, this leadership has my complete trust because I think they're good people. But they need to hear from the people who elected them who believe they're making a hasty and ill-considered commitment to this deal. And you're right, I didn't get up and say so on Sat. nite because I'm a writer not a public speaker. I'm writing my comments here. And you, sir, are babbling.

Ilike2think said...

IF you think this is a bad deal vote now and contiue the strike. The fans are behind you.

Monk, Amazing Grace, The Closer and Army Wives are some of the best shows on TV. You should be paid as much for them as network writers.

Shanna said...

I think that continue vigilance of the market and what the membership of the WGA wants is important right now. And I believe that you should vote however you feel on ending the strike.

It may be that some things still need to be negoitiated. I think at this point the Guild has held on and the majority of the membership should be happy with this deal. No one should feel pressured to end the strike, especially since it's ultimately the studios that will profit from a bad deal.

Tamaryn said...

I concur with Dani Payson. A huge majority of my fave shows are on cable, from Phych to Burn Notice to Daily Show and Colbert Report.

Truly, the idea that you writers who work on these shows and don't make equal pay makes me so angry!

Sopranos, Mad Men, Sex and the City all made/make their respective channels loads of money... grrr.

-Tamaryn (fan)

Jake Hollywood said...

Hey, dp. If you've been paying attention I've been an outspoken critic of settling "for less." This has put me at odds with not only the leadership, but with many of my fellow writers (I was at Disney last week and had a heated discussion with a showrunner who's been around for a very long time. In our talk I pretty much blamed him and his ilk of being, at least partially, to blame for many of the bad contracts the WGA has signed).

I've argued myself blue with people who see me as a radical. And I'm okay with that. Everybody has a viewpoint. And everyone has to do what's best for them. I get that. I don't have to like it though--and I don't, but I do except our differences of opinion.

Almost to a man, every writer I've spoken personally with agrees that this isn't a "good deal." It's an okay deal, a toe hold. My argument has been, and will continue to be, is "okay" good enough?

For some, maybe. For me, no. And that's why I'm voting no on Tuesday and will vote again "no" when the contract comes to ratification vote.

And as I've indicated previously, maybe, just maybe, people will realize there's still a chance to change this deal from "okay" to "good." And act to do so.

buzzearl said...

Well Said.

But no one said that the fight is over . . .

Even if the WGA membership accepts the deal, United Hollywood (and the relationships made throughout the strike) will not end, and may --if fact--be the beginning of a new era of tough bargaining for the WGA.

Cable, animation, DVD residuals, reality . . . although it didn't all happen in this round, no one said it's over.

BuzzEarl

Steve Peterson said...

I think a big reason cable shows can be so much better than network shows is that they don't have to tone down to play to a mass market. You're allowed to play to a niche.

But playing to a niche just is playing to a smaller audience -- just like There Will Be Blood and No Country For Old Men plays to smaller audiences. That means less money for everyone involved. And that's one of the trade-off decisions writers and actors and everyone else needs to make -- go for the paycheck or go for the job that'll be more fulfilling.

stuiec said...

jimmy: My question is, what happened to this initiative? It sure as hell seemed like it was dormant in the last year.

AFL-CIO Looks To Unite Unions
By Jesse Hiestand
Publication: The Hollywood Reporter
Date: Friday, October 7 2005

To better contend with an evolving industry, the 10 media and entertainment unions affiliated with AFL-CIO plan to start working together on a newly created industry coordinating committee, the organization said Thursday.

The AFL-CIO's executive council created the committee at the request of the 10 unions, which include SAG, AFTRA, WGA East, Actors' Equity Assn.

The goal is to consolidate their strength in the face of consolidation and new technologies.

"Those professionals who work in the arts, entertainment, media and telecommunications industries need a strong, united effort to address their issues in the face of ownership consolidation and unprecedented changes — and today, they're one big step closer to winning more power," AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said.

Creation of the new committee is still subject to the approval of the leadership of the individual unions, who collectively represent about 1 million workers.

"Media consolidation and the onslaught of new technologies make this a crucial time for writers," WGA East president Chris Albers said. "The WGAE's main priority is to organize new jobs in our growing industry. Coordinating with the unions in the arts, entertainment and media industries is a crucial part of helping us achieve that goal."

Added Actors' Equity executive director Alan Eisenberg: "The formation of this committee will help us focus our collective resources, strategies and joint organizing efforts. The results will further strengthen our unions."

Sweeney and the leadership of the AFL-CIO have been criticized for not acting more decisively in the face of organized labor's dwindling share of the U.S. workforce.

The debate grew so intense in the summer that several major members of the AFL-CIO broke away and formed a new group that hopes to modernize the labor movement and aggressively organize new sectors. The Change to Win Coalition includes the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Farm Workers of America and Service Employees International Union.

The other unions that will be represented on the committee are the American Federation of Musicians, Communications Workers of America, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, National Association of Broadcast Employees and Technicians and the Newspaper Guild.

"For the first time, all of the major AFL-CIO unions in these sectors will work together to devise joint organizing and collective bargaining strategies in conjunction with their long-standing collaborative work on legislation and public policy," said Paul Almeida, president of the federations' Department for Professional Employees.

MrKlaatu said...

I'm voting yes, but I have to say the screwing cable writers regarding ad-streaming residuals is the thing I am most upset about.

This deal suggests, as far as streaming goes, on a single episode basis, that "Hannah Montana" is worth less than "Cavemen", that "Battlestar Galactica" is worth less than "Journeyman", and that "The Shield" is worth less than "Viva Laughlin".

That's insane. Our negotiating committe admitted that, and, I believe, feels it was one of the biggest losses in this negotiation.

My hope, however, is that SAG takes this on as the most important thing to try to improve, using our deal as a starting point. We will then get whatever improvements they get, thanks to the most favored nations status for new media our leaders negotiated. Justine, are you reading this? A huge number of your members work (and do their best, most profit-generating work) on cable.

jason said...

jimbob -
I think you're the only one who feels the way you do. Question... have you worked closely with Verrone or Young? I have. Do you know that Young cut staff (costing jobs) in other guild departments at the WGA while hiring a large staff in his own department? A department that is needless. . .to say the very least. This is a union guy we're talking about -- not caring for his employees. So, how do you think he feels about the members? There are things like this that you jimbob (please get informed) and the membership does not know. . .but I think it's telling about Young's M.O.. It's a cut and run mentality and that doesn't work for an institution that has been an important Hollywood landmark for years -- protecting the writer from industry pitfalls. So, I am disappointed that idiots like Young are leading the charge during such a critical time for the WGA's membership. I warned the membership that these leaders were an incomptent group that misrepresented during this strike. If you have any reservation about this deal then I am sure you feel the same way. You just don't want to admit it. However, we need to be 'united' as a group. And, if that means changing our leaders then that's what we should do. What we need to do. I do not like them putting down the writer behind our backs and putting up a front to our faces. How about you? Sorry if I blathered on jimbob...but at least I have something meaningful to say.

Thank you United Hollywood for this great forum!

PJ McIlvaine said...

I am very sorry that anyone was booed and heckled on Saturday night. For shame!

Luzid said...

This is an incredibly important post, and the replies are mostly golden (especially jimmy's).

That said...

@ dp:

Guess what? They don't have to follow through with a bad deal if they see fit, and I really doubt they give a fuck about your opinion on their character or decisions.

Mike Royce said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael said...

stuiec:

Irony of ironies, the author of the article about the AFL-CIO you posted, Jesse Hiestand, now works as an AMPTP spokesperson. No joke.

jimmy said...

stueic and dan -- I think these initiatives absolutely must be looked into again.

do we need laws that can create these umbrella organization? or just make sure there aren't laws preventing them. people much smarter than me must certainly know why this initiative was abandoned.

for everyone that believes this deal is unfair, remember this is what could be gotten when writers go out for THREE MONTHS, in the middle of a television season, in the middle of awards season, with the biggest talent guild behind them.

if you believe that writers deserve more and worry about the future, then the only true way to protect it is to try to level the playing field. the pockets of the conglomerates are simply too large, and will be getting larger, to negotiate one union at a time.

no matter the differences between guilds, there must be an effort to make everyone realize how much they could gain when united, and how much they lose when divided.

because now, a slight improvement over the status quo that's been hated for years is being called victory. and because of the imbalance in power, it damn sure is.

it should not be that way.

Mike Royce said...

"Only one person was brave enough to stand up and voice his opposition on Saturday night only to be boo'd and heckled. That was a brave person heckled by cowards with a mob mentality."

Wow! When did this happen? At the meeting I went to, nobody was heckled and most of the "mob" was in their cars twenty minutes into the Q&A. Did I miss the Cowards with a Mob Mentality meeting again???

stuiec said...

michael: oh, that is just too rich.

I would take that as a cautionary sign: if a guy covering the entertainment labor beat reads the writing on the wall and goes to work for the AMPTP, it probably is a good indication that the labor movement in the entertainment industry needs a lot of remedial work. I'm hoping that this strike has awakened the labor awareness of a lot of folks who never thought of themselves as labor before, and I'm further hoping that the various labor leaders in the industry (or maybe some grassroots folks) will take advantage of that awakening and build some infrastructure for labor solidarity and power.

Or am I only dreaming?

dp said...

Luzid-

You aren't even in a union. You're not in the WGA. You're not even in the industry. You do not make a living or support a family by working in this industry.

There are a lot of serious professionals in this industry that have a vested interest in this matter. You are not one of them.

Your just a muckraker. You are an instigator. Your only interest in this is the fantasy that you have of joining one day. There are people already in the hollywood unions effected by this and they are the ones that should be making comments, not you.

There is a saying in the business, "It's not what you're going to do, it's what you've already done."

Since you haven't done anything, that makes you nothing, a nobody, zero.

Shut up and learn.

just a thought said...

A lot of people are being displaced. They were going to be displaced in December. Crews let go during Xmas. It happens every year.
The only thing this strike has done for me is a lost job in November and I reinforced my skills as an alcoholic.
People time to get off the sauce of striking and think about what's in store for the future.

Adam said...

Mike - yeah, you missed it. The Cowards with a Mob Mentality meeting was held across the street in a separate ceremony. It was fun. We lured a few complainers in and gave 'em a right good stompin'. Except that one big guy. He scared us.

Personally, I'm a guy who stands to earn very little from this deal (late-night is where I live these days), but I'm pretty surprised that people can't see why this deal is actually pretty good.

For one, it's the essential toe-hold we needed, to establish a precedent and a model for New Media revenues. AND jurisdiction. That's plenty for a starting point. Now stop whining and expecting your Guild to do all your negotiating for you, you petulant wussies!

[Anyone objecting to being called "petulant wussies" is welcome to confront me about it. I'll be across the street from the Shrine auditorium with some friends...]

In 1988 the Guild took some stupid, short-term gains and sacrificed the future. Now we're busting on them for NOT being short-sighted.

Or we're yelling at them for not getting everybody a better deal. Again - that's just not possible, not in any strike situation. Sure - I'd have liked more for my specific stuff. But ultimately ALL of us will see our stuff distributed online, and online only, and if you think that aspect of the deal wasn't a gigantic victory... well, then you weren't paying attention until the minute we went on strike.

stuiec said...

jimmy: "no matter the differences between guilds, there must be an effort to make everyone realize how much they could gain when united, and how much they lose when divided."

All I can say, dude, is I hope you sell a feature screenplay to a WGA signatory company soon. Your energy would be an asset to the Guild.

Be forewarned, however -- as the son of a union local president, I can tell you that the change you advocate won't be quick or easy, or even necessarily popular. But I agree with you that it's necessary.

just a thought said...

I have a question
CBS is going to air Dexter. A cable show.
All of the guilds and IA worked at a reduced rate. The cable contract.
Will the writer get his or her residuals at the TV rate for reuse or the cable rate.
I asked my BA if the crew members will be getting the full rate retroactively. HE didn't know. Dumbass.

SoCalTiger said...

A smaller customer base (audience) equals a smaller profit (paycheck and residuals). It's the simplest rule of commerce in existence. You may work as hard or harder than anyone writing for network television, but the money that flows into a cable is nowhere near that which flows into the majors.

Luzid said...

@ dp:

Yeah, pretty much the lame attempt to attack my status that I expected.

Yawn.

Not going anywhere. Despite your ignorance on what I've done and who's interested in my work, I'm not worried about being stopped by the likes of you. I'll be sure to remind you who I am once I'm in the door.

I love to learn, but no one - especially a bully on the internet - is going to shut me up, so get over it. I stand by my posts, both old and upcoming.

smart said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jon Raymond said...

dp - There are plenty more than one who post here that aren't in the WGA yet have a legitimate interest. And as a dp are you?

This is a poor excuse for a story. Writers take the AMPTP to the wire and then go soft. Hardly feature material worthy of a six month effort. More like an ED commercial.

Vote as you will and live with it, then come back and whine about the deal the day after you vote. No one will care. It's on your heads. No one else's, just like all the assholes that voted for Bush.

gwangung said...

If writers don't intend to strike in three years, if they're willing to let this deal stand Once And For All, then yeah, this deal probably isn't a good one.

If you're ready to use the strike cudgel again (which is how it's been used in the past in other industries), then this isn't bad. Perhaps the studios are counting on the writers not to have the stomach for another strike in three years.

dp said...

Luzid-

Walk on the set, any set, and espouse how important you think you are. Also let everyone know that while you don't work in the biz and that your not in a union, you would like everyone there to be out of work. Then count how many steps you're able to take towards the door before you loose consciousness.

Let's get a poll going here on how many steps Luzid will take.

You're a young kid with exactly zero experience on union jobs. Attacking people that have spent their lives working on union shows is not a good idea.

I never said anything to you. You decided to jump in and use profanity in your attack of me. Your insistence to keep the strike going shows your immaturity. This also shows your immaturity:

"Despite your ignorance on what I've done and who's interested in my work, I'm not worried about being stopped by the likes of you"

Didn't Wahlberg say the same thing in Boogie Nights when his delusional perception of his acting career, or uh porn career wasn't what he perceived it to be.

"You don't know me, you don't know what I'm gonna do....."

dp
International Cinematographers Guild
proud member for over 19 years

stuiec said...

luzid: with due respect, I actually care what dp has to say.

I am a writer who, like you, isn't yet a member of the WGA. But I did watch one of my short scripts being shot and was in awe of the skills, planning and execution that even a ten-minute film shot over two nights required.

I'm working with a director/cinematographer in India to shoot an independent feature and I know what I wrote can only make it to the screen through the agency of the director/DP and the team he assembles. I've created a fantastic story, but unless and until it's translated to film, it's only a story, in a form that few people would ever bother to read. So yeah, I'm impressed with people like dp.

I'm also keenly aware that I didn't miss any paychecks during this strike. It was the WGA members who did, but it was also people like dp, people who were not consulted prior to the strike, who did not have a vote on whether the strike would proceed, who don't have a vote on whether it will end... and who don't have a shiny new contract at the end of the process to compensate them for the wages lost and careers interrupted.

At a minimum, dp and the rest of the people affected by this strike deserve the hope and expectation of the WGA's support in their own labor struggles, whether those involve strikes or other labor actions or merely receiving the fraternal support one union owes to another.

If you want to cling to a worldview in which the AMPTP companies are the loci of Satan's influence on the temporal world, populated by soulless, non-human minions out to screw you out of every dime (while inexplicably at the same time being willing to be the source of all those dimes), be my guest. Me, I prefer to think of the AMPTP as a business association of companies to whom I hope to sell the product of my labor, and of whom I should be wary due to their reputation for sharp dealing. But I certainly won't look to make an enemy of a union man who may one day help turn my writing into filmed entertainment.

Luzid said...

@ dp:

There you go again, assuming things you have no idea about and making physical threats, like you did with Rocky. It's easy to be tough behind a keyboard (something we should all remember).

I have been on set. I have been in a union. Just because I said I wasn't yet WGA doesn't mean you know what else I've done. Or my age. Or my abilities.

Nor did I ever say that *I* am more important than anyone. That's something you made up, kindly don't put words in my mouth.

I think the deal is a bad one. I have the same right to criticize it as anyone, including you. You're not in the Guild, why do you think you should get to comment on it? Because you have an opinion, and you're allowed to express it, just as you can comment on, say, foreign policy without actually living overseas. Labor issues are important to me, both from having been in a union and because I support workers - like yourself, and writers - over heartless conglomerates.

I will apologize for the profanity. Nothing more, and certainly not for expressing my opinions.

@ stuiec:

I admire the skills of people like dp. What I don't admire is the way he has pounded on writers to "vote yes or be a hypocrite". It's a false notion. One doesn't merely follow leaders no matter what, due to them being leaders - even if you've trusted them in the past. Sometimes they fail or lose their nerve. To suggest that voting no equates to hypocrisy is simplistic.

As far as the AMPTP, wariness is the way to go. The past shows this. I'm upset to see writers get the shaft again. Hey, maybe I'll be wrong.

I sure hope so.

Luzid said...

@ stuiec:

An addendum: I've reread your post above three times, and feel compelled to thank you for your even-handedness. It's a good example for these discussions.

If I've come across as a dick, I'm sorry. I feel very passionately about fairness, and frustrated that its win-win nature isn't recognized.

That's why I really respect and support the posts discussing solidarity with other unions and workers. dp and I should be able to know that we'll support each other in the future, so that if strikes like this occur no one has to suffer like the BTL did this time.

As upset as I am about how I feel the deal will hurt writers, I'm equally upset at the (in my opinion) needless cost it exacted on the BTL. I *do* respect their hard work and, yes, creativity in their roles in productions. Hell, I *was* a BTLer for years, and I've stated before that I believe everyone who works on a production should get some sort of residual too, simply because they helped create the visions that writers originate.

I feel this deal as I understand it (I'm open to being wrong) didn't warrant their suffering - or their future suffering, since if residuals are destroyed as I fear, that means h&p is also ravaged.

I still wonder how SAG feels about this template for their own upcoming talks - and if writers will go back to work only to stop again due to another strike. Will writers have the reserves to support SAG the way SAG supported the Guild?

Gary Watts said...

No Matter What

No matter how you vote, No or Yes, I will be there supporting all of the members of the WGA in their decision. You have shown labor as well as the AMPTP that people are willing to fight for a just cause. I will be there for you again, if need be,I say this as I prepare for the Screen Actors Guild Strike.


In Solidarity

~ Gary Watts ~

Captain Obvious said...

Alright, alright. Emotions are running high. No reason to throw each other from the train.

There are points and counterpoints on both sides of the fence. All that really matters is what comes of the WGA vote. The rest of this is just tilting at windmills.

Frustrated Bystander said...

Hi "Just A Thought" --

Just A Thought said: "Will the writer get his or her residuals at the TV rate for reuse or the cable rate?"

I asked my husband about your question. He related to me that the writers should get a bonus which should be the difference between the writing fee for the cable rate and the writing fee for the network rate. Re-runs, he said, should be paid at the network rate.

I have no idea of how this works for the director and the crew. Good question though!!

_____

Dear "mrfarshusband"/Michael Feldman on 2/11/08 at 7:54A --

I really appreciated your analysis of the cable side of things. My husband is so happy with the smoke and mirrors, that he's not thinking of the immediate money left on the table that would offset the financial hit we took to go on strike. That is the annoying thing for me as a spouse. We will not be coming back to an increase in re-run monies for a Showtime or HBO show (because he does not have a show on one of these networks), nor will we be coming back to an increase for cable (where he does have shows). Hence my grumpiness and my posts about stepping aside from the bright shiny happy mirrors, which are great, but don't make me happy looking at the cashed savings...although calling off the strike does help to put some of those savings back into the bank account and gets our friends back onto their shows to stake out and keep their territory.

Anyways, this is where my dissent energy is coming from with the rescinding of a Favored Nations Clause that goes beyond New Media. Hopefully, SAG will catch some of this discussion and map the DGA second year increases into their MBA for their actors who are servicing cable shows. Our ship has sailed. It's a direct and immediate loss for us.

Luzid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stuiec said...

luzid: your posts came through.

Let the healing begin... no, that sounds so cliche.

How about, let's keep the focus on making things work better for all the guilds and unions from now on. And may you become WGA-eligible, sooner than later!

dp said...

Luzid-

Why don't you tell everyone what union you're in? Why don't you tell them what kind of work you do? What you were doing during the strike? Where you working or laid off because of the strike.

Then and only then can we judge your investment and any jeopardy that you are facing.

As far as working together in the future, I'd think not. The beauty of a freelance career is that we get to pick who we work for and with. It has served me well for over three decades. Have you done anything for 3 decades?

p.s. when someone uses bar type profanity towards me then I make them put their money where their mouth is. If you want to grab your balls and test how tough I am then anytime anywhere, bring a friend.

Luzid said...

@ stuiec:

After hearing how BTL suffered under the strike, that's a pretty important goal.

When I gain a voice in the Guild, I will work to promote that solidarity as well as I can. Rule One: don't pick pointless fights. Rule Two: ignore those who ignore Rule One.

Thanks for the encouragement!

dp said...

Congratulations!!!

I look forward to seeing everyone back at work this week. I want to thank everyone who provided thoughtful discussion on the issues.

I am also glad I don't have to have meaningless arguments with those angry bloggers who aren't in the business and just want to create drama.

I also look forward to seeing the new people who are entering the business who have posted on here. Those people who have proven themselves to be rational and have shown a depth of understanding on complex issues like Stuiec.

Now lets get everyone to sign SAG's "qualified voting" petition. The one that stops people from voting who don't make money but are in the guild.