2/18/2008

Harlan Ellison Reacts to the Proposed WGA Contract

In recent days, a spirited response to the WGA contract, purportedly by WGA member and science fiction legend Harlan Ellison, has been making its way around the Internet. In a phone conversation this morning, Mr. Ellison confirmed he wrote it. "Yes, I got a little angry," he chuckled. "A friend said, 'If Ellison wants to convince people, he should speak more kindly. You catch more flies with honey.' To which I responded, 'I'm not in the fly-catching business, I'm in the writing better than anybody in the fucking world business.'" Ellison was surprised to hear that his thoughts on the deal were being reposted and forwarded around the Internet. "I'm not a big fan of the Internet." In the interest of airing diverse (and colorfully worded) opinions, we bring it to you here. -JA

Creds: got here in 1962, written for just about everybody, won the Writers Guild Award four times for solo work, sat on the WGAw Board twice, worked on negotiating committees, and was out on the picket lines with my NICK COUNTER SLEEPS WITH THE FISHE$$$ sign. You may have heard my name. I am a Union guy, I am a Guild guy, I am loyal. I fuckin' LOVE the Guild.

And I voted NO on accepting this deal.

My reasons are good, and they are plentiful; Patric Verrone will be saddened by what I am about to say; long-time friends will shake their heads; but this I say without equivocation…

THEY BEAT US LIKE A YELLOW DOG. IT IS A SHIT DEAL. We finally got a timorous generation that has never had to strike, to get their asses out there, and we had to put up with the usual cowardly spineless babbling horse's asses who kept mumbling "lessgo bac'ta work" over and over, as if it would make them one iota a better writer. But after months on the line, and them finally bouncing that pus-sucking dipthong Nick Counter, we rushed headlong into a shabby, scabrous, underfed shovelfulla shit clutched to the affections of toss-in-the-towel summer soldiers trembling before the Awe of the Alliance.

My Guild did what it did in 1988. It trembled and sold us out. It gave away the EXACT co-terminus expiration date with SAG for some bullshit short-line substitute; it got us no more control of our words; it sneak-abandoned the animator and reality beanfield hands before anyone even forced it on them; it made nice so no one would think we were meanies; it let the Alliance play us like the village idiot. The WGAw folded like a Texaco Road Map from back in the day.

And I am ashamed of this Guild, as I was when Shavelson was the prexy, and we wasted our efforts and lost out on technology that we had to strike for THIS time. 17 days of streaming tv!!!????? Geezus, you bleating wimps, why not just turn over your old granny for gang-rape?

You deserve all the opprobrium you get. While this nutty festschrift of demented pleasure at being allowed to go back to work in the rice paddy is filling your cowardly hearts with joy and relief that the grips and the staff at the Ivy and street sweepers won't be saying nasty shit behind your back, remember this:

You are their bitches. They outslugged you, outthought you, outmaneuvered you; and in the end you ripped off your pants, painted yer asses blue, and said yes sir, may I have another.

Please excuse my temerity. I'm just a sad old man who has fallen among Quislings, Turncoats, Hacks and Cowards.

I must go now to whoops. My gorge has become buoyant.

Respectfully, Yr. Pal, Harlan Ellison

Photo: Chris Cuffaro via HarlanEllison.com

54 comments:

stee said...

So, that happened.

Groovy Dave said...

Finally, the anger that was due has spewed forth.

I voted yes to stop the strike. But I will vote "NO" on the contract.

This is exactly the minimal contract that could have been won by a hearty negotiation in the first half of the year. A three month strike should have set the bar much higher.

RogerSoffer said...

I also voted to stop the strike — and will vote "NO" to the contract.

We don't need to continue to suffer financially; nor do we need to cause others to suffer. We can all work, and then, joining with SAG, get a contract we ALL like, not one pressured into creation.

If we don't, then we can strike with SAG — with a common purpose — and REALLY get what is just.

The leadership has been brilliant. But in this, we can help those who lead.

Let's all fix on what's fair. And with the pressure off, not settle for less.

Dennis Wilson said...

IT IS A SHIT DEAL. -- Harlan Ellison

It most certainly is. Let them have their Oscars, but let's keep negotiating for better. Vote "no" on the shit deal.

Jake Hollywood said...

You don't have to like the guy, but he's right on the mark about this one. Too bad when the membership finds out what a royal screwing they got, it'll be far too late.

Almost everyone I've run into since the strike ended admits that "the deal" is a best, just okay. It's not good, and it's definitely not great. And if you're a TV writer, I'm not even sure why you'd even think it's an okay deal.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Nobody likes a strike. Nobody liked walking in circles, or being out in the damp or cold, and they sure as shit missed the steady income that TV writing can bring...

But to end the strike without anything substantive? Well, that's just idiotic and a complete waste of three months of pounding the pavement.

Harlan calls it right: We got fucked.

And considering that the next contract ends on May 1, 2011 (why the hell it wasn't a retroactive deal tied to the expiration date of the last contract is a mystery), whatever leverage there was is gone, gone, gone. Unless, of course, we tie ourselves to both the DGA and SAG in some sort of united front. And given the DGA's propensity to settle for whatever is offered I wouldn't want my future tied to their braveness.

I voted "no" to stop striking (I'm one of those 7.5%ers) and I'm voting "no" on ratification...

Unfortunately, I think comfort will rule over common sense and the contract will pass with almost no one voting against it (I'm in a pool and I have 3% against).

Sometime around fall we're realize what a bad deal we got and will kick ourselves, but it'll be way too late. And like '88 we'll be saying why did we sign this deal?

Brandon said...

I agree.
I abstained from the "stop-strike" vote and I'll vote "no" on the contract.
I'm a lifetime WGAeaster and this Guild is my Guild and I was proud this go-round the leadership and membership took a stand to strike. But to me, this strike was never just about money and internet precentage, it was about who we are as people and who we are as writers. We shouldn't have lost the increase in dvd residuals, we shouldn't have lost the reality and animation issue and we shouldn't have allowed the "no sympathy strike" clause to continue in our contract. We should stand with SAG as they stood with us. If they go out in June, we go out with them. We don't just give them thanks and moral support: we stop work. And let's face it please: we're not strong enough to stand alone; we need more muscle: we need to align ourselves with the other unions.

PJ McIlvaine said...

Harlan is my hero.

Groovy Dave said...

brandon...

Absolutely, the guilds must align together. Something I've said from Day 1. In true solidarity -- a Creative Solidarity -- it is time to take this industry back. Why should writers sit in the back of the bus behind a long list of producers, executive producers, associate producers, co-producers on every project, many of whom who do little but take lunches and feel important.

Can the studios put out product without a strong force of writers and actors walking together? There is no way.

It is a collaborative industry and, as such, creatives should share and share alike along the lines of basic percentages for ALL WRITING IN ALL MEDIA. And this includes Animation and Reality, as well.

mheister said...

As a SAG member I have posted in the UH response section more than once that if my guild presented us with a similar contract, I would vote against it.

I agree with Mr. Ellison that the 17-day window alone is a dealbreaker, and I did mention to a couple of WGA members at lunch yesterday that the guild will have to revisit that 17-day window in less than three years. Yes, jurisdiction over the Internet was a victory, but really, it wasn't enough, and that will become apparent very quickly. My advice to writers is to stay in shape and save money for good walking shoes.

On a side note, Mr. Ellison sent me to the dictionary. Now I know what who Quisling was, and what a festschrift is. Gotta love the Germans and their compound words.

Can someone please explain this phrase to me? "I must go now to whoops. My gorge has become buoyant."

Brandon Cole said...

groovy dave,
thanks for taking that stand -- futile as it may seem right now that the guilds and other entertainment unions will soon stand together as they MUST.
For me, there's too much money going into too few hands and the way to alter this imbalance is through strength-in-numbers.
There's also this point which was never adequately expessed during the strike: we writers (and our fellow workers) produce something, we do not just push financial assets around. It's time productive work was given the high-status it deserves and the "money-exchangers" as FDR called them are shamed or forced into behaving better. 2011 should begin right now.

deuddersun said...

Well, first of all, remind me to never, ever piss that guy Harlan off! He makes my old Drill Instructor sound like Mopther Teresa!

Second. I'm btl. I don't know what a good deal is for you guys. I supported you throughout the strike and I will continue to support you and your efforts, which ever way the vote goes.

A few folks have said it here already. We need real solidarity. Not just with the "Guilds" but with the other "Unions" as well. An industry wide shut down might actually get some folks to pay attention, but in order to do that, we're gonna have to break some eggs. That means financial penalties and possible jail time for refusal to follow injunctions and court rulings against us.

I'm ready when your are.

d.

deuddersun said...

mheister, it means "to puke".

d.

AnthonyDe said...

I'm surprised more of the high profile pro strike (pre-deal) writers haven't spoken up against the deal. At minimum the deal needs to include a favored nations clause for the SAG deal. I suspect maybe they are so pro-guild they don't want to speak against the leadership.

Tanja Barnes said...

No surprise Harlan is unhappy with this contract. And no surprise he is not a fan of the Internet. He pretty much said so and he did it much more colorfully in my podcast at the the Star Trek picketing event back in December.

Listen here: Strike Chronicles Podcast #35 - Harlan Ellison & David Gerrold

hoopcooper said...

Tired, overwritten and in the end, "who cares?" It's a hell of a lot easier to write rambling purple prose-poetry in the negative than in the postive. That's why people love bad reviews.

Did anyone notice that this whole tirade began with the words "I don't much like the internet"?

This "seventeen days" thing has become a rallying cry for people who imagine they're being sold down the river by this deal. Here's the thing...TV is a dinosaur, and this is a dinosaur deal with a dinosaur. You don't like it? Get the hell out and create your own internet content. Stop writing your high school prime time soaps with secret dreams that they'll make you more money on the internet than oil made the Sultan of Brunei.

All this "vote no" rhetoric, in my mind, just represents an unwillingness to accept the vast and undeniable difference between television and the internet. Each will change the other, but whining over how your TV is going to get used on the internet strikes me as such a tiny piece of the galactic pie that it's not worth talking about.

trefyesfan said...

I tend to agree, though not so insultingly. But I'm posting mainly to point out that the guy who's in the "writing better than anybody in the fucking world business" and who revels in vocabulary misspelled "diphthong".

Vlad Tepes said...

Precisely what one would expect from Ellison.

Ya'll need to get over yourselves and channel your rage into ending the war and restoring habeas corpus.

There is no SUBSTANCE to Mr. Ellison's rant.

In my humble opinion, what we have here is a hunk of grandstanding nonsense.

Any among us can show off. It's easy. It's Dennis Miller.

Yawn.

WHERE'S THE REASONED ARGUMENT? THE THOUGHTFUL ANALYSIS?

I, for one, would welcome a reasoned CON Statement.

God, how I hate this kind of irresponsible, angst-ridden, transparent and utterly superficial form of argument.

Spit and spew all you want, Harlan, but cash those checks for 1.2 percent of distributor's gross EVERY TIME someone rents A BOY AND HIS DOG & BABYLON 5.

Hey, Harlan! Ever collected on rentals before? Unless you're working at Blockbuster, I don't think so.

This is so very non-constructive.

Oy vey.

trefyesfan said...

Addendum: Unless I am merely being a diphshit and have missed what Harlan considers a cleverly pointed misspelling the intent of which we would all have gotten had he spelled the word correctly.

SB said...

You know I read the deal and as a DGA member, I thought our deal sucks but their deal really is no better!
I am angry at the damage did to this town and the industry by the strike, I can only hope that we do not have to do this again and that we can talk at the table next time instead of with signs on the street. The producers are powerful but our united unions would blow them out the water!

Geo Rule said...

What? You had to ASK someone if that was really Harlan Ellison's writing?! You mean you thought maybe someone else wrote that?! Please! To use a phrase he loves, "sui generis", baby. That's Harlan.

Luzid said...

I've long admired his work.

And I still admire his words.

Luzid said...

@ mheister:

I think that means he's sickened and going to hurl. I felt the same way seeing writers get screwed again. They deserve better, as do all the fellow collaborative professionals from above and below.

@ deuddersun:

Your dedication to solidarity is inspiring. You are right, of course. Five fingers, one fist, wasn't it?

Vlad Tepes said...

There is no SUBSTANCE to Ellison's rant.

In my humble opinion, what we have here is a hunk of grandstanding nonsense.

Any among us can show off. It's easy. It's Dennis Miller. WHERE'S THE REASONED ARGUMENT? THE THOUGHTFUL ANALYSIS?

I, for one, would welcome a reasoned CON Statement.

God, how I hate this kind of irresponsible, angst-ridden, transparent and utterly superficial form of argument.

Spit and spew all you want, Harlan, but cash those checks for 1.2 percent of distributor's gross EVERY TIME someone rents A BOY AND HIS DOG & BABYLON 5.

Hey, Harlan! Ever collected on rentals before? Unless you're working at Blockbuster, I don't think so.

This is so very non-constructive.

Oy vey.

Rodney Peterson said...

Some people dismiss my thoughts because I am a first time writer and not yet a WGA member. But I've written something that fits the 24 point guild membership requirements and I was out there on the picket lines with you guys practically every fucking day. And all the while I was homeless (because of strange circumstances that occurred shortly after beginning to write)-I am also very upset at the terms of this deal and think it just isn't a huge move forward-in terms of internet at least it's on the table but I couldn't believe that the guild had backed down on the SAG favored nations clause and a few other things and that is what made me feel-what was I doing? I fought just as hard as most of you and I am going to do everything I can to increase my worth as a writer over the coming years.

Rodney Peterson

www.cuttingconfessionsfilm.blogspot.com

derekcbart said...

Groovy Dave, you wrote "Why should writers sit in the back of the bus behind a long list of producers, executive producers, associate producers, co-producers on every project, many of whom who do little but take lunches and feel important."

Well, as a member of the Producers Guild of America (please don't confuse the PGA with the AMPTP) I have to say that many of those extraneous producer credits are writers. Legitimate producers are the people involved in the development, pre-production, production, and post-production of a project. On many shows writers are given a producer title of some sort and yet they have nothing to do with 2 or 3 of those phases. If you really don't want to see so many producer credits before the writers credits then please ask the writers getting producer credits to stop asking for them in their contracts.

Rant over.

paint the town red said...

Re: the 17 day window, I'm counting on SAG to finish up where we left off... As a successful negotiator prior to being a writer myself, I know that a successful negotiation occurs when both parties walk away unhappy. Especially when they've been at such opposite ends of the spectrum. It means a compromise has been reached. The Alliance wanted rollbacks and gave us something they said they'd never give up -- at least not until hell froze over. Don't undo our WGA leader's good work. We could lose a lot more if we start nit-picking the deal. Like everything we've gained. The Alliance will walk away from us permanently, and look to Brown and Harvard for replacement writers. SAG will not stand by us for forever, nor should we expect them to. I'm not a wuss, and I'm not afraid to kick ass. But, I'm a realist. Focus on the 17-24 day window with SAG and call it a day. When we as writers own our own studios, then we can call the shots. Until then, put up or shut up... And if you want to be upset about DVD's/Blue Ray, etc. then talk to the writers who signed our last contract... This deal needs to be about new media. I say this as someone who has a movie coming out on Blue Ray.

Jake Hollywood said...

trefyesfan

Wanna bet that old Harlan was using urban slang when referring to Nick Counter?

Dipthong: a person who acts retarded.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=dipthong


Sure sounds like the Nick Counter I know and dislike.

paint the town red said...

I feel that those of you refusing to vote YES on the WGA deal must already be out of work.

Harlan is a genius, but has he created a TV show, or had a film produced in the last decade?

If you want STAY out of work -- for the rest of your career, then vote NO on the contract--

reality check said...

Ellison is an icon who speaks his mind. So was Hunter S. Thompson --we all know what happened to him. Ellison is a great writer. Does that make him a great businessman?

Thw WGA has fought for and won the best health and pension funds in the country. It has fought against rollbacks and won. Writers have never been screwed by the WGA. If you're talented, and you work hard you, too can become a millionaire. All because the WGA has fought for our best interests through the years. And this last negotiation wasn't the exception... If our contract is ratified, the WGA will have been responsible for continuing to create millionaires out of everyday writers every year.

For a decade, I have had to listen to Ellison rail about how we're getting screwed, and how we're monkeys. Guess what Ellison? We're paid incredibly well, and have incredible benefits worth thousands more.... And we will LOSE it all, if your dumb, unrealistic view of the our world and it's writers carries the day.

This is a GOOD deal. This strike was about NEW MEDIA, and they said they'd never give us a damn thing. We struck, I don't know what the hell you mean about writers rolling over -- we cost this town over three and a half billion dollars -- until THEY came back to the table with NO rollbacks and some major concessions. Get real. Here are the "FACTS"; If we vote NO, the Producers will tell us to f-- off, and break our guild -- the one you love to hate.

Let's continue making tons of money for a job that is considerably less difficult than ditch digging or truck driving. And if we're good, we'll get rich -yes, even on this contract.

Vlad Tepes said...

There is no SUBSTANCE to this rant.

In my humble opinion, what we have here is a hunk of grandstanding nonsense.

Any among us can show off. It's easy. It's Dennis Miller. WHERE'S THE REASONED ARGUMENT? THE THOUGHTFUL ANALYSIS?

I, for one, would welcome a reasoned CON Statement.

God, how I hate this kind of irresponsible, angst-ridden, transparent and utterly superficial form of argument.

Spit and spew all you want, Harlan, but cash those checks for 1.2 percent of distributor's gross EVERY TIME someone rents one of your films or episodes.

Hey, Harlan! Ever collected on rentals before? Unless you're working at Blockbuster, I don't think so.

This is so very non-constructive.

Oy vey.

Groovy Dave said...

derekcbart,

I mean no disrespect to those producers who truly see a project from start to finish -- who have a hand in finding material, developing a project with a writer & director, getting financing, putting together a cast -- these are real producers. And, yes, there are those writers who certainly extend themselves into those areas. But I was speaking more in terms of film than television.

I've worked in film development, I've worked for major producers, and I've seen numerous people take credit where credit simply is not due. Everybody wants credit.

Regarding television, many writers aspire to receive that Producer credit because it means more in the back end and helps towards becoming a show runner and creator of a series. These are steps up, they are promotions like in a corporate world where structure and titles mean something. And the one series I had worked on, the writers were very active participants in casting and hiring directors and sitting in the editing room, etc. They weren't just at their computers typing.

With films, it sickens me when I read how someone got a producer's credit, meaning more than likely a chunk of the pie, when they had little to do with the project other than pass the script off to a friend who then agreed to do the movie. And, from experience, that happens.

Rant over.

just a thought said...

The timing of the strike was wrong. Verrone should have waited until the actors went out. I truly don't know if you would have gotten a better deal but it would have been interesting to see what would have happened.
Right now the actors are at war with each other. Some of the rank and file see their board and neg com as wild eye crazies bent on a strike. I'm not talking about a- listers but people that depend on working everyday they can.
There's three from now, the contracts of the guilds closely align. I suggest that you coordinate your efforts. What would be better is all the guilds take charters from the AFL-CIO. you would get help from them in ways you can't alone. Hell the IA wouldn't cross a picket line. A lot to think about.
What I've learned from this strike is that we are all labor to these mother@@@@ers. It doesn't matter what you do, we are cogs in their machines.

Akojen said...

JOHN ABOUD OR MICHAEL COLTON:

Whichever of you called Harlan, kindly call him back. He wants to tie up a few loose ends.

If you have already done so, ignore this. Thank you.

deuddersun said...

just a thought:
"What I've learned from this strike is that we are all labor to these mother@@@@ers. It doesn't matter what you do, we are cogs in their machines."

And the blinding light dispels the darkness!

Luzid, thank you for your kind compliment. As a former United States Marine, currently on in-active duty, I take my commitments seriously. There's a new slogan going around the Corps these days, "No better friend, No worse enemy."

You are absolutely right, Five Fingers, One Fist!

Should the actors decide they also need to strike, I will support them as well. There is simply no other option in my mind. If the Congloms would negotiate with all of us in good faith, none of this would ever be necessary. Think about it.

d.

VDOVault said...

@vlad tepes

SAG & AFTRA had a sit down together at AFL-CIO HQ in Washington DC this past weekend...no news on how that went

Also if I recall correctly the WGAE is AFL-CIO affiliated.

As to Harlan's rant I'll repeat what I said in my own online backyard here:

"I would have directed my ire squarely at the AMPTP and not brought the other writers into it. Because it's not Harlan's fellow writers fault that they were underpaid in the first place and put into a position where they couldn't go with no income forever...that responsibility lies with the armpits.

But that's Harlan...when he turns on the verbal flamethrower just about everyone gets burned (and I am surprised he didn't get around to barbecuing the fans a bit).

His barbs can be biting and amusing but often their misdirection negates their effectiveness."

John Aboud said...

Hello, folks. I was instructed to give Harlan Ellison a call. He told me, "I don't want to get sucked into the Internet any further," but he wanted to reply to one of the comments above. He faxed this response. I believe it is the last he wants to say on the matter. Enjoy! --JA

responding to TREFYESFAN...

I could snap back that, in fact, the misspelling of "diphtong" was the result of any number of idle repostings of what were originally intended as comments only for a few friends on my own website, but Being Responsible is my mantra and, sadly, this doryphore with a misspelled moniker for "treyf" (i.e. "unclean") as we Juden put it, has me cold. Got me! Oh gawd, the shame! The fact that I spell inordinately well enough to have produced 73 for-the-most-part error-free books ... yes I DO, from time to time, type at such a speed that I make a typo. It's a fair cop. Not a felony, nor an invalidation of what has been put forth, but just the sort of petty pecksniffian and meanspirited misdirection that battens on the internet spirit. And it is guys just like "treyf," worms wearing crash-helmets, whose intrusions into civilized congress drive truly terrific, literate people away from these venues.

Doryphore! (You could look it up.)

yr. pal, Harlan

NOTE: Any typos above are mine. -JA

stuiec said...

That will definitely be a title for one of my books (if ever I write one):

"Never Spelling-Flame Harlan Ellison (And Other Lessons from the Blogosphere)"

scribeguy said...

Harlan,

As someone who actually walked with you in '88 (or at least within earshot) I can still enjoy your colorful diatribes, and try to see where they actually might make sense. And because you've been listed as a "futurist" in some of your literary bios, your opinions have some weight, as well as entertainment value.

However, I'm detecting a note of "victimization" here. The big guys always win and the rest of us are pretty much fucked. All we can do, apparently, is rage on against the machine and die noisily.

I realize that you mostly intended your tirade for the eyes of a few close friends, and it reads that way. God forbid that some of my very negative e-mails concerning strike operations and tactics(Yeah, I was in the loop, sorta, kinda, as a Strike Captain... except when I wasn't)ever get posted. (Note to self: delete all Inbox and Outbox e-mails).

But, if you'll permit me to introduce some other "expert" opinions about the future, quoted in the oft-despised, frequently slanted LATimes, the strike as seen by labor experts was, in fact, a considerable sucess. In the spirit of universal contrariness, I'm posting them below:


Other experts believe the writers won a victory that transcends any financial gains.

"It was a defining moment," said economist Harley Shaiken, a professor at UC Berkeley who specializes in labor issues. "It showed that a very disparate group of individuals could act with real solidarity -- and that packed real economic power."

The walkout, which began Nov. 5, proved to be far more economically damaging than the studios had expected, shutting down more than 60 TV shows, hampering ratings and depriving the networks of tens of millions in advertising dollars.

Labor experts said the crippling effect of the strike helped writers achieve gains they might not have otherwise attained.

The new contract gives them residual payments for shows streamed over the Internet and secures the union's jurisdiction for programming created for the Web.

"They successfully faced down six multinational media conglomerates and established a beachhead on the Internet," said Jonathan Handel, former associate counsel for the Writers Guild of America, West and an attorney at TroyGould. "When you consider what they were initially offered and the enormous odds they faced, that's quite an achievement."

Some people at least, don't think we were "beaten like a yellow dog." I happen to be one of them.

Kevin Droney

stuiec said...

rogersoffer: "We don't need to continue to suffer financially; nor do we need to cause others to suffer. We can all work, and then, joining with SAG, get a contract we ALL like, not one pressured into creation."

If the contract is rejected in this go-round, the AMPTP will not let the pressure remain off and will not let the town remain back at work. I'll lay you twenties to turnips that if the WGA membership votes the contract down, the AMPTP will lock out the writers. Would YOU help someone get back on their feet financially if you knew that by doing so, you were simply helping them rest up to do battle against you again?

I am not advocating a YES vote or a NO vote -- I'm not a WGA member and it's not my place to tell you how to vote. But whatever decision you make, make it based on reality and not an idealized best-case scenario.

Luzid said...

@ paint the town red:

One of the reasons writers signed onto the terrible DVD rate was because they listened to people who said things like "We could lose a lot more if we start nit-picking the deal."

Here's hoping SAG is successful with their efforts.


@ reality check:

It's the AMPTP who walked twice that cost this town billions, not the writers who wanted a square deal.

reasonable said...

"Ellison is an icon who speaks his mind. So was Hunter S. Thompson --we all know what happened to him. Ellison is a great writer. Does that make him a great businessman?"

Do you really think Mr. Ellison would still be in the game if he couldn't afford it?
I have it in on excellent authority that he's done quite well for himself. Now ask yourselves "why"?
Because he's fought for ever penny he's earned & deserved. That means walking the picket line; that means taking every thieving, lying, leeching douche-nozzle to court when they attempt to take what doesn't belong to them.
Personally, I think if the WGA rejected this deal the Guild would've gone the way of the Air Traffic Controllers (you know, GONE); this deal is a template to set the stage for the true battle when EVERYTHING is streaming after 2010. But don't ignore Mr Ellison's battle cry. We're gonna need it in 3 years.

Back in the '80's we Trek fen had a saying:
HARLAN IS GOD!

Quin Browne said...

this.

this is why i always wanted to be a writer, why i continue to strive to be a writer, why i hope one day, someone reads even a rant that i write and says...

this. this is why.


as my son would say, mr. ellison, word.

Jason said...

I wonder if part of the unhappiness over this contract is pent-up unhappiness over putting-up with junk the WGA should have fought over long ago. Like the DVD rate. That should've been addressed LONG ago. And now, it's been in place so long, the AMPTP will probably resist strongly...unless you've got a lot of bargaining position with them. Which you might still have right now, if you vote no on the contract. And the silliness with writers being not covered by any union (like reality writers) is getting to the point where it shouldn't be allowed to go on any longer either, otherwise it'll be just like the DVD rate...permanent unhappiness. You guys got a lot more from the strike than the AMPTP initially offered...of course, they initially offered a horrible ravaging of the writers. I don't know, it kind of seems like you guys got played. They offered you something horrible, were willing to let the strike happened, let you pull out your big guns...and then ultimately settled to give you approximately what they should've, fairly, offered in the first place. You guys made a huge sacrifice striking, what did they sacrifice in return? DVD rate? Nope. Reality jurisdiction? Nope. Ok, you got distributor's gross, that's 1 sacrifice from AMPTP. What else?

Michael O'Faolain - said...

Sadly, though, his words reflect the truth. All the guilds appear to have been beaten by a simple tactic employers traditionally used in a labor dispute - the lockout.

As I warned in December, the AMPTP never had any intention of settling early with the WGA and did not bargain in good faith. They slowly "locked out" SAG and DGA members before their contracts were up, in an effort to weaken their resolve before talks started. In the process, they also locked out everyone associated with production.

Lockouts frequently failed in the history of labor disputes. But industrial corporations hadn't yet talked the entire working class into mortgaging their souls for trinkets.

It would be interesting to know how much money workers in the industry, in whatever capacity, knowingly or unknowingly, owe to a subsidiary of GE, which owns NBCU. And even more interesting, how many felt the pressure of their debt owed to arms of the conglomerates?

Union members used to tithe to strike funds in order to help cover what people needed - food, clothing and shelter. It would be impossible to create a fund to cover the debt payments of most workers.

The "need" to own a 1080p 52" high definition Sony TV would outweigh the wisdom to strike until one can make enough money to pay cash for it (because one can get up to 12 months of no interest or payments through a Sony Financial Services credit card). Once one has it and a new BluRay player, DVD's direct from the Sony online can be enjoyed. And tomorrow one can go to work for a Sony Pictures production. Does anyone remember the concept of a "company town." This is the new "company town", except Sony Pictures has no need to own the land under your house.

So the workers now quarrel openly among themselves, in the process making the employer's only real weapon - the lockout - an extremely effective tool in the ongoing process of accumulating riches.

Ellison is right, but is talking to people on their way to work whose new iPhones are blasting conglomerate-owned music too loudly to hear him. The old song hasn't been revised to say "16-frames and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt." But it should be. It's the American Way.

Matt said...

I've said it on a previous post but I think it bears repeating. For someone who is so completely disdainful of new media I find it a bit hypocritical that Ellison starts whining and crying that he didn't get a big enough piece of the new media pie.

katielfetting said...

As anyone who plays poker can tell you -- it's not just about the cards, it's about who you're playing -- gauging their reactions, their hesitations, figuring out just how much they can be bullied ...

With all due respect, Mr. Ellison was not in the negotiating room (at least this time round). If he were, I would place more stock in his rant. Our leadership tells us this is the best deal we can get for the time being. I choose to trust them on this -- especially considering how militant they've been from the get-go. I'm sure if they thought they could get each WGA member a three-picture deal, director approval and a lollipop, they wouldn't have compromised.

As for our big Oscar bargaining chip, what happens to that advantage when the date comes and goes? Our big chip has an expiration date -- producers may have been able to push the awards a month or two, but that's about it.

I voted for the strike and I voted to end it. I'm also aware that with the increasing availability of various distribution streams, I'll be able to put my own shit out there and make my own deals in the coming decade.

So I say take what we can get now and consider ditching the studios entirely at first opportunity.

Seems like there are a lot of armchair quarterbacks in this -- and their armchairs aren't even in the right living room.

Sincerely,
Katie Fetting

Glen said...

Harlan Ellison dislikes what internet does to "civilized congress"? The guy who never uses a measured tone when a rant will do? This entire email of his is a collection of emotional insults without a fact or figure in support of his opinion.

In writing that, I'm not saying he's wrong. He just hasn't made any case at all. He sure made a lot of noise though.

deuddersun said...

"The "need" to own a 1080p 52" high definition Sony TV would outweigh the wisdom to strike until one can make enough money to pay cash for it (because one can get up to 12 months of no interest or payments through a Sony Financial Services credit card). Once one has it and a new BluRay player, DVD's direct from the Sony online can be enjoyed. And tomorrow one can go to work for a Sony Pictures production. Does anyone remember the concept of a "company town." This is the new "company town", except Sony Pictures has no need to own the land under your house."

Michael O'Faolain

Sums it up pretty dam well in my eyes. Remember, I posted earlier that we can, indeed, bring the Congloms to their knees, but not without some pain and suffering and not unless we ALL stand together.

I am reminded of a labor rally in NYC a few years ago protesting some new city policy. The City expected a turnout of between 10-15,000 demonstrators. They assign some 1200 cops to control and contain the protest. Official estimates put the number of demonstrators at 450,000!!! The police were entirely overwhelmed, the demonstrators took over mid-town Manhatten and no more was heard of the city's new policy. That, my Brothers and Sisters is unity. That is power. That is what Corporate American dreads deep in it's cold, gold encrusted heart.

d.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg said...

As a member of the strike supporting organization, the Science Fiction Writers of America, I have to point out that Harlan is right - the deal is an insult.

But we, as writers, must understand the business model of the industry.

We supply raw material; "they" use that raw material as bait for eyeballs. They sell those eyeballs to advertisers.

Our material is worth only as much as the advertisers will pay for the eyeballs we glue to the ads. Or as much as the eyeballs will pay to avoid the ads.

We as suppliers really have to crunch the numbers, measure the eyeball market, and make our own hard and provable determination of what our material is worth, after the expense of baiting some eyeballs.

This new contract is a stepping stone in a long journey.

This new agreement makes the journey longer, but we're tougher than the corporations know (and we didn't cave in; we let them underestimate us.)

We have to start now to plan the strategy for making it to the next stepping stone - which won't be the last.

Until then, use all residual payments for internet and other e-media to buy stock in the corporations we work for -- and get seats on their Boards of Directors. (meanwhile, getting paid dividends instead of royalties and benefiting by the tax break).

Attend stockholder meetings. Use writing talent to spin stockholder opinions in our favor.

Imagine the press coverage when 200 WGA T-shirts walk into the Sony stockholder meeting. Warner Bros.? Disney?

We write war stories. We're in a multi-generation war. Think like a hero. The odds are against us. That clearly means we'll win. And they know it. Boy are they scared now.

(maybe I shouldn't have tipped our hand?)

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://www.simegen.com/jl/

Richard Cosgrove said...

Harlan's comment may be emotional, but his reason for disliking the deal sounds reasoned to me - the 17-day promotion window.

That clause ensures writers won't get residuals on TV shows distributed online during the time when they'll be downloaded the most - the 1-2 weeks after a show's been broadcast and regulars are trying to catch up, and potential regulars are downloading it to see if it's any good.

And it also sets up a precedent, so the next time the WGA negcom meets the AMPTP it will have to explain why the a promotional window isn't acceptable to the WGA members, when they accepted it three years ago.

If I was in a position to vote, I'd go for "no".

As for "worms wearing crash-helmets, whose intrusions into civilized congress drive truly terrific, literate people away from these venues" he's on the money again. Pedants who can't understand that even lifelong, full-time respected writers occasionally make typos, and that making a typo immediately invalidates what you're saying, make the 'net unpleasant.

- Richard

Luzid said...

@ Jacqueline:

That's actually some excellent strategical reasoning -- but the woeful residual rates for new media (all of which are a flat fee, even the third year that's disguised as a percentage) might make such stock swings hard to accomplish.

I just wish someone could explain why "when the studios profit off the writers' works, the writers also profit" is such a hard concept for the AMPTP to accept as fair.

(And, as I've said before, I feel that concept should apply to *everyone* involved in creating entertainment.)

Matt said...

I'm sorry, but Harlan can't have it both ways and not be a complete hypocrite. By his disdain for the web and new media channels he says on one hand he wants no part of it, on the other he is out in the streets because he wants money for it. That is lame duckery on every level.

Don't get me wrong, I wanted the writers to get a good deal out of the strike. They deserved a good deal out of the strike, they are the seeds the rest of garden Hollywood/television/you name it grows out of. I was wanting WGAW/E to get the same deal from the AMPTP they negotiated with the independents who realized which side their bread was buttered on.

But a big part of the fight is because the WGA wisely realized the net is a viable and growing market. They respect it, Ellison doesn't but he is there yelling and screaming when he feels he isn't getting his slice. That I don't respect.

My gripe isn't about the deal (which isn't what the writers should have gotten, they deserved more and better), just Ellison and his disingenuous rant.

Dennis Wilson said...

Matt, far be it from me to put words (or anything else!) in Harlan Ellison's mouth, but I see no contradiction in a guy who has no use for the internet still wanting to be paid when his work is used on it.

Luzid said...

I have to agree with Dennis - Ellison can distance himself from the internet while supporting the concept of writers not getting screwed financially by studio manipulation of said internet.

The two are not mutually exclusive.