2/09/2008

Letter From The Presidents With Deal Summary

This was sent early this morning to membership. The delay in publishing the deal points, we've learned, was because the companies dragged their feet enshrining some of the final details in an attempt to renege on some of what they had promised. The last-minute fight to keep that from happening took until late last night.

To Our Fellow Members,

We have a tentative deal.

It is an agreement that protects a future in which the Internet becomes the primary means of both content creation and delivery. It creates formulas for revenue-based residuals in new media, provides access to deals and financial data to help us evaluate and enforce those formulas, and establishes the principle that, "When they get paid, we get paid."

Specific terms of the agreement are described in the summary at the following link - http://www.wga.org/contract_07/wga_tent_summary.pdf - and will be further discussed at our Saturday membership meetings on both coasts. At those meetings we will also discuss how we will proceed regarding ratification of this agreement and lifting the restraining order that ends the strike. Details of the Los Angeles meeting can be found at http://www.wga.org/subpage_member.aspx?id=2763.

Less than six months ago, the AMPTP wanted to enact profit-based residuals, defer all Internet compensation in favor of a study, forever eliminate "distributor's gross" valuations, and enforce 39 pages of rollbacks to compensation, pension and health benefits, reacquisition, and separated rights. Today, thanks to three months of physical resolve, determination, and perseverance, we have a contract that includes WGA jurisdiction and separated rights in new media, residuals for Internet reuse, enforcement and auditing tools, expansion of fair market value and distributor's gross language, improvements to other traditional elements of the MBA, and no rollbacks.

Over these three difficult months, we shut down production of nearly all scripted content in TV and film and had a serious impact on the business of our employers in ways they did not expect and were hard pressed to deflect. Nevertheless, an ongoing struggle against seven, multinational media conglomerates, no matter how successful, is exhausting, taking an enormous personal toll on our members and countless others. As such, we believe that continuing to strike now will not bring sufficient gains to outweigh the potential risks and that the time has come to accept this contract and settle the strike.

Much has been achieved, and while this agreement is neither perfect nor perhaps all that we deserve for the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice, our strike has been a success. We activated, engaged, and involved the membership of our Guilds with a solidarity that has never before occurred. We developed a captains system and a communications structure that used the Internet to build bonds within our membership and beyond. We earned the backing of other unions and their members worldwide, the respect of elected leaders and politicians throughout the nation, and the overwhelming support of fans and the general public. Our thanks to all of them, and to the staffs at both Guilds who have worked so long and patiently to help us all.

There is much yet to be done and we intend to use all the techniques and relationships we've developed in this strike to make it happen. We must support our brothers and sisters in SAG who, as their contract expires in less than five months, will be facing many of the same challenges we have just endured. We must further pursue new relationships we have established in Washington and in state and local governments so that we can maintain leverage against the consolidated multinational conglomerates with whom we bargain. We must be vigilant in monitoring the deals that are made in new media so that in the years ahead we can enforce and expand our contract. We must fight to get decent working conditions and benefits for writers of reality TV, animation, and any other genre in which writers do not have a WGA contract.

Most important, however, is to continue to use the new collective power we have generated for our collective benefit. More than ever, now and beyond, we are all in this together.

Best,

Patric M. Verrone
President, WGAW

Michael Winship
President, WGAE

88 comments:

jimmy said...

This is the part of the contract that will decide if the strike ends:

"In the third year of this contract, the 2% of distributor’s gross formula is applied
immediately after the initial streaming window. The contract sets an imputed value for
up to 26 weeks of such distributor’s gross at $40,000 for an hour program and $20,000
for a half hour program. So, for the third year the formula pays a residual of $800 for an
hour program and $400 for a half hour program for each potential 26-week period in the
year after the initial streaming window. If the Network’s exclusivity expires prior to one
year after the end of the initial window, the 2% of distributor’s gross receipts begins
without the imputed value. In the case of a 26-week period being truncated by the end
of the year after the end of the initial streaming window, the payment is prorated."

What does it mean for the "Network's exclusivity to expire"?? Because it looks like unless that happens, the residual is still capped at $1600 a year for an hour show.

I won't judge this until someone explains it to me...

jimmy said...

Also interesting that the contract now expires May 1, 2011. Awards and television seasons are now out of jeopardy completely.

BUT - now it's only two months before the other union contracts expire instead of nine months. So all three unions could strike much more easily. Except, once again the writers have to negotiate first and take all the heat.

Hmmm.

Skyfleur said...

I really don't know like this deal. There's not that much improvement from the DGA deal.

There's still that 17 day /24 day window which is SO SO BAd,
there are still those stupid and so high thresholds for original web content.

This is not what I expected. And I see nothing about the DVD formula....

I'm not sure what the strike captains who liked it saw in it or what Verrone et al explained to them, but honestly how can this be a good deal when everyone was yelling the DGA dal was bad ?

Geo Rule said...

Jimmy-- There is no requirement that a union go on strike when its contract expires. WGA could continue to work under the terms of the old contract unless the companies go for a "lockout". So, it would now be an option whether the "writers go first" that could be determined by the guilds.

Jeff Gottesfeld said...

At the captains' meeting on Friday, we were told that there would be a "most favored nations" clause in this new agreement which would insure that if SAG reached better terms than we did on Internet streaming, etc., their terms would apply to our contract. We were told that the language of that clause was still being worked out, but that it would be in the deal memo.

It's still early on Saturday morning, and I haven't read the agreement three times or had enough coffee. But I did read it twice and searched the deal memo with the word "favored" and I don't see the clause.

This clause is crucial. Where it be?

Michael said...

Good news, there's a Fair Market Value test. Which is one of the things the WGA was trying to get which people didn't talk about, but which is actually pretty important. I'd explain why but presumably it'll be covered tonight.

PJ McIlvaine said...

A pig dressed up in silk still looks and smells like....a pig.

Helen said...

Originally, we asked for a deal that would cost companies $151 million over three years. The first AMPTP offer was deemed to be worth $32 million. Using the same calculations, does anyone know the value of this offer?

I think that would be a key number to know.

Patrick Meighan said...

"I'm not sure what the strike captains who liked it saw in it or what Verrone et al explained to them, but honestly how can this be a good deal when everyone was yelling the DGA dal was bad?"

I suppose I'm nominally on the fence on this deal, but one crucial difference (to me), if I understand it correctly, is that (after the 2nd year of this contract) the residual for streamed re-use will automatically rise to match 2% of the average distributor's gross off a streamed episode of television. That, in the long term, should end up being a much better deal for writers than the DGA deal which set a capped and firm $1200, forever enshrined in stone, for a year's re-use of an hour-long episode of television.

Whether that makes this deal a "good" deal as opposed to a fair deal, or a "fair-enough" deal (or a bad deal) is, of course, debatable, and I assume will be plenty debated tonight at the Shrine.

See y'all there.

Patrick Meighan
Culver City, CA

deuddersun said...

Ok, I'm going to be cautious here and withhold my congrats until it's reallydone, but I have to say, there now appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel. I fully believe the studios want this over now and are willing to concede, however, as was mentioned in the intro, not without trying some underhanded moves to renege on paper what they agreed to verbally. Therefore, it may be a little too early to call the strike over.

As I confided to an on-line writer friend last week, I received a phone call booking me to start work on a Disney picture at Steiner Studios to begin on March 24, 2008. This leads me to believe that the Studios are anticipating a resolution sooner rather than later. I didn't say anything about this earlier because I didn't want to ignite any false hopes or further muddy the waters, (by being an unwitting tool of the studios to promote the "idea" that the strike was about to conclude).

As I have said countless times, both here and at my blog, this strike is a microcosm of what is happening everywhere, everyday in America, where Big Business is doing their utmost best to crush Unionism and the working family. In my mind, this strike has to succeed, if for no other reason then to demonstrate to the corporations that we will no longer tolerate business as usual.

"We activated, engaged, and involved the membership of our Guilds with a solidarity that has never before occurred.

We developed a captains system and a communications structure that used the Internet to build bonds within our membership and beyond. We earned the backing of other unions and their members worldwide, the respect of elected leaders and politicians throughout the nation, and the overwhelming support of fans and the general public."


This strike has shown all of us the absolute necessity of standing together, for what hurts one of us, hurts all of us and what helps one of us, helps all of us. As I mentioned before else-where here, I have made some new friends in the Writer's Guild and it is abundantly clear to me that our interests are mutual. So should our struggle be as well.

I sincerely hope that the lessons learned will be put to use binding our various Unions and Guilds together in one powerful Band of the Hand. To that end, I await the resolution of this strike and the rebirth of United Hollywood, as a focal point for ALL of us in the Entertainment Industry, to keep a watchful eye on the machinations of the studios. If our elected leaders won't do it, we, as individuals must elect ones who will. After all, if I'm watching you and you're watching me, whose watching them?

So let's hold the elation in check until we know for certain that victory is in hand. Then let me be the first to offer Congratulations to my Brothers and Sisters who lit the darkness with their courage and solidarity.

Christopher G. Markunas
aka "d."
Set Construction Foreman
IATSE
Local #52
New York City
http://deuddersun.blogspot.com/

Mild said...

<< PJ McIlvaine said...

A pig dressed up in silk still looks and smells like....a pig. >>

Yesss... but, it's in *silk!*

Sillllllk! :D

looklongandhard said...

As someone who negotiates for a living (outside of the entertainment industry)and has been following the strike since it's onset, I just have to say that if you decide to ratify this contract not only are you screwed now, you're screwed in three years.

After quickly skimming through, some of the points that jumped out at me were the 17/24 day provision (you'll make nothing with this window), the "Network exclusivity", "distributors gross" (because no one cooks their books), and of course the contract date of expiration (award shows, pilots and upfronts will all be moot points).

Don't sell yourselves short and settle for far less than you deserve. I understand that this is rough for many people in the entertainment industry but if you ratify this contract, when the dust settles and you realize where you stand, you'll be worse off then when you started.

Geo Rule said...

Re the internet jurisdiction point, doesn't the clauses that if any writer with any TV credit is employed, then the production is covered and all writers will join WGA, pretty much cover any problem with minimum dollar amounts jurisdiction?

It's a pretty specialized skill being a screenplay writer.

Dwight Williams said...

And the concern over intended - and unintended - consequences begins elsewhere already. In this case, the copyright arguments still in progress:

http://www.digital-copyright.ca/node/4527

kisum said...

I don't understand why so many companies signed on to the exact deal we asked for and the studios won't. If I understand things right, companies like World Wide Pants, Dimension, Lionsgate and Yari will now get the same terms of this new big studio deal. Obviously, we're at where we're at and will bite the bullet and take what's on the table but I would love for someone to explain tonight why we couldn't do better when so many were willing to sign on to what seemed like fair terms.

Did they sign on knowing we'd never match those terms just to get a leg-up? Or did they believe the terms made good business sense? And if that's true, then why would it make sense for them and not the studios?

The leadership did an amazing job in an impossible situation but I can't help but think the hand is being misplayed somehow. Unless I'm missing something, wasn't the leverage of having companies sign on working?

How long could Leno's weak guests last against Letterman? How long before the big studios stop letting the little guys make TV shows and movies that they should be making?

Maybe the answer is longer than we can hold out so it's a moot point. But I hate the feeling that we had a good deal with so many and now everyone gets the same weaker deal.

But, at the end of the day, I can live with it if the next guy can.

Next time we should build a much bigger strike fund and use the wedge of signing on smaller, writer-friendly companies to make the big machine buckle more.

Geo Rule said...

To the Writers--

Be nice to each other tonight, 'kay? Disagree without being disagreeable. The enemy won't be in that room.

--Your Fans

slightly sober said...

I feel our negotiators quit on mile 25 of this marathon.

This contract, in my opinion, with the leverage we have built up, is shit.

C. A. Bridges said...

I'd love to see numbers. What would be paid for a hypothetical successful prime time show that was put online, compared to the same show rerun on television?

dp said...

Vote yes! Don't waver in your support of your infallible leaders. Questioning their methods and strategy was never tolerated on here and now they've brought you the deal that you've allowed them to negotiate for you.

Don't turn into a "shill" now. You must vote Yes.

Chips Down said...

One thing I would be asking myself is, what does this deal give me in the immediate future, especially since it is a three year contract.

As for residuals, over the next three years I would suggest that DVDs are still going to be the main source, with permanent downloads a close second. This deal from what I can see, does not increase or change in any way the amount you get for DVDs.

It doesn't really change permanent downloads in any substantial manner either. But it does address streaming, except that this is not where you are going to see much money between now and 2011.

So is this really going to make any difference in how much you will see in actual cash in the next three years, or is it just getting your foot in the door for what may one day be profitable?

I was quite surprised to see DVDs left behind that there is no increase in residuals now. Really this deal doesn't sound much like it will put many dollars in anyone's pocket for the duration of the contract and still after three more years you aren't going to get a single cent more for DVDs than you have for the last 20.

But that's just me.

RoxanneRoxanne said...

From a Variety article:

"To some WGA members familiar with the current workings of streaming, that’s unnacceptable due to current data showing that the lion’s share of streaming views takes place within the first three to five days with the majority often in the first 24 hours."

Think about that verrry carefully. And good luck to you all.

-- An actor who takes care of her family on residuals --

Chris S said...

This is a real improvement on the DGA deal. We have made unprecedented strides by securing Gross percentage in the third year and in getting the companies to open their books to us.

As for DVD, the companies were never and will never adjust that formula. We are now fighting (and winning) for our future. Not the past.

Edward said...

"I sincerely hope that the lessons learned will be put to use binding our various Unions and Guilds together in one powerful Band of the Hand."

Not to change the subject Chris but not as long as Tom Short is the head of our IATSE.

IATSE showed no support for labor in this confrontation even going so far as to organize anti-labor rallies at WGA picket events! And even though us hammers aren't writers we still get the concept of irony.

As hard as was(is?) for Local 52 members we stood(stand?) behind this strike 100%!

focuspuller said...

Look guys... a word from the trenches. Many of you already come across as angry with this deal and you've only just seen it. You are ready to pass, it seems, almost out of spite. I'm asking you to please calm down and consider what you're doing. I'm not suggesting you cave, but I am suggesting that you really look at what you've gotten and what it's possible to still get (or not get).

Understand that I have supported this strike from the beginning, but the cavalier way with which some of your number discuss prolonging an already long strike is frightening.

You all are some of the highest paid employees in the world. We all see the cars you drive... the clothes you wear... your houses. I wouldn't be surprised if most of you aren't still getting paychecks in the mail because of the reruns this strike has triggered. Sure you're not supposed to be cashing them, but at least they're on your table. I've gotten nothing. Most of my Below the Line coworkers are getting nothing. We're burning through savings and retirements and Home Equity Lines of Credit. That said, most of us who work all the time are probably still ok... unless this goes to summer.

I'm begging you, as someone who has a family to support... get what you can, but don't stay on strike for something that's never gonna happen just because you feel you're getting screwed. We feel your pain, but you need to feel ours as well. The longer you go, the hungrier we all get. You go to June, we all get ravenous. The Suits won't care... that just means we'll work for less, for longer, in danger, whatever. You guys may eventually get everything you want, I hope you do. But if this goes too long, all the rest of us will get our rates cut. Or all us experienced guys will pick up our stakes and head out. The guys that remain will have less experience, and let's face it... that's not gonna help you get your vision on the screen.

So I'm asking, and please take this in the spirit in which it's offered... put away your emotions and seriously consider this deal. If you've lost your perspicacity, take a breath. Let someone else talk. Listen. And before you rush to reject it, at least consider whether it's something you could accept. Not because of the Suits or the Board, or the Oscars, but because if you guys wait until summer, the Hollywood you come back to is gonna be a ghost town and you'll have to go somewhere else to make your movie.

Probably forever.

Abigail said...

Someone mentioned the high thresholds for original web content - but read that section carefully and you'll see that if you are a "professional writer" i.e. a WGA member who has done basically any work at all, these thresholds do not apply.
This basically means that virtually ALL internet content is covered by the WGA MBA. This is a HUGE improvement over the DGA deal.

Anthony Cromartie said...

Good-now give my Transformers 2 guys.

And in the script-make Megan Fox lose her pants this time-while running from...Ravage or something.

DLJ said...

2% of distributor's gross is meaningless if the distributor's gross is arbitrarily defined to be $40,000 for an hour program and $20,000 for a half hour program. It's not a true "2% of distributor's gross," it's a hard cap of $1600 for a year of use.

Please, someone tell me that I'm reading that wrong...

JimBob said...

I so want to like this deal, but there's still that damn free window and the $15,000-a-minute entry point for coverage. I really hate those things. The window should be briefer, and if exhibition goes on beyond it, ALL revenues should be calculated into the writer's payment. This allows something REALLY BAD to die a dog's death without payment, but rewards success.
As for the budget thang...this isn't for the protection of home-made videomakers. Only a sizeable company has that kind of money to spend. Also it's an invitation for funky bookkeeping, companies finding new ways to make the budget look lower than it really is. It's bad. I don't like it. Signatory companies need to hire WGA writers for ANY project regardless of size or (supposed) budget.

MrKlaatu said...

Jimmy is dead on. That clause is the most important one, and I don't understand it either. Does the contract morph into one with UNCAPPED streaming residuals in its third year? Or, is it smoke an mirrors that keep it capped.

Need this explained better.

Steven Hale said...

As a new media content developer, I think the tentative contract is a step in the right direction and returns a reasonable degree of control to the guild. SAG can continue the effort in their negotiations, but even after June, it's going to be essential for guild members and leaders to keep up-to-date as the shift in distribution and content continues its inevitable march (regardless of what the AMPTP does). What happens after the contract (in whatever form) is approved will be far more critical than the contract terms themselves. The DGA negcom showed the dangers of overestimating one's own intelligence-gathering strategies. Since the contract emphasizes the importance of content created specifically for new media, I would hope that when the dust settles, the guild will establish full membership for new media creators (not simply caucus status), particularly the WGAE, which doesn't seem to grant even caucus standing.

Best wishes with the meetings today. You are smart and principled people, and you will prevail.

JimBob said...

I’m very disappointed in a number of areas. On the one hand, we talk about “When they profit, we profit,” but then there are loopholes galore.

“(3) If you create an Internet program that is the equivalent of a traditional TV series
(over $25,000 per minute and 20 minutes in length) you are entitled to the same rights
as in (2) above, plus sequel payments for each Internet episode based on your program”

So, the studios come out with a new kind of Internet program. Guess what: It’s 19.5 minutes long, it costs $24,999 a minute and guess what – there are three new “episodes” a day for an hour of your viewing pleasure!

And as for that budget – who really knows what the budget is? The Company? Sure, the same as they know what producer’s gross profit is: WHATEVER THEY SAY IT IS!
Same with the $15,000 a minute threshold. Who counts the beans? If a star or director is under contract for a fixed annual amount (no, that isn’t how business is done now, but union contracts change the way the Companies do business), how is his/her contribution budgeted in? What exactly IS a budget, anyway? And who but a biggish company can afford that kind of money? If all signatories to the MBA don’t provide coverage for ALL content produced, they will find a way around us – I double-damn guarantee you – except maybe for the next Bourne movie or the Titanic sequel (blub-blub).

I could go on, but I’m too disgusted. I urge writers to look at this deal not in terms of the way business is done today but in terms of how business will be done under this contract. We signed a bad cable deal because it never occurred to us that a company would sell a show to its own cable arm for a dollar and rerun the shit out of it. They did it to save residual money, folks, and there are lots of ways in this contract for them to tweak their “business plan” to avoid sharing the revenue with us.
Feh.

Harold said...

I have previously written several times that the DVD proposal was not going to be making it back on the table. The DVD proposal has not been mentioned once since it was originally removed in exchange for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.

Once you take something off the table in exchange for nothing, you have basically said that you think the proposal is worthless - like the reality and animation proposals that few members would have gone on strike for.

If Verrone et al attempted to put the DVD proposal back on the table, AMPTP would say something like "You agreed to remove that proposal in exchange for us negotiating with you. Well, we're negotiating."

AMPTP tested the NegCom to see how much value the DVD proposal truly had for them. When AMPTP found out it was nothing, it made another ultimatum demanding six other proposals be dropped. Two of those were - reality and animation.

Don't think for a second that AMPTP entering "informal" talks was not conditional on reality and animation being dropped. AMPTP has been allowing Verrone et al to save face, because membership goodwill toward Verrone is helpful when he champions this crappy contract.

Make no mistake. Verrone is owned by AMPTP now. He may not like it, but AMPTP has more control over his opinion than he does now. Because when it's about face-saving, the one who allows you to save face controls everything. The NegCom is essentially AMPTP at this point.

One thing that I've learned from this strike is that a large portion of this guild is incredibly gullible. I'd say even retarded when it comes to making a deal. I don't want to know how much you paid for your cars and homes, but I know it was way more than you should have.

Barry Rubinowitz said...

Some questions that must be answered:
1. Why May 11th? That makes this a 3 and half year deal for them but structured for three. It also takes them through awards and pilot season and allows them to get all their Fall movies done. Bad idea, IMO.
2. Who will police the budgets on the new media thresholds? In their current budgets, studios stick all sorts of things (stage rentals, etc.) in the budget, are we going to make sure they don't pull those out of NM budgets to artificially deflate them? (Or not inflate them as network budgets are)
3. What minor modifications to Reuse rules?
4. EST eliminates the Producer's Gross concept by simply adjusting the formula down to its level of 0.36% -- is this a gain or a loss?
5. Why 17 days? What is special about that?
6. Fair Market Value: who conducts the "test of reasonableness"? Who polices it? How is it enforced? This is mighty vague.

Brian Scully said...

I support this tentative deal, as I understand it and I'm looking forward to hearing more from the negotiating committee tonight.

Look, we elected them and trusted their judgement when a pattern of demands was drafted... We trusted their judgement when they said a strike was the only option to get the AMPTP to bargain seriously... so why the hell aren't we trusting them NOW, when they tell us that they got us the best possible deal they could get?

They've been in the negotiating room, face-to-face against the biggest hard-ball players in our business. I trust them if they say this is the best deal that can be gotten now... and I'd also trust them if they were telling us that this was NOT the best deal they could get.

Look, I'm no expert on union negotations, but I've been a working writer in this town for 20 years, and I've had my agent negotiate dozens of staff deals and pilot deals for me and you know what? I NEVER got everything I wanted... I never got what I felt I was worth, but I got the best deals I could get. If anyone expected us to get everything we wanted, then they haven't made deal in Hollywood in the last 20 years.

Whether or not you agree with this deal, at least let Patric and David and John explain it to us tonight... give them the same trust you gave them all along here. Nothing has changed in them.

stuiec said...

Chris "Deddersun" Markunas: I noted this paragraph in their letter.

"There is much yet to be done and we intend to use all the techniques and relationships we've developed in this strike to make it happen. We must support our brothers and sisters in SAG who, as their contract expires in less than five months, will be facing many of the same challenges we have just endured. We must further pursue new relationships we have established in Washington and in state and local governments so that we can maintain leverage against the consolidated multinational conglomerates with whom we bargain. We must be vigilant in monitoring the deals that are made in new media so that in the years ahead we can enforce and expand our contract. We must fight to get decent working conditions and benefits for writers of reality TV, animation, and any other genre in which writers do not have a WGA contract."

I won't comment much on the terms of the deal (except to say it looks like exactly the DGA deal with the added conversion to a percentage residual in year 3). However, I am a bit disappointed that in the paragraph I quoted above, SAG is mentioned by name but none of the other guilds and unions are. I think one of the key lessons of this strike should have been -- IS -- that, seeing the value of the SAG's support, the WGA should make it a priority to reach out to and create similar alliances with all of the other guilds and unions in the entertainment industry. Christopher Markunas's autograph may not fetch as much on eBay as, say, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss's, but I think it has at least as much value as a token of solidarity.

- Stuart Creque

jere7my said...

Concerning the 17-day window, note that it is tied to the initial broadcast — i.e., they can't start streaming until they pay you the entire fee for the initial broadcast. All you're losing in those 17 days are the residuals you would have earned from reruns in the first two weeks, which is to say diddly-squat (in most cases). Who rebroadcasts an episode within two weeks of its initial airing? Who wants to watch a show twice in two weeks (and doesn't TiVo it for that purpose)?

You should think of the 17-day window not as infinite re-airing for two weeks, but as a way to spread out the single initial airing. The number of viewers will probably be about the same; it just makes the show available to people who missed it on TV. Yes, the nets will bring in some ad revenue from those first two weeks, but they'll also lose ad revenue as people move away from the TV broadcast, so it's apt to be a wash — whereas the writers don't lose anything, because their pay isn't tied to the number of eyeballs.

The 17 days won't affect reruns, because there usually aren't any in the first two weeks, and it won't affect your paychecks, because they still have to air the show first on TV. It's just a basket to catch people who are moving from their couches to their computers. And it helps the writers by making it easier for people to catch up on shows they miss, which means more viewer interest.

Disclosure: I'm not involved with the WGA (or any other guild). I just think people got their backs up against the 17 days without really thinking it through. Good luck to all of you in settling this!

Sage said...

No increase in the DVD formula? Based on this alone, I would vote NO and go back to the picket line.

Everyone else seems so worked up about new media, which is fine, but let's be honest. DVD and Blu-Ray is where the big profits will be these next three years. For us to settle for the same, horrible 1980s-era compensation after a united three month strike is ludicrous.

We'll see what Verrone says tonight about DVDs. I'll never believe that it is a non-starter for the studios. Without us, they have NOTHING -- no Oscars, no new movies, no new TV shows. If they want to remain greedy pigs, then they'll just have to live with collapsing profits and stockholder turmoil.

Don't think you have to approve this deal just because leadership has given in. Let's hold their feet to the fire on DVD/Blu-Ray residuals.

me said...

Did anyone else catch the fact that the 2% in the third year only applies to network primetime? Does that mean that cable is forever capped at the horrible peanut rates? So Battlestar Galactica and Mad Men and all other future cable writers effectively will lose residuals? If I were a network, I'd simply start doing everything through my sister cable channel. Isn't this loophole big enough to drive a fleet of trucks and planes through?

I understand the concept of compromise and I'm willing to take the cap for the first two years in order to get what we need in the long run, but not at the cost of every show on cable. This deal was supposed to protect residuals for the future. Am I missing something? WTF?

stuiec said...

kisum: "Next time we should build a much bigger strike fund and use the wedge of signing on smaller, writer-friendly companies to make the big machine buckle more."

Absolutely agree on point one -- and would amplify it to recommend that all guilds and unions coordinate the building of a strike fund so that a strike by any one of them doesn't come under pressure from their brothers and sisters being idled by the strike.

On point two: the strategy of side deals was not primarily to prove how reasonable the WGA's demands were and are. It was simply to lure companies away from the AMPTP side of the bargaining table. Less weight on that side of the see-saw, more leverage for the WGA. Giving the early signers a most-favored nations clause that now upgrades their terms was part of the strategy: to make defection from the AMPTP bloc a risk-free proposition to those companies.

stuiec said...

geo rule: yes, the jurisdiction clause (if the summary matches the actual contract language) uses the conjunction "OR" between the conditions. So any one of the three conditions (a credited writer, a derivative of a program covered by the MBA, or a program above the dollar thresholds) triggers WGA jurisdiction. I think that's in line with the DGA deal.

Harold said...

"Patrick Meighan said...I suppose I'm nominally on the fence on this deal, but one crucial difference (to me), if I understand it correctly, is that (after the 2nd year of this contract) the residual for streamed re-use will automatically rise to match 2% of the average distributor's gross off a streamed episode of television. That, in the long term, should end up being a much better deal for writers than the DGA deal which set a capped and firm $1200, forever enshrined in stone, for a year's re-use of an hour-long episode of television."

Patrick, you'll be voting for the deal. Here's why.

Your gauge of fairness has shifted from the original proposals to "better than the DGA deal." AMPTP has set the basis for you - the DGA deal. True or false, you believe that is a fair measurement tool. "As long as its better than that deal" is your fairness guide.

The DGA deal isn't even final. They're taking their time and looking at what the WGA approves. Then, they may enjoy some minor upward adjustment themselves.

So you'll probably get the DGA deal if you vote for this one.

AMPTP owns this guild. That was proven in this strike. It has adjusted your assessment of what is fair, it has set the agenda for your strike, it has convinced you to dump proposals in exchange for nothing, and it is ending your strike when it wants you to end it.

In the future, no one should sneer at IATSE or the DGA. The WGA is as compliant as the others. It just gave up salary and wages. That's the only difference.

Some would call that stupidity. Sacrificing for something worth that sacrifice is something else entirely. When you look at the WGA ticker on AMPTP's web site, understand that this deal is not even worth a third of that amount.

And the majority of this guild is going to be fine with that.

Thanks for nothing.

DLJ said...

Chris S:

That 2% in the third year is completely meaningless because it's not 2% of the *actual* distributor's gross -- it's 2% of $40,000 for an hour-long and $20,000 for a half hour. Unless the Network's "exclusivity" ends and I have no idea what that means.

Can anybody out there explain exclusivity?

Also: What does "3% of the residual base (applicable minimum)" mean?

Harold said...

"kisum said...I don't understand why so many companies signed on to the exact deal we asked for and the studios won't. Did they sign on knowing we'd never match those terms just to get a leg-up? The leadership did an amazing job in an impossible situation but I can't help but think the hand is being misplayed somehow. Unless I'm missing something, wasn't the leverage of having companies sign on working? Next time we should build a much bigger strike fund and use the wedge of signing on smaller, writer-friendly companies to make the big machine buckle more."

The interim agreements were just a tool to attempt to keep the strike in the news and provide an illusion of strike progress even though none was being made. It was all about looking good, but not being good. AMPTP was never serious about negotiating until they had a DGA deal to use as a template for the WGA deal, so everything prior to that was just testing of the value of the WGA proposals. Resumption of "informal" negotiations was conditional on the WGA NegCom dropping the reality and animation proposals - which it did. The interim agreements had ZERO effect on the negotiations.

All of the interim agreements (and let's be honest for a moment - they were only glorified strike waivers because the membership is supposed to approve all agreements) revert to whatever AMPTP agrees which means they were worthless at the time they were given to prodcos and nonexistent after this crappy contract is approved.

The leadership has fumbled this strike during every round of negotiations. Three proposals were given up in their entirety in exchange for ABSOLUTELY NOTHING unless you consider a willingness to negotiate something that is worth keeping the same home video rate.

There is no "next time" for a strike. Not in 3 years. Not in 30. WGA is 0 for 3 in strikes. Members would have to be even more stupid than many are to make it 0 for 4.

The new contract ensures that award season and pilot season is protected from a WGA strike. Any perceived leverage that was held by threatening the Oscars and pilot season this year will not be an option in future years.

Great job, guys.

J. said...

We must, must, must get SAG's reaction.

The problem is there is no time to get SAG's reaction.

Look at how long it took us to respond to the DGA deal (including their letter that trumpeted all the supposed gains they made.)

All I had time to do was skim this thing. It is a lot to digest. There is no way I will be able to make an informed decision in time.

I have enough self-hate as it is. I don't need to add being forced into a deal that screws future generations to the list.

lordmanji said...

I think it's a dealbreaker for no increase on DVD resids at all. It's inconceivable that it was taken off the table in the first place. DVD and Blu-ray will continue to be the primary check-payer for clearly the next three years. I am very disappointed in the leadership for withdrawing it. Right now the Guild has the most leverage. There is no deadline by Sunday. The Guild should press DVD residuals. That is the second most important thing behind Internet resids and writers will see the most immediate gain from it. I hope more members will speak up at the meeting today regarding DVD resids.

Cathy Krasnianski said...

Is this the best possible deal for us? No. Is this worth all those hours on the picket line and the loss of innumerable jobs? No.

Is this it?

We'll see.

lordmanji said...

The guild took 20 years to strike again and what has improved? Another crappy deal mirroring the home video deal. The guild will not be striking in 3 years because they will not have the same leverage as they do at this very moment. Nor will they have the outpouring of public support. If they strike in three years, trust me, the public will TURN ON the guild. So the guild must stand up right now to the AMPTP and negotiate a FAIR deal. DVD resids especially must be increased. What is the point of ramming down a 17day window against SAG? We need to give SAG more leverage, not less. The Oscars is a de facto deadline set by the AMPTP. It is the AMPTP's greed and bad faith tactics that have created this situation. The WGA needs to reject the deal and fight for a better one. The public will turn on the AMPTP after the initial anti-WGA backlash if we get our message out. The AMPTP still has room to negotiate. They've only led us to believe they're at their final offer. Do not trust them. At the end of the day, fairness must win. No 17 day promotional internet window and increase in DVDs or NO DEAL.

J. said...

I would like to know if we have a most favored nations clause. If we do, I humbly request that the deal language to be read at the meeting.

I would also like to know if the DGA had a most favored nations clause that said that they would get the same terms on that we do?

Is that why the DGA was so ready to take such bad terms? Because they knew they would improve based on our sacrifices?

teenabooth said...

I am so disappointed. And I feel guilty for being disappointed, because I DO have faith in the leadership. And I do not argue that this is the best deal possible at this time, but from the way I read it, it hardly feels worth three months of sacrifice. I felt all along this was a noble and right cause, fighting for our future survival. I felt insulted by the $250 a year for re-use and felt a percentage was worth fighting for. Why is $1300 a year worth a strike? How is that survival?

Was I focused on the wrong issue? I thought it was about Internet residuals, but maybe the real issue was just plain jurisdiction all along? Maybe that is indeed a real victory that we wouldn't now have without this strike. I must be naive about how much this contract is worth compared to what we were offered in early Dec. I live out of state, I can't go to the meeting to get my questions answered. But all I can think is, if I'm this disappointed, and I sat far away, how must people feel who invested all that time in the picket line every day?

jimmy said...

Question: When does a "New Program" covered by this complicated window of free residuals become a "Library" program, which gets a flat fee of 2% of distributor's gross?

Does this mean shows like "Lost" and "30 Rock" which are not new, but are "programs produced after 1977" are going to be getting a much better deal?

And, when in a show not "new" anymore? After year one? Or is EVERY show produced after the ratification of the MBA "new"?

If this clause is basically letting networks do a money grab on season one, but not on subsequent seasons, that might be a decent trade for their risk.

But if a show is picked up, which means it's found an audience, this would reward programs that get more than one season.

But somehow, since that actually seems fair, I doubt that interpretation is accurate.

Ilike2think said...

I messed up and don't think my post will come through. If it is posted twice I apologize.

I am not a writer I am a fan and supporter of the writers. I hope I am not over stepping here but I have been thinking and I have a suggestion.

The fan supporters have not been streaming since you went on strike. If asked I am sure we would all agree to not to stream until after the 17 day window to insure you would get the money. Am I nuts?

Not An said...

kisum -

The interim contracts were signed because those signing (on the production side) knew they would never be enforced; that's the reason side deals were always a bad idea. However, most (in my earshot) members thought the interim contracts were pieces of an overall strategy that would bring the AMPTP back to the table. I didn't support that tactic but I supported the neg comm. Now a lot of those who supported that strategy are calling the neg comm out in even worse terms than they called out the AMPTP (which brings up the inability of many very talented writers to understand shading and nuance, but that's another post). I don't understand, you can disagree with the deal and vote against it but why disparage those who last week you idolized?

Read the fine print, stay strong, think for yourself.

J. said...

So we it's pretty safe to assume that downloads will replace DVDs.

.65 percent is the top we will get as feature writers? The problem here is that DVDs sell for 19.99 and downloads on Apple are going for 3.99.

That is a HUGE difference. Basic math says I would rather have 10 percent of 1000 than 20 percent of 50 dollars, right? This is just one of the many things we need time to discuss.

If we say no today, I think the AMPTP will sweeten the deal this week. It's not like they have today's date circled on their calendars as the day two seasons of TV and a bunch of tentpoles go poof.

The stuff they aren't budging on is the stuff where the real money is, like the promotional window. Remember, we will set our computers to capture a stream when an episode comes out, not 18 days later. Also, how do we know what is considered streaming and what is considered downloading.

There is just too much here to really think about. I don't have cohesive thoughts on this and I haven't thought through all the raminfications and I haven't heard any outside expert advice or read any HuffPo pieces...all because the companies want us to think that there isn't time for analysis or expert opinion.

We cannot fall for another trick, and I am afraid that that is exactly what this is.

Mr. said...

I'm confused about what, exactly, the breakdown re: payment is for original new media writing. There is a clause explaining payments to writers for new media programming based on existing material (I assume that means a new media show based on, say, The Office, House, 40 Year Old Virgin, etc.) But when the terms get to original new media production/writing, there's no mention (as far as I can see) of what those minimums are. Are they the same payments as for internet shows based on existing "traditional" series/movies or what?

Also, why are shows based on dramas paying more than those based on comedies? It's the same 2 minute duration. I understand why a traditional drama script pays more than a comedy script -- it's twice as long. Why are two 2 minute webisodes paid differently?

This flat fee for year long use seems really bad to me. ESPECIALLY with this "promotional" window of 17-24 days after initial release. Why are we letting the Companies pretend that there is such a thing as promotional use? If there is ANY ad revenue OR sponsor recognition during a clip of any kind, IT ISN'T PROMOTIONAL USE! It's generating income. Man, "promotional use" seems like a term that is going to haunt us forever if we allow it to seem justified.

And in terms of the flat fee payment for, basically, year-long use, having worked for MTV a number of times, it is terribly frustrating to see your work aired 50 times a month for the same price as a show that bombs and is rarely re-run. I just don't believe for a minute that networks aren't making a lot of money on streaming commercials (those annoying ads we have to watch when viewing a streaming episode of Friday Night Lights, say, on nbc.com). As I understand it, we wouldn't share in those profits until the 3rd year of a single show being re-run for a third 12 month period? Maybe I have that wrong. Maybe in the third year it's ALL new media shows sharing in ad revenue?

Finally, these minimums are LOW! In having produced an internet series last year, I was able to negotiate a much higher per/episode fee for a series with a per/episode budget many, many times LESS than the budgets discussed in this proposal.

I want the strike to be over as much as the next guy. But in giving up reality and animation coverage, areas in which many of us non-habitually hired network TV writers struggle to make a living, for this to be the best we can come up with. It's disappointing.

Harold said...

"Sage said...No increase in the DVD formula? Based on this alone, I would vote NO and go back to the picket line."

I don't know why this surprises you. The DVD proposal was withdrawn in exchange for nothing months ago.

Oh? You say that Verrone said that it would be put back on the table even though that was the last time it was ever mentioned?

I remember Verrone saying something about reality being covered by the next contract before he and the NegCom dropped it in exchange for nothing last month.

How's your trust of your leadership working out for you?

It's all pointless. I'm just venting. The majority of members are tired of the strike. They are ready to get back to work and resume life as they previously knew it.

This deal will be approved. That's a certainty.

The NegCom is ending the strike. That decision has already been made.

The strike captains are telling you to keep an open mind, even though they've already made up theirs in favor of the proposed deal. They told you to wait for the "final" information - despite it being EXACTLY what all the reports said it was going to be.

My favorite argument in favor of the deal tonight is going to be the "if we stay on strike, the deal only gets worse because now is the time that we have the most leverage" entry on the talking points list.

DLJ said...

OK, maybe I'm just spamming at this point, but the more I think about it, the more upset I am about the use of "2% of distributor's gross" language in the deal. To say we get 2% of distributor's gross and then cap it at $40,000 is to accept a flat-rate of $1,600. So why didn't they just say that? Why would our leaders put such purposefully obfuscating language in the deal points? What reason could there possibly be except that they realize flat-rate is a defeat and they're trying to dress it up as a victory? Shame on them.

Omnie said...

"Initial Streaming Window: There is an initial window of 17 days (24 days for episodes
of the first season of a series, one-off television programs, and MOWs) with no residual.
This window must include or occur contiguous to the initial television exhibition."

Wow. As a TV viewer, I have to say this is absolutely terrible. I don't know many people bother to watch TV shows 2.5 weeks after they aired. The only people I know who do that are catching up on missed episodes or something of that nature. I know all dedicated fans watch the episode on TV or within the next week. For example, take the online streaming of Late Night with Conan O'Brien. After about a week or so most people don't bother to watch the episode because all the jokes have gone out of date or something like that.

The second point I have to make is the lack of anything in the DVD area. I am rather disappointed in this.

As a fan, buying DVDs is mainly how I watch shows so I have to say I am not in favor of this deal.

mheister said...

Did the WGA get the AMPTP to drop the "no strike" clause? I'm curious to know if the writers can, under the proposed agreement, refuse to cross another guild's picket line without violating their contract.

As a SAG member - and I've said this in previous posts - the 17-day window is a dealbreaker because in the episodic television world, almost all the downloads happen within the first 48 hours. I'm not an accountant, but I know when I'm not getting paid.

PS - My guild should get the "no strike" rule dropped from our contract too.

James said...

I've been an ardent supporter of Verrone until now. I recognize that this might be best deal we can get, but I absolutely resent Verrone out and out lying to us by trying to sell us on the idea that in the 3rd year we get a gross percentage. We don't.

It turns out that the rumors that they'd worked out a creative solution are true: just call it a gross percentage when it's not! Done deal! They spent over two weeks negotiating that! Why did they stop there? Why not just say that we'll get a million dollars per stream -- capped at $800, of course.

Verrone needs to stop spinning and say, "It's the same crappy DGA deal, but it's the best we can do."

MrKlaatu said...

1. This deal does not switch to a percentage of distributor's gross in year three as we had been led to believe. It is based on a preset number and is therefore capped. Half-hour streaming residuals will go from $360 per half-year to $400. The cap is not removed. The way the cap is described is.

2. High quality, scripted cable shows are also capped, and don't ever switch to a percentage, even a fake one. Where a show first aired is irrelevant once it reaches the Internet. Cable writers will lose their residuals as reruns shift online.

Robert said...

The opening AMOTP offer was: no more residuals. They won that one. They never moved an inch on that, or barely on anything else.

So is it over? Well, something’s over, and it’s not only this strike. Follow the money, as William Goldman wrote, and you’ll find what’s “over” is any power the guilds in this town had to negotiate for and protect their members.

The loudest voices we’re hearing are our own members who want the strike to end at any cost. “We’re killing the industry, we’re being childish.” (Someone knows if you call people names long enough, they’ll start to agree with you. Weird. Didn’t we get enough of this from the AMPTP?) Any minute we’re going to hear certain phrases repeated enough to deafen us. “This is their last offer,” and "If we don't take this deal, whatever it is, the Guild will split apart." Are either of those true? The next question is, would you like to die now or later?

Vote for the deal. We go back to work and the Guild doesn’t "split apart." Then “we survive to fight another day.”

Except we don’t.

With this deal approved, the guilds face death by starvation. Does anyone think this wasn’t the AMPTP’s goal from the first day? These deals mean a radical drop in WGA, DGA and SAG dues income. (If that’s not true, let our leaders tell us so. While we’re at it, tell us residuals aren’t gone.) If this were about our individual incomes, we could be sick at heart. But all of us and our families will soon be sick in body, too. When members’ incomes drop, the AMPTP pays less in contributions to the benefit plans. That means the end of decent health care and pensions. When dues income drops far enough, the guilds won’t have enough to run a large organization (let alone a strike) or collect residuals (that’s okay since now they don’t exist) or audit a studio or do any of the other things guilds and unions do. If IATSE thinks they're immune, welcome to the club, the bell tolls for you, too. You don’t think so? Look back a few years to the Teamsters’ contracts when the studios decided to boycott New York City. Who thought the Teamsters could be forced to give on anything? Remember the air controllers? Bit by bit, chip by chip...

The next voice you hear will be a comfortable WGA member saying, “The WGA isn’t one of those things called a union, I have nothing in common with people who belong to unions, we’re rich, we can take care of ourselves.” That’s one way to look at it. Another is to remember how writers were treated before the WGA existed. (Sorry, we’re not paying what we promised. Sorry, you’re being fired and you don’t get anything for the work you did. Sorry, the producer’s nephew gets writing credit on the movie.)

The bullying party is at full steam. We’ll go back to work on Monday. Along with everyone else, we sacrificed for three months for almost nothing. But when this deal is finally approved, as it will be, we’ll have sacrificed something more: our futures, forever.

bacci40 said...

i really dont have a horse in this, but it seems to me that if you guys ratify this agreement, unless the wga continues working with the amptp over the next 3 years, you will again be forced to strike...i know you guys and the other hourly people are hurting, but does this make sense?

lordmanji said...

Very interesting points have been raised and it makes me think of more issues at hand.

It's a major rollback to get 2percent distrib's gross that's capped at 40,000!

No one bothers to watch reruns on the net after 2.5 wks because they watch it within that night or within that week for majority of people.

Be sure that if the WGA members reject the deal, the AMPTP WILL come back with better terms. The deadline is not today but most likely midweek.

DO NOT BE BULLIED. VOTE NO. This deal is not worth 3 months of strike and the billions of dollars lost to the LA economy. You may never get a second-chance at this.

Increasingly, I see a co-strike with SAG as the only real option to get a fair deal.

Frustrated Bystander said...

So the thinking on the Ad Supported streaming is helping the AMPTP protect their "throw in" deal with the advertisers. For an estimated time period of streaming the AMPTP is indicating that the most that they can make for 26 weeks is 40K and 2% is $800.00 for the 26 weeks or $1600.00 per year.

This is predicated on the current way the AMPTP is using one hour programming for "promotional" purposes on the internet. Great. But this isn't how it's going to be forever.

So, the deal is fair'ish" for the current model but will it be "fair and reasonable" when AMPTP plays hardball with advertising and changes the model and begins to charge for ad supported streaming in the same manner as network TV?

What about languaging for that change? What about citing numbers for paid advertising on Streaming and then having a percentage applied to those advertising revenues and sales? I don't see any deal points covering the evolution of new media in this vein. It's only a matter of time before the AMPTP makes the advertisers pay for streamed programming.

GOOD WORK on the SEPARATED RIGHTS!!! WOOHOO!!

The Phone Call Is Coming From Inside The House said...

Yes, the LACK of a DVD deal is stunning. If it means staying out another few weeks to see an increase there, I have NO PROBLEM with that.

Seriously, the Oscars will end up looking like the Golden Globes. So what?

As a feature writer, my head is spinning that our neg-com came away from the table with... zero for DVDs.

Otherwise, I'm eager to get clarity on the other points.

But no DVDs, no way will you get my vote. Not going to happen.

Jeff Gottesfeld said...

New information about "Most Favored Nations."

According to an email I got this morning from a high-ranking WGA official, the Most Favored Nations clause discussed and essentially promised at the strike captains' meeting is gone. It did not survive last night. If SAG negotiates better terms, we still get our terms.

There was no equivocation on this. I asked a direct question and got a blessedly straight answer, even if it wasn't the one I was hoping for.

Upshot: It's even more crucial now for SAG to weigh in on our terms at tonight's meeting.

Jeremy said...

People, it's okay to be pissed. It's okay to vent. It's okay to complain that this is being rammed down your throats. Please save that for after the meeting is done and use your heads. Can anybody seriously claim that by waiting until June (which is what not ending the strike on Monday would effectively do), you will make any significant gains on this deal? I actually would like an answer on that.

Sure a few bones may be thrown in but will it be worth the extra FOUR MONTHS (more than double the time you've been out already), the damage done to the industry, the adaptations the industry will likely make and the thousands upon thousands of people you will have put out of work who will recieve no deal whatsoever out of this? You can claim that you will be helping all industry unions and their futures if it makes you feel good but IMHO, that is just pure drivel. It doesn't help me or any of my co-workers if we lose our house, credit, family, etc. etc. Hey at least we have those residuals to pay for the health care in the job I no longer have all thanks to the wonderful writers who are our lifeblood. You won't be getting a "thank you" from me.

You will not get a deal much better than this one. It's plain and simple. The studios are just not willing to budge much more, whether it's because of corporate greed or because they're weary of the uncertainty of the future. I don't care the reasons but there's not a lot of ground they will cover.

If you don't answer anything else in my post, answer me this:

Please, someone tell me, however you feel about this deal, what can you gain in 4 months that you don't have now? Then tell me, is it worth the cost?

Barry Rubinowitz said...

The more I think about it, the worse the new expiration date seems. There are those who think it will be better, that we'll be close to a SAG walkout and that it willput more pressure on the AMPTP to negotiate with us. That is actually backwards. This is how the process will work: first, they will complete the pilot season and stockpile scripts. They will then wave goodbye if the WGA chooses to go on strike. They will never waste their time negotiating with the WGA, choosing instead to negotiate with the DGA -- their lapdog -- and get a deal template. Then they move on to SAG, the ones with the muscle to shut them down completely. They make a deal with them, then plop it on the table for WGA to agree to -- with a few additions covering our specific needs of course. Now we may, and certainly will, talk to SAG before they make a deal, but it will be SAG's negotiating committee and board that ultimately makes the decision. The WGA won't be able to sustain a strike in the face of SAG and the DGA reaching an agreement, so we'll be effectively neutered. This is what the AMPTP wants more than anything, get those commie radicals away from the bargaining table. Nothing else in this deal is as bad as the change in expiration date, nothing will do more long-term damage to the WGA's strength as a union than that.

MA said...

it's so cute how all of you are up in arms about this deal and talking about how you are going to vote no.

You guys lost, studios won. It has been decided for you by your leaders that the strike is over.

Thanks for disrupting the drive into my studio gate for the last 3 months...I'll miss your out of shape bodies and lack of fashion sense.

Good luck on that script you've been working on that you're going to produce yourself because the studios fucked you!

xoxo

Me said...

The deal is not good - that's seems to be the consensus.

But is it worth more sacrifice and pain? That's a tough question and not one easily answered in a few hours of reading a PDF sent by the guild. The WGA leadership is asking us to react to a deal in hours while they themselves and SAG took days to react to the DGA deal. Are we expected to think through this faster than people who spent months living, breathing, deal points? I understand the concept of trusting one's leadership, but history has taught that blind trust is foolish.

If we lift the strike first and vote down the deal, where does that leave us? Worse off than before.

If we delay lifting the strike for a week or so, allow ourselves to understand what we're agreeing to, what do we loose? The Oscars? So what. Or if you like, as good faith let the Oscars happen. And we loose what's left of pilot season? Well, most people already lost their pilot deals, so that effects only a few of the big players -- who can weather the strike better than most.

P.S, I'm promoting this delay whilst having a pilot deal still in play. If a delay happens, I'll most likely loose it.

J. said...

P.S. Please do not listen to anyone who says that this is only a short term deal. We are agreeing to language that will form the framework of how we deal with the New Media for the rest of our careers. And that language was agreed to in a matter of hours! We're staking our entire future on lawyers who worked together from 5 p.m. yesterday until 2 am. today? That's it?

We will not be emotionally or financially ready to strike again in three years. How is our strike fund doing? Is it ready for another months-long strike?

The companies learned a lot from this strike. You can bet we are never going to surprise them again like we did this time. They are going to expect showrunner solidarity, internet campaigns, etc. They will be even more formidable opponents in the future.

The leverage we have now is once in a lifetime.

What's more, I won't be ready to go back on strike in three years. I have been living off savings, eating my nest egg.

The only way I will get that back is with a deal that answers the question: If all content is streamed as it's primary means of transmission, is this a good deal?


What's more, my conscience was called on to go into this strike. I had massive reservations, but after careful thought, I committed to it.

And after getting only hours to look at a deal memo and being denied the time to have outside experts weigh in, I certainly won't be authorizing another strike in three years.

Or should I say three and a half years, given that the new contract goes until May 1st?

Please let's use due diligence. And let's be reasonable. This is not the last day that the companies have to save two seasons of television. If you believe that I have some wonderful ocean front property in Arizona to sell you. It's the best you can get, but you have to sign today. Trust me.

Carol said...

Please think long and hard about the 17 day promo window. As someone who has been creating original streaming content for the web since the year 2000, I can promise you that an overwhelming majority of the shows streamed will take place within a week of the original airing of the show on television. Allowing any kind of free window of time will mean rollbacks for every writer. Huge rollbacks. In my opinion, it renders the entire Internet streaming section of the contract completely useless.

I would strongly urge the leadership and board to request access to the networks stats packages showing exactly how many episodes are streamed and when before agreeing to any promo window. And I mean the raw data, not the stats the companies put together for their own purposes. Why would you agree to this when you have no idea how much you're giving up? I promise you the AMPTP knows the 17 day window is their key to victory. If a deal is ratified containing a promo window, the WGA will lose everything it went on strike for.

Chris said...

This is not a great deal today but it is a great deal tomorrow. For the first two years it is basically a DGA+ deal, similar terms to the DGA deal with some sweetening. In the third year, however, we get what we've been fighting for, we get a percentage on new media instead of a flat fee. Also, this deal expires on May 1, 2011, only two months before the June 30, 2011, SAG contract date and this greatly increases our leverage next time around, it minimizes the potential for a long and painful WGA-only strike by resyncing us with SAG; it undoes the damage done by Melissa Gilbert. This is not a great deal today but it is a great deal tomorrow so let's be forward-looking.

teenabooth said...

I am so disappointed. And I feel guilty for being disappointed, because I DO have faith in the leadership. And I do not argue that this is the best deal possible at this time, but from the way I read it, it hardly feels worth three months of sacrifice. I felt all along this was a noble and right cause, fighting for our future survival. I felt insulted by the $250 a year for re-use and felt a percentage was worth fighting for. Why is $1300 a year worth a strike? How is that survival?

Was I focused on the wrong issue? I thought it was about Internet residuals, but maybe the real issue was just plain jurisdiction all along? Maybe that is indeed a real victory that we wouldn't now have without this strike. I must be naive about how much this contract is worth compared to what we were offered in early Dec. I live out of state, I can't go to the meeting to get my questions answered. But all I can think is, if I'm this disappointed, and I sat far away, how must people feel who invested all that time in the picket line every day?

lordmanji said...

Throwing away DVDs like that was irresponsible BUT STILL CORRECTABLE. DVDs have and will continue to be the main source of our residual checks. DVDs will not fade away like you say just as the video tape has not faded away. It's been over twenty years and it's still kicking! If the membership decides to call off the strike and accept the deal, this deal will be remembered just as the home vid deal twenty years from now -- totally rotten. Future strikes will be impotent when remembering how much was lost and how little was gained this very moment.

I know everyone's tired and wants to get back to work but so far the AMPTP has shown more backbone than us. We've been the ones who've budged on every issue. They set the standard for what was fair. Well, we can do something about it by staying out on strike until better terms for DVDS and New media is gotten. The WGA membership can strategically play the bad guys by rebelling against the leadership in order to force a fair and just deal with the AMPTP. The AMPTP will falter on their stance if we vote no. But now and only now is the time to make the stand for us and future generations of working writers.

I IMPLORE YOU ALL TO VOTE NO.

DLJ said...

Carol:

I have problems with this deal, but the 17-day window isn't one of them for a couple of reasons.

1) Residuals are for re-use. If TV viewership is going to be shifting to internet streaming (as has been argued all along), then the networks need to figure out what constitutes primary usage on the internet. So they're expanding primary usage to mean 1 broadcast on TV and 17 days of streaming. They don't consider the first 17 days after broadcast to be re-use. That doesn't seem unreasonable. Besides which, most network shows don't repeat on broadcast within 17 days, so it's not as if it's robbing the writer of a rerun residual.

2) The 17-day window is completely meaningless because even after it closes, streaming residuals are paid on a flat-rate basis. So who cares if there's a 17-day window? The could close it completely and the most a writer could earn in residuals would be $1200 for a year of unlimited streaming. THAT'S the problem, not the 17-day window, imo.

Watcher said...

So apparently we don't really have distributor's gross -- we have what's going to be CALLED distributor's gross, but arbitrarily set to a value of $40,000 for an hourly program, which comes to a flat fee of $800 for six months.

The previous offer, which we found so offensive that many vowed they'd rather have zero, was for $600.

So the negotiations have gotten us TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS MORE.

That's it. Not distributor's gross. Two hundred dollars, that we will CALL distributor's gross. Because, the studios figure, "They're writers -- they're not so good with words and their meanings."

I just wrote to some other writers "They can call it 'many good-looking people will have sex with you' but it's still a flat fee not much different from the earlier flat fee."

As the first commenter here said, PLEASE EXPLAIN TO ME WHY THIS IS WRONG. Seriously. I can't believe such a deal would be presented to the membership, so I'm trying very hard to assume there's a further legal explanation that will show why this is a REAL, ACTUAL DISTRIBUTOR'S GROSS. Maybe in the third year or the fourth year of the contract, but somewhere, for the love of god.

Please, please, someone who knows more, come and explain. Because otherwise, this strike was a joke.

Harold said...

"lordmanji said...Throwing away DVDs like that was irresponsible BUT STILL CORRECTABLE.

I IMPLORE YOU ALL TO VOTE NO."

I share your outrage about DVDs, but it's very late in the game to express outrage. You needed to express your disagreement earlier.

When I was making comments on this website that the DVD deal had not been placed back on the table, everyone shouted that I was an AMPTP troll. When I criticized the leadership, I was a traitor.

Well, the leadership fucked you. The DVDs are MIA. Everything that I wrote was going to happen happened. "I told you so." I must be pretty pleased with myself.

Nope, not even a little, because being proven wrong would be awesome. I would love to be proven wrong. I would love for what I'm told to be wrong.

Here is what is going to be happening in LA in a few hours.

The NegCom is going to champion the proposed contract. They already have selected some of the members and will astroturf them among the masses to speak on the deal's behalf.

YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE, JERKS.

For those selected members, they already have talking points sheets from which to argue in favor of the proposed deal. They will also use those to rebut any dissenters. They have prepared questions for the NegCom that attempt to convey skepticism, but are basically softballs ready for NegCom to swing away at - and from the few that I saw, they will be easy to recognize.

At worst, there will be 50-50 opinion expressed on the deal, because several people have been selected to speak on the deal's behalf to counter every criticism. Even though that is the case, the NegCom honestly believes that most members are ready to end the strike. Reluctantly, I have to agree that most probably are.

Regardless of the outcome of tonight's meetings, the strike is over because overwhelming disagreement with the deal is not going to be expressed tonight. Tomorrow, you can look forward to a letter talking about the "agonizing" (if the opinion is near 50-50) or "carefully considered" (if it isn't) decision to end the strike and how it is in the best interests of the members.

Regardless, the strike is over. Mark it down. This is the deal you will be accepting. You will be voting on the deal after the strike. One of the conditions of the AMPTP deal is that the strike ends before the members vote on it. Since the strike will be over, members will have no incentive not to vote for the deal, because that would mean continuing to work under the existing contract.

AMPTP is a group of jerks and weasels, but they're the winners.

AGAIN.

You know what would be awesome for me tonight?

Being proven wrong. But not just a little. I'd love to have total "IN YOUR FACE! YOU WERE WRONG!!" type of moment.

But I think you're going to disappoint me again.

Most of you are like little puppies. So trusting.

In a way that is a good thing, it makes everyone's return back to work much smoother than if you had any distrust inside of you.

mheister said...

Jeremy -

Ask the AMPTP that question.

Kick this proposal to the curb. Keep striking. Send both sides back to the bargaining table. Maintain the resolve within the WGA to get a fair deal out of this. Know that SAG's de facto strike is only a few weeks away.

Close to two dozen production companies obviously thought the WGA's terms were reasonable. The rest of the AMPTP can be brought around, with time, resolve, and solidarity with SAG.

As to the survival of the industry, trust me, if that were at stake, the AMPTP would have rolled over long ago. They're thinking strategically - two, three decades down the road. They know all of their companies are not in the television or movie business, they're in the CONTENT business. And ALL of that content is going to be delivered through the Internet, except for a small percentage via cellular or digital satphone technology.

The switchover is happening NOW.

In less than a decade, television and cable networks will be irrelevant, as content delivery is switched to the Internet. IPTV (Internet Protocol for Television) means no computer or router between the consumer's Internet cable and their big-screen. The good news about this for creative types is that the chokepoint for market entry with longer-form standalone or serialized content most people refer to as their cable box becomes irrelevant. Any producer with enough $$$ to do quality can reach the television set without having to deal with a TV or cable network.

Go to Best Buy and ask a blueshirt to show you which big screen TVs have Ethernet cables built in. Go back and listen to the United Hollywood podcasts with the reports from CES. Sony is already marketing an IPTV converter for $300. Netflix is partnering with LG to deliver its movie rentals through the Internet to a set-top box. Even the porn industry is getting into the act with something called "Wildfyre". And BTW the Wildfyre box doesn't care what kind of content is being delivered through it. They could cut a deal with Lionsgate or HBO tomorrow. And of course there's the Apple TV standalone box and Microsoft's Media Center computer software, as well as quite a few higher-end systems that will come down in price over the next two years.

For the creative types (writers, actors, directors) to maintain parity with the deals they've had since the advent of television, we have to have the same percentages and such in "New Media" as currently exist in the television contracts. Anything less, and three years from now everyone will KNOW it was a serious rollback.

The deal the AMPTP wants is the deal that gives them the most control and profit from New Media. Yes, the WGA's pulling DVD off the table costs its writers over the next three years, but it's essentially irrelevant over the next three decades. The AMPTP is in the future - their belligerence notwithstanding - and they're doing their damnedest to sew up ownership of it RIGHT FRAKKING NOW.

I can't tell anyone how to vote, but I can say categorically the future relevance of the WGA is at stake today, and SAG in just a few short months.

Robert said...

Isn't this amazing? All these people asking the same questions about the meaning of that pdf description.

Why? Can't we read? We're talking as if someone intentionally made it hard to understand. They didn't.

Jimmy and "dj," yes, the third year has a cap, too. No, Jeff, there's no "most favored nations" unless it's written in secret ink. No, Helen, there's no number about how much this deal gives in projected income. Yes, Barry, there's something extremely special about 17 days (it's the number the AMPTP's accountants told them to use). Yes, Kissum, our leaders really did think the side deals would demonstrate something except the AMPTP didn't notice. And so on.

This deal is the supposedly terrible DGA deal with a word changed here and there. What you read is what you get. Fortunately, you get basic things they had to give, like minimal jurisdiction over original content for New Media, a streaming formula paying a dime here and there, and the illusion of progress. (That jurisdiction, by the way, is structured to give them every which way out imaginable by a studio accountant. C'mon, guys, ask your line producer.) And after those few things they had to give, what we get is...well, almost nothing.

"Watcher" picked the right word: this strike was a joke. We thought we'd move Goliath. Well, David's bleeding on the ground. Goliath left the field with his slingshot and he's laughing his ass off.

stuiec said...

mheister: how does the "de facto SAG strike in March" work? Is that somehow related to the idea that no one will start a production then if they fear the SAG will walk out a couple of months later?

dp said...

According to the United Hollywood bloggers rules, If you vote no now then your a shill for the amptp. Your no vote is an attempt to break guild support for your leaders. Shill, Troll, don't tell me that your WGA leaders had the wrong strategy, Vote Yes to prove your not a hypocrite.

Ha

Hey David Young, do you know where I can get a pair of Guess jeans?

J.J. Hunsecker said...

wow,you know, 3 months for NADA on the DVD front? that's ludicrous. trust me: internet streaming is NOTHING now and will not be until you define that as transmission broadcast via another methodology and NOT simply meaning it goes onto a computer hard drive instead of a Tivo. i mean, truly, the difference is so small it's not worth pretending losing DVD revenue is worth a worthless amount for 'downloading' or 'streaming.' the only streaming going on here is on our collective faces. this is trickle down trick-onomics at its worst. maybe we need a new strike team force? honor the dead who made it this far, but nominate a fresh batch of faces to pick up the pieces and move forward? if we agree to this, we look weaker than before, because we have settled for less than is honorable, which means: next time we strike? every headline will read: 'but of course, the last strike resulted in such a weakened guild that...' is THAT the heritage we should create and leave? why not forgo streaming, too? hey, let's just make it a 'loose confederation' while we're at it. sheesh... DON'T SUPPORT THIS if you value your time and contributions beyond pressure groups who threaten you, walk away from you, and basically treat you like a wage slave. we are WRITERS, not the clean up crews. they can pretend all they wish, but they treat us like garbage to be taken out with the latest grosses for THE GOLDEN(LE$$) COMPA$$... argh!

dp said...

JJ-
"maybe we need a new strike team force? honor the dead who made it this far, but nominate a fresh batch of faces to pick up the pieces and move forward"


Are you kidding me? Your time to change leadership is over! You picked these guys. There are no do-overs or reshoots here. The script you wrote has been shot and it opened this weekend at the shrine. You don't get to shoot it differently now that you don't like the opening box office numbers.

There were plenty of people who wrote in here who forewarned about your leadership and what they promised you, only to be called "shills or trolls".

You want to talk about a weak whiney maneuver? Keep talking like that. Don't be a hypocrite-that is weak.

deuddersun said...

Edward:
"IATSE showed no support for labor in this confrontation even going so far as to organize anti-labor rallies at WGA picket events! And even though us hammers aren't writers we still get the concept of irony.

As hard as was(is?) for Local 52 members we stood(stand?) behind this strike 100%!"


You are right Edward. I will be at the Local 52 meeting Tuesday night promoting inter-union solidarity. Hopefully, with you and others to support me.

Stuiec:
"Christopher Markunas's autograph may not fetch as much on eBay as, say, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss's, but I think it has at least as much value as a token of solidarity."

Thank you Brother. I can't tell you how much that means to me.

Robert:
"If IATSE thinks they're immune, welcome to the club, the bell tolls for you, too. You don’t think so? Look back a few years to the Teamsters’ contracts when the studios decided to boycott New York City. Who thought the Teamsters could be forced to give on anything? Remember the air controllers? Bit by bit, chip by chip..."

These events occurred because we allowed them to. Had the International IA and the other Entertainment Unions stood behind NYC, that never would have happened. Had every American Union stood behind the Air Traffic Controllers, Ronald Raygun, (former President of SAG, btw), would have lost his ass to the ATC.

Our government and the corporations don't want us standing together! We would have far too much power! When was the last time a National Strike was called, shutting this country down? Never!

While the International Office of the IA was not supportive of this Strike, many individual members were/are. It is up to these individuals, in all Unions and Guilds to promote Solidarity. It won't be easy, but then we didn't choose an easy industry either. Nothing has ever come easy to any of us. We have had to survive to make it in this business. We are tough. If we put our hearts and minds together, we will prevail. If we sit alone complaining, we will surely fail.

d.

hookbill said...

First, I'm not in the WGA or any other union. I'm 55 years old and there was a long period of time that I believed that unions had outlived their usefullness. I'm here to say that I was wrong. If now, more then ever we need unions again.

Greedy corporations exploit workers at all levels. Jobs are sent over to foreign countries. Quite honestly, I really thought the next step the studios would take would to higher non union writers to try to force you guys out.

WAG got a bad deal on it's last contract because no one had anticipated the power of the internet at that time. And 3 years from now this may seem like a bad deal. Apparently to many of you it already is.

Still, I'm hoping that you will accept the deal and fight again later. First, I'm a huge fan of network television so I admit that I would like to see some of my favorite shows back on my "to do" list on my TiVo. But the other reason is the financial impact this strike has caused in a nation that already has an economy that is sliding down hill.

Is that your fault? Absolutly not, once again you can point the finger at greedy corporations and of course our outrageous politicians for that. Still as they say "every bit helps" and with so many others out of work as a result of the strike I hope you will take that into consideration at your vote.

Thank you for allowing me to express myself. I hope you all return to work by Monday.

Phil Harley in Ohio

Packman said...

DON'T VOTE FOR THIS CONTRACT:

"First they came for the Communists,
- but I was not a communist so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists,
- but I was neither, so I did not speak out.
Then they came for the Jews,
- but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out.
And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me."

signed an IATSE LOCAL 80 GRIP

hookbill said...

pacman....they had the vote. It passed. Last week.

Glad you're keeping up on what's going on. :)