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Variety paints a gloomy picture of the WGA strike, as talks have stalled and the vitriol level is rising:

Three months of harsh negotiating rhetoric — combined with widely differing interpretations of the contract talks — have fueled resentment on both sides. And it’s started to poison relationships in a town where connections are the coin of the realm.

“Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane touched a nerve Friday when he elicited perhaps the angriest response among the 4,000 attendees at Friday’s WGA rally at Fox Plaza. Invoking the image of the companies as schoolyard bullies, he recounted that all “Family Guy” assistants had been fired by Fox on the third day of the strike.

“Instead of negotiating, they lashed out at the little guy,” MacFarlane added. “What a classy move.”

Some fear that the strike will allow studios and networks to employ a scorched-earth approach to cut expenses and punish those who have fallen out of favor. Force majeure terms provide opt-out provisions in the event of an occurrence beyond the control of the parties. While top producers often have clauses in their deals that preclude them from being discharged under these terms, smaller producers and writers are vulnerable.


But Nikki Finke thinks there is a glimmer of hope. Let’s hope she’s right. In our ever so humble opinion, the studio heads had better hope so too. This one is different. Start with the idea that the internet is not a future profit center for the studios. That’s just hooey. But as Damon Lindelof pointed out yesterday, the stakes are high for everyone, since the delivery methods for entertainment are shifting on an almost daily basis.

Twenty percent of American homes now contain hard drives that store movies and television shows indefinitely and allows you to fast-forward through commercials. These devices will probably proliferate at a significant rate and soon, almost everyone will have them. They’ll also get smaller and smaller, rendering the box that holds them obsolete, and the rectangular screen in your living room won’t really be a television anymore, it’ll be a computer. And running into the back of that computer, the wire that delivers unto you everything you watch? It won’t be cable; it will be the Internet.

This probably sounds exciting if you’re a TV viewer, but if you’re in the business of producing these shows, it’s nothing short of terrifying. This is how vaudevillians must have felt the first time they saw a silent movie; sitting there, suddenly realizing they just became extinct: after all, who wants another soft-shoe number when you can see Harold Lloyd hanging off a clock 50 feet tall?


User created content has already made serious inroads in studio-created content, although user “managed” content may be an accurate phrase. And as writers hit the picket lines, the nets will be relying on their own “user created” content via more and more “non-scripted” “reality” shows. As the late night talk shows go dark and the once-bright spots of TV — LOST, 24 — go dark or fail to appear, viewers may find other things to occupy their time. This isn’t like hockey and baseball, where the playing field is literally the same. By the time everything gets back to normal, normal will be something no one expected.
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Meanwhile, as we predicted, LA coffee shops and other places where writers once congregated have all but cleared out.

Over at the 18th Street Coffee House, a favorite of screenwriters (including some Oscar winners), a barista said the strike was a “very real concern.” Although no dramatic change was yet visible at the coffee shop, where about half a dozen screenwriters were staring into laptops, the normally laid-back vibe was slightly more tense. There was talk of the picket lines and of WGA “goons” who might be prowling around, looking to nab scabs. When Steve Waverly, a WGA screenwriter, was asked what he was working on, he said robotically: “I’m working on nothing and I will be picketing.”


As some have foretold, many screenwriters are taking this opportunity to finish up those lingering comics projects:

“As a writer, this is what you do. You have no other way to truly express yourself,” said screenwriter John Ridley, whose credits include “Undercover Brother.” “You may be able to go to cocktail parties and talk and talk and talk, but it’s not the same as writing.” Ridley counts himself lucky. Before the strike, he finished the screenplay for “L.A. Riots” for Spike Lee and now has extensive research to do for a film on the Tuskegee airmen for George Lucas, plus a series of graphic novels to begin along with minor editing on a just-completed novel. Like many writers, Ridley also is blogging online about the strike.


Speaking of blogging, you can keep up with all the strike action at various places:
John Rogers
Joe Harris
John Ridley
Ken Levine
Hollywood United
And of course, the essential Mark Evanier.

PS: Russian posters taken from this super cool site Museum of Russian Posters.

49 COMMENTS

  1. I’m wondering if, by writing for the comics companies, the writers aren’t,…sort of,…breaking the strike. Since comics have come to be such a great resource for the motion picture and television industry and are,…to a certain degree,…owwned or distributed by larger entertainment companies. Seems like something that could come around to bite them in the ass in the not too distant future. Media is so inter-weaved at this point, doesn’t it behoove all creative, work-for-hire, types, to throw their shoes into the cogs of the machine and shut down commercial production?
    Power To The People.

  2. I do not own a television set. All of my viewing is done on an Apple G3 laptop. If I an curious about a show, I’ll stream or download it, and probably buy the DVD. If I have time, I visit the Museum Of Television and Radio and enjoy their library.
    Nothing new on? I’m currently working my way through The Muppet Show Season Two, and the two boxes of the 1980’s Twilight Zone.
    Might serial television go the way of serial fiction and comicbooks? I’m waiting for the box on a few series…

  3. ““Instead of negotiating, they lashed out at the little guy,” MacFarlane added. “What a classy move.”

    LOL! Truly hilarious and unbelievably naive sentiments out there.

    What, their actions shut down the studios and they expect the studios to play patty cake with them? Uh uh. The studios are obviously ready to play hardball, and the writers had better abandon their celebratory “look how many celebrities are marching with us” silliness and adopt the philosophy of Sean Connery’s character from “The Untouchables”:

    “You wanna get Capone? Here’s how you get him–he pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue–THAT’S THE CHICAGO WAY, and that’s how you get Capone.”

    Obviously, I’m not condoning or suggesting that violence be introduced to the situation…but rather just trying to illustrate the “Chicago Way” tactics the studios are prepared to use.

    Really…what did they honestly expect this strike experience would be like? A few days of waving picket signs, some kind media coverage and obedient agreement from the studios?

  4. Obviously Mr. Engblom is in favor of the rich people and rich corporations keeping ALL the money.

    Next he’ll suggest the People eat Soylent Green.

  5. Alan-

    Which rich people are we talking about here? The handsomely paid Hollywood writers in comparison to the thousands of behind the scenes and technical workers who are now out of work so they can get “just a little more”?

    Greed is an ugly thing from multiple vantage points.

  6. Mark,

    I tell you from my own experience that the overwhelming majority of writers I know working in film and television are not ‘rich people.’ Some screenwriters are paid quite handsomely, sure. They have a track record, bring in box office, whatever that earned them the quoted fee they receive. But most of us toe a precarious line. To have success as a working writer in entertainment often means long stretches of unemployment and lean times between “successes.” It sucks that the AMPTP walked away from the negotiating table and refuses to deal with us fairly. It’s awful that production is shut down and many people are affected (writers, actors, crew, restaurants, retail, service industry, everything you can think of — but that’s why the WGA is on strike.

    It’s not greedy to insist that management pay us when they get paid for the re-use of work we author. The studios are making money off of what we’ve written… why shouldn’t we be paid our fair share?

    JH

  7. Those “Russian posters” you’ve chosen to illustrate this story are in fact Soviet-era posters used as propaganda pieces for the Lenin and Stalin regimes. I hope you’re not saying this strike is ushering a new era of state socialism.

  8. Scott:

    Yes, I am aware of the history of Russia.

    But they made the coolest posters ever.

    However, I don’t endorse Socialism or Communism. However, the glorious Proletariat shall rise up, and once banded together, there is NOTHING they cannot accomplish!

  9. The Dane doth sayeth:

    “With regard to Lost, I wait for trade.”

    I doth replieth:

    “With regard to Lost, I wait for Lindelof to finish Ultimate Wolverine Vs. Hulk.”

    What do you *mean* I don’t have a copy of it? That never stopped me from complaining before.

    — Rob

  10. Oh, one more thing — John Ridley’s strike blog entries at HuffPo? As a TV and comics fangeek, I just want to tell him, “We know, we know: you want to cross the picket line. So stop your whining about having to follow Guild rules and just go Financial Core already.”

    Seems to me like he’s constantly saying, with regards to the WGA strike, that “The American Way” is defeatism. Oh, we’re all going to lose, so why even try?

    Why, as a comics fan, would I want to buy that?

    — Rob

  11. “t’s not greedy to insist that management pay us when they get paid for the re-use of work we author. The studios are making money off of what we’ve written… why shouldn’t we be paid our fair share?”

    But what makes a writer more deserving of internet royalties than, say, an episode’s director or, for that matter, the thousands of technical and support people? Also, which specific writers do you envision getting internet royalties? The show runner only? Every writer who had a hand it the story (i.e. everyone present in the writer’s meetings collaborating and brainstorming on the direction?). The writer who, even though not officially credited with the episode, suggested that one memorable phrase the episode will forever be remembered for?

    I think this is what a good chunk of us out here in Real Life Land see going on with your strike. A group of people who have elevated themselves up to the core of what makes a TV series successful and demand payment for it. On behalf of the silent army of technical and support people (of which I am not one, by the way), “how dare you”?

  12. But what makes a writer more deserving of internet royalties than, say, an episode’s director or, for that matter, the thousands of technical and support people?

    Well, I don’t know what the DGA has collectively bargained for its members… but as a writer who’s created, sold and been hired to write various in various capacities in the film industry, I can tell you that I’m entitled to exactly what I was contracted for… money up front to cover the theatrical release of the movie, with a set residual percentage that’s the same for all writers, regardless of up-front salary/fee. That’s the deal we enter into when we sign on to author a piece of work, sell something we wrote on our own, etc. When writing we’ve received credit for is re-used. we get a piece of the profit earned. That’s the deal. The formula is woefully outdated and we’re striking for a fair revision.

    I can’t answer why technical people don’t or shouldn’t receive royalties for their work. I think it’s, obviously, a valuable contribution to the collaboration of filmmaking. But authorship, in the modern world, entitles said author to a piece of what management earns on the relatively low-overhead reuse of said work. And that’s that.

    Also, which specific writers do you envision getting internet royalties?

    You’re getting into a seperate issue that’s no less thorny, but off the mark when addressing why we’re on strike right now. Residuals are shared by ‘credited’ writers. I’ve worked on movies and not received credit, for various reasons both unfair and acceptable… and plenty of people write their asses off only to get screwed by the process in which credit is determined and/or arbitrated over by the guild.

    To address that point, I’ll say that we need to overhaul the credit system so that everyone who writes gets credit and shares in the residual pot…

    I can’t speak to television either, first hand — never worked in that capacity. But the companies are making lots of money on material we write and we’re entitled to our cut. They don’t dispute this. They just don’t want to revise the formula to be fair in today’s climate.

    On behalf of the silent army of technical and support people (of which I am not one, by the way), “how dare you”?

    Well, I’m certain the body of film and television technical professionals appreciate your most ingenuous show of solidarity with them… but I’ll content myself with the shared sense of struggle every teamster, driver, parking pa and other union memberships have shown in supporting and walking the picket line with us. Thanks.

  13. “But what makes a writer more deserving of internet royalties than, say, an episode’s director or, for that matter, the thousands of technical and support people?”

    I think anyone that has a creative hand in the making of something should continue you receive a royalty if and when a new revenue stream becomes a reality. A writer’s contribution to the project forms the foundation of the project and in my opinion, it’s the most important contribution to the project. Without the the writer, the directer has nothing to direct. The actors have nothing to do or say. It’s crucial to the producers of any project to get the very best writing that they can. If the writing sucks, it doesn’t matter how great the director is. It doesn’t matter how great the actor is.

    I don’t understand why writers should be getting a smaller percentage of royalties from DVD sales then they do from video tape sales. They should be getting the same percentage no matter what the medium is.

  14. >

    Rick,

    At present, we’re getting the same for DVDs that we got for video tape… even as the costs of production have fallen. The companies have been profiting even more as overhead has fallen while our rate has remained the same. Now that our contract is up and new one needs to be negotiated, we’re looking for a fairer share.

    At present, we receive NOTHING for digital/streams/downloads/etc… because it’s not part of the old agreement. We’re looking for a fair deal out of this… a cut that’s more in line with the hand-over-fist profiting that’s being made off of content delivery that’s even cheaper for the companies to provide.

    JH

  15. “A writer’s contribution to the project forms the foundation of the project and in my opinion, it’s the most important contribution to the project. Without the the writer, the directer has nothing to direct.”

    But without the production companies or networks risking GOBS of money up front, nothing gets done. See, the financial risk and inevitable losses are an aspect of entertainment projects that seldom talked about…only the “obscene profits” the “fat cat” producers are making.

    If writers want to be the creative queen bees they think they deserve to be, are they also willing to shoulder the financial risks along with the benefits? In other words, if their work is so essential to the success of a given property, what happens when a show bombs? Are they docked any of their pay, or do they need to give back a percentage of the money lost by the show?

    My guess would be “No”, and until the writers are willing to be full creative collaborators (benefitting from the successes and taking it in the shorts from the failures….like the producers do), I don’t have much sympathy for their plight.

    “And by the way, I actually AM one of the not-so-silent army of technical and support people, and I know for a fact that I make more money than the average screenwriter.”

    That’s great, Colleen…and I suspect you’ve been able to do that without having to be part of a union or collectively bargain for any of your deserved success.

    See, that’s what the vast majority of us working creative professionals do out here in the world: we navigate our own way through the world and win our success through individual effort…and not robbing others of their income so we can raise ours. That’s childish and selfish beyond belief….no matter how noble or self-justified the strikers feel.

  16. Mark, you are not going to get much sympathy for your “anti writer” stance here unless you go hang out with Erik Larsen and Michael Eisner. Also who is “Robbing” anyone? The economic system of movies has been set up as a system of supply and demand.

  17. Joe, I was under the impression that writers were getting less of a percentage for DVD’s then they were from VHS. I understand that the production costs of producing DVD’s is less then it was for VHS, but the writers had nothing to do with that. It’s due to the investment in newer and more efficient technologies. If anyone is going to benefit from new technology, it ought to be the party that took the risks in the initial investments. That’s something the studios did. That’s not something the writers did.

    I personally don’t see why a writer would necessarily deserve a higher royalty from a DVD then a VHS. Their creative contribution remains the same either way.

  18. “Mark, you are not going to get much sympathy for your “anti writer” stance here unless you go hang out with Erik Larsen and Michael Eisner.”

    I’m not looking for sympathy or agreement. I’m simply sharing an alternate viewpoint. I realize that puts me outside of the lockstep opinions of the comic book chattering class, but that’s nothing new I guess. Surely in a world of 99% pro-writer coverage, the self-proclaimed Forces of Fairness can tolerate a little dissent?

    “I am a member of the Graphic Artists Guild.

    Wrong again, Mr. Engbloom.”

    GAG appears to be a very different animal from the writers’ union.

    GAG doesn’t seem to do the sorts of things an actual union typically does (negotiate contracts and binding wages for its membership en masse, binding agreements on the rank and file, organize or recommend striking as a way to achieve progress), nor does it appear to put others out of work while striving to make life better for their members. Looks like a good organization…but there doeesn’t seem to be much parity between it and what most would consider a trade union, Colleen.

  19. You did not read the rest of my posts, Mr. Engbloom. And you are not a voice of dissent, you are simply ignorant of the facts, and the business.

    Since your point was that I am not in a union, you are wrong. And if you are trying to make a point that it does not lobby on behalf of artists or attempt to get minimum standards and practices met for all artists, you are also wrong.

    The Writers Union is striking not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of the other unions whose contract will expire in the next year, and who will benefit if the Writers Union is able to get benefits for their members. The other unions will then be able to lobby for those benefits for their members as well.

    I am still waiting to see if you pay everyone in your food chain a royalty.

    Well?

  20. “Also who is “Robbing” anyone? The economic system of movies has been set up as a system of supply and demand.”

    I was referring to the rest of the TV and film industry that will be out of work during the strike. Sure, some are expressing solidarity, but I’m sure if you polled them, the vast majority of them aren’t exactly clapping their hands with proletarian joy. Every striking worker feels they’re striking a blow for “the little guy”, but what everyone seems to be forgetting is that there are a lot of “little guys” who aren’t getting paid at all….or getting money from a strike fund, for that matter.

    Give it a month or two….then we’ll see how much “solidarity” there is.

  21. Writers get 4 cents per dvd, same as with vhs tapes.

    Not 4%, 4 cents. If it were 4%, they might not be on strike right now.

    As with any industry, many different jobs need to be done to get to the end point. Just about every person involved in making a movie is in a union or guild. Writers, actors, electricians, carpenters, etc., all are covered by a contract. When the contract is up, they negotiate for a new contract.

    Without the writer, there is only a blank sheet paper, or an empty file in a computer. Anybody can train to be an electrician, a carpenter, even a gofer, but few can write well enough to have their work used. The writer is the foundation of all that is viewable.

    Nitwit

  22. “Since your point was that I am not in a union, you are wrong. And if you are trying to make a point that it does not lobby on behalf of artists or attempt to get minimum standards and practices met for all artists, you are also wrong.”

    No, that wasn’t my point. I realize that GAG does all of those things…but at the same time, the organization doesn’t appear to weild the authority of the traditional trade union, where the rank and file have specific, binding contracts negotiated with specific parties. Guidelines and recommendations are not the same thing as legal contracts voted on by members.

  23. “Without the writer, there is only a blank sheet paper, or an empty file in a computer. Anybody can train to be an electrician, a carpenter, even a gofer, but few can write well enough to have their work used. The writer is the foundation of all that is viewable.”

    Wow….that’s some astonishing arrogance on display there. In other words, there’s no real talent in being an electrician, carpenter or “even” a gofer…..ah, but WRITERS! They are the Divine Gift that live among us?

    The tottering mountains of crap on TV and in movie theatres don’t seem to support that.

    Nitwit

    Wow. I’ll get a lowly electrician or carpenter couldn’t have thought up a zinger like that.

  24. Read what I wrote inpost #17.

    Remuneration should be commensurate and in proportion to the contribution one makes to the work that generates the revenue. The carpenter is not directly and personally responsible for the share of income from a TV show, any more than the papermaker is directly and personally responsible for the revenue generated on a book. While they both contribute to the final product, they did not create the bulk of the appeal of that product. No one buys a book because the paper is nice, and no one watches a TV show because the carpenter did a great job hanging the door.

    Using your logic, the papermaker, the printer, the ink maker, the truck driver, the typist, the typesetter, the manufacturer of the computer, the mailroom boy, the secretary, and the proofreader should all get a royalty from the sale of every novel. The primary progenitor of the creative work gets that royalty, because he is the primary source of the revenue and the primary generator of it.

    And since many writers also eschew the benefits of a normal salaried job, they also take risks with regard to their creative work that the average secretary does not.

    Using your own logic, every single person who contributes to your job should also get a royalty share of every single dime of income you generate.

    Do they?

    You’re the one who asked why technical support didn’t get royalties. OK, Does your technical support get a royalty? I don’t know what you do for a living, but do they get a share of everything you do beyond their initial fee?

    And further, you DO realize that if it becomes standard practice NOT to pay royalties for internet use, that becomes a point for all art and entertainment media not to pay royalties for internet use.

    No, guidelines and recommendations at the GAG are not the same thing as at the WGA, but we don’t wield the same authority not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t have the same economic power. We don’t have a more powerful union because of people like you who don’t think there should be a union with that kind of power at all, which is why creators get ripped off every single damned day -no minimum standards and practices that are binding for everyone.

    Wow, that makes publishing SO MUCH BETTER.

    And wanting minimum standards and practices makes us selfish?

    Every artist for themself!

    Phooey.

  25. Ooops. Wasn’t done.

    Nitwit and Network Television combine to make Nitwork Television. Nitwork Television each year debuts dozens of new shows, few of which last for more than a season or two. This is proof that not just anyone can write. Even professional writers have a hard time making a show work.

    The television industry desperately needs writers. In order to keep the better ones, the compensation they receive needs to be higher than it is now.
    =====
    Somebody please turn off the BOLD. Thanks.

  26. Seems to me, that everyone takes a risk on a creative project,…regardless of whether you’re the guy putting up the money or the artist contributing the creative stuff. You bring what you can to the table. It’s not unheard of for the people making the most amount of money to want to keep making it,…especially when new revenue streams appear. But, it isn’t necessarily fair.

  27. The quality of the work – as referred to in your “towering mountains of crap” post – is not the issue here. Revenue is. Income is.

    People in this business are not paid based on whether or not you personally like their work, they are paid based on how much everyone else on the planet is willing to pay for their work.

    Royalties are paid based on the economic performance of the writer, not on whether or not he won a Pulitzer.

  28. Mark, you completely ignored what’s probably the most vital part of this entire thread, so I’ll repeat it here:

    The Writers Union is striking not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of the other unions whose contract will expire in the next year, and who will benefit if the Writers Union is able to get benefits for their members. The other unions will then be able to lobby for those benefits for their members as well.

    This is why there’s so much solidarity: everyone on the creative end feels they’re getting screwed by the studios on nwe media royalties. The WGA strike is just the first salvo in the fight. If they win, then everyone in that creative “food chain”—writers, directors, actors—will be getting a piece of the pie they already deserve.

    Think of it this way: the entire movie and TV industry seems to be moving, however slowly, to an entirely internet based delivery system. The studios are arguing that no creative types deserve ANY sort of financial reward for their work being shown on internet, even though they are reaping profit from it. If a contract were approved that did not include any internet royalties and the entire industry moves to the internet while under that contract, the writers would effectively never get a single penny of royalties ever again. You’re asking an entire group that is one of the most important cogs in the process to give up a major form of income that they’ve counted on for decades. How on earth does that make any sense?

  29. YEARS ago, the writers took a pay cut, but agreed to residuals to help offset that loss. They still haven’t gotten back the pay cut, which was around 80%. They want increased residuals to help make up part of that cut. They also want residuals from internet usage. What’s unfair about that?

    There are links available linking to articles about the strike that state these things better than I can. They will also confirm the pay cut.

    Mu suggestion is that Engbloom and Rottman do a little research about the subject and stop knee-jerking all day.

  30. “Mu suggestion is that Engbloom and Rottman do a little research about the subject and stop knee-jerking all day.”

    There seems to be a plethora of conflicting information concerning the strike and the reasons for it.

  31. Geez! After reading all the above, it just reaffirms why I prefer to write, pencil, ink, letter, color, and, when possible, print everything myself.

  32. What a coincidence. Here’s what’s on the docket for the Advocacy Committee meeting at the Graphic Artists Guild on Thursday:

    – Changing policies and business practices in publishing, the internet, and other media industries.

    Small world, innit?

  33. Read what I wrote inpost #17.

    I apologize. I did not see that post…which is why I was so confused by your “food chain” comment.

    “The carpenter is not directly and personally responsible for the share of income from a TV show, any more than the papermaker is directly and personally responsible for the revenue generated on a book. While they both contribute to the final product, they did not create the bulk of the appeal of that product.”

    Okay…I get that….but that rather exclusionary sentiment doesn’t seem to square with the “everyone benefits from the strike” sentiment:

    “The Writers Union is striking not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of the other unions whose contract will expire in the next year, and who will benefit if the Writers Union is able to get benefits for their members. The other unions will then be able to lobby for those benefits for their members as well.”

    So, which is it…Carpenter Joe has no real role in determining a TV show or movie’s success….or he does and deserves a cut of it? This is the point where I’m genuinely confused by alot of the rhetoric.

    “No one buys a book because the paper is nice, and no one watches a TV show because the carpenter did a great job hanging the door.”

    Agreed, but would anyone watch the show without the astronomically expensive efforts to finance and, more importantly, promote it? Again, I take a “primacy of financial risk” position over a “primacy of creation” position. Being a self-professed “capitalist pig dog”, you should understand that those who take the biggest financial risk are entitled to the largest share of the profits…just as they’re responsible for the debt if the venture flops. Writers (or anyone else) should not be responsible for that debt in the event of a flop, but the reverse can’t be true if you’re not willing to shoulder part of the responsibility for, say, a TV show’s dismal failure. The old saying “Success has many fathers, while failure is an orphan” comes to mind.

    “The primary progenitor of the creative work gets that royalty, because he is the primary source of the revenue and the primary generator of it.”

    Sounds good on paper, but how will this work in practice? With admirable frankness, Joe Harris admitted that this divyving up the credit continues to be a “thorny issue”…making me wonder: is there really any such thing as a “primary progenitor” in mass market entertainment (unlike in, say, a comic book)?

    And since many writers also eschew the benefits of a normal salaried job, they also take risks with regard to their creative work that the average secretary does not.

    Right, but contracted workers also enjoy elaborate job-protecting measures than the average salaried person would never have. The “average secretary” can actually be fired for not performing up to the employer’s standards. That’s not necessarily the case in a union shop (where mediocrity or flat-out incompetence is seldom delt with swiftly…unionized school teachers being a good example).

    “Using your own logic, every single person who contributes to your job should also get a royalty share of every single dime of income you generate.

    Do they?”

    No, they don’t…because *I* don’t get royalties, either. Does that keep me up at night. Certainly not! I knew the arrangement going into my job that I would receive a salary in exchange for my professional services and artwork, all of which benefits the company. Have some of my ideas turned out to be very successful for the company? I’m proud to say “yes”…but does that automatically entitle me to a royalty payment? I don’t believe so, because there is a network of talented marketing people, salespeople, support people who played a part in that success that I would be foolish and arrogant to assume I’m some kind of financial powerhouse. Of course, the most important player in my situation is the company’s owner, who shoulders ALL of the risk in producing, marketing, printing, distributing and customer-servicing all of my projects.

    “You’re the one who asked why technical support didn’t get royalties. OK, Does your technical support get a royalty?”

    No. None of us get royalties. I don’t quite see why I should.

    “I don’t know what you do for a living, but do they get a share of everything you do beyond their initial fee?”

    No, but I’m paid a good wage and enjoy other benefits (weekends, holidays, a semblance of a social life)….all without a union to strongarm that arrangement for me.

    “And further, you DO realize that if it becomes standard practice NOT to pay royalties for internet use, that becomes a point for all art and entertainment media not to pay royalties for internet use.”

    Right…but an equally damaging precedent can be set when EVERYBODY benefits (either directly or indirectly) from internet royalty payments. If prices are raised in order to ensure absolute fairness and equity, at some point consumers will stop buying it altogether. At what point do you draw the line for internet royalties (since, as Joe points out, there’s a long line of out-stretched hands waiting behind the writers).

    “No, guidelines and recommendations at the GAG are not the same thing as at the WGA, but we don’t wield the same authority not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t have the same economic power. We don’t have a more powerful union because of people like you who don’t think there should be a union with that kind of power at all, which is why creators get ripped off every single damned day -no minimum standards and practices that are binding for everyone.”

    Gosh, it’s all my fault!

    “And wanting minimum standards and practices makes us selfish?”

    I don’t recall characterizing you or the GAG as selfish for wanting standards and practices. Please point it out to me where I was.

    “Every artist for themself!”

    Viva la Revolution!

  34. Mr. Engbloom, you will continue to be confused by the rhetoric as you continually refuse to recognize the basic issues involved.

    Do you honestly believe writers and artists should not get royalties for their work?
    Fine, we disagree.

    Everyone who gets a share of proceeds benefits from the strike, and I missed the part where I ever promoted the idea that that included carpenters. You’re the one who equated the contribution of a carpenter to the contribution of a writer. Moreover, you’re the one who presented the idea that a writer and a carpenter are the same in regard to contribution and talent. We disagree. So does the marketplace.

    No, Carpenter Joe does not have a KEY role in determining the success of a show in the marketplace, unless you honestly think people watch Everybody Love Raymond because of their deep and abiding love for the set dressing.

    As a technical support person, I GLADLY promote royalties for writers even though I WILL NOT BENEFIT ONE RED CENT if a writer gets that royalty.

    HOWEVER, if it becomes standard practice to consider internet revenue as PUBLISHING instead of ADVERTISING, then EVERYONE who might receive a royalty share from that will benefit INCLUDING comic book artists who are not getting royalties for that right now because it becomes STANDARD.

    Oh, look, there’s Marvel putting up their library onto the internet right now…

    And “…sounds good on paper but how will it work in practice…”

    Well, people who have lots and lots of legal expertise and experience are negotiating those issues RIGHT NOW in board rooms, which is what this whole strike is about in the first place. Negotiating those matters.

    I never said EVERYONE should benefit from sales on the internet, just the primary progenitors of the creative product. And looking at Google’s revenue, it does appear that there is no dearth of income to be made from the internet, unless one is being deliberately obtuse in refusing to see it.

    It is beyond all logic to incorporate the assumption that consumers will stop using the free content on the internet because publishers and studios will have to pay a royalty to creators from advertising revenue. It is absolutely daffy to incorporate the assumption that the studios will lose vast sums if a writer gets a penny per downloaded video.

    You are not entitled to royalty payments because you are an EMPLOYEE and you did not negotiate for them. Just because you did nothing for your own future protection and benefit because you were satisfied enough with your own comfort right now does not mean that the rest of us won’t do what we have to do to make sure that others will benefit from the sacrifices made today.

    I’ve cleaned up dog shit for a living, as well as parked cars, done secretarial work and bookkeeping, cleaned swimming pools, and performed manual field labor.

    This industry is harder than any of that.

    There, I said it. How stuck up of me to think what I do now requires greater effort and talent than filing papers.

    And I’m done, because unlike some people, I do not get paid by the hour or get paid a salary to use the internet on company time. I am self employed and only get paid for what I actually produce…

    Unless I get royalties.

    Since you equate the talent of writers with the talent of gofers, I can’t see any point in canvassing this further.

    If this reflects your values, then we have no common ground here. I’m done.

  35. “Everyone who gets a share of proceeds benefits from the strike, and I missed the part where I ever promoted the idea that that included carpenters. You’re the one who equated the contribution of a carpenter to the contribution of a writer.”

    You didn’t promote that idea, but other have. Jason Green posted the following paragraph:

    “The Writers Union is striking not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of the other unions whose contract will expire in the next year, and who will benefit if the Writers Union is able to get benefits for their members. The other unions will then be able to lobby for those benefits for their members as well.”

    Knowing that everything in Hollywood is performed by a union member, you’d better believe the assorted trade unions will plug into whatever internet income stream comes out of the writer’s strike…so in a very real sense, the contribution of the carpenter will be “equated” (or perhaps “conflated”) with the writer’s role.

    This sort of disconnect between the various pro-writer camps is what makes the entire issue hard to (A) understand or (B) sympathize with.

  36. Ugh, OK, that was posted before I could turn off my computer, and I can’t resist.

    In the first place, I promoted that earlier on the thread, and the reference is to both the Screen Actors Guild union and the Director’s Guild whose contracts expire next year.

    Moreover, the annoyance with Melissa Gilbert, former Pres of SAG, is due to the fact that she extended the SAG contract by a year, causing the SAG contract and the WGA contract to expire one year apart instead of simultaneously, lessening the bargaining power for both. Now, the writers have to take point on the issue instead of SAG, which would probably have been more powerful as a negotiating force. Bad strategy.

    Once again, your ignorance of the industry and how it works betrays you.

    The assertion that no one works in Hollywood without being a union member is 100% false.

    I”M NOT in ANY Hollywood union and the Hollywood work I did was ALL during a period in which my Graphic Artist Guild membership had lapsed.

    Your entire position here is based on the idea that because at some point carpenters MIGHT want royalties, writers shouldn’t get them? Ever?

    Carpenters have never gotten them before, and you may very well be the only person I have ever heard of who thinks they should. If you want to continue to be a lone voice in the wilderness for carpenters, knock yourself out, but this is the daffiest position I have ever heard.

    Because carpenters MIGHT ask for royalties no writer should get them? Fear the carpenter union!

    OK, well whatever.

    I am out of here.

    Computer off.

  37. “Carpenters have never gotten them before, and you may very well be the only person I have ever heard of who thinks they should. If you want to continue to be a lone voice in the wilderness for carpenters, knock yourself out, but this is the daffiest position I have ever heard.”

    I only used a carpenter as an example. You’re right, I don’t know a heck of alot about the industry. All I really know is what I see from various reports on the strike, and what I know is this:

    Several TV shows have shut down production. Thousands of workers (both unionized and not) have suddenly lost their primary stream of income. Meanwhile, incredibly rich celebrities are showing up at picket lines with bagels and coffee for the “oppressed” writers. As an admitted outsider, that’s a big disconnect, which is what got me thinking about what kind of real damage this noble, glorious struggle can and will inflict.

    Sure, the striking writers can say stuff like “while we regret the sacrifices others must make at this time, in the long run we’ll all be stronger for it”, that does very little for the incredibly talented people (yes, Colleen….they ARE talented) marginalized and deprived of their income by creative elites.

  38. Mark:

    I sympathize with Colleen giving up on explaining any of this to you — reading your exchanges, it’s like she’s been trying to explain the color red to a person who’s been blind since birth. So, on the off-chance that you do have some metaphorical rods and cones in there, I’ll try to pick up where she left off, but in laypersons’ terms.

    I’m not a member of any of the guilds — my degree is in live theater with emphases in Stage Managment and Dramaturgy, the latter of which is, yes, a form of Script Analysis/Editing/Reference Editing, so that’s where my loyalty lies regardless of whether I’m in any union or not (I’m not — I’m teaching-track.)

    But I just have to point out one thing that was drilled into us in every single drama class — whether it was an acting class, a theater history class, a directing class, a production synthesis (collaboration) class, a set design class or a dramaturgy class:

    The script is the *blueprint* for the production.

    In other words, the writer is not a carpenter, s/he is the *architect.*

    Ooops. There goes your analogy right out the window. But in case you can’t read your analogy anymore: being a talented carpenter is not the same thing as being a talented architect. The talents are, in fact, different and are not just valued differently, they have vastly different levels of importance to the production due to the simple facts that a) the writer is the source of the work and b) the carpenter is not the source of any artistic interpretation of the work — not the writer, not the director, not the actor, not any of the technical designers.

    “Knowing that everything in Hollywood is performed by a union member, you’d better believe the assorted trade unions will plug into whatever internet income stream comes out of the writer’s strike…so in a very real sense, the contribution of the carpenter will be “equated” (or perhaps “conflated”) with the writer’s role.”

    That would be conflated (minus the “air quotes”), Marc — and conflated is what you just did.

    Few in any of the unions or who know what the unions are about are going to be stupid enough to think that most other people in any given union think that their own work is equal in importance to the production as that of the collaborative artistic team (writers, directors, actors, designers, cinematographers, editors). It’s a merit-based system. Each craftsperson climbs up the ladder of merit in his/her craft within the overall entertainment industry.

    It’s not up to *us* (pros or fans) to prove that Carpenter Joe won’t be asking for a fair share that *isn’t* equal to (or even approaching that) of a writer, actor or director — yes, your own (lack of) logic is that tortured — it’s up to *you* to prove *your* actual argument (or what you are depicting as your actual argument: that Carpenters will be asking for pay equity with writers, actors and directors.

    That ain’t going to happen. For one, arguing for pay equity would require the unions to have worked in vacuums sealed off from each other for the past 100 years in order for them to be totally unaware of the relative importance of each person’s job in the meritocracy of the collaborative process.

    You’re mistakenly thinking that there’s any disconnect between the various pro-writer camps, pro or fan. You’re in the minority in your inability to understand the difference between writers, directors, actors, designers and craftspersons (carpenters, electricians, etc.) They all have unions and as Colleen has been arguing (correctly, IMO), the WGA strike is a proxy strike of all of the unions. In supporting the WGA strike, these other unions are not arguing for pay equity among all of the unions (that would be, like, communism and, hate to break it to you, but unions aren’t communism), they’re arguing for pay *proportionality* between what each union makes earnings in existing media and what each union will make in New Media just as soon as the studios stop lying to them that there’s no money in it when there actually is. Oh yeah, and they’re also pushing for a percentage pay bump to account for the studios’ deliberate reneging on increasing the residuals off DVDs when the studios used the same disingenuous excuse of “Oh, it’s a new revenue stream, we don’t know if we’ll *ever* make any money off it” back in 2001 (and with VHS waaay back in the 80’s.)

    It’s simple math, really — the WGA, and other unions picketing with them — are pushing to regain all of the ground they’ve lost to the studios lying to them.

    — Rob

  39. Here are some quotes from the Los Angeles Times. Link provided below.

    “When Tom Freston was fired from Viacom in 2006 he received $60 million in severance pay, more than all of the DVD residuals paid to WGA members that year.”

    “This past week Viacom reported an 80% leap in third-quarter earnings, boosted by a 57% rise in entertainment revenue. News Corp., which reported $732 million in earnings for the quarter, credited much of the gains to the box-office results from “The Simpsons Movie” and “Live Free or Die Hard.” And even though Time Warner’s overall earnings declined (to a paltry $1.09 billion), its movie earnings jumped 71%, thanks to the success of a new “Harry Potter” and “Oceans Thirteen”.”

    “So why are studios playing such hardball? They say they can’t divvy up online revenue until they have a better idea of how much money is generated. Of course, when video came along, the studios persuaded writers to take a tiny cut of the profits, so as not to kill an emerging technology. But once they were accumulating windfall profits, did they ever revisit that deal? Not on your life.”

    http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/la-et-bigpicture13nov13,1,3048316.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

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