Thursday, October 18, 2007

Around the Studios

I've hit multiple studios over the past several days, and in the way of production news, there's not a lot to report. Same teevee shows in production. Same movies and movies for dvd in production.

But a lot of the conversations I've been having -- with members and management -- revolve around ... guess what? ...

The Upcoming WGA strike.

The artists working on the four WGA animated series have dogs in the hunt and wonder how much longer they'll be employed. Management has given me different answers to how long studio staff will have work to do if and when writers hit the bricks. ("A few weeks? A couple more months? We don't know yet ..." They seem to be channeling Donald Rumsfeld.)

Artists at TAG repped studios ask if they're going to be impacted; I tell them that the rubber will hit the road if the actors walk when SAG-AFTRA's contract expires next June. They then relax a little, since June is a long ways off (or so it seems.)

Management people are miffed that the WGA is calling WGA-TAG writers on company payrolls and telling them to stop work in the event of a strike. (Miffed isn't exactly the right word -- "concerned" to "freaking out" is more accurate.)

I always have the same answer:

"The WGA can ask for writers to stop working when a strike comes. And if the writer chooses to stop, then fine. But if the WGA punishes anybody who continues to work, then the guild is over the line. It can't demand that a dual card holder working in another union's jurisdiction stop work. Legally, that just doesn't hold water."

There's been several rounds of cannon fire between the IATSE and the WGA. IA President Short says the WGA is out of bounds telling writers in IA jurisdictions they can't do the work (he's on firm legal ground here, methinks). WGA President Verrone says that "virtually all" animated features are written by WGA members. (he's correct if you define "writing an animated feature" as turning out pages of script.)

Problem is, storyboard artists also write large parts of an animated feature, and most of them have never been WGA members.

The other problem is, whether or not WGA members write animation scripts is irrelevant. WGA membership only counts if the WGA also represents the work.

As longtime animaation-comic book-live action writer Mark Evanier says:

There are some animation projects that are covered by the WGA. There are some that are covered by The Animation Guild... There are also animation projects produced that are covered by no union at all...and I should add one other category, lest folks get confused: There are projects where the WGA represents the writers and The Animation Guild represents the animators and other artists. The Simpsons would be the best example of this.

So. Let's take Mark's last example and spin us a scenario: TAG is about to strike against the studio doing The Simpsons. I call the WGA writers on the show and tell them: "TAG's going out Monday. We demand that you stop work and go out too."

Two writers yell "Solidarity forever!" and walk. Three writers -- one of whom is also a TAG member -- stay in. And TAG fines its member for staying in, even though the member is working under a WGA contract.

What then happens? Probably this: Member refuses to pay the fine, TAG takes member to court in an effort to collect, TAG loses.

The judge, you see, would most likely rule that our member was working under some other labor organization's jurisdiction and therefore we had no legal right to fine him. But in the real world, this would probably end up being academic, since Fox would demand amnesty for its writer-employee long before the case wended its way through court, and TAG would almost certainly agree to the amnesty.

The above is pretty much a mirror image of what I think will play out in the real time, real world situation between labor and management we're going through now.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why does anyone care? I mean, why doesn't the animation talent write and board the stuff THEMSELVES? What a thought. It might actually make most of the crappy animation on tv BETTER.

Anonymous said...

Yeah...and why not eliminate the voice talent, the editors, and any other creative people who get in our way! Then, let's just "put on a show" in the garage...yeah, I'll make the costumes and your dad can make the sets...we'll get Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and we're good to go! As a working member of WGA and TAG I can assure you have no idea what you're talikng about. Cheers, D

Anonymous said...

Yeah... Like John K.!

Look what slamming writers for years has done for his career arc. He went from creating a silly little internationally known TV toon to making internet commercials for failing start-ups. It's inspirational.

Checks watch, starts counting minutes until Worth barges in to say that "Ren Seeks Help" is The Pieta of animation.

Steve Hulett said...

I don't think there's a need to slam anybody working in the business. Writers, board artists, designers, anyone.

The people I encounter are trying to make the best product they can. Why shoot them down? It only ricochets back on the shooter.

Anonymous said...

Who's slamming anyone, other than "anonymous" and his fascination with all things Garland.

Still, by far, the best animation--tv and feature--is written by the story crew in boards and outline. Who cares if it's WGA or TAG? This certainly isn't an anti-union comment...but if anyone thinks you have to have a wga-er on board to make a great movie, you're sadly mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Just in case there’s any doubt we need WGA writers…

Toy Story (1995) Joss Whedon,(WGA) - Writer (screenplay), Joel Cohen, (WGA) - Writer (screenplay), Alec Sokolow (WGA) - Writer (screenplay),

Toy Story – (1995) WGA Oscar Nominated WGA Screenwriters:
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen;
Joss Whedon (WGA), (screenplay), Joel Cohen (WGA), (screenplay), Alec Sokolow (WGA), (screenplay),

Toy Story 2 (1999)
Rita Hsiao, (WGA) - Writer (screenplay), Doug Chamberlain, (WGA) - Writer (screenplay), Chris Webb, (WGA) - Writer (screenplay),

Toy Story 3 (2010) Michael Arndt,(WGA) - Writer (screenplay)

Not sure what business you're in...?

Anonymous said...

So, we're indebted to the WGA for ONE FILM??? ;-)

(And YES - it's "one" film.)

Anonymous said...

Thought you might get the point without having to list almost every Pixar, Disney, Fox, Dreamworks, etc...animated film ever made. It's clear you have no clue as to how FEATURE animated films are made. It almost always starts with a script...it's how I make my living. I appreciate every other part of the feature animation process...too bad you don't have the same abilty. Cheers D.

Anonymous said...

Well, most everyone knows that pixar vet Andrew Stanton wrote the scripts for most of those films. Just because someone got a credit doesn't mean they did the work. Just the facts, maam. It's kind of like saying tim mcanlies wrote "Iron Giant," when everyone knows Brad Bird wrote the screenplay top to bottom. As he did with The Incredibles.

Without the wga, as well.

Anonymous said...

You know, you're right...I'm sorry for defending writers...silly of me, really...and let me know how much work you get, while waiting for work on an Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird film. Meanwhile, I'll continue to live in my imaginary world of writing films for every major animation studio in town...be thinking of you while banking this afternoon! BTW- Stanton and Bird are WGA...Cheers, D

Steve Hulett said...

I'll continue to live in my imaginary world of writing films for every major animation studio in town...be thinking of you while banking this afternoon! BTW- Stanton and Bird are WGA...Cheers, D

I'll take your word for it that Stanton and Bird are WGA members.

Of course, memberships in the Writers Guild won't do either of them much good up at Pixar, since there is no WGA contract at the Emeryville facility. (At least, not on the animated product.)

And happily, the Writers Guild strike will not affect your employment writing on most of the animated features here in L.A., since many are done under IATSE contracts.

Go right on banking those checks!

Anonymous said...

> It's clear you have no clue as to how FEATURE animated films
> are made. It almost always starts with a script...
> it's how I make my living.

Which explains why they have become so "talky" and BORING. ;-P

Try remembering that it's CINEMA, and start with BOARDS.

Anonymous said...

For the last time...I respect every part of the animation process...one is not better or more important than the other. I can see I've wasted my time trying to convince you of the same. I wish you the best...if you are indeed a working board artist, I may be working side by side with you some day...I can only hope you treat writers with more respect in person, than you do on this site. Cheers, D.

Anonymous said...

Have fun at the bank!

Kevin Geiger said...

Ever notice how dogs bark at each other more furiously when there's a fence between them? ;-)

Leeroy said...

Im new to the industry, and really dont want to join WGA or any other union. I know, they are supose to be protecting the writer and Im sure they are. At the same time though
I dont want their help or protection and I dont want to be black balled for not submitting to them and doing my own thing. It really pisses me off that I have to pay into some group that I dont even want to be part of, just so I can work and not worry that I'll be blocked to do so if I rub them the wrong way.

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