Saturday, November 10, 2007

Hackocracy?

...the majority of WGA writers working in animation are hacks...

Sorry, but I can't let this comment pass without, you know, comment.

That snotty genius Mark Twain notwithstanding ("Writing is like billiards to me ...") creating halfway decent sentences out of thin air isn't easy for most people.

And it never has been.

While it's true that there are bad writers who make good livings turning out ho-hum scripts, I don't think it's fair or accurate to label animation writers who hold WGA cards as hacks.

And understand I don't have any skin in this snark fest, because I've never been in the WGA.

I won't even deny that animation producers often have a bad habit of letting the WGA do their vetting of qualified animation writers for them. In too many cases, they overlook the actual work, and hire the writer who's gotten his passport stamped by the Writers Guild over the talented writer/board artist who hasn't. Sometimes it's due to laziness. Often it's because of fear. Hiring a WGA member is a "safe" decision in today's management culture. Didn't used to be this way, but it is now ...

But don't kid yourself. When I worked in TV animation twenty years ago, at a time when there were minimal WGA writers in that business, most of the scripts churned out weren't very good. I once went to an animation producer at Marvel and moaned: "I've just read twenty damn scripts! And three quarters of them are lousy!"

He squinted into the middle distance and said, "Yeah, that ratio sounds about right."

So are we getting the big picture here? Writing is not easy. Good writing, really good writing, is often damn near impossible. No matter what union card you might hold.

So let's not sneer at the writers. Please lay the blame where it belongs: on production execs who are spineless and lazy.

24 comments:

Steve said...

Gracias.

:)

Anonymous said...

spineless and lazy?? way to represent... rather than debate in the arena of ideas, let's resort to petty name calling - sure fire way to get accomplish goals

Anonymous said...

anonymous here:

lack of excellence isn't excused because union writers were hired out of fear. the fact remains that the majority of union writers working in animation don't understand the art form. they think they can coast on snappy dialogue.
animation is not worth doing if its huge visual potential is not capitalized upon.

i can't even COUNT how many scripts come in from union writers with crowd scene after crowd scene. It is more than a fundamental inability to understand the pitfalls and best strategies of the animation process, its an arrogance. an apathy towards the artform that doesn't offer them as many residuals as film or television.

a stark contrast to artists in the animation guild who have a commitment to excellence.

i'm of the opinion that most union writers have not performed well in our industry. we'd be better off without them.

and with all due respect, i'd like to remain anonymous when dishing on the guild. they wield more power than your average animator:

http://tinyurl.com/2r79cx

Anonymous said...

Unless I'm mistaken, Steve is saying that WGA writers that try to write for animation aren't any worse than the writers that are normally considered animation writers. Whoa, thats a relief...?
Truth be told I've yet to meet any animation writer that didn't have to have most of his script re-worked by the story crew in one form or another and the only thing that usually prevents that from always happening is budget and schedule.

Despite my above comment I still feel that the WGA have every right to ask and strike for anything they possibly can. Everyone does and they should try to get as much as they can from the studios that reap so much in profit.
What I'm sick of is the writers trying to act so noble about it. As if they're doing this for the little guy - including all the non-writers. Let's be honest here, the ones that will suffer the most are the ones that never have a chance in hell of ever seeing residuals from anything. I'm talking about the camera people, the grips, the stagehands, the makeup people, etc, etc.
These are the people that are most likely to lose their homes and go broke due to this strike. Not the writers who even in many of their own blogs admit they have other avenues to earn incomes - like comics, articles, books, etc.

And just to be clear about the internet revenues that they want a piece of so badly...unless something has changed drastically overnight no one has figured out really how to earn money from it yet (except porn and eBay and just recently Amazon).
It's my understanding (and maybe I'm in the dark about this) that those ads really don't pay unless someone clicks on the ad and goes to the website that is linked to it. Have you ever clicked on an ad? I know I almost never do. The commercials like Fidelity that are attached to the re-runs of popular series I'm guessing help offset what it takes to actually get those things on-line (assuming anything at all). And don't kid yourself - it costs money to get things on-line. Anyone who has ever had a website knows that. If sponsors do pay, those numbers must exhist somewhere just as they do for broadcast TV. If I were a writer wanting a piece of the pie I think that would be pretty damn important to know - how much those ads are paying to the studios.

Steve Hulett said...

spineless and lazy?? way to represent... rather than debate in the arena of ideas,

Read closely. I'm only referring to execs who are "spineless and lazy."

I'm not referring to execs who are "hardworking and courageous."

But you're right: spineless is limp and oversimple. Let's go with Theodore Roosevelt's description of a congressman:

"The man had the backbone of a chocolate eclair."

JKP said...

You are very much in the dark, son. The WGA wants residuals that are connected to new media, (like the Internet). As you may know, DVDs won’t be around forever (they’ll go the way of VHS). Netflix knows this and that’s why they are currently developing ways to deliver movies and TV shows to the consumer via the Internet. And as it stands right now, there are no writer residuals for that type of distribution. That’s where the real money is - and not in pop up adds.

Anonymous said...

Hello. I'm a different anonymous person. Gee, this being anonymous is fun. I can post any stupid comment I want without ever having to stand behind it. This is good because I have the courage of my convictions up to the point of lending my personal honor and credibility to them.

I can even insult other people who've worked on shows with me and since you don't know who I am, you can't point out that it really didn't happen that way on my show.

Okay, here's a viewpoint: There are bad writers, just as there are bad animators, bad storyboard artists, bad anything. It has nothing do with what union card someone holds. On shows I've worked on, I've seen lots of people from all unions whose work was substandard and had to be redone.

WGA writers are WGA writers because of union organizing. If they get better deals than some of us, more power to them. If the studios were getting some of these people cheaper, that would be the rationale for paying artists less. If writers and voice actors took a cutback in residuals, that would make it even more unreachable for others, and there'd at some point be cutbacks in what the studios pay into everyone's health and pension funds.

No money to be made on the Internet? Then why are the studios willing to shut down production and screw up everything to resist giving the WGA a tiny percentage if it'll be a percentage of nothing? Come on.

That's all I have to say for now. You can ignore it because I'm anonymous.

Anonymous said...

You can assume I'm one of the earlier anonyom ous writers or I'm a new anonyomous writer. Either way I'm anonymous...
They've muddied up their own arguments by discussing free screenings of episodes of the Office that contain Fidelity ads. If these aren't the revenue they're looking to attach and it's eventual downloads from Netflix/Amazon/Blocbuster they need to be more specific. Though if JKP is suggesting they're looking for residuals from films that are rented - regardless if it's a physical DVD or a download - I'm not sure how they will get anything that way. Netflix doesn't pay out residuals now everytime they rent out a movie. Netflix buys a copy of the movie (the residuals are paid out) and then they rent it however many times they can.
It seems like their language needs to be specific that they're looking for residuals ANYTIME a film is sold from the distributor whether it's a DVD or download.

I suspset that the studios are resisting and willing to shutdown is because the WGA isn't asking for a pecntage they want specific amounts...and that's just want studios do. The WGA strikes (because that's what they do) and the studios say go ahead, we don't care.
But I agree with the anonymous up above the WGA should try to get everything it can ...just as anyone should.

I do notice no one wants to address the above statement that the people that will really get hurt are the ones that gain nothing from this strike though.

Anonymous said...

I think what the anonymous writer above was suggesting is that broadcast, cable and satellite companies will all be replaced one day soon by computer downloads straight into your living room. I assume they're afraid that the studios will have already set a precedent by allowing free downloads and not paying residuals on those.
Personally I'm not sure that will happen, but it can't hurt to try and put it on the table and discuss it...though it would seem to be an easier thing to discuss once (if) it happens and it's clear what really is happening with the technology.

Anonymous said...

I'm the anonymous writer who posted at 9:14 above. I'll address the statement that the people getting really hurt are the ones that gain nothing from this strike.

Yes, that's true. It's very sad and regrettable and it's not the union's fault. It's the fault of the employers for being so intractable and greedy that a strike becomes necessary.

When 839 strikes, people are hurt who will not benefit from that strike. Studio guards and secretaries are laid off. If production stops, voice actors have no jobs and film editors have no film to edit. When 839 went on strike in the seventies, the art supply shop across the street from Hanna-Barbera practically went out of business and one nearby restaurant did.

What are you suggesting a union should do about that? Never strike no matter how bad the offer is?

Anonymous said...

not act as if their strike will benefit everyone?

Anonymous said...

I'm the 9:14 guy again.

Okay, who ever says "our strike will benefit absolutely everyone"?

Strikes do benefit more people than just the ones striking. If one union gets more, the other unions are in a better position to get more. And the non-union people often follow along.

But no one says that the office staffers and security guards aren't getting harmed. It's a sad fact of life.

And just think how badly they'd be treated if the folks who ran the studio felt they could get away with doing anything they wanted to any of their employees because no one would ever fight back.

Anonymous said...

"And just think how badly they'd be treated if the folks who ran the studio felt they could get away with doing anything they wanted to any of their employees because no one would ever fight back."


That's cold comfort to the dude losing his house.

I'm a different anonymous shmo.

I'm not affected by this strike, but I've got some live-action friends over at Universal who likely will be.

They're union folks, just not WGA. None of them are big-shot writer-producers.

I know the WGA has a fund to help save the mortgages of writers strapped by the strike... do other unions have those kinds of funds to help workers impacted? Is there a way some of those 839ers who are unaffected can help our non-WGA brothers and sisters to keep them from losing their houses.

Cause when the elephants fight, it's the grass that suffers. I'll never see a "residual" in my life. But I think I'm about to see friends lose their jobs so that show creatives can get a bigger piece of the DVD pie.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it'd be kind of nice if the WGA offered ti help many of those that are not going to benefit from the strike and possibly lose their houses, etc. Surely their union has a few more resources than 839 does. Or are they just cannon fodder?
Somehow hereing the co-creator of Lost whining about how much money he's willing to lose to support the strike and what a hardship it'll be on him I suspect won't help anyone's opinion of the WGA.

Miles said...

If you want to stop guessing what the WGA strike is about and know what it is about, so that you discuss it intelligently, watch the WGA created video that explains their position.

http://outsidetvsafe.blogspot.com/

Anonymous said...

the discussion has been consummately intelligent so far.

what would be ignorant is if we were all dazzled by a slanted video of pie charts and color graphs that are one part propaganda and two parts conjecture.
the 4th post above rang the bell of truth with his observations on internet revenue. one facet of that WGA video that goes 'conveniently' unexplained.

Anonymous said...

I've seen that video, miles.

I haven't yet seen the part where non-writers benefit.

Oh yeah, they don't.

A strike is a bargaining tactic. In and of itself, it's neither good nor bad.

But let's not get carried away and start casting the WGA as some modern-day Robin Hood, sticking up for the little guy.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I accidentally posted this under the wrong topic...technology!!

I wonder if Lindelof has considered the money that the grips, etc will never make back due to the strike while they worry about their future 'mailbox' money

Anonymous said...

Somehow I accidentally posted this under the wrong topic...technology!!

I wonder if Lindelof has considered the money that the grips, etc will never make back due to the strike while they worry about their future 'mailbox' money.

Anonymous said...

hacks run rampant in this industry as well as every other corner of the entertainment industry which is why unions are part of the problem. yes there are hack writers as well as hack animators but thanks to these unions they get paid the same minimum as non-hacks. of course union leaders will say "we dont stop studios from giving raises to exceptional workers" but because studios have to pay a higher minimum to hacks theres not as much money to go around. so hacks get paid more than they deserve and good people get paid less than they deserve. the union system is obsolete. it encourages everyone to strive for a c-

Anonymous said...

Who hires these union "hacks"? The unions or the studios?

Anonymous said...

the studios but sometimes you dont realise that someone is a hack until you have worked with them a little while and by then its too late to fire them.

Anonymous said...

At 11/08/2007 04:51:00 PM, Anonymous said...
http://www.newsfromme.com/

Has some of the best thoughts on the writer situation.


At 11/12/2007 06:05:00 PM, Anonymous said...
Evanier does have some of the best thoughts on the strike, but they're clearly from a union member's perspective. He's often so far to that extreme (something he doesn't do very often) that I sometimes I feel like I'm reading a blog from Tony Snow defending W.
In fact this whole strike is beginning to remind me of W's war (pretty ironic since I'm willing to bet most of them are anti-W).
Sure the studios need toppling, but it sure would be nice if the WGA had something more than greed on their side too.
I can't wait for the bumperstickers that say "I support the WGA because I'm an American!"

I hope they have a better exit strategy than W.

Anonymous said...

My guess is within a short time there will be two camps. Those who support the writer's strike - made up of mostly those who also recieve residuals and will benefit from the WGA getting more residuals - and those who don't - all those that work in less glamorous and lucrative jobs that are going to lose whether the WGA wins or not.

I'm also curious why no one from the WGA has addressed the statement from the studios that residuals are already paid from many interent projects. I know they're quick to point to CEOs posturing and claiming big incomes on talk shows, but if we beleive in that type of poaturing (to continue the above analogy) then thw WGA is no better than the Bush gang accepting Sadam Hussein's posturing about WMDs without real evidence.

Or that a lot of their money is being paid to high end actors and directors - maybe follishly, but no one can argue that people go to see movies and watch TV mostly because of who is in it and not who wrote it.

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