Friday, December 14, 2007

Layoffs on Fox Animated Shows Begin

The last few days, I've gotten word (in writing) that layoffs have started and will continue on Simpsons, American Dad, King of the Hill, and Family Guy because no writing is being done during the WGA strike.

I didn't need letters. I knew it was coming, as did the crews. But I went up to Starz Media yesterday anyway, to find out what was going on. I thought the down-sizing would be starting after the first of the year. No such luck. A layout artist set me straight:

"Our first wave of people got it last week, another group goes this week, and more people will be going after New Year's."

On King of the Hill, I'm told that layoffs will be pretty close to their normal hiatus time. A few revisionists are going just before Christmas, with other personnel shifting over to take up some left-over work, then departing early next year.

Happily, most folks have been told that they'll be back after the strike is settled. So I guess there's a kind of a silver lining.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I've solved the problem. The writers should end the strike, go back to "work" and negotiate individual deals for residuals. I'm sure the most valued among them will have enough leverage to get a good deal and the others who can't have the option to quit and find a job somewhere that appreciates them more.
After all, isn't that what TAG tells us every time someone suggests that they could be doing more for us?

Anonymous said...

^ Excellent point.

Anonymous said...

Verrone's Harvard law skills descend on us like that Class of 3000 star vehicle he sicked on CNS.

Steve Hulett said...

The writers should end the strike, go back to "work" and negotiate individual deals for residuals ... After all, isn't that what TAG tells us every time someone suggests that they could be doing more for us?

Uh, no.

TAG, like every other etnertainment union, negotiates "floors" above which individual members negotiate their own deals.

Star board artists and animators work at higher individual rates than some others because they are perceived by producers to have more value in the workplace.

Positive example: Tom Hanks doesn't work for SAG scale or SAG minimum residuals. He leverages his fame and clout for more.

Negative example: A few years ago, journey character actors who were making pretty far above scale had producers chop their fees to "scale plus ten percent" (the ten percent being agents' fees).

Huge outcry about this. Cries of "unfair!" Nobody could live on the lousey money, etc. Wasn't much SAG could do about it, because ....

Unions and guilds negotiate and set floors, not market rates or above scale deals.

Hope this clears things up. (By the by, the quote marks around work up above is a nice touch. It's always worthwhile to demean fellow workers.)

Anonymous said...

This is Hollywood to me.

Someone, ANYONE, strikes gold on tv/mtv/reality show/movie.

Agents/manager/lawyers/execs throw gobs of money (ie - development deals in WHATEVER MEDIA you can POSSIBLY IMAGINE) at this someone and this someone's friends/colleagues/college buddies, bodyguards, etc. etc.

Everyone close to that someone, if they hang around that person long enough and do work for that someone long enough (usually not that long these days), feels like they also are entitled to the same reward/lifestyle, and use the same managers/agents/lawyers to do whatever they can to keep up with the Jones'. And it all lasts until the first someone who leads the money train implodes into multilple rehabs with the force of a supernova.

Anonymous said...

"TAG, like every other etnertainment union, negotiates "floors" above which individual members negotiate their own deals."

Talk about bureaucratic nonsense. No, nothing has been cleared up. You just sort of dodged the argument with a lot of typically complicated-sounding bullshit. You union types are just as bad as politicians.
You cover every issue in so much crap to make it sound more complicated than it is so that you can justify your position.

Anonymous said...

"You cover every issue in so much crap to make it sound more complicated than it is so that you can justify your position."

That's one of the funniest things I've ever read. If what Steve said sounds complicated to you, then how do you manage the complicated task of walking and chewing gum?

Anonymous said...

Looks like artists are beginning to join together with the WGA to strike.

Whether they want to or not!

Thanks WGA

AMPTP said...

Divide and conquer. MUHUHAHAHA

Steve Hulett said...

"TAG, like every other entertainment union, negotiates "floors" above which individual members negotiate their own deals."

Talk about bureaucratic nonsense. No, nothing has been cleared up. You just sort of dodged the argument with a lot of typically complicated-sounding bullshit. You union types are just as bad as politicians.


What's nonsensical? Unions are only as effective as A) the political, economic and cultural environment in which they operate allows them to be, and B) the energy and involvement of their members and officers.

Face it, unions and guilds are not operating at peak strength today. Even so, in the aggregate union workers earn 24% more than their non-union peers.

But let me address your complaints this way. Sure, unions could do more for their members, but they have to possess the leverage to do so.

The WGA is now trying to get a better rate on downloads. It's trying hard. If it fails to get them, are they worthless? No, they simply didn't have enough power to secure what many of its members wanted.

Now, you might say, "See? Unions are useless!" You'd ignore all the good things unions have achieved (because that undercuts your argument), and concentrate on the failures.

But try this: If I don't drop dead in the next six or seven years, thanks to unions I'll have a comfortable retirement. Between the Defined Benefit Plan, the Individual Account Plan, and the 401(k) Plan, I'll be ... not rich but okay.

I didn't get residuals. I never got a whoppingly big salary. But I chose a path that worked out and I've been able to support my wife and children and have a reasonably good quality of life.

That's not insubstantial to my mind, and I'm grateful for it. I could gripe and complain about what the unions I was in didn't do for me; I prefer to focuse on what they did.

Anonymous said...

And why does this prevent the WGA writers from ending the strike and negotiating their own residuals?

Anonymous said...

Because other than the 'heavy hitters' most of the writers would be laughed right out of the office. I't'd be the same if a storyboard artist tried to negotiate residuals...

Anonymous said...

Why does this tool even care about the strike?

If he's not even connected to the entertainment business and he’s just pissed off that his favorite TV shows are on hold, or he’s just anti-union, then I say tough shit.

But if he is a below the line worker, then I suggest a variation on the advice he gave the writers when telling the to go back to "work". If you can't handle working in the entertainment business then you should quit and find a job where you don't have to worry about strikes.

Steve Hulett said...

And why does this prevent the WGA writers from ending the strike and negotiating their own residuals?

Nothing prevents them. At any time, they can resign from the WGA and take "financial core" status, cross the picket line and return to work. The AMPTP talks about this on its web site.

But the writers don't. Further, they vote to strike.

It's called free choice and union democraccy, in case you're unfamiliar with the two concepts.

Anonymous said...

"If I don't drop dead in the next six or seven years, thanks to unions I'll have a comfortable retirement. Between the Defined Benefit Plan, the Individual Account Plan, and the 401(k) Plan, I'll be ... not rich but okay"


Uh, just a tiny bit of difference, Steve - you've been a union rep for what, 20 years now?
That's 20 years of steady income and savings - a luxury most artists just Don't have.
Not sure if you're aware, but 99% of us have to jump from job to job with significant downtime inbetween, which simply eats up our retirement savings.
If animators could rely on steady work, that dirty, sacreligious word "RESIDUALS" would never even enter the debate (I mean, it's not like we're driven by greed here, for God's sake!).
As it is now, however, only a handful of those "star" artists can count on a steady paycheck. And you, Steve. So, you know, thanks for rubbing it in.
Because the rest of us "mediocre" saps will have to scrap for jobs well into our 70's just to make end's meat. Comfortable retirement...Jesus.
But, as usual, "shut up and enjoy all the good things the union has done for you..."

Bill said...

Since you admit you're a "mediocre sap" who has to scrap for jobs, and not a heavy hitter, why do you imagine you could negotiate an individual contract that would actually be better than a union one? With what leverage?

Steve Hulett said...
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Steve Hulett said...
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Steve Hulett said...

If animators could rely on steady work, that dirty, sacreligious word "RESIDUALS" would never even enter the debate ...

As it is now, however, only a handful of those "star" artists can count on a steady paycheck. And you, Steve. So, you know, thanks for rubbing it in...


Hardly trying to rub it in. But let me tiptoe through my so-called resume and clear up a few things before your bile rises higher.

In '76, I became a trainee at Disney. $130 per week.

When I was laid off a decade later, I was making forty grand a year. Eighty bucks a week over scale, as I remember.

After that? Couldn't get myself arrested at any other cartoon studio. Went back to college and went through savings getting a teaching credential. Taught as a substitute teacher. Taught in a private school. $350 per week. No benefits.

Last half of '88, I land a job as a staff writer at Filmation. $840/wk. Scale. Delighted to have it.

Company goes out of business in February '89. Mass layoffs. I'm back to substitute teaching.

Fall '89. I land a full-time job teaching junior high school in Burbank. Two months later, I throw my hat in the ring for this position.

Ferocious fight with my wife ensues; she doesn't want me to run, wants me to stay a teacher. My father-in-law Charlie Downs, animator and former 839 Prez, advises me: "The job is thankless, everybody hates you and the studios despise you. Don't do it."

I do it anyway, telling my wife: "Hey, I'll at least have three or six more years in the pension plan. (At the time I had eleven. I had no inkling it was going to last eighteen...)

Oh yeah. The salary, animator scale plus 10%. (A big jump from wages earned in the Burbank Unified School District, by the way. It's risen a bit over the years. My take-home for most of this year has been $1530/week.)

For that, I negotiate contracts, fight with studios, file grievances, run the 401(k) Plan, visit members at studios.

And over the last eighteen years I've worked nights and weekends on scripts, books, and other things, have run through two or three agents.

Why am I still doing this job? Same reason I turned to teaching years ago. It's steady, which I figured out I needed to raise a family. And it's never boring. (Also true of school teaching.)

Every three years I stand for re-election, and (mostly) nobody bothers to run against me. Is it because I'm doing a super job?

Probably not. Personally, I think it's because none of the 2000+ artists and technicians eligible to run want it. Only logical explanation I can think of.

But you tell me.

Steve Hulett said...

Not just star artists survive in the biz.

I know plenty who have worked twenty and thrity-plus years.

My wife has worked twenty-nine. She is always glad to point out that being married to me has not been helpful.

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