Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"What's With the Writers' Strike?"

Morning and afternoon, at DreamWorks, Disney, Nick and other places, people ask me: "So, what's going on with the writers' strike?" Animation employees act as if I have special psychic abilities. Sadly, I don't.

All I've got is my classical cynicism and three decades of kicking around the trade union business and animation industry. Also what I've learned sitting through lots of negotiations.

What's most likely to happen is, the talks between the W.G.A. and the AMPTP -- kaput after the Alliance's walkout last Friday -- will stay kaput until next year. And Nick Counter and Co., collectively known as "the producers", will turn their attention to the Directors Guild of America. Sometime in mid or late January, the two sides will sit down, clear their throats, and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.

(Update below.)

(Update Again below.)

(Update Again Again ...)

Within one to three weeks, they'll have a deal. (The D.G.A. works quickly.) And the W.G.A. will likely not be happy with the outcome because the deal won't meet its own bottom line, and it will then be in a kind of a box. A new three-year agreement with a powerful, above-the-line guild will be out there as a reality. And like it or not, the W.G.A. will have to deal with it.

The D.G.A. won't care very much about bruised feelings. Like the IATSE, the Directors Guild marches to its own drummer. Its motto seems to be: "Negotiate early with maximum leverage. Get the best deal that the AMPTP is willing to accept." And it has one other internal rule: "Don't Strike."

How do I know this? I look at the D.G.A.'s history. In its 72-year existence, it's hit the bricks over a contract exactly once. And that "once" was a strike of under fifteen minutes duration.

Is this "no strike" thing the best strategy? Who the hell knows? It's the D.G.A.'s strategy, and the odds are excellent that it will be sticking with the regular game plan again this time around.

The D.G.A. understands it has maximum leverage right now. The Writers Guild is doing a job action and steadily shutting the industry down, and the producers are anxious to make a deal. The AMPTP wants a template it can shove down the throats of the other guilds. Besides which, the Alliance has been losing the P.R. war with the W.G.A. and having an agreement with the D.G.A. will help it regain a little ground, which will be icing on the producers' proverbial cake.

Of course, if one or both parties badly miscalculate ... and the D.G.A. and AMPTP don't reach a deal ... then we sail into fog-shrouded waters. And only God and his angelic minions will be able to calculate how long the three guilds might be out on strike. August 2008? Christmas? I shudder to think.

Assuming some blowup doesn't happen, here's what comes next: the WGA stays out until springtime, then the writers cease picketing -- long strikes are exhausting both physically and mentally -- and return to the bargaining table. After some back-and-forth, a new agreement is hammered out. SAG, seeing the framed deal-points on the wall, will make the tactical decision to forego a strike and fall in line with its fellow guilds.

And the town, slowly and fitfully, will get back to work.

Now. Is this the script I want to see happen? No. I desire that every union and guild get the lion's share of its demands (minus, for obvious reasons, the WGA gaining jurisdiction of animation.) I want to see everyone make more money, gain better pension and health benefits. I want to see everyone satisfied with the results.

But I know the way studios and unions operate, and I don't live in the Land of Wishful Thinking. (LOWT is a nice place to visit, but it messes up your head if you attempt to reside there). The guilds won't get everything they want. Not by a country mile.

In three to eight months, we'll see how close the actual results come to my prediction.

Update: Here's part of the Directors Guild of America's letter to members (courtesy of Nikki Finke and Deadline Hollywood.) Sound like their getting ready to wheel and deal?

... Traditionally our negotiations start early and usually are done by January. This has been our pattern for the past 20 years for a very simple reason: We believe -- and our experience shows -- that this is the most effective way to negotiate the best deal. The WGA has made a different decision on how to handle their negotiations. Out of respect for them, we have done what you asked for in your letter -- we have refrained from commencing our own negotiations. And, at the same time we have refrained from commenting publicly on our thoughts about the direction of their proposals and the progress of their negotiations.

But the reality is that WGA and the AMPTP have been meeting since July -- and, despite a strike that has put tens of thousands of people out of work, they seem nowhere near reaching a deal. Each passing day, more people are unemployed. We are getting calls from members who are worried about their economic livelihood and their families. We're sure you feel the same concern for yourselves and the people who work for you.

Because so much time has gone by without any resolution, we find ourselves faced with some hard questions. Is a fresh perspective -- and additional muscle -- needed to get the job done? Is it our turn to sit across the table from the AMPTP? ...

Uhm, I'm thinking yes.

Update Again: The DGA has issued a second missive, this one saying:

In order to give the WGA and the AMPTP one last chance to get back to the table, we will not schedule our negotiations to begin until after the New Year, and then only if an appropriate basis for negotiations can be established.

Are we crystalline? The DGA is going to stand clear of the WGA-AMPTP non-negotiations until after the Rose Bowl game. Which is what? Two and a half weeks from now? And everybody knows that the weeks from mid-Decenber to New Year's is the ripest time to negotiate a contract, since nothing else is going on ...

Update Again Again: And now the WGA has filed an Unfair Labor Practice against the AMPTP (posted on Deadline Hollywood.) And a commenter opines, "Wow! This is huge!"

Actually what it is, is a public relations move. Take it from somebody who's filed Unfair Labor Practices ... and gone to hearings at the NLRB, Region 31. Nobody gets scared or intimidated by this stuff. The Board investigates, the Board has a hearing, the Board (Region 31) makes a ruling. Which takes a looong stretch of time.

And then, if that ruling is not to the AMPTP's liking, the AMPTP appeals it to the National Labor Relations Board in D.C. More months and years glide by. And then, if the AMPTP doesn't like the ruling that eventually comes out of there (which is doubtful, since we live in the time of George W. Bush and the National Board is heavily weighted in favor of Big Business), it can appeal it again in court.

And now it's 2012, a year past the next contract deadline. So nobody should get overly worked up about this maneuver, because a maneuver is all it is.

83 comments:

Michael Sporn said...

Thanks for your comments. They're informed, informative and useful to hear.

Anonymous said...

Chances are very good you're right. Maybe even slightly optimisitc.
When this is settled, the writers will have endeared themselves even more to the below the line workers that they have harmed so they can try to get more $20,000 in mailbox money for repeat screenings on the internet.

Thomas said...

To Anonymous (comment #2 above),

First, this is not just about "repeat screenings on the internet."

Internet delivery will likely soon replace, not just supplement, the showing of entertainment via TV. When that day comes, the model of "show it first on TV, then rerun it through other formats" will no longer hold. My own 16-year-old niece barely watches TV on a TV set anymore; she sees most of her favorite shows on her computer, via internet.

Technology evolves rapidly. It took less than a decade for VHS to go from a dominant technology to an extinct one. The best informed judgment is that DVD will soon go the same route, to be replaced by internet delivery of content via downloads and/or streaming. The WGA is being proactive in trying to anticipate this change and create a reasonable compensation structure for not only internet reuse but also primary delivery of content via the internet.

Second, that "mailbox money" you disparagingly refer to may amount to a writer's entire income in a lean year. Writing income can vary wildly from year to year; residuals work as deferred income, not some kind of "gimme." Certainly there are some fabulously well-off writers (just as there are fabulously well-off animation directors), but most of the writers I know and work with are happy if they can sustain some modest level of success.

Third, why do you begrudge fellow creatives from benefiting financially from their work? We should be cheering this development -- not only on behalf of our fellow creatives, but also because this deal will set a precedent for compensation in the internet age. We in the Animation Guild also receive and benefit from residuals, which are paid not directly to individuals but into the pension and health plan (which are, bar none, the most generous and healthy in the industry). If the WGA can negotiate a favorable internet formula, we will all benefit.

Lastly, the fact that many non-writers will lose work due to this strike is absolutely tragic. But why blame the writers? The WGA contract ended on October 31; the subsequent deal offered by the AMPTP was onerous. What was the WGA supposed to do? We all have the right to refuse a bad deal--hence, the strike. Furthermore, the WGA has never left the bargaining table. It is the AMPTP which has cynically walked out (twice) and refused to engage in any sort of reasonable negotiations.

To Steve -- thanks for your updates and reasoned analysis. Like you, I fear the worst but hope for the best.

Anonymous said...

Hear hear to everything the last fellow said. : )

Anonymous said...

Ahhh...if only I could get some of that 'mailbox' money you guys are talking about when I can't get a job too.

Christian Roman said...

What I don't understand, and perhaps Steve can shed a little more light on this, is why the WGA has suddenly added into the negotiations the issue of folding in reality and animation writers into the WGA? It's always been my impression that the WGA has snubbed writers of both these mediums in the past, and I know Steve and the AMPTP have said this issue is better settled by these writers organizing and filling out union cards than in a contract negotiation.

So why is the WGA suddenly interested in what it previously considered 'lesser' mediums? Is it just because these mediums are outside the WGA's jurisdiction and as the AMPTP claims the WGA is looking for more power? Also, I've always heard from producers that animation would shut down if all it's writers were in the WGA because studios wouldn't be able to rerun cartoons ad infinitum due to the heavy residual pay outs. Has the AMPTP been behind keeping animation writers out of the WGA?

Anonymous said...

I've got little to no empathy for overpaid and often under talented writers, but I do have a lot of sympathy for those workers who will never see any benefit from this strike and are losing their jobs because of it.

If Thomas somehow thinks that if the WGA bnefits from this strike everyone will benefit as well I think he's been drinking the kool-aid.

I don't begrudge the writers getting as much as they can (and most of the really good ones do get as much as they can and even some of the bad ones), but it's this attitude that they have (and it seems Thomas too) that they are fghting a noble fight. Let's call it what it is. They want more money and see that the producers have a lot of money and want more of it.

Ken said...

I think everyone has enormous sympathy for workers who have been knocked out of work by this strike and their families. At the same time, it doesn't follow that the writers should therefore accept whatever the producers offer.

Whether the writers are under-talented isn't really the issue. The question is whether they -- like, say, book writers who retain copyright -- deserve participate in the success of their work if and when it's resold to generate further profits for the company.

In response to an earlier comment -- as to "why now?" with animation and the WGA, I suspect it's partly to do with the fact that Patric Verrone, the head of the WGAw, is an animation writer, and that all unions are feeling that they face a "grow or die" situation these days. That said, it has been an issue that's come up before in these negotiations, only to fall off the table. Also, the WGA has had some success organizing some animation (Simpson's, Family Guy, King of the Hill...those "under-talented" writers), so it's not entirely new.

Raye said...

Hey, Christian:

I don't think animation would shut down. I think that's just a producer scare tactic. I'm sure back in the 50's they said the same thing about all TV.

With animation, there's such a cash-cow of merchandising.

Public television would definitely feel a pinch because they don't get advertising dollars the way other networks do. But I'm sure the WGA would draft some kind of special contract for them, just as they've done for WGA-coveredlive action programs (like Sesame Street).

Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, Disney could and would definitely take it in stride.

As for the film industry. Please. They can definitely afford it, and it would not hurt them in the least. Some of the top grossing films of the past ten years have been animated features. They are not going to stop making them just because the writers starts getting a fair deal.

Christian Roman said...

Thanks for the answers, guys. And to anonymous who commented about the writers fighting the noble fight...well, in terms of having sympathy for the creatives verses the suits, they ARE fighting a noble fight. Regardless if it's for money or credit, my perspective of this fight is: the AMPTP has little respect for the work of the creative and feels they do not deserve an equal share of the results of their work.

For example, from the AMPTP website:

The falsely maligned home video residual formula is not a discounted formula. On a standard 1 million unit sale of a DVD, a writer garners at least an additional $64,800 beyond initial compensation (on 5 million units at least $324,000; on 10 million units $648,000, etc.).

That SOUNDS all well and good, until you do the math and realize, at 5 million units @ approx. $19.99 a piece, that DVD will gross $99,950,000. To me, it seems like the writer, someone who CREATED the product, to only make $324,000 from $99,950,000 is a total slap in the face.

Steve Hulett said...

Let's not sneer at anyone who wants more money. Robert Iger wants more money. The Disney janitorial staff wants more money. What's new?

The difference here is, Iger has the leverage to get more money. Just like most CEOs.

In 1960, the WGA, SAG, DGA and IATSE had the leverage to get residuals. Companies then weren't enormous giants, and the '60 strike hurt. And keep in mind that forty-eight years ago, there was no mandatory requirement for companies to negotiate residuals, since they weren't in the contract.

The unions and guilds got them anyway. They had the power and leverage to do so.

Contrast that with the last twenty years. The WGA has repeatedly tried to improve the bad DVD rate it negotiated in 1985, to no avail.

And I doubt very much it will be improved this time. The studios aren't studios anymore. They're divisions of giant international companies. They can take a half dozen strikes and suffer hardly at all.

Steve Hulett said...

it seems like the writer, someone who CREATED the product, to only make $324,000 from $99,950,000 is a total slap in the face.

In animation, board artists are also creators of product.

But your point is well taken. Definitely a slap in the fact. But I'm afraid the companies are more than delighted to go right on slapping.

Because they can.

Anonymous said...

Even if a unit sells at $19.99, the studio isn't making that. Not that that changes your point. Just sayin

Anonymous said...

Since when was the writer responsible for the resulting show...that sounds like a slap in the face of all the creatives and non-creatives (that all get paid a lot less than the writers)that are really responsible for how a show turns out and whether it's successful or not!
It's niice to sneer at the producers and all those making the money, but to just side with the WGA because they're the little guy doesn't make a lot of sense either. Better to look at what they really want and who they really are with clear eyes!

Anonymous said...

>>In animation, board artists are also creators of product.

What about Directors? Editors?

What about Art Directors? Do they not create, too?

How and where is this writer/artist "residual" line drawn? And why is it always drawn around this buzzword residual? It seems compensation can be framed in so many more ways than just this dreaded live-action dogma. It's like listening to out of work Friends scribes drone on about B stories and C-runners.

Anonymous said...

helpful article in Dec.12 Variety on possible effects of strike long term.

Anonymous said...

I agree about the compensation issue. I think most of us - most of AMERICA - worry about two more important questions - how am I going to secure and afford good solid health care, and who is going to protect my pension/pay my bills when I can no longer work. The language with which this negotiation is going on is so far removed from everyday issues. Does your average person even know what a residual is? Both sides of the negotiation talk like they just walked off Wall Street. And these days, if you want to alienate your average joe, just start bringing up derivatives and mortgage securities and see what happens.

The WGA would do well to consider their audience in their real lives as carefully as they do in their scripted ones.

robiscus said...

i think the "proactive" and anticipation by the WGA over internet residuals is kind of ridiculous.

Thomas noted above that his 16 year old niece watches tv exclusively on her computer. there is a simple reason for that: she does not have a home with a couch. kids are watching what is on the internet, but that does not mean that the internet is the next great medium.

television will always rule. why? take a moment and realize yourself sitting up and in your desk chair with your hand gripping a mouse while you gawk at a monitor. now, go in the other room and lay down on the couch with a remote control in your hand in front of a large screen tv.

notice the difference? you should, because its is astonishingly apparent.

its not hard to see what television and internet will meld into. it will be internet access over television and it will require not only a new format transmitted over cables, but new technology to be used as an interface for it. plus, all the time for the competition of the free market to see whose ideas win out with the public.

OR.. the internet and television will never quite merge for a long time.

the WGA is trying to get a piece of a pipe dream, or at the very east they are jumping the gun in anticipation of new technology. i hope they aren't doing this as a knee jerk reaction to them getting burned on the VHS residuals all those years ago. please tell me that all those people in hollywood have lost their jobs because the WGA is acting out of bitterness.


the internet residuals was the MOST idiotic part of the negotiations and the WGA is standing by it.
i think they are fools.

Anonymous said...

"Let's not sneer at anyone who wants more money."

By the same token let's not just sneer at the producers because they want to keep as much money as they can.

IF the internet actually turns into the 'delivery' system that all of us will watch entertainment on then the WGA and all others that reap more benefits from entertainment than we do should be trying to negotiate the same deal they have for broadcast TV. But what they're trying to do is make a hugely better deal than that. I don't blame them, but they should also start to recignize that some of what they're asking for is the same as asking for residuals on rentals and not repeat screenings.

Just so everyone is clear also how residuals started: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Residual_(entertainment_industry)
They were intended to pay actual artists to be available if necessary. They weren't intended to carry poor writers over who couldn't find work.

Anonymous said...

"television will always rule. why? take a moment and realize yourself sitting up and in your desk chair with your hand gripping a mouse while you gawk at a monitor. now, go in the other room and lay down on the couch with a remote control in your hand in front of a large screen tv."

Here's a single guy who has no kids and probably no girlfriend whom he has to share the TV.

Benefades_away said...

Hello dumb dumbs, especially you dumb dumb.
Its not an either or. Its your computer will be patched into your TV for viewing purposes.
You're still on the couch, still watching TV, yet you'll be watching content brought to you through your computer.
Luddites.
Mango can't make fire...ugh.

Ken said...

Steve H. wrote:

>>In animation, board artists are also creators of product.

Touche...but we assume that all the board artists lurking around here are paid-up members of local 839 and receiving the benefits of an excellent health plan...thanks to the residuals the IA collects. ;)

Seriously, I agree with the writer said that most people are concerned with health care. The fact is, to my understanding, the majority of the writers in the WGAe (my coast - don't know about the west) don't earn the 31,000 and change per year minimum required to get health insurance.

Residuals are a dread word, I know, but as someone pointed out yesterday -- does anyone object to the fact that Mick Jagger still gets paid when you buy a copy of "Satisfaction?" If you don't, then why would you object to writers, and other union members, having the same sort of participation? They are a small return (against the sale of total ownership of your work) that help the creatives, who are frequently freelancers, keep their health care coverage going.

Still, even with residuals in the "out" years, the majority of writers out here don't earn the 31K minimum.

Anonymous said...

"Still, even with residuals in the "out" years, the majority of writers out here don't earn the 31K minimum."

Then maybe they aren't writers if they can't make a living at it.

Anonymous said...

"does anyone object to the fact that Mick Jagger still gets paid when you buy a copy of "Satisfaction?" If you don't, then why would you object to writers, "

strawman argument...it's apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

Hey, union ... aren't you always telling us that you don't prevent artists from negotiating higher pay or better benefits for ourselves?
Why can't writers do the same thing. If an individual writer is so freaking talented that they can use their leverage to negotiate, why can't they negotiate for residuals? Or negotiate for a title that allows them to get residuals?
So why then should we back up this strike?
Presumably if you're a talented enough writer you'll get your mailbox money. If you're not then you're probably just not that talented.

Anonymous said...

I'm done supporting the writers. I'm tired than the holy'er than thou attitude that a lot of them have.

BTW, the mick jagger comparison is a little silly. not even close to the same thing.

ken said...

>>BTW, the mick jagger comparison is a little silly. not even close to the same thing.

How so? Could you expand on that? (Or for any other work under copyright that seems less silly.)

For instance, Steven King receives royalty payments for copies of his books that are sold.

As far as I can see, the main difference between the royalties that a Steven King (or Joe Schmoe) receives for writing a book, and the residuals a TV writer, actor, musician, etc. receives are: a) TV writers are required to sell the copyright to the companies (so, residuals tend to taper off more quickly -- with the producer receiving a larger and larger share of the revenue as time goes by) and b) Steven King receives a royalty even if his books are sold online!

But maybe I'm missing some other way in which it's "not close to the same thing"?

get a clue said...

THE reason why it's not THE same thing is because when King writes a book HE is the only one (other than his editors) for the quality and art of his book that does or doesn't find an audience. Sometimes 200+ other people including those above the line and those below the line had something to do with making their script soemthing that entertains an audience.
In fact it's rare tht a writer's script really makes it to the screen the way it's written.
Anyone who thinks that the writer is the main creative on a project certainly hasn't worked with a writer or worked on story.
The same holds true for musicians and song writers.

get a clue said...

Not to mention that a writer is not often the creator of the idea, but someone who is hired to turn an idea into a script.
Maybe there should be 2 different clasifications of writers: those that start with the idea and those that are just hired hands.

ken said...

get a clue writes:
>>THE reason why it's not THE same thing is because when King writes a book HE is the only one (other than his editors) for the quality and art of his book that does or doesn't find an audience. Sometimes 200+ other people including those above the line and those below the line had something to do with making their script soemthing that entertains an audience.



I completely agree. Which is why the IA collects residuals for those 200+ people. As an animation writer, I've never received residuals directly, but the IATSE collects for all the TAG members -- writers, directors, board artists, the whole scruffy gang. Money which goes to support pension, health, etc.

Just as, in live action, the IA collects for you name it, seamstresses, makeup people, gaffers etc, etc (and collects more on the dollar than WGA collects!)

I can't see that it's wrong to have this kind of participation in the resale of work, regardless if one person or two hundred worked on it. Whether it's "Satisfaction" or, you know, some Saturday morning thing. If the argument your making is based on the difference in quality, the only answer I can give is...that's why it's based on reuse -- if something's popular, the more flows into everyone's coffers. I don't see why it should only go to, you know, the big companies.

(But I guess that's why I read the TAG blog and not the Wall Street Journal!)



(sorry if this is a double post...computer/eyesight problems!)

Raye said...

There is no difference between Jagger getting royalties and a writer getting residuals. None. It it not apples and oranges, it is apples and apples.

Other people are involved in the creation of Jagger's music as well. There are sound mixers, people who set up the microphones, who set up the studio, studio musicians, people who do the makeup for the album cover, light the studio for the photo for the album cover, pick his wardrobe.

You may say the producer of the film takes all the risk. The music industry also has producers who takes the financial risk on producing the album/CDs. Jagger is not fronting (or at least wasn't when "Satisfaction" came out) the money himself.


The point is "Satisfaction" would not exist, had Mick Jagger not written it, just "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Toy Story," would not exist had their respective authors not written them.

There is absolutely no difference between someone who writes a song, and someone who writes a script, other than that one is set to music, and the other is not.

Anonymous said...

sorry...it's still apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

"I completely agree. Which is why the IA collects residuals for those 200+ people. As an animation writer, I've never received residuals directly, but the IATSE collects for all the TAG members -- writers, directors, board artists, the whole scruffy gang. Money which goes to support pension, health, etc.
"
so you're sugesting that writers just get lumped in with the masses and heve their residuals turned into pensions, etc?

ken said...

Anonymous writes:

>>so you're sugesting that writers just get lumped in with the masses and heve their residuals turned into pensions, etc?

I'm saying that's how it works here.

I, alas, have little or no influence with SAG, WGA, DGA, etc.

Anonymous said...

"so you're sugesting that writers just get lumped in with the masses and heve their residuals turned into pensions, etc?"

Why shouldn't they? Writers are no more important to a production than a story artist. You could argue that they are significantly less important. That's not an insult, that's just reality.

Anonymous said...

BLASPHEMY!!!!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

For years, writers were part of the masses, working for salary, and getting nothing else.

In 1960, after a strike, that changed. They began getting residuals.

In 1962, they renegotiated for 2% of gross.

In 1965, they went back to residuals (more front-loaded) again.

If they'd stuck with the '62 formula, they'd now be getting 2% of download and streaming money.

Anonymous said...

You can show some people two apples and they will still call it apples and oranges. Those people are called dumbf*cks.

Anonymous said...

ahh..the final resort for the clueless

Anonymous said...

Yet you have still failed to present your "apples and oranges" case. Just because you can write the three words doesn't make it so. Talk about clueless.

Anonymous said...

When a scriptwriter writes a script it has not hit its final form. It goes through many hands (producers, directors, actors, story artists and on and on) altering and shaping it. A script almost never makes it to the screen in the form that the writer leaves it.
When a songwriter writes a song it often does. When the Stones record a song it is them singing it usually the way they want it - even with proiducers and engineers helping to tweak it. They are the ones you are listening to.
If a scriptwriter wants to sit in front of a camera and read his script (maybe to music?) exactly like he wrote it you might have an argument. Or he could become the producer and the director and film exactly how he wrote it (though I doubt he would - chances are good he would alter it along the way).
Now if you want ot compare directors and actors to Jagger,et al. you might have an argument.
But when you're talking about writers it's apples and oranges.

Anonymous said...

When Jagger and Richards wrote Satisfaction no one else rewrote it multiple times before the public heard it, but whoever first wrote Toy Story there were mulitple other writers and story artists needed to fix it turn it into what you saw on the screen. Which no one recieves residuals over BTW

Raye said...

re: Toy story and no residuals.

No, the writer didn't receive any. But they SHOULD have. And so should the rest of the crew (if they in fact didn't.) And that's my point.

Which is why it's important that animation be on the table. When the writers get residuals, then IATSE will also get residuals. Why? Because it's in their union's contract with the AMPTP. Whatever another union gets covered, all other unions are entitled to get covered as well.

Back to the music debate:
Brittany Spears is a completely remastered, remixed (re-everything except talented) musician and she gets royalties. The Bay City Rollers and The Monkeys neither wrote nor sang their songs and they get royalties. Why? Because they were involved in the "creation" of the finished product.

Writers, regardless of whether the final script is what ends up on screen or not, are just as much of the creative process as the actors and directors (and in the case of animation, story board artists, etc.) and deserve residuals.

And by the way, not all scripts are totally reworked and rewritten. Think of Aaron Sorkin, the wunderkind of West Wing. Didn't he write every single episode himself? Or close to it?

Look. We're not going to agree on this. But here's my question? Why does it bug you for the artists (writers, animators, actors, directors) to get paid? It doesn't seem to bother you that Peter Chernin makes close to $34 million a year. $34 million? We don't even pay the President of the United States that much.

Share the wealth artists helped create.

Oh, and by the way. The last resort (and I think you meant RETORT) of the clueless is actually, "Oh, yeah? Yo' Mama." Or saying "ahh...the last resort of the clueless."

Steve Hulett said...

No, the writer didn't receive any. But they SHOULD have. And so should the rest of the crew (if they in fact didn't.) And that's my point.

I totally agree with you.

But here's the problem. In 1912, Congress allowed corporations to hold copyrights and patents. Just like actual people. Thus "work for hire" was created.

Ain't the way it is most other places on the globe -- which is why I get royalty checks from Europe for animated features I worked on, but none from here. Sadly, it's the way it is in the U.S. of A.

I don't like it, I think it sucks, but I doubt that News Corp. cares I think it sucks. News Corp. cashes in on Federal law as it is, just like every other entertainment company.

And the reason writers in live action receive residuals is because the WGA had the leverage to get them forty-seven years ago. No "right" was involved, only power. If it was a right, then the writers of The Jazz Singer, Yankee Doodle Dandy, The Adventures of Robin Hood and all the other flicks that came out ions ago would be making their authors (or their estates) money just as they're making the conglomerates that own them money.

Except they aren't. Because all those movies were written as "works for hire."

Robiscus said...

when a writers union decies to strike during the holidays and put their colleagues out of work (and then hold fast to the most idiotic of their demands and concede to the ones that make sense) the rest of hollywood harbors ill will towards them... for a loooong time to come.

this is quite a hole the writers guild has dug for itself. maybe they should have waited to strike right when SAG's contract was up and then have more leverage no?


no, they are going to strike over the holidays, because why give a damn about the rest of the employees in hollywood. its not like they are the support base that lets them live their residual collecting existence....


the guild will be weaker and worse off after this strike

retorting said...

Unlike all those below the line that are being laid off, the writers are still recieving residuals while on strike. According to some who have tried to defend these writers that's all the income they receive all year long. So their lives haven't changed, I guess other than they have something to do now during the day - network with other writers while walking in circles.

Anyone who wants to use Brittany Spears as an example of why writers should recieve residuals is pretty mixed up. I doubt anyone thinks she should, but I suspect she (or her agent) negotiated for them above and beyond anything she was guaranteed) and I wonder if the writers of these songs receive much - chances are good they had their residuals bought out. If you want to compare her to why an actor should receive residuals that I could understand.

BTW I have to agree with the earlier poster: "resort" works better than "retort" in this case. But when someone starts to critique spelling and grammar on a comment left on a blog that feels like they're resorting to their weakest retort.

Anonymous said...

Sorkin seems more the acception to the rule then the rule - those like him are in a different category. He would actually need to sit on both sides of the bargaining table since his production company is one of the entities reaping huge profits from repeat airings and DVD sales. etc.
There are several writer driven projects like his, but more of his income comes from other duties and not writing residuals and probably wouldn't notice if those were there or not. I suspect that when he negotiates a contract for a show it's about compensation above and beyond anything that the WGA has helped him get.

While it would be nice to live in a society where all the money made by the rich is distributed amongst all (wait - isn't that a Socialist society?) that's not how our country works. Last I checked we lived in a Capitalist society.

just wondering... said...

Ever since being in this business I've made a pretty good living and have been able to support and raise a family in ways my parents never could've dreamed of. All without residuals. Sometimes there were lean times and sometimes there were flush times.
Why can't writers do this?

Ken said...

Just wondering writes...

>>Ever since being in this business I've made a pretty good living and have been able to support and raise a family in ways my parents never could've dreamed of. All without residuals. Sometimes there were lean times and sometimes there were flush times.
Why can't writers do this?

Animation writers certainly do without residuals. Or rather, they get the same residual that anyone else who works on a TAG/IATSE-covered show gets -- the opportunity to participate in a great health plan.

So it's a little disingenuous to say that you've made a good living in this business without residuals if you've worked on a covered show. Anyone who works on a IA-covered animation show benefits from residuals IATSE collects on his or her behalf. Animation writers, board artists, directors -- if they work enough -- all benefit from the opportunity to participate in the health plan.

Like most people I've worked on union and non-union and every unholy thing in between. Let me tell you: getting health care is great. No amount of arguing as to whether the work we do, as writers, directors, board artists, etc. isn't as singular as what Brittany does is going to convince me that we should give up the health plan so that the companies can make more money. I just don't understand that argument.

Anonymous said...

I don't beleive 'just wondering' was discussing animation writers - it seems like he was referring to live-action writers to me. I don't see anyone suggesting that the group residuals go away and I don't see non-animation writers suggesting they would like to have these group/health plan -type residuals. I suspect if that was what they were after then the strike would never have happened.

ken said...

You're probably correct.

I guess I just feel like it's a touch hypocritical to say: "I can do without it, why can't they?" if you don't actually do without it.

Anonymous said...

They don't want the type of residuals we get. I can't imagine anyone begrudging them those type of residuals. They want to LIVE off of their residuals if necessary...you and I can't do that no matter how good the residual/health plan/pension is.

I guess what upsets most of us 'below the line' people is that they aren't striking about thier primary salaries, but about secondary+ salaries. I think there would be more empathy if the producers were talking about cutting their primary salaries, but there are people losing their jobs and (possibly houses) for someone's secondary incomes.

Anonymous said...

It is not a secondary income. Secondary income comes from a secondary job not related to the first job. This is earned income from the same job.

shocked by the hubris said...

So you took a lower price then you should have to write the script initially? Is that what you're suggesting?
Writers are willing to work cheaper gambling on the fact that the show/film will garner multiple screenings/uses?
So, if this is the case, then all the time most of the rest of us thought that you were overpaid you are really being underpaid. Thanks for helping to set the record straight...

not living off mailbox money said...

Writers should learn to live (like th rest of us) from the money they make from the original payment for their work (I think calling it primary works even if that anony above doesn't) and then look at non-guaranteed residuals as extra unexpected income. If they can't live off of the money they make for writing the script the first time then maybe they should do something else for a living. Just like if an animator or an assistant director can't live off the money they make for being an animator or an assitant director then maybe they should look for another job.
I've always heard that 'mailbox' money was a pleasant unexpected bonus and not expected. I guess writers are using 'mailbox' money to live on?

Anonymous said...

Writers will tell you over and over again how their ideas are worth more than work for hire, but will not put value on a drawing as if a drawing were not original, just a direction they want you to point your pencil. Their argument for financial sharing of their ideas does so at the direct expense of the value of the artists drawings. And what comes of all this ? Well, it's pretty clear. You're out of a job on the basis that your drawing is only a pencil pointing in the direction the writer was telling you to point. In the current strike, that direction is out the door. Value your drawings!

Anonymous said...

"If they can't live off of the money they make for writing the script the first time then maybe they should do something else for a living."

If you're so anti-union and can't weather a labor strike maybe you should find another field to work in.

Anonymous said...

wow! that's a huge leap in logic...maybe you should consider writing fantasy.

Anonymous said...

I will -- as soon as the strike is over and I increase my residuals... oh, I'm sorry, I mean my mailbox money.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, let us know how that works out for you...

I love how a lot of writers are blogging about how busy they are during the strikes writing comics and suff and gloating about how they're finally able to meet their comcis deadlines. Between that and the residuals they're still receiving makes me feel a lot of sympathy for them.

Anonymous said...

As if you'd have any sympathy for the writers no matter the issue.

no sympathy either said...

Do they deserve any? Have they said or done anything that deserves sympathy?
The best argument they have is the producers make a ton of money. They've yet to prove how they deserve more.

Anonymous said...

"The best argument they have is the producers make a ton of money"

Your statement just proves what an ass you are.

At the heart of it, the WGA Writer Strike is a signaling that writers and the producers knows that the future of film and televisions shows is not in cable television, but with in the “New Media”: we are moving away from broadcast/cable and DVDs to the long tail of content delivery via IPTV, Internet Downloads, download-to-mobiles shows and other forms of “Straight to Internet” and “On-demand” distribution methods.

As the channel by which we watch television and film diversify way from movie theaters and cable tv, writers should be rightly compensated with their work no matter what delivery mechanism is used. Currently, this is not the case.

Currently, writers are not seeing a dime from iTunes, Amazon OneBox or on-demand streaming on NBC.com. And what are writers seeing from DVD sales? 4 cents. Between 2-5 writers a show That’s what? 1 penny per DVD sold? This is not a case about greed. Just like most music bands never hit it big time, most writers are not driving around in brand new BMWs. But I am sure many producers are.

Adam at Gizmodo says it best here:

“Imagine if the recording industry decided that the internet was merely a way to promote CDs and that no songs sold online counted when paying musicians. Their argument would be that people were just checking out those songs and might go buy the CD later, at which point the artist would get paid. This is essentially the argument the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) is making.”

Despite the producers saying that the digital medium is both unproven and unknown, both the writers and producers knows where the future is headed. This is why the producers are slow to bargain with the writers and why the writers literally cannot afford to lose.

Anonymous said...

Well, as another Ass, let me explain to you that writer's make very good pay for what they do the first time - writing a script. If they are successful at what they do then they continue to make a good salary or they continue to get other jobs. If they're not good at what they do then they don't continue to earn what is - compared to many others salaries and jobs - very good money.
Residuals are extra - above and beyond what they make. Do they tae less for the scripts because they earn residuals? Doesn't seem to be the case on any project I've ever worked on and many of those are not big dollar projects.
Should they ask for and get as much money as they can? Sure. Should they feel entitled to it? No. Just becasue the producers earn a lot of money that doesn't account for their feeling entitled to get what they ask for. We live in a capalist country not a socialist country. Just because someone makes a ton of money doesn't mean they should have to split it up amongst everyone else.
If that were the case why shouldn't the writers, who make a lot more than the storyboard artists who often fix the scripts - even in live action - not share their paychecks with them?

And has been proven elsewhere, the music industry is a lot different then the film industry. That's a lame comparison and even the WGA isn't trying to make it from what I've seen.

Since you want comparisons do writers or anyone make residuals from rentals from Blockbuster or Netflix? Not that I'm aware of. They make a residual from the initial purchase of the unit, but not the subsequent rental on the unit. SO far this seems far closer to what's happening on the internet then DVD sales and reruns on TV.

Anonymous said...

I definitely don't like most producers and don't feel they should make all that they do, but you know who make the worst producers? Writers!

Anonymous said...

"Should they feel entitled to it? No."


Now you're going to tell people how they should feel? You are an ass.

"...you know who makes the worst producers? Writers!"

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we have the opinon of another ass.

Anonymous said...

"Should they ask for and get as much money as they can? Sure."

Oh, I see. Writers can ask for more money, but only in a way you approves of. Just admit it -- you're some rightwing a-hole who hates unions and writers.

pro-union liberal said...

That's right, anyone who doesn't drink the Kool-aid and think writers are Gods are asses. Sounds like the last couple of Anonymouses are asses as well.
I'm a left wing liberal and a union supporter, but that doesn't mean I have to support everything every union asks for.

DD said...

Oh, I forget. This is TAG -- they hate writers.

PS Left wing liberal my ass.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Pot...Kettle calling.

Anonymous said...

"They hate writer's."

No, just the word itself. It's become a studio word, a-hole. It's a fine line between being a writer and being a corporate TOOL. And especially when you get down to the lower end deal-making, where most shows live and die and most people work.

You obviously don't understand the perception problem you have in animation. Brooks and Groening are long gone from the equation. It's quite clear they no longer give a crap. Don't see THEM announcing whose salaries they are picking up, do we? So PLEASE, GOD, either go find your work-for-hire employment elsewhere or stop calling yourselves WRITERS.

GER said...

Oh, that's right. Only storyboard people can write. Treasure Planet was soooooooooo great now, wasn't it.

Steve Hulett said...

Oh, I forget. This is TAG -- they hate writers.

Two writers on exec board.

TAG Vice President. Writer.

TAG Business Representative. Writer.

Anonymous said...

"Oh, I forget. This is TAG -- they hate writers"

No, just the incompetent ones...unfortunately their ranks are huge. The good ones, who actually care about what they do and aren't juggling five scripts because the money is so good, are few and far between.
I don't know how many shows I've worked on where the story editor hires his buddy, an incompetent writer that even the story editor admits, because he's a friend or he owes him. And the story editor swears he'll fix the script, but he's too busy writing several episodes himself and picking up assignments from another story editor to alter too much on the script he swore he'd fix. Because the story editor salary isn't big enough? Even though he gleams a profit from every script written whether he touches the other writer's work or not.
Happens time and time again.

DD said...

Um... the above post ain't exactly a love letter to writers.

Don't be blind here, Steve. I don't care who sits on the board, artists in TAG have this real anomosity towards writers.

Anonymous said...

Actually, DD, we love witers...but only the good ones!
Did that post above hit too close to hoime maybe?

Anonymous said...

Writers have it great. Not only do they get paid really well, but they can claim a show or film is a hit (financially or critically) due to their great talent and if it's a flop it's because someone else altered their script and screwed it up after they turned in the assignment.

DD said...

See all the love!

PS I'm an artist, dumb dumb!

Anonymous said...

It's also an issue of respect. People who draw in animation tend to get experience in a whole spectrum of jobs relating to a production. They gain a much better feel of how to make the process work for everyone. Some of the best producers /directors in animation are artists. Not to say there aren't good writers who are also good producers, but crews follow those who have the experience to fix things in a crunch - and it's usually someone who can finally just draw it. There are many smart funny people who pen scripts in animation. But smart funny people who pen scripts and then draw them in a crunch? Few and far between indeed.

Anonymous said...

Okay, let's see by a show of hands...how many really think DD (or is his name Dumb Dumb like his last post implies) is really an artist or has ever worked with writers? That's what I thought ...no hands.
Amazing how often he's resorted to disparaging snide insults when others were just expressing an opinion that he didn't agree with.

DD said...

Oh, so when it comes to making disparaging snide insults about writes that's OK? Nice double standard. I've worked with writes -- some are terrible. And some of the artists I've worked with are terrible. See, not everybody drinks your kool-aid.

my opinion said...

My vote is that DD is a writer.
Either way he's got a lot of anger in him especially when that earlier post wasn't too generous to writers. More so than any other person who's posted do far.
Sure there are good writers and bad writers and there are good artists and bad artists, but why are you so angry about it and feel you need to gat so nasty to defend writers?

Now just watch as he lashes out at me too.

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