Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Writers Strike -- Second Week

Earlier this week I ran into a bunch of union reps from different IATSE locals. They were a little gloomy.

"This writers' strike is going to last months not weeks" ... "What's going to happen to the pension and health plan?" ... "My people are getting laid off of their shows in droves" ...

I didn't have a lot to add to what they said, and didn't. They rep different live action unions, and their members are impacted more directly than most of TAG's. Besides, all I know is what I read on the internets:

One of the WGA's largest soap boxes is its newly added channel on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/wgaamerica. As of Tuesday, 22 videos have been posted, most of them featuring writers venting from the picket lines.

I've been a faithful reader of The Artful Writer, but it's gotten so many comments of late that it's suffered a meltdown. Owner operator Craig Mazin has taken a beating about his refusal to abandon the final weeks of his directing job to join the picket line (even though WGA strike rules allow it), but he bears up well. (Co-owner Ted Elliot, not directing anything, hasn't taken nearly as many hits.)

Sooner or later, I'll write some kind of think-piece here about TAG's efforts to secure residuals in the 1990s and again in the 2000 negotiations. Probably after the dust settles from the current strike(s).


Anonymous said...

The strike's gotten heavy coverage not just locally but nationally, and so far the general reaction from NON-industry folks seems to be that it's not the WGA that's being unreasonable or "greedy". How refreshing!
I've heard plenty of talkradio hosts wondering why producers have a problem with offering a tiny percentage of the supposed "nothing" they make on internet and new media profits. When even those blowhards come down on the side of labor-especially when it's Hollywood labor-that's a sign of something in the air in this country.

People are sick of conglomerates crying unfair or poverty when they spend bloated amounts on exec salaries and continually look for profits from cutting costs rather than increasing innovation and creativity.

Anonymous said...

"Arguing Over An Ice Cube"

Anonymous said...


What do you think of Tom Short's appalling letter (I guess it's clear what I think) to Patric Verrone, lambasting the WGA for the strike? Why not a letter to the studios lambasting THEM for failing to negotiate a reasonable contract with the WGA and instead offering only stonewalling and rollbacks -- thereby ensuring that the WGA's only possible and reasonable response would be to refuse such an offer and go on strike? So much for labor solidarity.

Anonymous said...

I read the "melting ice cube" essay linked above, and I think it's beside the point of the strike.

The "end" of the Movies As We Know Them was declared imminent back in the early 50s with the advent of television, a "free" medium.
But motion pictures didn't shrivel up and blow away. In fact, the industry is healthier now than it was when it owned all the movie theatres--another situation that, when it was ended by federal mandate, supposedly meant that a studio couldn't viably exist any longer.

Didn't happen.

Then when the cheap, good-quality personal video camera came into wider and wider use along with the ease of making tapes and then DVDs on a small scale, plenty of "visionaries" said that it'd be the end of the Bloated Megablockbuster.

Didn't happen.

Then there was the huge success of the ultra-cheap, indie "Blair Witch Project"--THAT was going to Change The Industry. Hey fellas--that ice cube is melting!

Didn't happen.

I personally think analogies like "the ice cube is melting while writers and producers fiddle/Rome burns/the cart's before the horse!", etc.etc.etc. are just far too would-be wiseguy, sageish, simple and easy pronouncements. Sure, there's YouTube and it's FREE, and when watching it people get what they pay for.

But. Many millions of people still love getting OUT of their homes to see a professionally produced show that is costing more and more to see--and they really don't seem to mind a 10 dollar-plus ticket price IF the theater is comfy(new theatres have more room, bigger screens, cushier seats and stadium seating-an Arclight model, if you will). They still willingly pony up for the REAL profits: the pure profit of sodas and popcorn.

Whether "old media" is rendered obsolete by supposedly better/ cheaper homemade videos has nothing to do with whether writers are owed a percentage on product they wrote.
I say they do, period.
If it's only 10 DVDs that are selling in 10 years, the writer should still get a residual, ditto however many copies of his film or TV show are downloaded-10 or 10 million, it's still the same inviolate principle.

When was the last time a studio went belly-up, by the way?

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is Anon from comment #3 above. WGA's Verrone has now replied in a very measured tone to Tom Short's letter, essentially asking him the same thing: why are you sniping at us and not the AMPTP?

Both letters can be read on Variety's Strike Blog:


Anonymous said...

Sorry, but it's not a "wiseguy, sageish pronouncement"... it's actually HAPPENING - and a prolonged strike will only accelerate the process.

I'm not talking about a renaissance of free crap. I'm talking about professionally produced content in the new media, created not only be outsiders but also by former studio players seeking more autonomy. "Quarterlife" is just the tip of the ice cube. ;-)

This is not a commentary on the end of movies, but rather a commentary on the end of "gatekeeping". Gates work much more effectively on ice cubes than they do on water.

Steve Hulett said...

What do you think of Tom Short's appalling letter (I guess it's clear what I think) to Patric Verrone, lambasting the WGA for the strike?

Covered it above, but I'll add this:

What you've got are two unions staking out public positions via letters released to the press. Goes on every time there's a strike.

Every union hoists the "solidarity" banner when it's useful, and takes it down and hides same when it's not.

What's important is the WGA and AMPTP negotiating their contract to a successful conclusion so people can return to work.

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