Monday, November 5, 2007

Strike! Strike! Screen & Television Writers Strike!

At 12:01 AM ET this morning, the Writers Guild of America went on Strike on the East Coast

Three hours later at 12:01 AM PT the Writers Guild of America went on Strike on the West Coast

The Teamsters are honoring picket lines. Hurray!

In LA County alone, a $30 Billion Dollar U.S. per year industry is shutting down. Because 10,000 writers of television and film have said, "Enough."

The Show Runners who both write shows and produce them have vowed not to lift a pencil for the duration of the strike: Pencils Down Means Pencils Down.

One of the major sticking points of the negotiation is how not just DVD's are priced -- that has been an issue since the mid-80s. Writers currently receive $0.03 to 0.04 per DVD sold, while the DVD retails for $20 bucks on average when new. The DVD case itself typically sells for $0.50, and the writer of the entire movie or television episode, gets less than a nickel.

But if that was all there was, these negotiations would be settled. This fight is over future rights -- how much writers will be paid for internet downloads, and for forms of use of their work not yet even invented.

The Studios' position is, they are taking the risk of developing these new methods of distribution, therefore they shouldn't have to pay or only pay a small tiny little bit till it turns out if anything at all comes of it.

The Writers say, we're not getting paid to share your risks; residuals are our "negotiated equivalent to royalties. They are compensation for the reuse of works of authorship. They’re not a reward for a job well done. They are a payment for continued exploitation of a property."

The writers are correct. That is the precise definition of residuals. The Studios are trying to change the rules in the middle of the game, which is the definition of bad faith. Which is why the writers are willing to strike till forever. If the studios get away with changing this definition, the writers have lost forever, truly no kidding. They will never get paid for their work, as the studios simply will say, "Well, that method of new distribution didn't work out; gee, sorry, we don't have to pay you."

Thus... the strike is on. Short of common sense breaking out, expect it to be long and brutal.

The writers literally can not give in. They are fighting for the essence of the right to be paid fairly over time for their work. Writers will drop dead in the streets with their picket signs before they surrender on residuals. Residuals is their house payments, braces for their children, and how they retire. Residuals is everything.

The studios know they are wrong, and are simply attempting a power grab. When it gets to hurting too badly, expect them to quit -- after firing everyone who let this get this far. Or expect the studios to negotiate with the Director's Guild, the DGA, and for the studios and the DGA to reach a deal, which the writers will then buy into. That is a much more likely possibility if the writer's strike drags on and on (and on and on.) It would be a way for the studios to save face.

Worst case, next summer -- almost a year from now -- the actor's guild, SAG, will save everyone, by negotiating their own deal, which everyone will then accept. But till something else happens...


The best single source of genuine news (not the crap in the New York Times) in my view, is The Artful Writer. Highly recommended.

The Artful Writer is also filled with great back stories on how compensation in the film & television writing biz truly works. Click up top under "The MBA" and "WGA Issues."

Good luck WGA members. My heart is with you.

Additional resources:

GNB's original story: In the Beginning was the Word

Deadline Hollywood: Live Blogging: WGA TALKS COLLAPSE: EAST STRIKE ON! Question Is Who Walked Out On Whom? Real Progress Made On Key Issues Today; Hollywood Looks To 'ER' Producer/Writer To Prevent Long Costly Bitter Walkout

Deadline Hollywood