Friday, November 30, 2007

WGA Update -- Producers Demand Pay Cut

speechless: Episode 12 - Nov 26
The song is "Upon A Time" by Mother Tongue off the new unreleased album.

The Writers Strike Continues -- Big Time

United Hollywood brings us the latest on the scum-bag producers:

Turns out their exciting, groundbreaking proposal is... a residual rollback. And not just any rollback, one of the biggest in the history of the Guild. Then, stunningly, the companies have the balls to say their plan gives us more compensation. Well, I'm sorry, but If you take away a dollar and give me a nickel, the nickel ain't a raise. Somewhere, Nick Counter's first-grade math teacher is embarrassed.

So we decided to do some math of our own: We broke out the cost of the WGA's current proposal to the conglomerates into yearly figures. We found that the TOTAL payment yearly -- the total that ALL the companies would make under our proposals -- is $50.54 million. And that, we realized, is about one-third the budget of TRANSFORMERS. We are asking IN TOTAL, for the equivalent of the cost overrun on a summer event movie.

Instead of agreeing that that is a fair and just offer, they've proposed this:

When an hourlong episode of television is streamed on the Internet, writers would get a flat $250 payment for one year of reuse. That's $250 as opposed to, for example, $20,000 per episode when it's reused on network television. They proposed nothing new on downloads, it's still the DVD formula for those (ie. two-thirds of a penny for an iTunes download). For theatrical movies, they're offering exactly $0.00 on streaming. Oh, and they want to be able to define any content they like as "promotional" -- for which they would pay zero dollars. Even if they stream an entire film or tv episode, and even if they sell ads on it, they can call that promotional and pay us nothing.

THE AMPTP claims their deal is worth $130 million over three years. But what they don't mention is how much we'd lose under their proposal. As all media distribution transitions to the Internet before our eyes, their proposal takes away far, far more revenue than it provides.

A bold, new relationship? Sure, an abusive one.

Patric Verrone sent this letter to membership a few minutes ago:
To My Fellow Members,

After four days of bargaining with the AMPTP, I am writing to let you know that, though we are still at the table, the press blackout has been lifted.

Our inability to communicate with our members has left a vacuum of information that has been filled with rumors, both well intentioned and deceptive.

Among the rumors was the assertion that the AMPTP had a groundbreaking proposal that would make this negotiation a "done deal." In fact, for the first three days of this week, the companies presented in essence their November 4 package with not an iota of movement on any of the issues that matter to writers.

Thursday morning, the first new proposal was finally presented to us. It dealt only with streaming and made-for-Internet jurisdiction, and it amounts to a massive rollback.

From streaming television episodes, the companies proposed a residual structure of a single fixed payment of less than $250 for a year's reuse of an hour-long program (compared to over $20,000 payable for a network rerun). For theatrical product they are offering no residuals whatsoever for streaming.

For made-for-Internet material, they offered minimums that would allow a studio to produce up to a 15 minute episode of network-derived web content for a script fee of $1300. They continued to refuse to grant jurisdiction over original content for the Internet.

In their new proposal, they made absolutely no move on the download formula (which they propose to pay at the DVD rate), and continue to assert that they can deem any reuse "promotional," and pay no residual (even if they replay the entire film or TV episode and even if they make money).

The AMPTP says it will have additional proposals to make but, as of Thursday evening, they have not been presented to us. We are scheduled to meet with them again on Tuesday.

In the meantime, I felt it was essential to update you accurately on where negotiations stood. On Wednesday we presented a comprehensive economic justification for our proposals. Our entire package would cost this industry $151 million over three years. That's a little over a 3% increase in writer earnings each year, while company revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 10%. We are falling behind.

For Sony, this entire deal would cost $1.68 million per year. For Disney $6.25 million. Paramount and CBS would each pay about $4.66 million, Warner about $11.2 million, Fox $6.04 million, and NBC/Universal $7.44 million. MGM would pay $320,000 and the entire universe of remaining companies would assume the remainder of about $8.3 million per year. As we've stated repeatedly, our proposals are more than reasonable and the companies have no excuse for denying it.

The AMPTP's intractability is dispiriting news but it must also be motivating. Any movement on the part of these multinational conglomerates has been the result of the collective action of our membership, with the support of SAG, other unions, supportive politicians, and the general public. We must fight on, returning to the lines on Monday in force to make it clear that we will not back down, that we will not accept a bad deal, and that we are all in this together.

Patric M. Verrone
President, WGAW

Michael Winship
President, WGAE
If anyone out there didn't get it before, is it starting to get clear now?

The total cost of the entire package the writers, the people who invent from nothing, story, comes to $50 million a year, spread out a little over $40 million for the seven major studios, and the rest for the many minor ones.

What did the studios come back with? A massive pay CUT.

Instead of $20 large for airing ONE network rerun of an hour long television show, they propose $250 bucks for unlimited yearly internet streaming. Unless of course, the studio designates it "promotional," in which case it doesn't have to pay a goddamn thing. It can still sell ads, still make money. Just doesn't have to pay that huge, enormous princely sum of... $250 dollars. Per year. For unlimited use.

Compared to the current going rate of, $20,000.00 for one single network rerun. (That's a residual check which pays Sally's first year at Berkeley, or Terrel's braces, health insurance and summer camp.) $20 grand. Or $250 dollars.

How much you want to bet if the writers did take the "deal," the studios would designate at least half of all internet usage as "promotional" and screw the writer out of that last $250 bucks. Just 'cause.

Problem is, the studios don't air network reruns anymore. They're shoving everything to the internet. That internet they're two-facing: claiming out of one side of their mouth (to the writers) doesn't pay anything and is risky and untested, and out of the other side of their mouth (to the stockholders) is shitting golden eggs.

If the writers take this, they're history. They won't have enough money left to pay for health insurance, braces for their kids, or college.

With 48% of the guild unemployed at any given time, the producers are asking the writers to commit professional suicide, all so the studios can save a grand total of $50 million between them yearly off the backs of the people who invent the very stories which make EVERYONES' job possible.

I learned a long time ago, not to expect gratitude from the people whose jobs you make possible, whom you train, whose lives you save. Resentment is often more the story.

Sometimes, one has to take a stand. This is such a time.

The studios are being actively stupid. They -- the executives -- are resentful of writers. Always have been, probably always will be. Eventually, this strike will be settled on the Writers' terms. Why? The writers aren't going back to work till the strike is settled on their terms. Their entire future is at stake; they simply won't settle.

One of the options long talked about is the DGA (Director's Guild of America) or SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) contracts are going to expire. DAG & SAG could either settle with the producers, or in turn, go out on strike over the same basic issues. SAG is more likely to strike; DGA -- whose contract comes due first -- is more likely to settle.

The conversation has been, if the producers can't get a deal with the writers, well, screw it, they'll wait for DGA or bring DGA (who doesn't actually get along that great much of the time with the WGA) to negotiate early, and screw over the writers with a mostly unfavorable contract. Doesn't look as if that's going to happen -- DGA is staying on the sidelines at the moment, and seems to have more solidarity with us than I thought they had at the start of all this.

I think the writers might just say "FUCK IT" and stay out on strike anyway, no matter what the DGA does, till we get the contract they want. Only a hunch, we shall see, time will tell and all that. But. Were it me I'd stay out on strike till hell froze over before I'd accept unfavorable terms. And yeah, I've got four kids, a home, insurance, the works. There are always temp jobs, and writers know all about temp jobs. So do I, for that matter.

This strike is for the whole shooting match and with public opinion so strongly on their side and the SAG contract coming due this coming summer, I say, let the whole thing burn to the fucking ground.

Let Hollywood grind to a full stop and... Fade to fucking black.

The address is: United Hollywood. Check it out.

PS. You may have heard the saying, "She's such a great actress. I'd watch her read the phone book?"

Well, here you go.... NO WRITERS = No Script. GNB is proud to present speechless: Episode 16 - Nov 29. Two great actresses. And phone books. (It's um, much worse than even I would have believed. But yeah, the point is made. Quickly.)

Reading The Phonebook