Support the Writers Stirke

Mediation talks failed, the writers are on strike.

One of the sticking points: How much the writers should be paid when their shows are sold over the internet.

The question now is no longer whether or when they will strike, but how long a walkout will last and how much pain it will inflict.

Both sides are girding for what many believe will be a long and debilitating strike, potentially more disruptive than the 22-week walkout by writers in 1988, which cost the entertainment industry an estimated $500 million.

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    It's more (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by 1980Ford on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:12:07 AM EST
    The writer's didn't realize the strong sales of  video  20 years ago and didn't get a fair piece of that pie. The same with DVD sales now and Internet income.

    The producers and studios are being greedy.

    Yep (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Dadler on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:35:44 AM EST
    Writer's agreed twenty years ago to a lowered compensation rade on VHS sales, to help the fledgling industry grow, with the understanding the rate would be raised later.  Here we are, two decades in the future, and the producers still want to lie like rugs and claim they can't give writer's more than the 4 cents a disck they get in royalties.  Figure out the percentage that is, it's almost non-existent.  As usual, this entire strike boils down to producers saying "Nah, I'd rather keep these few pennies in my pocket and not let them in to yours."

    It was a mistake to compromise at all... (none / 0) (#31)
    by 1980Ford on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:43:38 PM EST
    On the DVD issue, let alone drop it from the table.  The writer have a chance to earn some real respect and this is the time for it. It's like the Middle East. The suits only understand force.

    Solidarity (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by squeaky on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 11:22:02 AM EST
    in a show of solidarity with his fellow scribes, the Daily Show host has told his writing staff that he will cover all their salaries for the next two weeks, according to a well-placed source. He has also vowed to do the same for writers on The Colbert Report.

    link via HuffPo

    Update (1.00 / 0) (#42)
    by squeaky on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 02:31:21 PM EST
    UPDATE, 2:20 P.M.: Confusion: Jon Stewart's rep just called back to deny the information above. I checked back with my source, who set me straight on a few details: Stewart is not paying writers out of his own pocket, but through Busboy, his production company. And it's not just writers who are getting their salaries covered but all the shows' employees. "He's hoping that it wraps up amicably and quickly, and over the course of that time he wants to look out for his employees," he says.

    But when I ran this by Stewart's rep, he emailed back, "While I hesitate to knock down every rumor that comes up, the assertion that Jon and/or Busboy Productions will be paying for the staff is false and we have no further comment beyond this at this time."

    I'm pretty sure there's some truthiness here (sorry), but it may take some more digging to determine exactly what the situation is.

    link via HuffPo


    Sadly, (5.00 / 1) (#28)
    by DA in LA on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:29:27 PM EST
    On the first day of the strike, a friend of mine was struck by a car driven by an employee of a  studio.  The employee drove up to the picket line, got out of his car and yelled, "If any of you get in my way I will run you over!"  The picketers continued to walk in a line and he ran my friend over.  He is at the hospital and his leg is apparently seriously injured.

    The police said they will not arrest the driver because two people said it was my friend's fault.  Those two people work for the studio.  Ten writers said the car just drove into the strikers.


    Sorry to hear that. (none / 0) (#30)
    by Packratt on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:43:28 PM EST
    Hope your friend will be ok and for a speedy recovery.

    It's a shame when justice isn't for everyone anymore. Just those that can afford it.


    Which studio? (none / 0) (#33)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:50:35 PM EST
    Gower Studios (none / 0) (#34)
    by DA in LA on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:57:31 PM EST
    Got it, hope he's OK. (none / 0) (#36)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 11:12:14 PM EST
    Never mind, google says Sunset Gower (none / 0) (#35)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 11:11:10 PM EST
    and that the guy was Tom Johnson who writes for Talkshow With Tom Ferentsten.

    fwiw, for those not here, Sunset Gower is a "studio" but not the kind of studio Paramount or Warner Bros are. Par and WB are co's that, among other things, create/produce content - ie., hire writers - and Sunset Gower is mostly a for-rent production facility.

    iow, yes it's a "studio" in the old-fashioned sense that it's a bunch of stages and offices that production co's (like WB and Par) rent to shoot their shows, but you won't watch a movie or TV show produced by Sunset Gower any more than you'll watch a football game "produced" by Giants Stadium...


    Right, sorry about that. (none / 0) (#38)
    by DA in LA on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 12:44:29 AM EST
    They can still be sued, though.  And I'm sure will

    Here's a picture (none / 0) (#39)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 01:07:13 AM EST
    of your friend's shoe under the car....and an article about it.

    How awful. I hope his leg is okay.  


    I'll know more tomorrow (none / 0) (#40)
    by DA in LA on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 02:05:43 AM EST
    The picture of the shoe is depressing.

    Refusal to negotiate (1.00 / 2) (#3)
    by Gabriel Malor on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 10:52:56 AM EST
    The problem here is that neither the writers nor the studios are willing to negotiate. The writers said they'll accept nothing less than 8 cents. The studios said "screw you."

    Who's getting screwed now? The camera crews, lighting crews, set crews, and various other staff who won't be working as long as the writers have their hissy-fit.

    You have no idea what you're talking about. (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by Dadler on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 11:38:06 AM EST
    The producers have decided NOT to negotiate any of the writer's issues.  Period.  Go read press releases from the producer's guild, if you can stand the stench of bullsh*t from them.  Try to figure out for yourself how much 8 cents is as a royalty on, let's say, and average DVD cost of 15 bucks.  We tried to negotiate and were told to go screw ourselves.  Always the way it's been.  If you knew anything about the entertainment industry you'd know this joke: "How do you know who the dumbest actress is?  She's the one who slept with the writer."  

    Now go sign up and fight in Iraq, little boy.


    Well, what he does know (none / 0) (#9)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 02:04:25 PM EST
    what he's talking about, is the negative effect the writer's strike will have on most everyone else who make their livelihood in the industry.

    Oh, except the suits. They'll get paid, strike or no.

    Which leads to my next comment, fwiw, the WGA's opposition is not the "producers" at all - it's the studios and networks (aka, the "suits").

    Although the name of the group that represents the studios and networks is the "Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers" don't think for a second that it's the Brian Grazers and David E Kelleys of the world who pay resids, etc., to the writers and are therefor running the negotiations.


    Sarc my man.... (none / 0) (#10)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 02:21:09 PM EST
    Since I respect your opinion, and you work in the industry....where do your sympathies mainly lie in this dispute, studios or writers?  

    All a knucklehead like me knows is what the respective spokesmen say, and I have a general tendency (or prejudice) to side with labor...I'm curious of your opinion.


    Between the studios and the writers? (none / 0) (#11)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 02:59:55 PM EST
    Of course the writers.

    Between the writer's mortgages and food for their kids, and my mortgage and food for my kids?

    Well, you know that answer.


    That I do sir.... (none / 0) (#12)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 03:08:34 PM EST

    I don't get what the studio's problem is...pass the writers increase onto us customers, we're gonna still buy dvds whether they cost 19.99 or 20.03.  Then again, I've never understood a lot of the greed that surrounds us.


    We3ll, I'm not sure "greed" is the word (none / 0) (#13)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 03:33:52 PM EST
     I'd use, unless you'd use it for both sides.

    There is a fixed pot of gold, and both sides want more of it.

    It's not really like the classic Labor v. Management conflict. It's not Henry Ford's silver-spooned grandson v. the C-student, high-school educated, no other options, blue-collar auto workers.

    Most writers are either college educated or are connected, just like their suit-wearing brethren at the studios, and, like them, they choose to come to this industry in large part because, ka-ching! you can make BIG money here, and make it fast.


    That may be true for some... (none / 0) (#14)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 03:55:52 PM EST
    and for others, they have a passion to write jokes/scripts and just want their fair share of the fruit.  They do it because they love the craft, but don't want to get exploited.  Granted its not Malaysian sneaker-maker exploited, but we all know when we're getting ripped off, and nobody likes it.

    It's not the classic conflict in many ways, but is in one....those with the talent to produce vs. those with the capital to enable production.  Henry Ford's grandson can't build an engine, but he can bankroll it.  But there is nothing to bankroll without the skills of the engine builder.  Same thing here...the studios have the bankroll, the writers the talent.  

    I guess who you support boils down to what you value...talent or wealth.


    Greed and exploitation. (none / 0) (#17)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 04:16:30 PM EST
    Again, there's a pot of gold, each side wants a bigger share.

    Here I value the individual over the corporation - despite both being motivated by self-interest, ie., greed.


    I see a distinction between... (none / 0) (#19)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 04:51:10 PM EST
    self-interest and greed.  By definition greed is the selfish, excessive desire for more than is needed.  If you ask me the studio's greed is threatening their interests.  

    But it's all depending on point of view, the studios probably figure if the writers cave they can hold the line with all the other unions and increase profits big time in the coming years.  


    Fair enough, (none / 0) (#21)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 05:17:43 PM EST
    I guess all that reamins is defining "need."

    Regardless, trust me, there are no writers (nor anyone else, for that matter) in Hollywood telling the networks/studios "No man. You go ahead and keep my paycheck. I don't want it, it's more than I need."


    I'm certainly not making a fortune (none / 0) (#23)
    by DA in LA on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 06:05:12 PM EST
    I go check to check and could not get by without my residuals.

    What the studios are trying to do now is stop residual payments.  Most of my friends are not well off, but work often, like myself.  If the studios plan was approved, I am many like me would not be able to survive.

    So, if you call that greedy, then I'm greedy.


    Stop residual paymentrs?! (none / 0) (#24)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 06:22:27 PM EST
    That would certainly change things.

    Do you have a link to that?


    Well, it's what this entire fight is about (none / 0) (#25)
    by DA in LA on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 06:50:31 PM EST
    The studios have started not showing reruns of certain series on broadcast television, Lost for instance, but showing it online and making them available for purchase through downloads and DVDs.  The end game is to end residuals.

    From the WGA website

    Early today, the WGA completely withdrew its DVD proposal, which the Companies said was a stumbling block. Yet, the Companies still insisted on the following:

        * No residual for streaming video of theatrical product.
        * A "promotional" proposal that allows them to reuse even complete movies or TV shows on any platform with no residual. This proposal alone destroys residuals.
        * A "window" of free reuse on the Internet that makes a mockery of any residual.


    OK, (none / 0) (#26)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 07:30:47 PM EST
    your original post sounded like it was suggesting that the studios were actually cutting the residual rates, something altogether different from migrating content distribution to other channels that they don't pay resids on.

    fwiw, I think they're going to migrate to these other (cheaper and more customer-friendly) distribution channels, and leave network and cable TV more and more behind, whether or not WGA members get resids from these other channels.

    iow, I don't think they're migrating just to screw you...but, if they can get away with not paying resids through these other distribution channels, that's an additional cost savings.

    Regardless, the effect is clearly less resids for you.


    and (none / 0) (#37)
    by skippybkroo on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 11:47:34 PM EST
    projections tend to see the internet as replacing broadcast/cable within 5 to 10 years.

    ergo the writers (and to a lesser extent, the actors and directors, who are watching this strike closely) want to make sure that they get paid for their work being shown on whatever platform is currently in use.

    also, the elimination of residuals for one platform is just the beginning of the elimination of residuals for all platforms.

    i'm an actor who walked the screen actors guild picket line in 2000 (as a strike captain) in the commercial actors strike.

    during those negotiations the producers (admittedly not the same guys who produce tv shows, but still, the rich guys) made no secret about their goal of eliminating residuals.

    as for the "fixed pot of gold" metaphor, the problem with that image is, this is a brand new "found" pot of gold.  nobody ever imagined making money off the internet a few years ago;  it was too unwieldly to transfer content until recently.

    so it's not that both sides want more percentage of a pot of gold; it's that a new pot of gold has been discovered, and the writers want a part of it, while the producers are saying, "let's see how this pot of gold works for a few years before dividing it up.  oh, and, we'll keep it during that time."


    Well said. (none / 0) (#44)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 02:57:02 PM EST
    I'm not sure (none / 0) (#47)
    by jimakaPPJ on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 08:09:15 PM EST
    there is a new pot of gold. Aren't we talking about entertainment dollars? And isn't that number more or less fixed? And if the medium is IP/TV and cheap downloads, doesn't that argue for less money??? That is assuming that there isn't enough volume to overcome that delta??

    As for technology, there still isn't a cost effective last mile solution for OSP overbuilds. Maybe WiFi and WiMax...


    Of course.... (none / 0) (#41)
    by kdog on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 08:30:10 AM EST
    just as the studios will never say..."Great Job on Season 2, we sold more copies than we ever could have imagined, we hit our number for the quarter, so lets split the rest 50/50."

    Defining need is the rub, no doubt.  All I'd say there is human needs come before corporate needs...all a corporation really "needs" is to meet costs plus 10% every year, human needs are more complex.


    Human needs (none / 0) (#43)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 02:39:11 PM EST
    Using a simple (probably overly simple, but you get the idea) analysis, a one hour drama has, say, 10 writers and 100 other production personnel/actors/etc. Add another 50 workers in post production, editing, mailrooms, film labs, transfer houses, etc., etc., and you get 150/10 = 15. 15 non-writers laid-off for evey one TV writer that strikes.

    Sure, as long as the writer's human needs are met, who cares about those all the other industry worker bees (many/most of whom are hourly blue collar and earn significantly less than the writers) who are essentially laid-off because of the strike and have no "gains" to look forward to once the strike ends?

    I've seen the comment "As long as you get yours, screw everyone else, right?" on TL so many times and it certainly seems appropriate here.


    If the writers demands.... (none / 0) (#45)
    by kdog on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 03:33:10 PM EST
    are reasonable, then the fault for those layoffs would be on the studios.  If the writers were making unreasonable demands, then they'd lose my support for jeapordizing the livelyhood of all the other workers.

    It's a judgement call, but from all the info I've seen the writers just seem to want a fair, reasonable deal.


    fwiw, in 2005 (none / 0) (#46)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Tue Nov 06, 2007 at 04:08:42 PM EST
    the 4,437 WGA writers employed during the year earned $910,000,000.

    iow, their average salary was $205,000.

    The median earning level was $106,000, ie., 1/2 the writers made more than that, and 1/2 made less.

    The top 25% of the writers made over $250,000, and the top 5% over $685,000.

    In 2005 to be in the top 25% of all US workers you had to earn $62,000, the op 5% earned over $145,000.

    I heard on NPR yesterday that writers on a hour drama will lose more from one week of being on strike than they could possibly recover over the rest of their lifetime even if the studios conceded to every demand of the WGA.

    Obviously, that's the kind of rhetoric that is impossible to prove, but, still...


    The proper response to 8 cents is not screw you (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Molly Bloom on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 11:47:41 AM EST
    The proper response is a counter offer. Its called a negotiation for a reason.

    Well, it doesn't matter anyway (none / 0) (#15)
    by DA in LA on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 03:58:34 PM EST
    Today the Guild dropped their 8 cents demand.  The producers then....gave nothing.  NOTHING in return.  Screw them.

    They will lose this battle, whether it's now or down the road.  If they don't pay us a fair wage to get our work onto the internet, then we will just cut them out, work with producers we like and put it directly up ourselves.

    The studios are now a dinosaur on the verge is extinction, and like the music industry they are taking the quickest path to killing themselves off.

    One word:  Radiohead.

    I wrote up an article on it here:  http://suicidegirls.com/news/politics/22598/



    Good article (none / 0) (#32)
    by 1980Ford on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:45:24 PM EST
    Thanks for posting the link.

    A strike... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 11:53:22 AM EST
    is a form of negotiation...aggressive negotiation.

    It's gonna work too...its not like the studio heads can write anything people would find entertaining.  When the losses from no product exceed the extra 4 cents a dvd the writers want, the studios will cave.  

    Give 'em hell writers!  And us viewers can do our part by not watching re-runs...read a book instead.


    I love the studios line (none / 0) (#8)
    by Jgarza on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 01:17:55 PM EST
    They cant share the pie because they dont know what the pie is.  Of course by they don't know what it is, they mean it keeps turning out bigger than they ever imagined.  Translation: We keep making so much more money off your work than we thought, so we cant possibly no what is fair to share with you, so we just wont share.

    How could anyone be (none / 0) (#16)
    by Slado on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 04:02:50 PM EST
    against the writers?   They are using the only tool at thier disposal which is their worth as writers.

    They don't write the studio looses money.  No different when ball players strike.  They have no worth other then their overall place as a group in the cog that is show buisness.   One writer can't do much because there will always be another one to replace them but as a union they can bring the whole system to a hault.

    I'm not one to support unions but this is show buisness not air line traffic controllers.   So the Letterman show or SNL will be in repeats for a week.  We'll live.

    Just curious.... (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by kdog on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 05:06:31 PM EST
    how could you be against air-traffic controllers, firemen, whatever using their worth in their field of expertise from getting the best deal by organizing?  Is it ok for some to be free to organize while others must take whatever the govt. or corporation decides to give them and sacrifice the only tool at their disposal?

    Good link (none / 0) (#18)
    by Slado on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 04:49:35 PM EST
    I gotta ask... (none / 0) (#22)
    by Packratt on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 05:29:31 PM EST
    I've been wondering...

    With the writers on strike...

    Will Fox News have to show "news" reruns too?

    How would anyone (5.00 / 2) (#27)
    by Jen M on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:06:21 PM EST
    even notice?

    Oh... (5.00 / 1) (#29)
    by Packratt on Mon Nov 05, 2007 at 08:41:54 PM EST
    Maybe someone will notice when President Bush can't talk on television during the writer's strike.