Monday, November 19, 2007

Two sides to every issue. (A right one and a wrong one.)

I don’t blame you if your eyes glaze over at coverage of the Hollywood writers’ strike. For those interested, the L.A. Times on Saturday published op-ed columns by the chief negotiators on both sides.

This one is by David Young, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, west. This one is by Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which is negotiating on behalf of the multinational entertainment corporations.

And boy, Mr. Counter does a spin job that really roasts my chestnuts.

Before I get to that, I must correct something I posted earlier. I was under the impression that writers receive no residual payments for digitally downloaded TV episodes.

Apparently, in the absence of a contractually stipulated payment formula, the corporations are going ahead and paying a residual for Internet downloads equal to the DVD residual. So for a $1.99 episode of “30 Rock” downloaded from iTunes last season, for example, the writers’ residual is... less than a penny.

I stand corrected.

Now... Nick Counter. In his attempt to portray screenwriters as already over-compensated, Counter wrote this in his L.A. Times opinion piece:

“[M]embers of the Writers Guild and its sister guilds are covered by the country’s finest healthcare and pension plans, and our contribution to those plans has consistently increased while other industries’ contributions have decreased.”


Guess what? The Writers Guild had to strike – for five months in 1960 – to get Hollywood studios to pay health and pension benefits in the first place!

How ironic for Nick Counter to bring up our health and pension plans, as if writers hadn’t had to fight like hell for those... just like we’re fighting now. The corporations give up nothing without a fight.

Speaking of the 1960 strike, that was a hugely important one. The Screen Actors Guild was on strike for part of the same time. And those strikes led to the creation of “residual” payments to writers and actors for TV reruns, and for shows sold overseas.

“The exploding power of television had brought a new kind of militancy to the [Screen Actors Guild], especially over TV residuals,” wrote Dennis McDougal about the run-up to the 1960 strikes. “While studios grew richer every day collecting TV fees for syndicating old movies, actors still got nothing, and a growing faction within SAG as well as the Writers Guild began talking seriously about shutting Hollywood down.”

Today’s strike, then, is a little bit of history repeating itself. A new media technology triggers new prosperity for the entertainment industry... and Hollywood’s creative talent must fight to share in that new prosperity.


jena6 said...

I'm in NYC, but I'm not hearing much about the strike. It's all about the stagehands here. They're on strike now. With Thanksgiving just days away, they're gonna put a hurt on Broadway.

dez said...

God, I'm so fucking sick of privileged assholes and their tin ears to other people's problems. Nick Counter can suck my imaginary dick (which will cost him more than less than a penny). Would that limpdick even have a job if writers weren't out there creating worlds for him to populate with actors he also screws over? JEEBUS!

BTW, happy gobble gobble to ya, UBM! keep on fighting the power :-)

DeAngelo Starnes said...

The writer's strike highlights labor issues overall. And yes, I come down on the side of labor. So don't read the rest if you ain't interested. Whenever you have these issues where a strike becomes necessary, it's because big money is trying to change the way the world spins. Wealth distribution is at the core. And that greed deletes reason.

The writers strike symbolizes what's going on with auto assembly workers and the grocery store workers. And any other industry where the workers strike. The writers create the vision. Every else executes the vision. The writers are the creators. They're on the frontline. It's the same with the auto-workers.

Now while people can sympathize with the writers, they can't sympathize with the auto workers. Why? It's the same issue.

We've allowed the issue to be redefined. And now's as good time as any to right that. Unions are not the problem. They are necessary because the only way to equalize the wealth distribution problem is to pool resources. Cuz that greed is only going to less than one percent. The rest of us ain't getting nathan. The only way we get heard and get what we need, and ironically not necessarily want, is when we sit down.

Dave, keep up keeping this issue up. It's necessary. Because what we are witnessing in America is Niggerization. Everybody's getting treated like niggas now. Or should I say Indians. They want all of it, and give less than a fuck about how they get it. As long as you don't have it. These muthafuckas are shameless.

Undercover Black Man said...

BTW, happy gobble gobble to ya, UBM! keep on fighting the power :-)

Back at you, dez!

Undercover Black Man said...

They want all of it, and give less than a fuck about how they get it. As long as you don't have it. These muthafuckas are shameless.

Thanks, DeAngelo. This thing has been a lesson for me in hardball capitalism. I imagine that the "other side" is thinking three or four moves ahead. As in:

"If we give the writers more, we'll have to give the actors and the directors more. And then where will we be three years from now for the next round of contract talks? In the bitch position."

So the companies seem to welcome this strike because they're betting, in the end, we'll swallow a cheap deal.

The fact is, the Writers Guild swallowed a cheap deal for home-video residuals in the '80s, and we've been paying the price ever since... not just in lost duckets, but in reputation. They think we're a weak union.

dez said...

Not to be a weenie, but is there a joke about "duckets" going around? Because I've seen it a few times on the web when the person meant "ducats" :-)

Love, the Word Nerd


UBM...i'm feeling your blog...and you're going on my blogroll, keep up the good work!

How in the world do you calculate something as less than a penny?! How in the world do you put in a contract someone's residual is -$0.01 ?!

ivent (bria)

Undercover Black Man said...

Hey Ivent. Welcome!

You wrote: "How in the world do you put in a contract someone's residual is -$0.01 ?!"

Actually... yep. In our case, $0.003 on the dollar. Three-tenths of one percent of DVD revenues.