Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Daily Show Writers, on the line

A video the Daily Show writers put together this week, on the picket lines, down on Wall Street.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Think About the Future

This is one of the best videos out there, highlighting how important it is for writers to demand a share of "new media". Not even a fair share. An infinitesimal share.

It is fucking delirious how much strike coverage I've read, and continue to read. Barely into the second week and I'm already burned out on it. It is numbing and bleak. Doesn't help that I'm forced to head back to the old day job to try to balance spec-writing on the side.

Everyone does this. This happens to everyone. I am not special.

And yet, I'm bloody mad.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Stand

This blog has essentially turned into my WGA Strike venue. Because my fledgling career is frozen—along with everyone else's—until the WGA has a new contract that is reasonable.

Yes, it kills me that this happens just when I was about to gain some momentum. And the hardest part is going to be trying to make ends meet while balancing WGA Strike responsibilities *and* trying to keep writing some spec scripts so I can be more prepared when business resumes.

First writers strike in 20 years. I'm told the 88 strike (which lasted 5+ months) gave birth to the spec script market, because all the writers had fresh spec scripts by the time the strike ended. But I've got to say, it's not the easiest environment to write in.

Howard Gould gave this speech at a big WGA West meeting:

Nobody wants to be on strike. But it is imperative that we make this stand now. There are some long-term issues at stake. There's a lot of slanted media coverage out there, portraying writers as a whiny, overpaid lot. But it is a grotesque distortion of the reality. I've got to head back to a desk job next week.

Get informed.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


What is the dispute between writers and producers about?

The Writers Guild has for many years attempted to engage the companies who employ writers in a serious conversation regarding fair compensation for use of our work in the new media (which refers to all digital delivery systems: internet, cell-phones, etc.). During those years, Internet streaming became commonplace, the word webisode appeared in dictionaries, and Tivo-like delivery systems started to explore their full potential with the ultimate goal of one day replacing DVD’s.

In addition, the Guild has also attempted to right the unfair labor practices of non-union companies who exploit writers on the so-called “reality” shows (that actually involve a lot of writing, some of which is done by WGA members), interventions that bore fruit in hearings before the National Labor Relations Board, who ruled in the Guild’s favor. They have tried to extend to those writers a more secure future under a WGA contract.

During the latest contract negotiations, the AMPTP steadfastly refused to address any of these issues: including the setting of minimum compensation practices and benefits, even though these minimums and benefits in traditional television and theatrical movies have assured decades of peace and prosperity for the studios and the networks.

Every businessman knows that once a business model is in place, it is extremely difficult to change. The WGA is only the first of the major guilds to ask that their members be fairly included in that new business model. While the AMPTP stalled for years, the future arrived on all of our doorsteps. It must be dealt with…now.

Couldn’t the WGA have settled this without a work stoppage? The AMPTP says it has been ready to negotiate all along.

The producers made this strike inevitable, not the writers. In fact, their negotiators seemed determined to provoke a work stoppage.

AMPTP negotiators proposed more than 170 million dollars in cuts to the writers’ existing deferred payment schedules – residuals. And when they removed a few of these insulting proposals at the eleventh hour, they seemed to think their negotiating was finished…when it point of fact, it never started. Not one single issue that writers deem important was ever addressed.

I’ve heard that working writers don’t support the WGA strike, which is driven by the large percentage of unemployed members in the Guild.

The WGA Negotiating Committee is comprised of many successful working writers, and the vast majority of working WGA members supports this work action.

For a year leading up to the current contract negotiations, working writers of theatrical movies, television drama and comedy, game shows, documentaries and the so-called “reality” shows came together in living rooms across the Southland and across the nation as part of the Writers Guild Outreach Program. They met with Guild officers and the chief negotiator. They listened; they gave their input, and their support.

Many working writers have already watched their shows go out over the Internet with no fair and reasonable compensation agreement in place. Without set minimums, pension and health coverage, they fear that their livelihoods will be seriously undermined. They look at the non-union reality shows--where writers work long hours with no overtime compensation, no pension or health benefits, and no chance to share in any deferred payment package--and see the future the AMPTP has in mind for them.

Working writers envision another, brighter future. They know that the disappearance of the DVD market is inevitable, but they’re excited by the tremendous opportunities for fairly compensated employment in the new media, where series and movies may soon be created solely for the Internet.

I’ve read that restaurant workers, equipment rental firms, limousine drivers, not to mention thousands of workers in the film and television industry, will be hurt by the Writers’ strike. How can writers be so heartless?

Writers read these articles in the newspapers, too, and it does bother them. But they also note the irony that a writers’ strike seems to be the only time they’re given credit as one of the main support pillars of a 30 billion dollar industry: a fact their employers often seem to forget.

If writers lose access to the income streams and the benefit packages that have kept them working here, many will leave the industry, and Southern California: to be followed by working class actors and directors, who will see their own hopes for the future evaporate if the industry gets its way in denying residuals for work in new media..

If that happens, the impact on Southern California’s economy will be devastating.

I’ve heard that Hollywood writers are rich? How wealthy are they?

Here are a few statistics to consider:

  • 48% of the WGA membership is currently unemployed. That means, at any given time, nearly half of all writers DO NOT EARN ANY MONEY AT ALL.

During periods of unemployment, many members depend on the residuals they receive for previously produced work. This is why it is absolutely essential that writers receive fair and just compensation for the use and re-use of their work on the Internet. In the future, it is possible that downloads of writers’ work via the Internet will become the sole source of residuals.

  • According to the WGA 2007 Annual Report of the 52% of members who ARE working, one quarter earn less than $37,700 a year.
  • The MEDIAN income of ALL members of the Writers Guild is only $5,000.

But of course that doesn’t tell the whole story. As with any group of professionals, a bell curve graph of all working writers would show the “working poor” on one end, the vast “middle class” in and around the bulging center, and the financially successful writers (who, by creating series or writing hit films, thereby create many thousands of jobs) on the other end. The only thing extraordinary about this group of professionals is that they are ALL members of one union, and proud of it.

I read in Variety that the WGA has alienated its sister unions. Is this true?

It’s said that generals are often still fighting the last war, not the one they’re currently engaged in. This also applies to journalists who haul out facts that may have been true in the past, but are now demonstrably false.

During this most recent contract dispute, SAG leadership has expressed continuous support for the Writers’ Guilds efforts to secure a fair contract. The president of SAG read a strong letter of support from their board at the WGA’s General Meeting. Their members are aware that, historically, employers try to pick off, then weaken—and if possible, destroy—one union at a time.

The DGA, although comprised of assistant directors and production managers as well as directors, continues to express interest in the outcome of our work action, knowing they’ll soon be sitting across the table from the AMPTP. If producers and studios become emboldened by our prospective defeat, they’ll demand draconian rollbacks from Directors Guild members as well.

Concerned members in both of these guilds know that what we gain for ourselves, we gain for them. But they’re also aware that if we lose the fight over issues of mutual importance, the also stand to lose…perhaps forever.

The Teamsters strongly support us. Although they have no immediate interest in the specifics of our contract dispute, they know that a receding tide strands all boats.

Writers consider themselves just one part of an amazing community made up of artisans, craftsman, executives and producers. We have forged a powerful alliance with other unions, who see our efforts as a positive step toward maintaining the healthy, stable and robust industry it's many stakeholders enjoy.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pencils Down Means Pencils Down.

Text from an ad in Daily Variety, 11/1:

“You guys will still break stories, right?”

“Your people can still write scripts. I mean, who would know?”

We would.

We would know that doing so undermines the very cause for which we’re fighting. We would know that it sends the wrong message to those who honor our picket lines.

We would know that it only serves to prolong a strike.

So, just to be absolutely clear: In the event of a strike, we, the following showrunners, will do no writing and no story breaking — nor will any be asked of our writing staffs — until we get a deal.

Robert Carlock
Tina Fey
(30 Rock)

Warren Bell
(According to Jim)

Tim Doyle
(Aliens in America)

Rich Appel
Mike Barker
Matt Weitzman
(American Dad)

Dee Johnson
(Army Wives)

Steven Levitan
Christopher Lloyd
(Back To You)

Ronald D. Moore
(Battlestar Galactica)

Mark Olsen
Will Scheffer
(Big Love)

Jason Cahill
(Bionic Woman)

Hart Hanson
Stephen Nathan

David E. Kelley
(Boston Legal)

Greg Berlanti
(Brothers & Sisters, Eli Stone, Dirty Sexy Money)

Matt Nix
(Burn Notice)

Walon Green
(Canterbury’s Law)

Marsh McCall

Bill Martin
Mike Schiff

James Duff
(The Closer)

Meredith Stiehm
Veena Sud
(Cold Case)

Dennis Rinsler
Marc Warren
(Cory in the House)

Carol Mendelsohn
Naren Shankar
(CSI: Crime Scene Investigation)

Pamela Veasey
(CSI: New York)

Marc Cherry
(Desperate Housewives)

Daniel Cerone

Matthew Carnahan
Joel Fields

Josh Reims
Craig Wright
(Dirty Sexy Money)

Marc Guggenheim
(Eli Stone)

John Wells

Charlie Craig
Jaime Paglia
Thania St. John

Ali LeRoi
(Everybody Hates Chris)

David A. Goodman
Seth MacFarlane
Chris Sheridan
(Family Guy)

John F. Bowman
(Frank TV)

Jason Katims
(Friday Night Lights)

Anne Kenney

Krista Vernoff
(Grey’s Anatomy)

Shonda Rhimes
(Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice)

Steven Peterman
Michael Poryes
(Hannah Montana)

Tim Kring

David Shore

Carter Bays
Craig Thomas
(How I Met Your Mother)

Rob McElhenney
(It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

Carol Barbee
(Jericho, Swingtown)

Warren Hutcherson
Alison Taylor
(Just Jordan)

John Altschuler
Dave Krinsky
(King of the Hill)

Jonathan Lisco
Craig Silverstein

Eric Tuchman
(Kyle XY)

Rene Balcer
(Law & Order)

Warren Leight
(Law & Order:Criminal Intent)

Neal Baer
(Law & Order: SVU)

Kathleen McGhee-Anderson
(Lincoln Heights)

Carlton Cuse
Damon Lindelof

Matt Weiner
(Mad Men)

Mark Hudis

Andy Breckman

Tom Fontana
(M.O.N.Y., The Philanthropist)

Chip Johannessen

Betsy Thomas
(My Boys)

Bobby Bowman
Gregory Garcia
(My Name is Earl)

Kari Lizer
(The New Adventures of Old Christine)

David Manson
(New Amsterdam)

Stacy Traub
(Notes from the Underbelly)

Greg Daniels
(The Office)

Eric Kaplan
(Out of Jimmy’s Head)

Marti Noxon
(Private Practice)

Tara Butters
Michele Fazekas
Tom Spezialy

Dmitry Lipkin
Dawn Prestwich
Nicole Yorkin
(The Riches)

Tom Hertz
(Rules of Engagement)

Donald Todd
(Samantha Who?)

Dan Sterling
(The Sarah Silverman Program)

Ian Biederman
Ed Redlich

Shawn Ryan
(The Shield, The Unit, The Oaks)

James L. Brooks
Matt Groening
Al Jean
(The Simpsons)

Al Gough
Miles Millar

Tom Lynch
(South of Nowhere)

Danny Kallis
(Suite Life on Deck)

Josh Friedman
Toni Graphia
John Wirth
(Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles)

Josh Goldsmith
Tim Hobert
Cathy Yuspa
(‘Til Death)

Joe Medeiros
(The Tonight Show with Jay Leno)

Alan Ball
(True Blood)

Silvio Horta
Marco Pennette
(Ugly Betty)

David Simon
(The Wire)

Peter Murrieta
(Wizards of Waverly Place)

R. Scott Gemmill
(Women’s Murder Club)

In Solidarity
Steven Bochco
Jim Leonard
Phil Rosenthal
Robin Schiff

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Songs of Angry Men

Posted on the WGAE website, Wednesday night:

Dear Fellow Members:

Today, just hours before the expiration of our contract, the AMPTP brought negotiations to a halt.

The companies refused to continue to bargain unless we agree that the hated DVD formula be extended to Internet downloads.

This morning we presented the AMPTP with a comprehensive package of proposals that included movement on DVDs, new media, and jurisdictional issues. We also took nine proposals off the table. The companies returned six hours later and said they would not respond to our package until we capitulated to their Internet demand.

After three and a half months of bargaining, the AMPTP still has not responded to a single one of our important proposals. Every issue that matters to writers, including Internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction have been ignored. This is completely unacceptable.

Michael Winship
Writers Guild of America, East

Patric M. Verrone
Writers Guild of America, West

Rest in peace, October.

Welcome to the world, November.

It is going to be a lean Christmas...