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David Poland

By David Poland poland@moviecitynews.com

A New WGA Direction

While hopes for a brighter week in reality next week in the negotiations is being held out and Bryan Lourd kept breaking the press blackout that existed until tonight, WGA started laying out the next round of strategy for the strike.
“The Showrunners Strike,” as the first month has been called, is pretty much over. The 10 or so showrunners who crossed lines are now done with whatever was pending. Television is as dead as it’s going to get until the strike ends.
The sense inside the union is that hopes for a quick end to the strike are now over. The very real threat that this strike will last until SAG negotiations are done is quickly becoming a consensus opinion. Underlying all of this is the question of when the other side wants the strike to end, because right now, there is little being offered.
The next phase is trying to have a direct effect on the movies that are currently in production… especially showrunner JJ Abrams’ feature, Star Trek. (Apparently, Eastwood’s The Changeling, another prime target, is hidden well enough behind studio walls that the effort to disrupt the show has been set aside.)
There are around 100 scripts that are currently considered within range of being produced at the studios in the near future. Projects do continue to fall through because “the scripts are not ready,” but whether actors are actually supporting the strike of being self-preserving, using the strike as cover for dropping out of iffy projects, is unclear.
Meanwhile, The Committee of Hyphenates, the 1400 or so writer-directors who are in both WGA and DGA, are starting a serious push to get DGA to join in real support of the WGA, as SAG has done.
And as far as the press goes, there is growing sentiment amongst the ranks that the media is being effectively played by – get this – being too encouraging, therefore crushing morale when things like this week it’s-gonna-happen talk or the notion that there would be real Teamster support turns out to be a dead end of nothing new. Guild members are being told not to trust any media gossip… even/especially if it makes them happy.
Personally, my favorite new adjustment by WGA is offering a set dollar amount for how little the union demands would cost the industry… just over $50 million a year. If the AMPTP had a sense of humor – a nasty one – they would just offer the union the $150 million over the three year contract as a flat rate addition to the current contract to change nothing. And if WGA had a sense of humor, they would offer to take the offer of an annual flat $250 per episode for free hourlong show streaming by making it for every 100,000 downloads… which is still only a quarter of a cent per view, which is about what the rate is for network reruns.
Every day I see the whole thing as more like another more familiar battleground… red vs blue… Democrat vs Republican. The WGA seems to be endlessly interested in talking about being righteous. And the money men just keep being about money… maybe it’s not moral high ground, but it is absolutely consistent and quantifiable. The problem is, in a war of public opinion, the Republicans won, against all logic, the last two presidential races.
Michael Moore is doing a quick stop in L.A. soon… maybe he can shake things up.

10 Responses to “A New WGA Direction”

  1. So you’re still against the strike?

  2. ManWithNoName says:

    I’m an impartial outsider. I follow the industry because it interests me, but I have no affiliation. Can someone explain the main issues?
    If I watch “The Office” on nbc.com, do the writers want to be paid for that? Because that costs me no money (which is odd for NBC, because I used to pay 1.99/episode for an iTunes version).
    Is it a portion of the iTunes money they want?

  3. David Poland says:

    As is so often the case around here, I am amazed that all of that detail is offered and somehow, it ends up about me and what I think…
    I was never against A strike. I believed, and still believe, that the timing was a mistake.
    The most popular phrase I keep hearing is, “We’re not going to be the ones to lose the internet.” And they should not allow themselves to lose the internet. But it is the personalization of this strike that is a problem… the “we.” If this strike is about respect, the WGA will lose. If it’s about money, they can make a deal… it’s just a matter of timing. The idea that it will ever be “a good time for the studios to be shut down” is not real, in my opinion. There are better and worse times for a 2 month strike. But neither side does well in a seven month strike.
    And it is about to get much, much harder for the forces of good as we head into the weeks of Christmas with no income, no assurance or income, and no one on the lots to watch the picketing.

  4. SJRubinstein says:

    This is how I understand it:
    When I just went to NBC.com, there’s a Nikon ad and a Comfort Inn hotels ad there. NBC is selling ad real estate on their website based on the idea that people are coming to the site using the free downloads as a “loss leader” like Best Buy selling super-cheap DVDs to get you in the store.
    Since the beginning of TV with Texaco and the like (hell, even Campbell’s Soup with “See It Now”), the programs are there to “sell soap.”
    With the free downloads, a writer’s work is “selling soap,” in this case, Nikon cameras and the branding of Comfort Inns.
    I mean, when you watch television, you’re not paying to watch “The Office” on your TV as it’s network – that model is only appropriate with, say, subscribing to Showtime so you can watch “Dexter” (which everyone should do). “The Office” is entertainment, is funny, is well-written, but at the end of the day, is there to sell soap – whether it’s on broadcast or on the internet.
    So, as internet downloads cut into syndication packaging and the re-use of shows that would deliver residuals, the writers wants a cut of the money made from internet downloads.

  5. RP says:

    [ If I watch “The Office” on nbc.com, do the writers want to be paid for that? ]
    Yes.
    [ Because that costs me no money ]
    Because the AMPTP member companies sell advertising to support the free streaming broadcast to you. The WGA position is that since the studios/networks derive revenue from the free streaming broadcast, the writers should be paid an appropriate residual.
    [ Is it a portion of the iTunes money they want? ]
    The AMPTP position is that they pay residuals for iTunes and other permanent downloads (Amazon Unbox, etc.) based upon the previously negotiated (and lamented by the WGA) DVD rate. The WGA position is that this was never negotiated and they never agreed to the DVD rate being applied to downloading. Previously, the WGA had wanted to increase the DVD rate and get a written agreement on the download rate.
    Whatever “side” one supports, the bottom line is that both sides have a moral obligation to the rank-and-file people who make up the entertainment industry to agree on a deal, and quickly.
    I’m reminded of that voiceover in “Casino,” where the Rothstein character laments — in another context — that “in the end, we f–ked it all up. It should’ve been so sweet, too. But it turned out to be the last time that street guys like us were ever given anything that valuable again.”
    I remain just flabbergasted that the creative and business custodians of this industry have brought us to this point and are unable to find an equitable way to divvy up the billions of dollars in annual revenues it generates.

  6. IOIOIOI says:

    Dude; stay away from Politcis because you factual argument based off of that… is factually inaccurate. You also still read anti-strike. No matter how many times you try to placate us with your Switzerland act.

  7. David Poland says:

    Dude… I will not be silenced because people can’t take 90% agreement for an answer.
    And everyone is anti-strike, just like everyone is anti-abortion. Believing in choice doesn’t make you pro-death and believing in conception at insemination doesn’t make you a misogynist.
    The ugliness is that people, even you, are only about the blacks and the whites. And that sucks for anyone interested in real discourse.

  8. Harley says:

    Hmm. Given that your penultimate paragraph suggests a lack of familiarity with both the WGA and American politics (circa 2007), I’m not sure your interest in discourse is enough, in and of itself.
    (No wonder everybody’s reading Nikki Finke.)

  9. IOIOIOI says:

    Heat; you do not believe in RIGHTEOUSNESS. Unless it’s some film you love that you believe is Oscar-worthy. Outside of that one exception… you believe in logic more than the principal of things. Your argument may be logically sound, but it lacks morality. Again… you seem to have this problem because your head is always stuck in the numbers.

  10. SJRubinstein says:

    Re: Harley
    David explained the Democrats vs. Republicans thing to me slightly differently awhile ago and I have to admit that it does make sense.
    The WGA has a lot of messages and a lot of ways of getting there – the strike is about the 4 cents to 8 cents DVD residuals, the strike is about respect, the strike is about not losing the internet, etc. The ways to get that are by preventing the DGA from making a bad deal, by closing down television, by picketing location shoots, etc., in order to…what? Force the studios to avoid looking bad (ie. kicking people out of work), avoid a PR disaster, avoid losing ad revenue from shows that are forced into hiatus, and so on.
    The studios have one message – the model has changed. We don’t have the money. Sorry.
    As David said, the Republicans may have a bad message, but they stay on message. Unfortunately, with so many issues on the table for the WGA and so many pages and pages of interpretations of said issues all over The Internetz and even the picket lines, it is somewhat difficult for anyone outside the negotiations to figure out what is really at stake – those core issues the Guild will go to the mat for – and those ones that, like the DVD residuals question that there has been much ink on (particularly around how little TV writers have made off of DVD box sets – ever wonder why the studios rushed so many of those out over the past few years, even the dumbest, most forgotten shows of all? Just in case things changed residuals-wise after these negotiations!), will be cut loose.
    I mean, there are still people who think that the fight for an increase in DVD residuals is back on the table. Patric Verrone stated in a meeting on Thursday night with feature screenwriters that this, in fact, was not true – adding not to believe anything you read on the internet.
    So, it is like the Republicans and Democrats a bit. The Republicans want to stay in Iraq, ban abortion, keep the immigrants down, prevent gay marriage and put a machine gun in every pot. The Democrats – of which I count myself – kind of want to stay in Iraq, but find a way out, but when, they’re not sure, but it wouldn’t be immediately, but soon, soon, soon, electusandwewillfigureitout.
    I’m not saying that the WGA is being wishy-washy at all, just that it’s a sound comparison as the studios have put the onus on the Guild to be the ones with the hard message and it’s just that, a hard message with lots of numbers that’s open to interpretation (ie. the handwringing over whether or not what’s in the most recent proposal should be considered “rollbacks” or not).
    So, maybe last week’s negotiations were a PR feint and the studios are still perfectly on schedule to take this to mid-December, force majeure their failing shows/TV deals they want to cut and deliver their “Christmas miracle.”

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