Monday, November 05, 2007

The Strike

The midst of the WGA writer's strike seems like as good a time as any to ressurect this blog. I certainly won't be writing anything else for a while.

Yesterday I walked the picket line in support of the Writer's Guild Strike. Most people who read this blog are fully aware of what is at issue, but for the few of you who are not indoctrinated here is a quick overview:

- DVD revenue: Currently writers get 4 cents per DVD. They are asking for 8 cents. The average DVD sale price ranges from 10-30 dollars, so this request is not exactly breaking the bank.

- Internet Coverage: Currently writers get no residuals for any television content shown on the networks websites (or elsewhere). Also there is no contract for any new content that is created for the internet, meaning any web shows, etc. Since, much like the music industry, internet is the future, this is a pretty serious issue. If the writers lose this battle, it in essence means that writers will not be paid for their work, since down the line most shows will be viewed via the internet.

The writers actually took the DVD issue off the table and the producers still walked out. Then they went to the trades and said that the writers walked out. Douchebags.

The AMPTP is trying to paint a picture which implies that writers are greedy and unreasonable when all they are asking is their fair share of the profits from content they helped to create. (A successful show can generate millions, sometimes even billions, of dollars and the writers get a very small portion of that.) Due to their complete unwillingness to negotiate, particularly on the topic of internet usage, they have forced the writers to strike, which seems to be what they want. They are in essence trying to break the union by showing reality TV and reruns. However if writers capitulate on the internet issue it is in effect saying that writers will not be paid for their work if it is shown on any medium other than television - like the music industry, new media is the future so capitulation on this issue is impossible.

The Producers Alliance keeps citing the fact that they don't know how new media will work, which is why they don't want to commit to any percentages. Which makes no sense. If they make money, writers get a percentage, but if they make no money writers get a percantage of nothing, which doesn't hurt the producers bottom line in the least.

What is inspiring is that many show runners (quite literally the people that run each show) have refused to cross picket lines even though they are technically producers. This includes showrunners from The Office, The Shield, and Grey's Anatomy, to name a few, which has brought production on those shows (and others) to a complete halt.

A few people have asked me why I chose to walk the line even though I am not a Guild member. Sadly this strike effects me and almost every one of my friends in innumerable ways. I walked because:

1-I want to support my many friends and acquaintances who are directly affected by the strike.

2-As a writer who expects to be in this union sooner or later they are essentially fighting for the contract that I will eventually live by, so as far as I am concerned this is my fight as much as anyone's.

This strike will affect me and all of my friends: no acting work outside of commercials and a few movies already in production, no pitch meetings, no industry to come see our shows, no development deals. My friends who recently sold shows to TV or got cast on shows are now going to wait around and hope their deals don't fall through by the time everyone gets back to work. This is what me and all of my friends work for and there will be nothing for us to do until the strike is over. Despite all this, we all support the strike because the producers want to give us (all writers and actors) literally nothing.

Good luck to everyone. Let's hope it resolves itself soon.

Me and my friend Doug Mand outside of 30 Rock. (picture by Dan Gregor)


Blogger Mica said...

Great post, couldn't have said it better myself. Compensation standards are long overdue for content in this space. I have been preaching to creative people for years that it is imperative that you go online, regardless if you work in 'new media' or not, and determine how you feel about your work in this context. This is where it will end up, in one way or another. Better to be prepared and know where you stand than have it come as a surprise and be taken advantage of.

2:29 PM  
Blogger Rachael Mason said...

Thanks so much Mica! Please spread the word...public sentiment really will make a difference on this one, especially since the AMPTP is trying to spin things in the press to present the WGA as greedy, spoiled, and unresponsive, which couldn't be further from the truth.

Thanks for the support. I suspect I will be writing a lot more about this in days (and possibly weeks and months) to come.


3:04 PM  

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