that strike thing : part i


mermaid So. Yeah —

That strike thing.

Contracts are up.

My union is on strike.

I guess I should say something about that.


The position of the Writers Guild is, studios are selling TV shows and movies like candy on dvds, iTunes, broadband, cell phones, the web, a whole host of places they do not pay writers royalties for and with all these new [and not so new, dvds hello are practically ancient now and video tapes are a thing of the past that never even got into the equation] avenues of revenue for pasting writers’ work up repeatedly for fun and profit [okay not writer fun and profit oh well but the suits are having a lot of fun and profit], writers want a residual. [See, the last thing writers saw a residual off of was reruns on TV back in 1988 — the last time writers went on strike — and writers have not seen a lick o’ change in residuals since.]

The position of the studios is, That would destroy Hollywood.

[Um. Yez. I can see it crashing down now. Eye roll.]

[Also I have so heard this before.]


where the art work comes from :
that is mer02 by ian sanderson

14 Responses to that strike thing : part i

  1. I love the t-shirts reported on the line from Jon Stewart (dunno if it was on his show or just seen on the picket line)… it depicts a studio executive running around, alarmed, hands in the air saying, “Oh, that internet, it’s *so new!*”

    Unfortunately, the studios wanted the strike–it gives them the right to exercise force majeure, that little known clause in contracts that allows them to cancel a contract without penalty or hefty cancellation fee whenever there is a random, unpredicted act that stops work. Also, unfortunately, some of the bigger contracts have time constraints built in (usually a month) before the studios can evoke the force majeure, so they are not going to have any decent talks for a while. They will wag their fingers instead, and throw out a lot of PR. This way, they can clean out a bunch of production deals they didn’t want, make their bottom line cleaner and then when it suits them, start dealing with the writers. The only way the writers are going to get them to the table early enough and with incentive is if SAG shows up in big enough numbers, big enough names, and the showrunners stand strong and the Teamsters keep agreeing where possible not to cross the picket lines.

    I hope all of the latter keep happening–that’s the only shot writers, and SAG, have.

  2. max

    It probably would have been a much wiser move to strike after the holidays. Current contracts would have stayed in play and the the force behind dga and sag upcoming negotiations would have added a stress factor later that they do not add now. And striking come the new year would have been a much bigger threat as it would have killed pilot season for the networks. As is, the studios can ride out the holidays on what they have stockpiled, take advantage of force majeure while they do it, and let writers sit while the studios pump out whatever sanitized version of the situation they want to through news programs they [hello] own.

    The Guild’s strong suit has never been wisdom in negotiations. It has been played and played hard every four years by the studios and I do not see this being much different. Studio reps intentionally antagonized the Guild negotiating committee. And the Guild negotiating committee jumped. So, now we are engaged in what is probably a premature strike. But there is no turning back now.

  3. Max, I’m curious, how does this affect the actors who work on television? Will they get paid?

  4. max

    They get paid while they are working. When work stops, pay stops. For everyone except sallaried executives.

    It is to a certain extent in the acting guilds’ best interests to support writers’ guild negotiations because actors are going to be negotiating similar issues in the near future.

    People below the line though already re-negotiated their contracts and have nothing to gain from above the line contract disputes, and everything to lose when work stops. None of the film related guilds, as far as I know, have strike pay. Everyone goes hungry when work stops.

  5. I’d guess that everyone goes hungry, except the studio execs that can wait-out the strike living on last year’s bonues and stock-options.

    Sounds grim for the strikers…any ray of hope, here?

  6. max

    Not really. The studios can sit out November and December easy while fueling resentment against striking writers on the news among show fans and within the entertainment industry as belts get tighter, then start negotiations with the DGA and claim that as a reason for postponing writer contract negotiations more. Writers will get anxious. And writers are stupid. [No offense, fellow writers, but writers are entirely stupid when it comes to contract negotiations, if we were not we would not be here now.] They will get anxious. And they will continue to say they should get royalties because they need them or because it is fair — in a capitalist economy in which nobody ever got paid because they needed it or because it was fair. People who need money do not get money. People only get money when they do not need it and can say, Fuck you nancy boy, pay me what I want or crawl back to mamma’s garage where you belong and would be today if you had not managed to crawl up the backs of people who actually can and do create artistic content.

    See, writers try to reason and do not understand, nobody on the other side of the negotiating table wants to reason. Nobody on the other side of the negotiating table wants what is right. People on the other side of the negotiating table just want to win, by whatever means possible, and the more writers loose, the bigger the bonuses are for people on the other side of the table.

    It is Christians and lions. And it takes a real long time to starve a lion.

  7. Kym

    There is a clear and simple youtube video about the strike linked on

    After watching it, I felt I had a grasp on the financial aspects of why the writers were striking. The bad thing is my talented son saw the video and said, “$.04 on each DVD is making me rethink wanting to be a writer!”

  8. max

    Well that is an overly simplistic model that does not accurately reflect how film royalties work. On a feature, for one person to receive that four cents the model assumes a single writer working on a project [in an industry that swaps out and replaces writers regularly even on original works] receiving sole screen credit [when often writers receive no screen credit] and that the project is produced and released and turns a net profit on paper in a business notorious for losing money on paper on projects that gross millions at home and over seas. [Tell your son not to count those pennies yet — wry smile.]

    It is also the same clarion call that is always used on the writer side of the table: “Do it because you said you would do it, because it is fair, because we need it.” Which might work on a playground in third grade, but does not work in business negotiations if it did we would not be working off a 1988 model left over from the 1988 strike.

    I also do not think that explanation will garner sympathy with a general public that does not understand how that royalty is parceled out among writers on projects or the time lines involved working in film and television. Like your son, most people will look at that and think, Wow, a nickel for every DVD sold, I will be rich. However. It took three years to make Excess Baggage. It took ten to make The Ladykillers. It took two to set up Sailor Moon — and Sailor Moon died. It has taken another three to set up my current script — to set it up, not to make it. And it is in peril now because of this strike.

    And that is just features. Television is a whole different animal with horrific caveats and curves of its own.

    All of which means, that four cents? Even if it is in a basic contractual agreement between the studios and Guild, many many writers will never see it.

  9. Kym

    OUch! you made it even worse, he thought $.04 was bad. Now he’ll throw away his keyboard;>

  10. This reminds me of an old joke –

    Who’s that person standing near the set?

    Oh, no one important – it’s just the writer.

  11. max

    That is another fight that has come up from time to time in Guild negotiations. Whether or not a writer should be “allowed” on the set of a film he or she wrote.

    See, it might detract from the director’s image if the actual author of the movie was hanging about.

    That is also why you rarely see a film writer on film panels or included in dvd commentary — unless the writer is a hyphenate i.e. writer/director. It makes it kind of hard to sit there and say you created this scene or that dialogue or this character when the person who actually wrote the scene and dialogue and character is sitting next to you oggling you in disbelief.

  12. Grim reality…

    Very interesting to hear your insights, though. Thanks.

  13. Pingback: Random Musings « i am the octopus

  14. Pingback: Strike! « OY GIRL

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