This email is going everywhere in Hollywood – every studio lot – almost every person I know. This was not sent to you by mistake.
This entertainment labor strike touches everyone, as does TV and film (in “the business” or not). The rest is of this email is a personal shout out into the abyss, on behalf of Hollywood, for which I have worked for many years, whether for agents, managers, producers, studios, even talent including writers and directors… This is going to everyone I worked with everywhere, and everyone else I know too.
It’s time to cover the real news that media networks are not, because media is owned by the same people with which the writers are negotiating.
I’m constantly being asked by a ton of people why the writers are striking because I work in the business – these clips explain it quickly and easily, so feel free to forward this to anyone:
For comic takes on the situation, check out the DAY 2 video of the strike featuring the hysterical writers of THE OFFICE at YouTube’s “WGA America” account, and here’s a nice bit where comedy writer Tim Kazurinsky riffs on Writers Strike on WGN: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=Qd_x_ivCSKw
Nobody likes all the posturing on either side of this deal. But the AMPTP has made unrealistic and unfair proposals throughout from day one. For every insulting deal the AMPTP pulls off the table, they throw another onto the table. They pull off an offer insisting writers fly coach, forgo residuals, and get no credit on any of the advertizing, and currently the deal on the table says airing TV shows and feature films in their entirety should garnish no residuals at all if the producer deems the airing “promotional”, no matter how much they are making by airing it. The writers are not trying crap like this. They asked for eight cents, not a buck. They didn’t say, “We want back copyright.” Nothing absurd. Yet there’s no sign of things getting any better. Without those residuals, writers won’t be able to make ends meet between jobs (which is most of a normal writer’s life).
I worked for producers and learned so much. As someone who has also worked as a writer, I loved working with all the producers I have in this town, and they are fair and decent people. Even if we disagreed on story, the same Development Execs feeling a pinch right now are a writer’s teammates and story allies. Writers are weakened without their perspective. But instead of talking with these co-workers at the table, writers are negotiating with lawyers.
No one is happy on either side of the table here, and if this continues, it will only get worse. The lawyers are only looking out for the giant conglomerates that have gobbled up Hollywood over the past fifteen years, and I fear they have forced writers to strike for a reason. And yes, there is no other term that fits outside of “forced”. Unless the writers want to cut their income from 2.5% on residuals to .3% as new media and television merges (resulting an an 80% paycut), writers have no choice but to strike. And the AMPTP would not force a strike without an agenda.
I doubt it’s as simple as trying to bust the union, because writer’s will never give up minimums or the leverage of standing together (I wouldn’t have), no matter how long this takes. Nor is this about those four cents on DVDs. Let’s face it, instead of charging $15 a DVD, they could simply charge $15.20 (giving ALL artists double the current rate), and STILL sell the same number of DVDs. Would twenty cents stop you from buying one? I also doubt it’s all about the small percentage from downloads as an issue either – because even if the studios make no money, neither would writers. So, if that ain’t it…
And those are the big issues on the table… So, why force writers to walk out?
Here’s my far-fetched theory that over half the people I have spoken with are stunned that they actually believe it… Could be this Machiavellian? For your consideration:
Since “Big Business” (multi-national conglomerate organizations) bought out the studios, they have not had the chance to do what they normally do when buying major companies, and that is to: fire almost everyone, give middle management promotions (without raises) to fill the gaps of the fired bosses and their big salaries, then integrate a production pipeline with a simple, efficient, NORMAL business model.
This is only possible NOW because until recently there were still independent movie studios who accepted the film business model norms.
In short, they are forcing writers (and soon actors) to strike so they have an excuse to fire the people who work behind the gates, not the artists. They just want to blame the artists for firing half of L.A. over the span of the strike. Think about how much money they will save.
Big Business can now force majeure more than writers, but expensive producers and their entire teams as well. Why not streamline production and run all projects directly through a studio personnel only? One simple pipeline of product and production run by story editors and savvy accountants (the new studio producer/executive)? It would save these studios a fortune. No more independent producer deals, instead strictly studio production teams. We ALL know that this is what Big Business does best. So they force the artists to hike to they can clean house and redesign studio lot efficiancy.
If it takes too long, as a perk, they’d love to bankrupt agencies and managers by keeping talent out of work – deals without so many middle men – no managers and their producer fees – perhaps direct deals with talent just like in the ’30s.
A lot of people will be fired on every side the longer this strike goes, and it will happen. Hell, I almost see the appeal of it… It would simplify everything… Sever all those hands reaching into the cash register. Worst-case scenario: can you see studio emblumed Polo style shirts everyone wears and don’t forget Hawaiian shirt Fridays?
I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.
In short, I fear for everyone in town. I don’t think the producers see the writing on the wall that the AMPTP (supposedly a producer’s alliance, yet no producers are involved nor oversee these negotiations) is going to get most producers laid off as their offices are shut down when product diminishes. Even if it went a year or so, those fiscal losses wouldn’t equal the TRILLIONS in saved revenue long term. And for Big Business, these losses are a drop in the bucket – acceptable in exchange for the future cost cuts. We all know this is how these companies have always operated. It’s almost cliche’.
We are also forgetting that the best artists are brought to America from all over the world to work in movies. Actors from Australia, directors from Mexico, cinematographers from Eastern Europe… But not the screenwriters. It could be argued that screenwriting is what the Americans do best. They are possibly the most irreplaceable of American film artists. In fact, American screenwriters are constantly hired around the globe to write other countries’ movies for them. And they are under appreciated in that fact.
So let’s face it, in a year, this business will still need the American screenwriters of the WGA and the actors of SAG – and the writers I know understand they may have to wait that long to get what they want. Downloads (the future of television and home video) are way too important. Look at their showing of solidarity last week.
It’s more than impressive, it’s a new record in the 70+ year history of the guild. And writers I spoke to are saying, “However long it takes.” Their suffering will be short term in comparison to everyone else.
Unless producers like Bruckheimer, Silver, Grazer, and Rudin take over and stop letting the corporation lawyers negotiate in their name, we’re ALL in trouble. People will be fired in waves. Deals flushed.
It’s only a matter of time. If Producers and Writers would just sit in a room together instead of writers and lawyers… Or even better, business affairs guys sit down with a few top agents, this could be over in a few hours! But sadly, that will not happen, UNLESS producers unite and intervene on their own behalf. Because in a year, the AMPTP can replace Nick Counter with a giant parachute, and then they’ll cut the deal with the unions once studio pipelines are sorted and ready for new product. And nobody will know the truth, just like the strike is starting to be swiftly brushed under the rug in news reports by the networks.
Maybe this strike has made me a little crazy – too much time to consider conspiracy theories. I’m just urging everyone I know to make a deal. The longer it takes, the worse it will get for everyone.
Everyone. We all must work together.
I pray for a swift resolution, for all of us.
Thank you all.
The WGA Advocate