You think you’ve seen fighting words? These are fighting words.

This letter from IATSE president Thomas C. Short was hand delivered to WGA West president Patric Verrone yesterday afternoon.

Letter1

Page 2, after the jump.


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  1. Thes says:

    I am a writer. I think Verrone and Young have screwed us into the dirt! We could have had the reality shows! 10-15 writers per show. The AMPTP hasn’t turned union against union, Verrone and Young have! I didn’t want this. I want the rest of the business to know that. This was done for matters of ego not economics. Attention assholes! No matter how big a name you two think you are making for yourselves, the starlets still won’t fuck the writer. Not even you. Let me go back to work, will you?
    Pissed off.

  2. Yo Hat says:

    I 100% agree with Ben Hughes!
    You all get sooo defensive when someone challenges the basis for this strike!! It’s as if we are all expected to agree with the and show solidarity! I don’t!! I wish more time was devoted to stories of the below the line crew, their feeling on this and what is being lost!

  3. Lee Williams says:

    Devil’s Advocate here…from an Independent Producer’s P.O.V., figuring out HOW money is made off the Internet is an even bigger question than how much should everyone be making from the Internet. Yes the BIG studios are further exploiting their brands by streaming and mobisodes, webisodes etc, but whether this exploitation is actually hooking more and more people to tune in or subscribe to a particular cable package…does anyone have those figures? Obviously Pay TV, or Internet Pay download can be quantified…but if ABC Online “airs” a day-old “Desperate Housewives”, and adds in ad time to support the web arena of webmasters, broadband, etc…does anyone see it? Does actual money trickle down to anyone? Are there firms setting up to start collecting this info to quantify residuals? I’m only concerned that the WGA strike is a wee bit pre mature. Just a wee bit…probably about 2 years too early. Don’t get me wrong, I support the right to Strike…but has the WGA contracted a third party accounting firm/stats info firm to quantify the trickle down resids from those digital ancillary area not in the WGA agreement…rather than speculating? Would the Big Studios agree to this? I don’t believe Studios are hiding information. This info is the KEY info we are ALL looking for across the globe. It seems to me that both sides would benefit from a joint participation with a third party firm to step in and offer an ongoing report in this area of web-dig broadcasting and it’s ability to generate actual antonymous income and it’s own expenses.
    Yes, seeing Julie’s happy face seems to “make light” and doesn’t necessarily help the desperate and seriousness of the WGA’s concerns and the entire situation. As well, these images on YouTube can only frustrate those others who are losing or lost their jobs from the WGA strike fallout. But her well meaning intentions, as well as those of the other “recognizable” faces are understood.
    Cheers
    Lee Williams
    Independent Producer_Animation
    Boomstone Entertainment Inc.
    Lee Williams

  4. RB says:

    What on earth does Thomas Short think he can accomplish with a public attack on WGA? Does he think the strike will end sooner because of his remarkably divisive letter? It won’t. Isn’t a unified front a more helpful means of getting the AMPTP back to the table? What kind of union leader is he?
    Two-thirds or more of the American public sides with the writers. Less than ten percent side with the studios. It seems that Thomas Short is in that tiny minority. But it seems highly unlikely that his membership is as far removed from the rest of the country.

  5. whatever says:

    “A Moron or a Shill?” No, Stephen — your comment is just immature. I think Ben is thoughtful and raising points that the writers ought to be able to respond to in a meaningful way. He doesn’t say you can’t have your residuals — he says this is a selfish, greedy strike which is causing people with much lower pay and no residuals to lose a job? That’s not moronic, even if Ben overestimates the income of some writers — it raises a real concern, which some writers will acknowledge. For the other writers, how can they swallow every line that Verrone throws at them about why this strike had to happen NOW (about how the studios never responded to the writers’ proposals, the studios wanted this strike now, the writers acted in good faith the whole time, blah blah blah)? That is not the case — before the strike, the studios had been putting forth proposals, too, which the writers’ negotiators considered too insufficient to respond to AT ALL, too. There had been discussions around the issues, too, outside of the official “proposals” of both sides, and discussions about how the wga was contemplating a strike later in the year. Then, after announcing the strike for November, the WGA put forth a last ditch proposal as an ultimatum, and the studios failed to take that bait. This is hard-ball negotiating, but does not make it necessary that the writers strike at all, much less right now. RUmor has it that the studios may by-pass the writers and start early negotiations with the other guilds because the other guilds are reasonable negotiating partners. Given all the posturing and blow-hard hyperbole of the current WGA abotu this strike and the dire circumstances of the writers, it is no wonder they might pursue this path….
    Furthermore, TV writers are not like Stephen King. They are hired to write for a particular show. Their work may be great, but they work as a team with producers, development people, etc. to come up with stories and scripts. They are hired with nice high salaries to work for hire, and they are not bearing the risk, as are those novelists of the failure of their shows (except they’ll get fewer residuals, which are just gravy). Moreover, of the book authors you know, how many are fortunate enough to be able to rely on what they are paid as authors? Many of them have to work in other jobs to make ends meet. I don’t want that to be the case for all writers, but WGA members became TV writers to avoid that plight. They get a great salary for a great, cushy job. And that is not to say that they shouldn’t participate in the success by getting some bit of the residuals, too, but they really are not entitled in the same way as are novelists, songwriters, etc., who live and die by their actual success.

  6. Ed says:

    Maybe if you half-informed windbags spent as much time working to resolve this dispute as you do regurgitating union handouts and studio propaganda something would actually be accomplished. Despite the constant allusions to the “starving artist” and “faceless megalithic corporations,” there is a middle ground to be reached. Get your bloviating asses in gear and do it. This is costing real people real jobs, not hypothetical future returns. Both the studios and the writers owe those that toil on their projects that much.

  7. lucky hammer says:

    Enjoy your depleted Health Fund Ben Hughes.

  8. Stephen says:

    Ben Hughes:
    You’re either a shill, or a moron.
    I’m guessing the latter.

  9. JR says:

    Please remember that being a member of the WGA, or SAG even, often means that you are precluded from other industry jobs because of a job you may have done. For example, as a SAG commercial actor, if you act for one day on a Honda commercial, you can not work for any other car company for a long time. Another example for a writer would be, if you work on a show for Disney, you may be restricted from doing writing work for other companies during a certain period.
    Some unions have twelve hour turn arounds, golden time, meal penalties and the freedom to work for many different employers. Writers do not. Writers get a set rate and “residual” payment. which, as defined by the dictionary, is “a remainder or leftover” payment of what is owed. Not a bonus.
    We all pick our own careers, and the battles, perks, peaks and valleys that come with them.
    IATSE walked out of a show I was working on to fight for their UNION rates. Then they got their golden time and “twelve hour turn around” penalties and when the walkout forced us to shoot until 2 am the next night. I got nothing extra. It cost me time away from home and money and I remain on their side.
    Remember our fight is with the studios, not each other.

  10. steve graves says:

    Geez Ben, where do I begin?
    As a union member who works on motion pictures and aspires to write them I must voice my objection to essentially everything you wrote. What exactly is ‘unfortunate’ about belonging to a union and enjoying the benefits of collective bargaining? And exactly how many screenplays have you written, Ben? Do you have any concept how much work goes into a final draft, or do you just assume that writers spit out their finished products with the same careless zeal that you scribble your ridiculous comments? You’re obviously upset because you’re out of work, and that’s understandable, but if there weren’t writers to create the movies and television shows that people thankfully watch then you never would have had a job to be bitter about in the first place. The writers deserve residuals for their efforts just like you deserve a pension for yours. I’m sorry they make more money than you do Ben, but if you gotta beef with capitalism don’t take that out on the scribes. I guarantee the average writer works a helluva lot harder for a helluva lot less than you ever will.
    Hang in there, WGA. Sometimes the only option is to fight.
    Steve Graves, Local 80

  11. Patrick Meighan says:

    Proud WGA member, here, with a reminder that IATSE’s health and welfare fund is paid for out of residual compensation.
    If the WGA caves and accepts $0 in residual compensation for re-use of broadcast content in new media venues–if 0% becomes the precedent for internet residuals–it’s not just the writer (and the actor, and the director) who gets $0… but the IATSE health and welfare fund. That matters, ’cause as more and more tv and film content is diverted onto the web, the re-broadcasting of television and film will increasingly go the way of the dodo, which means the residual will too. IATSE’s only hope of fully funding its health and welfare fund in the future is to get a share of new media residuals, which will only happen if the WGA wins this fight and sets that precedent… a precedent the studios would kill to keep from happening.
    All this is to say, IATSE, the writer’s fight is your fight too. We’re just on the front lines, is all. But believe me, if they break us, IATSE, they’re coming after you next. So either back us up and hope we win, or strap up and get ready for your turn.
    Patrick Meighan
    Culver City, CA

  12. none says:

    I’m WGA writer and I’m sick and fucking tired of seeing Julia Louis Dreyfus’ shit eating grin walking the picket lines. And what’s up with “picketing with the stars”? we’re on strike for christs sake. doesn’t the wga realize people are suffering? maybe i can make it through or some other guy, but a lot of people are gonna lose their jobs. stop spending so much time spinning this story and smelling your own farts and get back to the fucking table!!

  13. none says:

    I’m WGA writer and I’m sick and fucking tired of seeing Julia Louis Dreyfus’ shit eating grin walking the picket lines. And what’s up with “picketing with the stars”? we’re on strike for christs sake. doesn’t the wga realize people are suffering? maybe i can make it through or some other guy, but a lot of people are gonna lose their jobs. stop spending so much time spinning this story and smelling your own farts and get back to the fucking table!!

  14. The Worker Bee says:

    The ONLY rational and appropriate response to this is – I AM SO SORRY THAT YOU FEEL THIS WAY, I REALLY AM. Really, that’s how you address a child in the middle of a snit, you comiserate and identify but you don’t budge – not one inch. ESPECIALLY when said child is wrong and unreasonable. So, as a WGA member, IATSE, I am SO sorry you feel this way. I really am.
    Oh, and Ben, I am SO sorry you feel that way, I really am…

  15. Anonymous says:

    The FULL quote, rather than the truncated and thus misleading citation by Mr. Short:
    “‘I just lay back and look at the havoc I’ve wreaked,’ Young quipped, only half joking, during an interview last week at his office at WGA West Coast headquarters in the Fairfax district. ‘They [the studios] don’t care for the fact that I tried to build as much strength for our side as possible. I’m not going to apologize for that.'”
    (From the LA Times’ November 12 print edition.)
    It’s not that Young doesn’t regret the havoc. I think everyone does. But he’s not going to apologize for striving to make the strike as devastating as possible, because that is one thing that can hasten a return to negotiations.

  16. Raised Union says:

    I wonder if the IATSE is going after the AMPTP too? Or has the AMPTP just succeeded in turning union against union?
    I can’t imagine it would have been intelligent on the WGA’s part to blindly continue negotiations in good faith (while the AMPTP sat across the table in bad faith, waiting to force a strike) and NOT be preparing for a strike like this. No one WANTS to go on strike, but it is certainly not a decision made overnight. Of course there was months of discussion and preparation.

  17. Mike K says:

    As someone who does NOT work in the film and television industry (or publishing or recording industries, either) I am wearied by the selfish and ignorant comments of people like you, Ben.
    To the best of my knowledge, Tom Clancy and Stephen King never had the means to print, bind, market and distribute their creative outputs on a global or national level. They needed help, too. In every case, the publisher took on the risk of those aforementioned tasks against the promise of future profits. Clancy and King were paid royalties because of the success of their collobaration. They wouldn’t have made a cent standing on their local street corner waving 400 page manuscripts and begging for your $24.95.
    True, screenwriters are not usually the only creative force involved in the product you watch up on the screen at the local cineplex–although I doubt that the truly significant creative inputs number more than a handful at any given time. The production artist who helps set the mood for a given set, or film, contributes creatively, but the story is rarely impacted by their contributions.
    Is your argument that because some small portion of WGA Guild members earn significantly more than you, that their compensation is by definition fair? Surely not, right? Is it that screenwriters are not deserving of residuals for repeated use of their creative efforts because the medium allows for “thousands” of creative inputs? Surely not, right?
    You mention that “everyone else in this industry has to battle for years” to acheive success, but that your paycheck is lower. Should I infer, therefore, that no battle involving compensation that exceeds your own is just?
    It’s just nuts. Short-sighted, selfish on your own part, and nuts.
    Good luck on that screenplay.

  18. Below the line worker says:

    Ben,
    You think a writer writes 10 episodes in a single season? They don’t.
    Also, writers are the author of their work, just like songwriters and novelists. They turn over their authorship in exchange for residuals.

  19. Ben Hughes says:

    As someone who works in the film and television industry (yes unfortunately I have to be a union member) I am sickened by the selfish tactics and avarice being displayed by the WGA and it’s members.
    WGA calls itself a union of workers and is attempting to show solidarity with other unions and liberal organizations across the country.. this makes me sick. If everyone in these organizations new the full story about WGA members existing compensation they’d probably ask why they’re getting involved to provide a bunch of millionaire fat cat writers even more millions.
    In David Young’s recent letter to the Membership he says “This is a paltry amount for work that we have created” (www.wga.org/subpage_member.aspx?id=2572). This is an extremely offensive statement to the rest of the Hollywood creative community who’re not nearly as greedy as this union and by your actions you’ve put out of work…. this statement is repeated in an even more offensive manner in additional rhetoric being issued and supported by the WGA and it’s members like the video titled “Why We Strike” (www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ55Ir2jCxk). It opens with the words “When an author writes a book, they get paid for every copy sold, and a songwriter gets paid every time their song is performed or published”. True, but you cannot compare the creative process of books to movies and television! Tom Clancy and Stephen King are the ONLY creative contributors to their work, movies and television programs are a creative collaboration of hundreds, sometime thousands of creative artists… and don’t tell me you’re going to try and compare yourselves with Lennon and McCartney or Carole King or Bob Dylan? These singer songwriters have amazing talents when it comes to producing, arranging performing and recording their material… talents you do NOT have, talents that you need the rest of the Hollywood creative community for.. a creative community that you seem quite happy to drive away from the industry by putting us out of work with no resolution in sight.
    In addition when he announced the strike Patric Verrone said “The companies are seeking to take advantage of new technology to drastically reduce the residual income that sustains middle class writers and keeps them in this business”. Really Patric? You call yourselves middle class! Well let’s look at that for a moment, for writing 1 episode of an hour television drama WGA members get paid a minimum of $56,653 (www.wga.org/subpage_writersresources.aspx?id=1610) … so for a series (around 4-5 months work) that’s over half a million dollars! I know, I know I’ve heard the rhetoric, WGA’s already on record saying that it takes many years to reach that level of success, it’s often months between projects for writers and what sustains them through these dry spells are residuals… you know what? Everyone else in this industry has to battle for years and years to achieve “success” except our paycheck are considerably smaller than yours (for the same episode of television our minimums are less than $2,000) and we do not get residuals to tie us over between projects!
    WGA and WGA members; you are going to kill an entire industry with these selfish, gluttonous tactics that you’re employing… you’re going to drive REAL middle class people out of the industry, people who aren’t as disgustingly selfish as yourselves, people who don’t have agents and multi-million dollar production deals, people who don’t need their ego’s stroked to go to work everyday, people who just want to work and are now not able because you decided in your greedy best interests to put us out of work so that one day you can make more millions whilst we continue to struggle with paying mortgages and putting our children through school.

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