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Writer Guild Strike — Day 26 Producers and Writers All Talk and No Action

Saturday, December 1, 2007

The good news is that they are still talking, or at least they will be when they meet again next Tuesday. Hollywood is a creative town — so what’s a little more drama to this cliffhanger of a strike. Each side has it’s own take on why the talks are in recess and what was offered.

Writers Strike

On Thursday the AMPTP put what they called an upped ‘deal’ on the table, which the Writer’s called a “rollback”.

This is the AMPTP’s statement:

LOS ANGELES, November 29, 2007 – “The AMPTP today unveiled a New Economic Partnership to the WGA, which includes groundbreaking moves in several areas of new media, including streaming, content made for new media and programming delivered over digital broadcast channels. The entire value of the New Economic Partnership will deliver more than $130 million in additional compensation above and beyond the more than $1.3 billion writers already receive each year. In response, the WGA has asked for time to study the proposals. While we strongly preferred to continue discussions, we respect and understand the WGA’s desire to review the proposals. We look forward resuming talks on Tuesday, December 4.

We continue to believe that there is common ground to be found between the two sides, and that our proposal for a New Economic Partnership offers the best chance to find it.”

This is what the WGA said in a email to it’s membership:

Fellow members:

There are a lot of rumors and questions floating around, and we’d like to address them.

HAVE NEGOTIATIONS BROKEN DOWN?
No.

DID OUR NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE ASK FOR A BREAK?
No.

THEN WHY THE FOUR DAY BREAK?
On Thursday, the studios and networks gave us some of their proposals, and said they needed more time to fashion the rest. Therefore talks were scheduled to resume on Tuesday.

THE COMPANIES SAY THEY ARE OFFERING US IS A $130 MILLION INCREASE. THE GUILD CALLS IT A ROLLBACK. WHY THE DISPARITY?
The companies have still not explained how they arrived at their $130 million figure, but we can certainly explain how this is a rollback.

OKAY. SO HOW IS THEIR MADE-FOR-INTERNET PROPOSAL A ROLLBACK?
Currently, the writer of a 30-minute prime-time TV show makes almost $21,000. The conglomerates are proposing that if that writer wrote the same show for the Internet, his or her initial compensation would be $2,600. That’s a rollback of 88%.

SO WHAT’S THEIR OFFER ON INTERNET RERUNS?
Currently, the writer of a half-hour television episode makes about $11,600 when his or her episode is first re-run on TV. The companies are proposing that if that same episode is rerun instead on the Internet, they will pay the whopping total of $139 for unlimited reruns for one year–and nothing at all if it only streams for six weeks. About a third of all TV series are now being rerun only on the Internet. This amounts to an immediate 98.8% rollback. And it gets worse. If they decide to call a show “promotional,” they don’t have to pay us anything. It’s a “freepeat.”

WOW. AND WHAT ABOUT FEATURES?
Are you sitting down? The companies want to be able to stream any and all feature films in their entirety, supported by advertising dollars, and pay the writers nothing. Zip. Nada. Bupkus. A 100% rollback.

GIVEN ALL THIS, HOW IN THE WORLD DID THE COMPANIES COME UP WITH THE 130 MILLION DOLLAR FIGURE?
Our question exactly. It’s definitely not a three-year number. As near as we can figure, their proposal might net us that total around the year 2107.

YOU HAVEN’T SAID ANYTHING NEW ABOUT DOWNLOADS.
Neither have they. We are hoping that they will address this essential issue by Tuesday. Stay tuned.

In solidarity,

Nick Kazan
Howard A. Rodman
Phil Robinson
Tom Schulman
(for the Board of Directors)

Apart from the rhetoric the devil is in the details and the bottom line (no pun intended) is how much the Studios will finally cough up for Internet residuals. It is obvious that eventually most people will view their favorite television shows and theatrical films either via streaming off the Internet or downloading. The AMPTP will reduce their manufacturing and marketing costs substantially and hopefully see mega profits. So aside from the usual corporate greediness — they will come to a deal — it is when that has this town on pins and needles.

A lot of my industry friends are out of work and some are already hurting financially. I’ve always called this business bulimic — we binge, by working a lot then purge when the work isn’t there. Most of us try to save as much as we can for these eventualities — but it’s not always that easy.

Meanwhile I’m still at work — at least until December 14th and if the strike isn’t settled soon I may not be working again until mid or late January 2008. I’m being optimistic that they will settle next week, like the rest of us here in LALA Land.

Posted: 2012PT 12/01/07


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