Thursday, November 15, 2007

WGA Strike - Who Do You Side With?

As the strike continues, there is a battle ongoing outside of the negotiation table - for the hearts and minds of the general public. I'm interested in hearing how you feel about all of this when you have a chance.


Anonymous said...

It's not so much that I am in sympathy with those overpaid script writers who continue to collect (residuals) each time a show is reaired, as much as I think all writers should get a piece of the pie when it comes to internet, etc.

Tough call here, but I'd have to be for the writers on general principles.

John said...

If the studio uses a writer's work to sell advertising (as they are on the Internet) the writers should get a cut. Period. Doesn't matter to me if it's a writer with one single credit in a sitcom nobody is watching or Joss Whedon.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

The writers. They deserve to be compensated for their work.

Yes, it's that black-and-white for me.

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

I was apathetic until the writers started pointing to the completely ridiculous and antiquated greed-model of the studios as reason to implement their own ridiculously stupid greed model.

This is my life: "But Sister did something wrong first, Dad! Don't blame me for doing the same thing because she did it fiiiirst!"

When you have an entire division of Viacomm searching YouTube to remove copyrighted material instead of using those same people to POST THE SAME COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL along with some paid commercial advertising embedded...

You have lost touch with reality, people.

You need to be duct taped into a chair and lectured about the future of digital rights management by Cory Doctrow.

I get paid to write boring instructional manuals. Some of my manuals are converted into training classes and instructional videos. I would never DREAM of trying to Unionize and force a crazy business model where I get paid over and over everytime somebody picks up one of my manuals or someone converts it to a different profit opportunity.

I already got paid. Once. That's the gig.

It takes some serious NADS to takes to think that the thirty page script for Married With Children is any different than a thirty page Wigit User Guide.

"But Daaaaad! The studio people are making so much more money than I aaaaaaam!"

Oh, get over yourself. It's their studio. They got a billion dollar a year studio by ponying up huge money and taking huge risks.

You want Studio Suit money? Start a frickin' studio.

Elizabeth said...

I have found the producers' arguments specious at best and insulting at worst. Their web site essentially argues that they lose tons of money to piracy (which they define as... putting their work on the internet without paying for it. Um.) and that writers stink anyway, with their little pop-ups declaring that six of the top ten shows last year were "unscripted." I do not find these to be compelling arguments.

The strongest argument the producers can muster is that they don't know what the internet will pay. Not only is that ridiculous in the extreme to anyone who's ever looked at an advertising budget, but it's contradicted by their own statements to investors about expected revenue from digital sales, advertising and downloads. As several people have said, if they expect revenue will be nothing, why not give them their 0.7 percent of nothing? They cannot claim there is no money in digital, and then sue YouTube for $1 billion for lost digital sales.

I have no stake in this, and yet I find the writers' arguments far more compelling. And, unsurprisingly, better written.

L.C.McCabe said...


I guess I haven't noticed the studios' attempts at winning my heart and mind. It wouldn't matter however, because I am predisposed to side with writers.

If there is a new pot of money created by fully exploiting the public's desire to be entertained, I feel that it should be shared.

Residuals. They are a powerful thing.

Why should studio executives be the only ones to benefit from the previous creative genius of actors and writers? It used to be that actors didn't earn profit from their work that later became "classics." I remember hearing that Dick York died with hardly a nickle to his name, yet re-runs of Bewitched are still being shown and claiming new generations of fans.

That to me is wrong, and thankfully it has changed so that actors receive residuals from work they are creating today.

With the new media such as the internet, I hope that actors are also getting a piece of that pot of money. If they aren't then I would support it if the actors go on strike.

BTW, here's a link to a blog written by a screenwriter in case you'd like to read accounts from the picket lines:

Linda McCabe

Anonymous said...

The writers. 100%. It doesn't matter how much they're paid; what matters if that they're paid fairly. Their work is the basis for big profits and they deserve their share.


rhienelleth said...

WOW...I am stunned at some of responses here from folks who seem to think writers in Hollywood are all getting overpaid, or even fairly paid for their work. Particularly the thought that 'if you want studio money, start a studio'. Really? So....maybe writers who write novels shouldn't get royalties, either. Cause you know, we're all getting rich off our advances anyway, and the rest of that money belongs to the publishers. I don't see any difference between that, and writers in Hollywood getting paid residuals.

To clarify what is fact and what is misconception about the bones of where the writers are coming from, I highly, highly suggest reading this post by House writer/producer Doris Egan on the subject. She talks very frankly about her own current success as a paid writer in Hollywood, and how rare and fortunate a position she is in as such - and how quickly that could change in a month, or a year.

A soundbite: "You may be wondering how this famous "four cents per DVD" shakes down, so let me tell you: for a long, long time I never actually met a writer who'd gotten any money from video or DVD -- that's how ghostly-thin a slice we were served at table."

The Grump said...

How can you not be for the writers?

I've been writing a long time ... but I was most active in the 70s, early 80s, selling non-fiction. Believe me, writers have been screwed by inflation more than people investing in the American stock market. Not only hasn't the rate of payments per word increased, but buyers are wanting to retain more rights to the works bought.

The worst I've heard is a buyer demanding a "work for hire" contract on work they first considered on speculation.

Basically, I think writers need agents/managers more than ever if only to look contracts over with a microscope ... and like K. Nelson, to retain every minuscule right possible in writing.

Micro examination is especially needed for people seeking e-publication.

Dead Man Walking said...

Either way, it looks like if this goes unresolved for three months, the writers will find out how much they're truly worth to studios.

sylvia said...


There is a WORLD of difference between writing a manual and writing a novel. Sorry. But you really can't equate the two.

Someone selling a product has a business without the writer. Various pieces of writing add on to his business: the ads, the manuals. They are important and there's a benefit to getting quality. But that isn't what the business is based around.

A film is based on the written story. A publisher's take is based on the novel. Take away the writer, there is no film, no book. It's a totally different model and it's ludicrous to compare the two.

Your company is paying you X amount for the manual because they have a set market for it, they know exactly who will use it and they know what it's worth to their business. It's easy to set up on a spreadsheet.

How do you place a value like that on a script?

joycemocha said...

I support the writers.

Look, I also spend a lot of time every day composing deathless technical prose about my students' Individual Education Plans. I write technical analysis of their diagnostic testing reports. I write memos to files about classroom observations, conversations with specialists, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseaum. That's what I get paid for, as well as creating my own instructional materials because--golly gee whiz, the only curriculum that addresses my academic level I either get from my old college profs or I buy myself, with my own dime.

Do I put that writing on a par with my fiction, or with the scripts written by screenwriters? Absolutely not.

There's a difference between artistic writing--for the mass market or for the small, huddled literati for whom publication might be the only payment--and writing that is part of a regular, steady gig day job with benefits. Part of that difference involves the use of rights. I seriously doubt that anyone's going to pick up one of my Present Level of Academic Functioning and Performance pages and turn it into a movie, no matter how well it's written. My writing supports a specific product--student performance--that at least nominally is not tied to my creativity.

Then again, Some Folks (and you know who you are) probably figure I'm biased on the subject, given that I'm also a member of the National Education Association, characterized by former Secretary of Education Rod Paige as a "terrorist organization" (and whose puppets duly searched out each and every response to that statement by Secretary Paige, even in a small urban university newspaper, and formented an appropriately blustery response).

Lorelei said...

I show up at the Overland gate at Sony Pictures every morning at 5:30 a.m.. Guess whose side I'm on?

Jaye Wells said...

Even though some of my friends are now jobless because of this strike, I absolutely support the writers. BTW, so do my unemployed friends.

Josephine Damian said...

Er... the writers. Who else would a writer support?

Like every other aspect of life, the rules and laws are lagging far behind the advances and proliferation of technology and "new media."

Lorelei said...

Screenwriters are overpaid? Some screenwriters do make a lot of money. So do the movies they write. Should writers be starving artists and not participate in the profits of a very profitable industry?

Half the 12,000-member WGA is unemployed at any one time. Those who are working earn on average somewhere in the high five figures. They then pay their taxes, 10% to their agent, 15% to their manager, 4% to an attorney if they have one, and 2.5% to the WGA. You do the math. And that earnings average includes the guys making a million dollars a year.

We are trying to save the middle-class writer. To preserve the residuals they get just as novelists receive royalties. Or maybe some folks think that because certain novelists are making a lot of money that no novelists should receive royalties?

Even if you do think screenwriters should be cut off from the ginormous profits being earned in Hollywood, what do you think would happen to the money? Here's a hint: studio heads would not use it to feed homeless puppies and kittens.

Dwight's Writing Manifesto said...

"So....maybe writers who write novels shouldn't get royalties, either. I don't see any difference between that, and writers in Hollywood getting paid residuals."

No. A more accurate analogy to the writers strike would be:

1. I wrote a book. I got an advance.

2. You bought my book. (Thanks!) I got some of your money. My publisher got some of your money.

3. You sold the book at a garage sale. My publisher found out about it and sent the lady who bought the book a bill for the full amount.

4. The lady who bought the book at your garage sale gave the book to her mom. The publisher found out about it and sent mom and daughter a court summons, suing them for hundreds of thousands of dollars in copyright infringements.

5. Me, Mr. Author, looked at the stupid greed model of the publisher doing stupid stuff and said, "Hey dude, gimme some of that cash you had big balls to demand from an Entertainment Product which was designed to be given to millions FREE in the first place."

Really. I'm baffled by the expectation that there is a special classification of writers who get paid over and over for a single act of creative work.

The grips who lighted up the set don't get paid every time.

The craft services chick who fed the actors doesn't get paid every time.

But the writer thinks she should be paid every time for a venture in which they risked nothing and contributed no capital.

"Daaaaad. Janey bought a purse with her babysitting money. I want a purse toooooo."

Sheesh. The times in which we live.

Lorelei said...

But the analogy is inexact. Screenwriters don't get paid when you sell your used DVDs at a garage sale. Nor do any of the other creative people. An author does get paid on the hardback, paperback, and any other versions of their book. They get paid for serializations, audiobooks, and any and all other exploitations of their work.

As to the vast quantities of money screenwriters are seeking: we currently receive one-third of one percent of the money the studios earn on DVDs. We are asking for two percent. And on streamed internet delivery we earn nothing at all, while the studios are earning hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising revenue.

As to the "below-the-line" folks not receiving residuals, well, no, they don't. Neither do the folks at the printing plants in the publishing industry. But our residuals are used directly in calculations for studio contributions to the pension and health funds of the below-the-line unions. You can see why the studios are eager to end residual payments. They would cut more costs than just what they pay to the writers.

Anonymous said...

Sir Lyons,
The Writers Vs. Producers strike reminds me of a conversation
between Charlie Brown and his sister Sally on the wonderful thought provoking cartoon, "A Charlie Brown's Christmas." Sally, portraying the Writers while Charlie Brown, the Producers.

Sally(Writers)..."Dear Santa (Or Producers), I've been extra good this year so I have a long list of things I want.(Demands) If it gets too complicated, send money. How about tens and twenties?"

Charlie Brown(Producers)..."Oh, Brother."

Sally(Writers)..."All I want is what's coming to me. All I want is my fair share."

Charlie Brown(Producers)..."Good Grief"

Enough said... Sweller

Lori said...

I support the writers.

If you want to compare the screenwriters' demands with novelists, it would be more accurate to look at book-to-film rights.

A novelist writes a book, which is published and distributed as a book. People read it. The novelist gets royalties based on how well, or how not well, the novel does.

Later, the publisher and agent decide to sell film rights to a Hollywood studio but they decide not to give the novelist any cut of the profits, because the idea is no longer a book and, besides, they're not certain how well the movie will do. After all, it's just advertising for the book, right?

Nah. Not a chance. If the book is distributed in a different medium, then the novelist gets a fair percentage, negotiated under a separate contract.

With digital distribution of many things increasing, it's very important that writers are compensated for those rights.

As far as the technical writing comparison, odds are, your contract includes a "work-for-hire" clause, which means the initial contract covered all rights and permits the purchasers to do what they will with the material. The same "work-for-hire" model does not cover screenwriting or novel writing, where only specific rights were sold. The studios are trying to expand the definition of those rights. That far exceeds the bounds of their authority.

Lorelei said...

There's a river of money pouring into Hollywood. People make money. Sometimes they make a lot of money. If somebody can explain to me why writers should not receive a share of that, or why their share should not increase when the river grows ever deeper and broader and swifter, I should be agog to learn.

jlboduch said...

The writers, absolutely. The actors get to cash in, so why not the writers? There should be consistency across the board and in keeping with the (admittedly overblown) pay structure in Hollywood. Writers should get their piece of the pie, too.

Impy said...

Having thoroughly reviewed the sites and arguments of both sides... I side with the writers. Internet distribution is still distribution, and writers deserve either a piece of that income, or an upfront payment that takes that distribution into account.

I suppose I view residuals as being a sort of "payment plan" for the studios in question. The writer's work is obviously essential to production and possibly even the make-or-break factor, but the studio can't afford to actually pay what it's worth right off the bat if they want to turn a quick profit on the production, so instead they offer a smaller base rate plus residuals: effectively a future, sales-based payment for work already completed.

I may be wrong, but isn't this matter remarkably similar to authors receiving royalties? A publisher usually doesn't buy the work outright because it'd make the numbers really out of balance and tie up a lot of capital, so instead they arrange for sales-based future payments (royalties), and a minimal upfront investment (advance). If a publisher wanted to include electronic distribution on a novel, they'd certainly have to pay royalties on that and the agent would presumably ensure a good deal. How can I help but hope for the WGA members to get the same?

FLRealtor337 said...

I am not a writer. I'm Jane Q. Public who stumbled on to this blog - I just watch the shows and enjoy the fruits of your labor. (Thank you by the way)

I am STUNNED to learn that the screen writers are not participating in residuals in all forms and distributions of your work product. I am saddened to learn of the amazing creative talents that have gone historically uncompensated. This is theft. Why is this so?

You are artists who provide a core contribution to an intellectual property right that clearly has high value.

Without your contributions there is fundamentally no product. (I think the post that compares your contributions to catering is a gross insult.)

Why is there reluctance to allow you to share in the perpetual/long term gain from your art? Why should your work product be treated any differently than other forms of art? I am very puzzled by all of this but I am greatful for your output, humbled by your skills and in strong support of your participation in future revenues procured from the fruits of your labor. If the quality of your work (in whole or in part) is the reason a work is profitable, you're entitled to participate in all profits. This seems very fundamental to me.

I'm in the Real Estate profession. I don't understand the fundamentals of how you (writers) got to this place. But perhaps you should have better lawyers. And you should certainly stick together in the negotiations.

Your patrons should foster their relationships with you and treat you like the golden geese that you are. Sure there are other geese - but are their eggs as gold?

Perhaps political speech writing for the time being? The candidates could certainly use your help!

I'm not sure what - as a member of the general public - I can do to show my support but you certainly have it.