Monday, December 31, 2007

The History Of Animation - At Least According To Itunes

So, here's an interesting coincidence.

As I'm talking about it here, as I want to debate it with Stephen Worth elsewhere... Itunes has put up "The History of Animation" for sale. Since I can't copy and paste off Itunes, I'll transcribe as best I can. The bold stuff is ITUNES text, not me.


"While the technology of animation has changed radically during it's 100 year history, the goal remains the same: To create characters wth characgter. Take a time-traveling trip with us through some of the classic eras and key characters of Toontown - and meet some of the most compelling picks from the current crop. Below, you'll find animated shows and shorts that are classic and modern, hand-drawn and created on a computer, for kids and for adults only, but all memorable."

It breaks down as follows:

"The Golden Age"
Hand drawn animation dominated the screen from the nineteen-teens through the mid '50s in the Golden Age of Animation. Why are these shows and shorts golden? Because their luster has never tarnished - these timeless toons are every bit as funny today as they were decades ago."

Includes: The Three Little Pigs, The Rabbit of Seville and other Bugs Bunny Cartoons, The Brave Little Tailer, I Eats My Spinach, Duck Dodgers in the 24th and a half century, Dumbo, Donald's Crime, and Cinderella.

"The classic TV age"
When theaters stopped showing shorts in the mid '50s, animation found a new home on the smaller screen. These new cartoons, crafted specifically for TV, left behind a legacy of colorful characters from Yogi Bear to the Pink Panther to the retro-futuristic Jetsons."

Includes: Robin Hood Yogi and three other Yogi Bear shorts, A Scooby Doo, Several Pink Panthers, "The Birth of Astro Boy," "Elroy in Wonderland" from the Jetsons, A Jonny Quest and Birdman and the Galaxy Trio.

"The present: For All Ages"
If the Golden Age of Animation ended 50 years ago, the current state of animation must be the Platinum Age as cable TV, computer graphic imagery (CGI) and generations of viewers inject new life into the art form. Witty, warm and wonderfully imaginative, these entries are both kid-approved and adult friendly."

Includes: Fosters' "Good Wilt Hunting Part I," FOP's "Abracatastrophe," Pixar's "One Man Band," SpongeBob, Cars, AVATAR, a Jimmy Neutron and "The Danish Poet."

"The Present for adults!"
Foul-mouthed. Irreverent. Insane. Despite the often inapproproate language and behavior displayed in these cutting-edge shows, it somehow seems appropriate... cartoons started as entertainment for adults, after all, and now the medium has come full circle with these often brilliant and hilarious entries."

Includes: Southpark's "Make Love, Not Warcraft," Robot Chicken, Family Guy's "To Live and Die In Dixie," Aqua Teen Hunger Force's "Universal Remonster," Afrom Samurai's "Revenge," A Venture Brothers episode, a Morel Orel episode and "The Second Renaissance" from the Animatrix.

So... a lot of stuff chosen. A lot of stuff NOT.

Opening it up for discussion!

Saturday, December 29, 2007



I'm a member of ASIFA. I've hosted the Annie Awards. I like a lot of the people involved in it. I support the organization.
But god almighty, I cannot stand the narrow, if you can't draw you don't even deserve to be a part of animation history attitude of their Archive. So... I'm tossing it out here for debate.

To see their top ten "most important topics," click on over here. There is intelligent, decent commentary, as always. Stephen Worth is a library of information about the history of this business which - even though I couldn't draw if you put a gun to my head - I love being a part of.

But, as always, there's this abject hatred of animation script writers that drives me nuts. Apparently, here was the big point for the top ten discussions about animation: #8 - Animation writing.

That being said, I'm opening it up for discussion here. And, as a dues paying member of ASIFA, I figure I can cut and paste just like everyone else. My comments will be in BOLD AND ITAL.

2007 Review: 8 Writing Cartoons

As the ASIFA-Hollywood Animation Archive completes its second year in operation, it's time to review the accomplishments of the past year. Over the next week, I'll be posting a countdown of the ten most important subjects we've covered in 2007. See if your list matches mine. Click on the link to see more on this topic.

Cartoon Writers


One of the best things to happen to animation in the past few years is the growth of blogging among animation professionals. Topics that used to be discussed only in obscure trade journals or at private symposiums are now discussed publicly on the internet, where participants from all over the world can benefit from the exchange of information.

Agreed. Regardless of your opinions, it's been nice to share stories, history and information. Hey! So far, we're on the same page!

One of the principle catalysts for discussion on the net is John Kricfalusi's blog, All Kinds of Stuff. A series of John's posts on writing for animation created a wave of comment across the "blogosphere". (1)

Good god, I don't know where to start. But what the hell... lets try.

(1) Agreed. And I like John K's blog. Most of the time, it's informative. It's fun to read. Yes, everything is touched with his opinion and point of view, but the guy is talented and smart and I like to visit his blog. Besides, who's blog ISN'T touched by the bloggers P.O.V.? I'm just as guilty.

A prominent cartoon scriptwriter vehemently disagreed with John's opinion that cartoons should be written by cartoonists. (2)

(2) I have my doubts about this. I would be willing to say that "prominent cartoon script writer" (whoever it was) was more trying to make the point that there are more than one ways to write a cartoon. And if he disagreed with anything, it's the same thing I vehemently disagree with, which is that script writers have no place in animation.

Maybe that person DID say that cartoonists shouldn't write cartoons. But if he did, that makes him a moron. Okay? No animation script writer truly thinks cartoonists shouldn't be writing cartoons.

Are we clear? Can we move on?

But when he was asked to name his favorite golden age cartoon writer, the scriptwriter was unable to come up with a single name... This isn't particularly surprising because THERE WERE NO CARTOON SCRIPTWRITERS prior to 1960. (3)

(3) So what if there were no cartoon scriptwriters before 1960? What does that mean? There were no computers either. Or Wacom tablets. Or internet. Or, courtesy of the era, probably not a lot of minorities and women in positions to create cartoons either. Should we go back to that, or how about we just accept the fact that things evolve and there's more than one way to do something? Good Christ, it's like listening to my Grandfather complain about new music, children and all their "hipping and their hopping."

Many people working in animation today have very little idea of how cartoons were made in the first half century of the medium. But Walt Disney was happy to tell you how he wrote his cartoons...

...and it was the same at every other golden age animation studio...

Here's the Terry-Toons story department...

...and a "script" for an MGM Tom & Jerry cartoon...

...and a page from the "script" to Max Fleischer's Mr. Bug Goes To Town...

...and this one from Warner Bros by my pick as the greatest cartoon writer of all time, Warren Foster. Check out the link below for a complete storyboard by Foster from the pilot episode of The Yogi Bear Show.

For that, you should go to the ASIFA ARCHIVE SITE - It's their images and film, it's worth watching, and it deserves your support.

After the first of the year, I'll have some more storyboards to post.

Stephen Worth
Animation Archive

So, to Steve, I say this:

There are people who got into cartoons because of The Simpsons, or South Park, or Family Guy. THAT is the animation writing they aspire to. That's what THEY find funny.

There are also plenty of people who got into it for Spongebob, and Ren and Stimpy, and the Flintstones and the classic Warner Brothers cartoons. Hell, that's where my initial love of cartoons began.

But what *I* like in a cartoon, and what I enjoy seeing in a cartoon, is different now. It doesn't EXCLUDE the classics... but includes stuff being done right now that I think has it's own level of importance.

It doesn't make me the absolute authority on all things writing, it doesn't make me "the rightest person in the debate." But it doesn't make me wrong, either.

So I propose this to the director of my archive. Post five scripts you like. FIVE. Five scripts that were written since 1960 that you, as the director of this archive is open minded enough to look at words on a page that turned into cartoons and go "Hey, this is good enough to be recognized."

Use that encyclopedic knowledge of yours and give me some examples of scripts you think deserve to be archived as well.

Come on, man. I'm giving you 47 years of history to find five cartoons where the scripts were written first, and animated later. Give script animation writers some examples of what they can aspire to, since we're part of ASIFA as well.

I bear the Archive and it's director no ill will. And I also know, by the way, that I am WAAAAY out numbered in this discussion on the blog-o-sphere - that's simple math. The artist to writer ratio on any cartoon is heavily (and justifyably so) tilted toward artists.

But what I'm asking doesn't seem unreasonable. Can you do it? Will you even try?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Re-evaluating my "it's not good"

I was going to respond to Hulett's response, but... figured, what the hell. Lets put it all in a topic.Steve posed the question:

"So ... does this '07 strike have the trajectory of the '88 strike?

1988: WGA goes on strike. Carson returns (writing his own monologues.) WGA settles.

2007: WGA goes on strike. Jay, Conan, and the rest return. Letterman's writers writing, everybody else adlibbing? WGA ... ???"

I have my doubts about that now, as I reconsider things. Part of that reconsideration is the E-mail update I received from the WGA about the matter. I'm sure it will be on DeadlineHollywoodDaily by this time tomorrow, so I have no problem posting to discuss:

"To Our Fellow Members,

We are writing to let you know that have reached a contract with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company that puts his show and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson back on the air with Guild writers. This agreement is a positive step forward in our effort to reach an industry-wide contract. While we know that these deals put only a small number of writers back to work, three strategic imperatives have led us to conclude that this deal, and similar potential deals, are beneficial to our overall negotiating efforts.

First, the AMPTP has not yet been a productive avenue for an agreement. As a result, we are seeking deals with individual signatories. The Worldwide Pants deal is the first. We hope it will encourage other companies, especially large employers, to seek and reach agreements with us. Companies who have a WGA deal and Guild writers will have a clear advantage. Companies that do not will increasingly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage. Indeed, such a disadvantage could cost competing networks tens of millions in refunds to advertisers.

Me: I sort of agree with this. Yes, it will be seen by the vast majority of the American public as a chink in the armor. And unless people are sampling late night shows, and realizing "Oh, shit... Letterman is getting better jokes, better bits and better guests," it will continue to look like a chink in the armor.

But I also trust Letterman to beat this topic to death because not only can he and only he, do it from a moral high ground... What's to stop Judd Apatow, or Joss Whedon, from writing a piece for his show and freelancing under the new WGA contract? Or celebrities helping? Or constant, incessant top ten lists and sketches that point out the writer's side of the debate?

CBS is now in the hellacious position... of giving an hour a day to someone who is going to tear them apart for their corporate CBS position.

Thoughts continue:

"Second, this is a full and binding agreement. Worldwide Pants is agreeing to the full MBA, including the new media proposals we have been unable to make progress on at the big bargaining table. This demonstrates the integrity and affordability of our proposals. There are no shortcuts in this deal. Worldwide Pants has accepted the very same proposals that the Guild was prepared to present to the media conglomerates when they walked out of negotiations on December 7.

This is a big piece of what's swaying me. They cracked someone. They made the deal work. And Letterman, who gets more of his show in success, and was paying the rent on the Ed Sullivan Theater while this was all going down, had the most to personally lose.

And yet, they did the deal with the WGA.

Finally, while our preference is an industry-wide deal, we will take partial steps if those will lead to the complete deal. We regret that all of us cannot yet return to work. We especially regret that other late night writers cannot return to work along with the Worldwide Pants employees. But the conclusion of your leadership is that getting some writers back to work under the Guild’s proposed terms speeds up the return to work of all writers.

And there's something to that, provided the American Public that watches Dave, Jay, Stewart, Colbert, et al see the difference in quality and react to it. Think about this bullshit with the NFL on the Patriots game. Greed would have said 60 percent of the country would have missed it. Pressure changed that.

It also lets other shows that might not be "#1" realize... if they play ball, if they do what's right, if they try to find a way to make the WGA deal work... maybe they get to start working on their shows again.

You gonna tell me the guys at CSI don't have the ability to push for change? Isn't that how Family Guy/Futurama/Simpsons and the PJ's (yikes) finally went WGA?

Side-by-side with this agreement, and any others that we reach, are our ongoing strike strategies. In the case of late-night shows, our strike pressure will be intense and essential in directing political and SAG-member guests to Letterman and Ferguson rather than to struck talk shows. At this time, picket lines at venues such as NBC (both Burbank and Rockefeller Center), The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and the Golden Globes are essential. Outreach to advertisers and investors will intensify in the days ahead and writers will continue to develop new media content itself to advance our position.

Pressure. Clout. It's what Steve Hulett says the WGA needs to win their fight. Interesting point: Letterman is NOT number one. Leno is. Where's the clout in getting Letterman to agree to the deal?

The clout is... he can BECOME #1. The clout is, the other shows will look weak in comparison. Maybe this is a chink in the armor. But I think - as I spend the day thinking about it - that it's not. I think, maybe, it will make anyone else that doesn't try to do the same thing look like colossal dicks.

Perhaps corporations don't care about that.

But showrunners? Executive Producers? Stars of popular anythings? They do. They want to be back to work. Back to creating. Back to being able to prattle on about how cool they are in "Desperate Housewives."

And I think that's about to become very apparently with Letterman's return.

Should be interesting to watch.

It's not good.

Even if Letterman spends 60 minutes an episode making fun of the AMPTP for their antics, tactics and tantrum...'s still brought us the writer-free return of Leno, Conan, The Daily Show and Colbert. (How is Colbert going to play a character when that character isn't him? How does he do that and not write it?)

At least the NFL network got a big dose of "screw you and your alleged monopoly" this week. Somebody got told that regardless of their power, they couldn't just do whatever they wanted to.

Shame that windsurfing idiot John Kerry couldn't have a little more passion about the television industry as a whole, as opposed to one f***ing football game. But hey! Look! Our government cares about something! Sort of.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas, and merry 100th post! all of you.

Even those of you I periodically disagree with.

Today, for me:

1) Got a JVC HD Hard drive camcorder so I can (but probably won't) make my own short films.
2) Got a book on raising your dog Jewish, which I found to be hilarious.
3) Made an artichoke soup.

Four is more amazing than anything else.

I hope all of you have a great holiday. I like the fact that the 100th post here is venom free. Can't promise that will be the case for the comments, but the post... wishes you all well. :)

- Steve

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The bummer that is the return of late night talk.

So, total bummer.

I know the other side.  "People are out of work" but we know what it's really about: "The networks are putting pressure on the hosts."

I suppose it starts with Letterman - the fact that the WGA is making a deal with him and his company, which they can do fair and square, didn't put pressure on the other late night networks to make deals... put the networks in the position to put pressure on their hosts to get back to work.

Yes, only Letterman will have writers.

But Jon Stewart's mind isn't going to simply shut off because he doesn't have writers.  This is a funny, brilliant comedian who can think and write on his feet... and now will, in the midst of the strike.

Yes, only Letterman will have the good guests.  Because the "A" listers aren't going to want to cross a strike line.

But if Viacom and GE can force their hosts back to their hosts chairs, don't you think they're going to do the same to the rest of the talent in their stables?  Or anyone else who wants to be on TV?  Fox is about to create a whole pack of new psuedo stars, just as NBC with celebrity apprentice.  

Here comes the "B" team.

The problem here is that these shows are the crown jewels of their networks, whether you like them or not.  Leno and Conan are the faces of NBC.  Letterman, that of CBS.  Kimmel, ABC. Carson Daly, the face of... shit, I don't know.    

NBC is already advertising "ALL NEW!"  You think America is going to give a crap that there are no writers?  You think the hosts are going to intentionally suck to prove the point that they need those writers?  It's going to be business as usual, but at a much lower standard.

I don't have an answer.  I'm just tossing it out there for discussion.  This feels like rank-breaking, no matter how it spins.  It's the beginning of something... but of what, I don't know.

IA, AP, WGA and minimums

So, Yahoo/AP was doing a story about what a bleak Christmas it was going to be for Hollywood. Since this started, I think, in a pretty fair manner, I read it.

Liked some, annoyed by others, had my own very unscientific calculations I wanted to toss out based on what they were tossing about as fact. Why not? Everybody's doing it!

"By SANDY COHEN, AP Entertainment Writer Sat Dec 22, 12:39 PM ET

LOS ANGELES - Nearly two months without paychecks. Scores of shuttered shows. Thousands out of work. The Hollywood writers strike suggests a bleak Christmas for many in Tinsel Town.

But just like a movie script, this story has a twist: many striking writers remain upbeat despite the financial and emotional strains the walkout has brought to the season."

Hey, now that's a pleasant surprise. Most of these articles go into the strike talking about how the writers strike is screwing over everybody and NOT the writers. At least this one is taking pains to point out, hey, the writers are feeling financial and emotional strains as well.

And it's talking about them being upbeat. Usually it's how, now that the strike is nearly 50 days old, the writers are starting to fold. So, two paragraphs in... maybe this will be a little even handed!

Since members of the Writers Guild of America went on strike job Nov. 5, more than $350 million in wages have been lost, said Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles Economic Development Committee.

Ouch, there's a pretty big number with no real breakdown on what that means. Writers wages? Producer wages? Studio bonuses? A little help here. That's a mighty big number. Eeep. This article might be teetering.

Writers, though, are accustomed to sporadic employment and saving their pennies, and they're inspired by the feeling that they're helping their profession and the labor movement at large.

Yay! Something that doesn't portray writers as effete hat wearing idiots! We actually DO understand that our jobs are transient! And we do believe that this strike is about more than whether or not have to choose between Bentleys and Lamborghinis! I like you Sandy Cohen, AP writer.

"We're swept up by the romantic notion of being on strike and doing the right thing," said Luvh Rakhe, a writer and strike captain for the ABC show "Cavemen." "By strengthening the union movement in Hollywood, everyone who's in a union benefits."

Ugh. "Cavemen." Still, "Everone in a union benefits." This is true. After all, for every one cent the writers guild manages to secure, every other guild gets their raises as well, including IATSE (who gets 4.5 cents, really.) So, hey! Maybe IATSE'll figure out that this is everybody's fight!

But not everyone sees it that way.

Oh, balls.

The strike against the studios has also forced nearly 40,000 "below-the-line" workers — including electricians, carpenters, welders and prop masters — out of work, according to the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees. Unlike the writers, who are buoyed by feelings of righteousness and will presumably benefit from the strike's outcome, these workers are simply jobless at what should be a festive time of year.

Um... the writers are jobless as well. And the writers are jobless because they're fighting for something they believe in. Just because they're on strike, doesn't mean they have jobs. By the very definition of strike, they don't.

The strike has been "devastating" for IATSE members, said spokeswoman Katherine Orloff.

"They've not only lost their paychecks, they're losing hours that contribute to eligibility for health insurance and pension coverage," she said. "Everybody wants to go back to work, whether they support the strike, don't support the strike, are angry at producers or are angry at writers."

Thank you, Katherine Orloff. Yes, everybody wants to go back to work. While we're pointing out the obvious, we all need air, puppies are adorable, and cancer is bad. But it sure would be nice if IATSE could muster even the tiniest piece of support for the WGA by digging at the AMPTP for their part in this.

But as we've seen before, nobody in IATSE management seems to be wired for that. It's too much of a pissing match now.

Christmas presents are hardly a concern when "people are going to start losing their homes and their businesses," she said. "Gifts are almost frivolous ideas at this point. This is about survival."

So the WGA is responsible for the sub-prime mortgage crisis? Who knew?

Most writers and below-the-line workers earn middle-class incomes. The average writers-guild member's salary is $62,000 a year, according to the WGA. IATSE salaries are similar. Strike or no, employment is inconsistent for both groups, with nearly half of writers-guild members and 10 to 15 percent of IATSE members without work during the year.

Anybody else catch that?

Writers make what IATSE people make, but 35% MORE WGA people are out of work than guild members. Especially when we start, WE MAKE THE SAME MONEY. WE HAVE THE SAME UNPREDICTABLE LIVES. WE'RE THE SAME F***ING PEOPLE TRYING TO MAKE DO HERE.

"As a writer, you have to develop the instinct of squirreling money away," Rakhe said. "You're just used to a lot of uncertainty in the first place."

The WGA prepared its members for the possibility of a strike a year in advance, so many writers saved money and started buying Christmas presents early.

And what did our guys do in IATSE? Saved up venom. You would think with ten times the members, maybe they could have armed their weapons and took a defensive crouch.

"This is the worst holiday in this town that I've ever experienced," said Jim Brooks, longtime writer and producer of "The Simpsons." "This is not dancing-in-the-street time. This is shuffling in a line, carrying a sign time."

Studios, though, are still celebrating, with Disney, Universal and Paramount throwing big holiday bashes like they do each year.

Of which I went to one of those parties. It was nice. I had a lovely slice of Turkey and a whiskey sour. And then I went home.

Those same studios, said "Law & Order" scribe Joe Reinkemeyer, are the "Grinch that stole Christmas from all of Hollywood."

However, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, blames the writers.

"Because they walked off the job, tens of thousands of other people who had no stake in this dispute are losing hundreds of millions of dollars," said spokesman Jesse Hiestand. "Many of those other workers will never have the kind of six-figure incomes enjoyed by WGA writers and it is a real shame that the holiday season is being dimmed by the writers' decision to go on strike."

Note here that when the studios talk about it, the writers are now making six figures and the IATSE folk will never see that kind of money. That's gotta be encouraging for IATSE members to know they have a ceiling that they'll never break out of and, chances are, their union probably won't strike over.

It's still horsecrap. Anybody want to toss out some numners as to what Editors make? Animation writers? Animation people? All sorts of other IATSE jobs? Using their minimum agreements to see how it goes? Let me help here.

Six figures is about 1923.00 per week. However, when I was struggling, I didn't take my vacation week. So I made 54 weeks of checks over 52 weeks. Now, that weekly goes to 1851.00.

My choice, but if we're in a world where we're tightening belts, that's a good way to do it. Anybody want to fill in the blanks with some real numbers on residuals?

Not minimums, but what working IATSE people are paid on a weekly basis. For the sake of our discussions: Board artists, color stylists, art directors, Prop designers, etc.

How close are WGA and IATSE when we're in the world of minimums?

The difference is, I think, the WGA low number may very well be the IATSE high number when it comes to the creative side of the entertainment industry.

But it's also the difference between working on an idea and creating it. The person who created it - be it Caveman, Law and Order or Judging Amy - will ALWAYS get more because they're at the top of that pyramid, with writers pretty close behind. So to me, this article says a few things:

* Writers and IATSE members aren't as far apart as you'd think, especially fiscally. Remember, these agreements are about minimums, not maximums... so we're all starting at the same place.

* Writers and IATSE members start to take different roads when there's opportunity to be exploited. Writers created starts them reaching for higher rungs on a ladder, and those rungs get pay increases on an exponential level, because those pay increased are negotiated by agents, not someone willing to say "2% more? Sure, that's good this year for everyone."

* Writers and IATSE members are at the mercy of each other. If IATSE were to go on strike for something, WGA would shut down as well. The only difference is, if there were a different union that was less contentious, you would see writers support. Imagine how fast this strike would have been over if IATSE's 150,000 members started backing it.

- Marmel

Tired. But wanted to post a non-micah post. Let the clearly less explosive debate begin.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Of course SAG gets a waver

The fact is, SAG is backing the WGA across the board and if this strike doesn't settle by June, the WGA and SAG will more than likely be striking together.

The Emmys, and the Oscars? Networks make money on those shows. And as much as I want to see Bruce Villanch write "He does (fill in the blank), she's (pun based on the previous fill in the blank)," the WGA would have been fools to cut them wavers.

More to the point, anonymous poster number 428 made a valid comment: Nobody's really watching the SAG awards for entertainment. So why shouldn't they be kind to people who have been kind to them?

Needless to say, if the "IATSE AWARDS" were being televised, and needed writers, they'd have to see if Carson Daly's dad was free.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Micah's Post

(Steve's preamble)

..because things don't go away on the internet, they simply get shuffled lower on the Google search. Outside of the Army Ranger stuff which you can read about HERE and draw your own conclusions, here is his POV'd blow by blow about what happened at Nickelodeon back in 2001. I have my own points of view, which I will save for later in the debate.

(Note: I changed the link to Micah's actual comment on it, per his request.)

Wednesday, Nov 07

(Micah's commentary, copied from
I came to this guild having had a "successful" career writing Animation for $1400/week for five years. During that time, I wrote on several of Nickelodeon's highest-rated shows. My writing partner wrote and directed 1/4 of the episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants and I was responsible for 1/5 of the episodes of The Angry Beavers. The current value that those shows have generated for Viacom? $12 Billion dollars. My writing partner topped out at $2100/week. In the year 2001, tired of not receiving residuals for my endlessly- repeating work (even though the actors and composers for my episodes do), I joined with 28 other writers and we signed our WGA cards.

So, Nickelodeon quickly filed suit against our petition for an election, and set about trying to ferret out who the "ringleaders" were. In the meantime, they canceled the show that I had created 4 episodes into an order of 26. Then they fired the 3 writers who'd been working on my show. Then they fired 20 more of my fellow writers and shut down three more shows, kicking almost their entire primetime lineup for 2002 to the curb, and laying off 250 artists.

Then, once the WGA's petition for election was tied up in court over our illegal firings, Nickelodeon called in the IATSE Local 839 "Cartoonists Guild" — a racket union which exists only the screw the WGA and its own members — and they signed a deal which forever locks the WGA out of Nickelodeon, even though we were there first. Neato!
Then Nickelodeon's brass decided--out of thin fucking air-- that myself and two other writers had been "the ringleaders" of this organizing effort, so they called around to Warner Bros. Animation, the Cartoon Network, Disney Animation, and Fox Kids, effectively blacklisting the three of us out of animation permanently.

And why did Nickelodeon do this? Why were they so eager to decimate their own 2002 schedule, fire 24 writers, break multiple federal labor laws, sign a union deal, and to even bring back the fucking blacklist? They did all of that to prevent us from getting the same whopping $5 residual that the actors & composers of our shows get.

For five lousy fucking bucks, they destroyed three people's careers and put 250 artists out of work and fucked up their own channel for a year.

Ahh, but my episodes run about 400 times a year worldwide, though, so obviously Sumner Redstone (Salary in 2001: $65 million dollars) and Tom Freston (2001 salary: $55 million) were right to do what they did... myself and those other 23 writers might have broken the bank, what with each of us going to cost them another TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS each! OH NO! That... that's... FORTY EIGHT THOUSAND DOLLARS!A YEAR!

So don't come crying to those of us who have EXPERIENCED what the AMPTP plans for all of the rest of you, that people who are deciding to stand up to bully-boy tactics like that are the crazy bunch of "horads" lustily marching "through" the streets searching for blood. The AMPTP are the barbarians sacking Rome in this scenario.
The AMPTP and their glittering-eyed weasel lawyers are a bunch of lying, blacklisting, law-breaking scumbags, and the fact that they haven't budged off of ANY of their proposals in the last three months proves that what they have in store for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF YOU is exactly what they did to us at Nickelodeon, and what they can do any day of the week in daytime animation. Or reality.

Strike or no strike. That's their plan: to winnow down your membership, to snip away at your MBA, to chew away at your health & pension plans until there's just nothing left of the WGA. Why? Because they've had a good strong drink of how much money they make off of animation when they don't have to cut the creators in for any of the cash, and now they want to extend that free ride to all of live action as well. THAT is why they have pushed for this strike at every step, with their insulting press releases, with their refusals to negotiate, etc.--because they're HOPING we go on strike, and that enough cowards and Quislings come crawling out of the woodwork after six weeks that they can force us to accept the same deal that Reality TV show writers have.

If you doubt me, go read their contract proposals again... there's not ONE of them which isn't an insult and a deal-breaking non-starter.
So can we PLEASE stop hearing about how it's the current WGA management which is the fucking problem here? Because, frankly, that canard is getting a little stale.

Or perhaps you prefer presidents like the President of the Guild back in 2001 who just threw up her hands when we were fired and blacklisted out of our careers and said, and I quote, "oh well, it was a good try"

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Answering Alex' Question

"Why are the studios (at least by what I've read) coming across as such miserable Scrooges"

In my opinion, it's because there's a gigantic disconnect between what the writers see as money they deserve, and what the studios feel is a new deal.

For example:

A script pays 21K. A residual for the first reuse of that show pays 10.5K.

But if the network is reairing that on the internet, that 10.5K goes away. But for the internet reuse, the studios offer $250. To a writer, that's a $10,250 pay cut. To a studio, that's $250 for something they've never paid for.

Clearly, I side on the "10.5K" part. Somewhere in the middle is where this will probably end up.

But to answer your question: Why are the studios being so prickish?

Well, I think their Bullying, demanding, walking out - and then attempting to pin the blame on the WGA... all that might have worked in 1988, but the same New Media that the studios want to keep for themselves is the same new media that allows writers to communicate with each other, get their words out in the 'blogosphere, and not be rolled over by the fact that the people they negotiate against have a stranglehold on main stream media.

And because of that, people who are not used to being poked and made fun of, or being called into account for their words and actions, are suddenly finding themselves in the spotlight by a group of people who make fun of things of a living. It's making them testy.

So that's where this is all coming from:

Moguls with thin skins (some thinner than others) are battling cynical writers with short fuses and plenty of time to push their buttons.

Go team cynic!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Much ado about animation and reality

A response to




"As a non-prime time/non-guild covered cartoon writer, I hope the WGA gets Feature Animation. There's no reason for it not to.

TV Animation - at least for those of us stuck within IATSE - is a dead/done deal this round (in my opinion), because the WGA can't fight for what they deserve AND wrestle IATSE/Union 839 writers into their guild at the same time.

It would be a waste of energy and a division of focus to do that. Writers have momentum and unity on their side - I hope the WGA doesn't let the AMPTP divide them over something that's basically an issue of labor law.

The studios picked our union for us - in 1940, and (in the case of Nickelodeon) in 2001 - regardless of what they might say.

But getting out of a union, or changing unions, is a much bigger fight than fighting with your union for things your union can fight for.

That being said, aiming for the things that haven't been decided yet? Reality? Feature Animation? New Media? Go for it. That's a battle that can be won.

And that's a battle for the future of all writers - day time animation, prime time animation and feature animation alike.

You guys can check out the TAG board:

Or the blog written by the TAG's rep, Steve Hewett: see the union that non-prime time animation writers are working with.

It's a branch of Tommy Short's IATSE, and none of us are happy with the contentious relationship he's got with the WGA..."

Friday, December 7, 2007


You're fighting over animation?

I had no idea, and nobody contacted me.

Maybe, by those standards, I'm already in!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Make No Mistake of Where I stand

Just because I opine about the WGA's actions toward animation, and how I wish things were different, doesn't mean I don't back the strike, the strikers, and their goals 100 percent.

I do.

But this forum is about a very specific subsection of the writing community, and I try to keep the debate specific and honest to my feelings about that issue.

But when push comes to shove, I am a card carrying member of both unions, which means in a strike, I support my union... and in a non-strike enviornment, I wish improvement in the guild that represents me.

The strike is the right strike at the right time for the right issues. And while I might wish that strike included us, the WGA still fights the good fight, none the less.

And I hope, in 18 or so months when it's our turn to put these issues on the table, our union/guild/alliance/etc fights with the same passion.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Sitting at the Children's table

So, a disheartening story.

There was a point where all the writers at Comedy Central walked, pushing for WGA coverage for their shows. Including animation.

Comedy Central correctly gave the Daily Show and the Colbert Report the WGA status they deserve, just like Leno, Conan, Letterman and all.

And then, at the point where it was time to push for animation? Everybody went back to work. Ta da?

If you want to know why animation writers are disheartened with the WGA - why while I enjoy the vibrant conversation, I just don't have the patience to spend time with their animation caucus, it's stuff like that. What's the point?

We all band together and then, once the popular kids get what they want (and deserve, BTW), the nerds are left out in the bleachers with their shorts hiked over their heads.

It's also ill-conceived.

In a world where residuals are going away because the second and third window is being placed on the internet, kids cartoons are RUN INTO THE GROUND, over and over again. Think about residuals on Spongebob, or Fairly Odd, for God's sake.

It's a bummer - because I belong to both unions. I personally think the WGA fights harder for it's members than 839 fights for theirs... but the WGA loves to dump us out at the last minute, to lighten the load for liftoff.

Change, I think, will have to come from within.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Ideas are worth something.

I sometimes check out, and read their strike coverage.

Invariably, as soon as there's a strike story, someone with a grudge against writers complains about the WGA. Or the writers.

To them, I say this: Come up with an idea.

Here's the harsh reality of the writer's strike. Ideas cost.

Whether it's a marketing idea at Coke, or a new drug that cures cancer, or that widget that rolls the toilet paper backwards you finally sold to QVC, ideas cost money.

But when those ideas are whimsy, or imagination, or something intangible, like a TV show...

...when those ideas are jokes, which everybody thinks they can come up with but most people can't...

...when those ideas are stories, which are difficult to construct...

...that's when everybody starts thinking maybe they should be free. After all, nothing was invented, or built or sold on a shelf, right?

To every person who says that the story tellers in our society don't deserve a cut - a REASONABLE FAIR SHARE - of the income that we generate, I say "eat me."

Just because something is fun doesn't mean it's done for free. And trust me, after an afternoon of network notes, it ain't all fun either.

I stopped painting with my fingers and writing stories to pin up on a refrigerator a long time ago. Do I do stuff for fun? You bet. Do I do it for a mass audience? No.

You want to make up your own stories for free, you can put 'em on YouTube. You know, YouTube, where Viacom pulled their content because it was interfering with their revenue streams.

Me, personally, I like being paid for what I do, and I'd like to make a little bit more in success.

I know I'm not curing cancer.

But with any luck, I'm defeating boredom, one script at a time. Or maybe I'm making your kid laugh. There's nothing I like more than running into a parent that says they watch something I wrote with their kid, and they enjoyed it.

It's the "over and over" again part that gets me sometimes.

Still - I've learned to accept it in animation. I got into knowing the deal and while I'd love to change within, it is what it is.

But for the small group of people who think writers are being selfish in defending themselves against the encroachment of the internet, the loss of their residual viewings, or the right to be paid for downloads, you're being selfish. You're the one who wants something for nothing.

This town is built on ideas.

And those ideas are worth something.

People who make those ideas feel for those who have lost their jobs because of the strike. It would be awesome if that vocal minority of those who GOT jobs because of those ideas felt for the writers, as well.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Come on, IATSE. Step up. :)

From Dateline Hollywood Daily:

Other Unions Rally With WGAE Tuesday; Foreign Writer Guilds Protest Wednesday

wgae.jpgWriters Guild Of America East announced today a "Labor Community Solidarity Rally" for Tuesday, November 27th. "As the WGA strike enters its 4th week, in a major show of support by the city’s labor community, there will be a massive Solidarity Rally to thank the thousands of union members from every industry who have joined us on the picket lines from New York to Los Angeles and stood with us to preserve decent working standards against corporate power. The rally’s message is 'We’re all in this together, and we demand a fair deal!' " It takes place in NYC's Washington Square Park from 12 Noon to 1:30 PM and joining the WGAE writers will be members of the Writers Guild of America, West, SEIU, SAG, UNITE-HERE, UFT, national and NYS AFL-CIOs, and the New York City Labor Council and celebrities. Officials will include Randi Weingarten (UFT), Ed Ott (Central Labor Council), Gary Lebarbera and Dennis Hughes (NYS AFL-CIO), Sam Freed (SAG NY President), Richard Masur (former national president of SAG).

On Wednesday, the WGAE plans "International Solidarity Day" supported by the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds (IAWG) in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, UK, Mexico and France. In NYC, the striking writers will picket in front of Time Warner Center /Time Warner Studios in Columbus Circle from 10 AM–2 PM.

Are these talks, or are they diversions?

A few things will happen this week.

* The strike continues. Will the pickets be as large? Or larger? If the strike rolls on full force, even with talks happening, it will show the companies the writers aren't still sleepy from their Turkey coma.

* Will the showrunners return to run shows? Many have said they would return to their shows IF talks continued. But the fact is, so what? There's only so many scripts left in the pipe anyway. At this point, it's almost moot... except for the wedge it might drive between the haves and the have mores.

* How do movie writers feel about this? Probably the same way we do, actually... That this Thanksgiving, they've been at the kids table just like us. After all, the immediacy of this strike is in television, late night and daily up front, then series television. The city had been preparing for a strike and was stockpiling movies for YEARS. That being said, there's a whole lot of movie writers that aren't pitching and writing movies right now.

* What will IATSE President Tom Short have to say about things now that people are back at the table. We're part of a union that's 140,000 large. This would be an excellent time for IATSE to weigh in, throw their weight behind their fellow entertainment professionals. And, considering the venom that was spewed from IATSE when this first started, I wonder if our people will be a little more supportive.

* Will the guild put the DVD residuals back on the table? Personally, I don't know if it's important... but they've got to get something to surrender it. In five years, DVD's are going to be as relevant as CD's and VHS tapes. I saw a commercial today for "On Demand" where it showed a guy (natch) desperately clawing at a DVD box to get to the movie he bought. Why? Because DVD's are for stupid people. Cars are coming with screens and hard drives. And your nano plays movies. See where this is going? New Media will soon just be "Media." I'll take more of the future for less of the past.

It's going to be an interesting week in which, to be honest, most of us in 839 will be spectators. I personally don't think anybody was going back to the table unless there was some sort of framework in place... because neither side can afford to look like dicks at this point.

But I have been wrong before. Probably, even, in this post.

Hope you guys had a good thanksgiving.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Something to think about:

From Jonathan Handel's blog over at Huffpost. To read the whole thing, click on below...

Multi-Guild Residuals -- Almost Ten Times the Fun

...but here's a little something to chew on while you're choking down your Turkey.

A four-cent per DVD increase sounds like a no-brainer. But in the world of Hollywood unions, four cents is actually almost forty cents. This is true for a simple reason: the WGA isn't the only union in town.

As it turns out, all three guild agreements (WGA, DGA and SAG), plus the IATSE agreement, have similar DVD residual formulas. Any amendment to the WGA's DVD formula will almost certainly be made to the other unions' as well. It's called pattern bargaining; the deal for one is the deal for all -- but with a twist: SAG's formula is three times as large as the WGA's, and the IA's is four and one-half times as large. (The DGA's is the same as the WGA's.) New media formulas can be expected to mirror each other across unions in the same fashion.

So, if writers get a four-cent raise, actors get an extra twelve cents. That's not because actors are three times better than writers, but because there are so many more of them on any given movie or TV program. The actors split the residual among themselves based on a formula that reflects both salary and time worked on the show. Thus, each actor's share is less than the writer(s)' share. (Writers too have to split among themselves when there's more than one writer on a project.)

The DGA raise would match the writers' -- four cents. Most of that would go to the director. Yet, 40% of the DGA membership are below-the-line workers who receive a miniscule share of DVD residuals (less than one-fifth of a penny per DVD). Doubling the formula would make little difference to them, which is one reason why DGA support for a strike over residuals is so tepid.

The IA raise would be 4.5 times the writers' -- an extra eighteen cents per DVD -- yet IA members receive no residuals directly. Instead, the residuals are used to fund the IA's health and pension plans. So, residuals matter to IA members, but in an attenuated way.

Bottom line: whatever increase the writers achieve in DVD or new media has to be multiplied by a factor 9.5 to determine what the studios will be paying out. (9.5 = 1x for the WGA, 1x for the DGA, 3x for SAG, and 4.5x for the IA. If you want to read the contract language for yourself, check out the WGA agreement (Art. 51.C.1.b), DGA agreement (Sec. 18-104), SAG agreement (Sec. 5.2.A.(2)), and IATSE agreement (Art. XXVIII(b)(2)).)\

So, somebody explain to me how the Writer's Guild of America gets 1 cent for every 4.5 cents that IA gets, and yet we, as writers, receive no residuals and (allegedly) and our pension plan is weak in comparison?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hey, Tommy Short.

I don't think you're a bad guy.

I think you have your own set of priorities. And, as always, one person's priorities is another person's hurdles.

But I will say: I wish you were kinder, and had more solidarity, with your brothers in the WGA. Because you have a powerful, sizeable union that could do much to help.

Me? I'm an animation writer and a live action writer, and I am torn. I will honor both of my contracts.

Me? I wish my union fought a little more stronger for our brothers in the other union. Like the Teamers.

Yeah, I get the fact that SAG and the TEAMERS support is both wonderful and conditional. But it's support.

A few days ago, writers that work under your banner decided to pitch in and buy lunch for people that AREN'T.

Writers supporting writers.

C'mon Tommy. I know, deep down, you probably have heart, ethics, fire and resolve. TAG in (pun intended) with this fight. Because you can help.

I don't know you.

But I believe in you.

You can do this. How can we help?

- Steve Marmel

Monday, November 19, 2007

"The gift cards were a hit"

That, from Andrew Goldberg, who organized the assistants picket.

We donated 150 $6 gift cards to 150 assistants who were affected by the strike.

Good job, you guys!

- Steve

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Buy an assistant lunch!

UPDATE: We're 40% of the way to covering the lunch! Keep spreading the word!

Or, more to the point, buy a recently laid off and/or possibly soon to be laid off assistant lunch.

Here's the E-mail I received:

"Friday's announcement that the writers and corporations are returning to the bargaining table after Thanksgiving is fantastic news, and we should all congratulate ourselves for putting the screws to the studios and making the public aware of our side of the story over the past two weeks, but let's remember that the ultimate fantastic news would be a fair deal. So, let's not allow our effort or creativity to wane these last few days before the holiday!

“ASSISTANTS' PICKET” – MONDAY, 11/19 @ 12PM-2PM at the Main Gate (Pico & Motor) at THE FOX LOT. For assistants and other “below-the-line” employees (particularly those who have been laid-off by the media conglomerates) who support the WGA and would like to picket in unity with the writers. For assistants and “below-the-line” employees, this is a chance to show the writers they support them, and to show the media conglomerates that they need to take responsibility for their own decisions and not blame the writers for their lay-offs. For writers, this is a chance for us to celebrate the assistants and “below-the-line” employees, and to recognize them for the sacrifices they’re being forced to make as we fight for a fair deal.

All writers from all strike teams and studios are encouraged to attend the picket. It's a great chance to acknowledge the assistants, plus we are expecting some press, so a good turn-out will look excellent.

Best places to park are on Motor (south of the main gate), Cheviot Hills Park parking lot (not sure precisely how legal this is), or Westfield Mall parking lot.

And here's the Email I sent to you guys:

"Dear Tag 839 type person;

Chances are, by now, you know somebody’s who’s been affected by the writer’s strike. And if you’re like me – a writer in IATSE 839 – The Animation Guild – chances are you’re impacted a lot less than our brothers and sisters in the WGA.

That being said – more than a handful of you have asked what we could do, or say, to show that just because we’re not out with the WGA writers and just because we're not covered by the WGA, they have our support.

On Monday, the assistants who have been affected by the strike are picketing, and I thought it would be nice if we – writers in the Animation Guild (TAG), Local 839 IATSE - bought their lunch.

No fanfare, no press release, we’re not putting on suits and handing out Churros (although, to be fair, that was pretty cool)… we’re just making a promise to pick up the tab for Monday’s lunch.

So click over to and donate some moolah.

The Email to send money is (Sorry, I had to move quick, so I used my e-mail account.) .

In the subject line write “Sandwiches for Strikers” (Apparently, they're getting Quiznos)

You can pay via your Paypal account, or by credit card.

Donate whatever you feel comfortable donating – zero pressure. And know – this isn’t an official 839 thing, or IATSE thing or a me thing – it’s just us, as individual TAG 839 animation writers, doing something small.

If there’s money left over – I’ll donate it to whatever charity the assistants planned on donating their extra cash to – purportedly a charity to help other below the line people affected by the strike.

All the best,

Steve Marmel
An individual person."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

IATSE vs. WGA, courtesy of Deadline Hollywood Daily

Click on this for the whole story....
And god bless Nikki Finke.

Bitchslapping Between IATSE & WGA: Why Tom Short Is Pissed At Verrone Et Al

...But comment about the following here:

Sources tells me that Short's furious letter sent on Tuesday was prompted by a Los Angeles Times profile on Dave Young that ran the day before and one quote in particular from the WGA chief negotiator -- "Much to his delight, the 48-year-old labor leader says he himself was treated like 'a rock star' last week at a host of rallies and pickets that he orchestrated all over Los Angeles and New York."

davidyoung.jpgA source close to Short tells me he objected not just to Young's choice of words, but more to Young's seeming enjoyment of his new-found notoriety while IATSE members were thrown out of work. Young, for those not in the know, is not a Hollywood writer; he has been a union organizer of garment workers, carpenters and construction laborers.

Here is what Short says specifically about Young in his latest letter: "As the motion picture and television industry looks at the possible cost of over $1 billion and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, your executive director David Young is quoted in the Los Angeles Times as delighted he's being treated 'like a rock star' at rallies and says, 'I just lay back and look at the havoc I've wreaked... I'm not going to apologize for that.' This is hardly the point of view of a responsible labor leader, someone dedicated to the preservation of an industry that has supported the economies of several major cities for decades.

Short ended his letter on a somewhat concilatory note -- "it's time to put egos aside and recognize how crucial it is to get everyone back to work, before there is irreversible damage from which this industry can never recover." But it still begs the question why Short isn't also bitchslapping the AMPTP which, after all, is the side now refusing to enter back into settlement negotiations with the WGA. (For details, see my LA Weekly column, Deals, Lies & Backchannels.)

"That's a good question, a really good question," a source close to Short told me today.

labor01.jpgAlso today, Verrone wrote the following missive in response to Short's letter: "As I’m sure you know, for every four cents writers receive in theatrical residuals, directors receive four cents, actors receive 12 cents,and the members of your union receive 20 cents in contributions to their health fund. To put it simply, our fight should be your fight. We’ve received support from the Teamsters, the actors, many IATSE members, and unions throughout the world.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

But I'd miss the Bitching

Steve has suggested a townhall meeting between artists and writers.

I oppose this with ever fiber of my being.
Artist and writers hanging out together is a horrendously bad idea for several reasons.

1. Artists may come to realize that writers are only human. Currently they fear us and the power we wield (crowd scenes.) If they figure out we're human and fallible they may actually try to speak to us.

2. Artists may infect us with their love of animation. We must stay focused on the money. We only do this for the money and caring about our work will only weaken us.

3. Artists might become more industry saavy. They might go out and get real agents that put the artist's interests ahead of their own relationship with the studios. Then they'll ask for more money, that would cut into our salaries!
4. And this is the worst one. Artists may learn from us. They may learn how to be better story tellers and writers. This might lead them to better jobs like producer or showrunner. Jobs we have now!

I call upon all writers and fellow members of the WAA to boycott this meeting.

Okay, enough bitching. Lets bridge some gaps.

A question for Steve Hewitt, Matt Wayne, Nicole Dubac (hahaah! Congrats on the win! Now you get to be pimped to do stuf!) and anyone else who can make this idea happen:

I would like to believe the majority of people, when placed in the same room, would find themselves somewhere in the middle on these issues, or at the very least, forced to have civil conversations about it.

Writers who understand the importance of directors and board artists, directors and board artists who understand the importance of quality writers.

Perhaps it's time for 839 to set a "town hall" on this.

A symposium with writers, and artists, and a room full of both, discussing problems and answering questions. Everything from the prime time guys (if we can get them) to the 839 writers, to artists from both.

I would see this as a discussion as to how things are now, not a history lesson about the way they timed things on Huckleberry Hound or the way the writing was done on "Superfriends." That was then.

History's important. I'm not denying that. But it can't be a free for all about who didn't know who UB Iwerks is. That is a different discussion.

Lets talk about what's happening today. But lets try to do it proactively.

I mean, it will be hard for anonymous people to come in and drop grenades, but... then again, I'm not trying to pitch a fragfest, either.

I'm trying to toss out the idea of an honest "townhall" type environment where people can talk about frustrations, share ideas on how to make things better and NOT walk away all pissed off and even further apart.

What do you think?

Think we - as a "Guild" or a "Union" or whatever the heck we are, can all sit in the same room and speak to each other like peers? I'm up for it if there's enough other people who are as well.


Sunday, November 11, 2007


Mr. James J. Claffey, Jr.
IATSE Local One
320 West 46 Street
New York, NY 10036

To Our Brothers and Sisters of IATSE Local One:

This letter is to express our heartfelt and vocal support of IATSE Local One's strike against the League of American Theatres and Producers. Just as you have stood with us in our current strike against the motion picture and television studios and networks, so, too, do we stand with you as you seek the fair and respectful contract that you have earned and deserve.

The careers of many of our members began and continue in the theater. We recognize the stage as an arena of inspiration, a training ground, an artistic platform from which our visions leap to life. Without your members, the work of our members could not be realized. All of their imagination and creativity come to nothing without you.

Know that IATSE Local One can rely on us to work with you and join you as your and our struggles continue. Contact us for whatever assistance you require. We're all in this together.

In solidarity,

Michael Winship
Writers Guild of America, East

Patric M. Verrone
Writers Guild of America, West

A big congratulations to Nicole Dubuc and Matt Wayne

For getting on the 839 Executive Board. And big old props to Nicole Dubuc for being a trustee, which is reserved for the top three vote getters.

Remember, the fate of bringing script writers and artists together now rests in your hands.


I kid, I kid!

Seriously, we ("Script writers") wanted a voice on the board, and we got not one, but two. No shenanigans at all. Maybe that's the start of the whole "Changing things from within our own union" thing that we beat to death on this board.

Again, no pressure.


I'm serious! I'm serious!

Thanks for taking on the responsibilities guys.

- Steve

P.S. Once you solve the writer/artist rift, we'll send you something easier to handle like the Middle East.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

And now, a word from... your guess is as good as mine.

(Posted on the TAG board. Only of interest to me because tomorrow, they announce the election results.)

Anonymous said...

most animations studios have more than a few artists whom are independent creators outside of their studio jobs and can write just as well, if not better than the jaded, tunnel visioned writers from the WGA.

the majority of WGA writers working in animation are hacks. after years of hearing most of them freely admit that they would love to be writing for films or other projects over animation, excuse me if i'm not ready to heap respect upon them. as a visual artist and creator i've had to continually correct edit these jughead's "scripts".

one of the few places where John K. is absolutely correct in his convictions is his opinions on animation 'writers'. with few exceptions, they simply don't undertsand the artform.

And now, I'd like to dissect this, but going backwards:
one of the few places where John K. is absolutely correct in his convictions is his opinions on animation 'writers'. with few exceptions, they simply don't undertsand the artform.

Bad is bad, my friend, whether it's bad board-driven writing or bad script-driven writing. But I like how you say "one of the few places where John K. is absolutely correct," as though you disagree with him elsewhere.

Of course, If you do disagree with him, it could be because you're a Cal Arts graduate and he loves to piss all over that school. In other words: "When he dumps on you, he's right. When he dumps on me, he's a dick."

the majority of WGA writers working in animation are hacks. after years of hearing most of them freely admit that they would love to be writing for films or other projects over animation, excuse me if i'm not ready to heap respect upon them. as a visual artist and creator i've had to continually correct edit these jughead's "scripts".

Two points on this, if I may:

1) I don't know what position you've had to "correct edit jughead's" scripts (I don't even know where to start trying to correct and/or edit that) but was it your job to do so? On a script driven show? Then, thank you. Because we're all on the same team here.

2) And of course the majority of WGA writers working in animation freely admit they would love to be writing films or other projects. They are paid more. And get residuals. And a better pension. You gonna tell me an animator wouldn't step over the face of a basic cable executive to get a shot at a feature film? Of course he or she would.

most animations studios have more than a few artists whom are independent creators outside of their studio jobs and can write just as well, if not better than the jaded, tunnel visioned writers from the WGA.

I love the math here. "A few artists" who can write just as well than the entirety of the WGA. I'm sure there are. Emphasis on "few," just as I'm sure there are a few WGA writers who can draw better than some artists. Writing is art, just as drawing is art, just as timing is art, and editing is art, in its own way.

I'm sorry you can't respect anything that you can't or won't do, but that's your bag of cats, not ours. And finally:

Anonymous said...

Of course.

Friday, November 9, 2007

In Defense of Writing For Adults

Hi. I'm Steve Marmel.

Unless you're one of the people I work for or work with, you probably don't know me... but chances are your kids might.

It's nothing creepy - I don't pose as a 13 year old girl on Myspace - I've been an animation writer for nearly ten years now, starting with the worst freelance "Batman - The Animated Series" script that was never produced, through Johnny Bravo, Fairly Oddparents and now, over at Disney on "Yin Yang Yo."

Consequently, I have a "written by" on a lot of stuff that is shown over and over and over and over again. That's probably why your kids know my name (although they probably pronounce it Marmle instead of Mar-Mel, like I was some sort of Kryptonian Jew.)

For writing animation, I get no residuals, but I knew that going into it.

As an animation writer, I am represented by a different union - Local 839 of IATSE, which stands for the International Association of Theatrical Stage Employees. I get a very nice health plan out of it, and some sort of pension, but that's it. My union, or alliance, is sort of a combination of a trade organization and Allstate. We're also not on strike.

I'm losing you, aren't I?

Okay, okay. Back to my point.

Most of what I do isn't to entertain you. So I don't expect you to care that I don't get another penny. In fact, considering how shrill Cosmo's voice is, and how often you hear him say the same lines repeated on Nickelodeon, I can only imagine that you probably think I owe you money. Fair enough.

But most of the people who are on strike are the people that DO entertain you. 24. Sopranos. Scrubs. Lost. Heroes. Shows like that, for people like you, that are interested in stories instead of watching B list celebrities skate, dance, date or lose weight. (Not a fan of reality, btw.) I'm not going to bore you with percentages, or residuals history. I'm not. I'm just going to ask you:

Don't you want to reward the people who are getting into this to entertain you? The human adult?

They're not trying to teach your kids a lesson, or babysit your child, or bring a new generation of young folk into the wonderful world of fart jokes (guilty!). These are sophisticated and smart individuals, passionate and creative souls, who do something that only a handful of people on the planet can do well.

Entertain adults.

Aren't these the people you should be supporting?

- Steve

Thursday, November 8, 2007

From the 839 board to here...

A reply to Steve Hewett's recent post about the WGA strike.

True, but the WGA collects residuals as well, AND negotiated residuals for their projects.

And primetime animation.

I like my 839 health plan. I think it's awesome. But there's no reason we shouldn't get more.

Especially in animation - and especially in CHILDREN'S animation - where they rerun the crap out of the stuff we do.

There were a lot of different emotions in the room. Anger: "Why are we such second-class citizens?"

Because they are allowed to be. The fact is, board artist should be paid like writers. And there should be a formula that allows for residuals to be paid out on both a script and board based show.

* Unions and guilds all achieved residuals of one kind or another in the early 1960s. Residuals for the WGA and SAG went straight into members' pockets.

But they ALSO have health care, Steve. That's the point. There's no reason there shouldn't be both.

You're in the middle of a three year contract? Take a shot - during the next round of negotiations - at getting residuals for your writers: Both script and board.

What's the worst that could happen?

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Quick things

1) You'll notice a put one of those "sign a word to get the post up" things for comments. I didn't want to moderate, but I was getting tired of seeing comments like "Great Post!!!" from screen names like "Hung Like a Donkey Thanks To Levitra."

2) Wherever I go, especially up in Valencia where most of the crew/driver/below the line folk live, I keep getting asked how long I think it'll last. What I realized is... everybody's opinion is really sort of based on what they want the answer to be. The real answer is "when it's over."

3) The Packers play today. Three and a half sweet hours of football based serenity.

Have a good Sunday.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Residuals: How I'd do it (but nobody asked)

Hey there.

Okay, so I'll start the discussion, because every time we all get together, it turns to this anyway. And while I have no control over this situation, if anybody ever asked me - or if Nicole and Matt make it into the Legion of Super Animators (The 839 board) and have some sway over the discussion - this is what I think.

There are two types of writers in animation. Story board people, and script people. There are two types of productions in animation, board based story telling and script based story telling.

With that in mind, my little math here ONLY works within an 839 production, because those are the shows where story and script changes as the show evolves. On a prime-time script driven show, I do not believe that to be the case. (Correct me if I'm wrong.)

I think the hypothetical residuals should be split 80/20, depending on the production.

On a script show - lets say Fairly Oddparents or Yin Yang Yo - the script writer does all the heavy lifting for the story telling - from premise, to outline, to three drafts of the script. Because the script is the blueprint, acting, direction, setting, and visual gags are all laid in there. At this point, a board person will tell this story... but it's already been arc'd out.

On a board show - lets say Spongebob - a writer will write a detailed outline and then off the board artist goes. Here, I would switch it - give the board artist 80 percent of an imaginary residuals, and give the person who created the story and wrote the outline 20 percent.

And in a John K world where productions don't even have keyboards because script writing is unimportant, the storyboard artist could go from premise, to board, and keep 100% of any hypothetical residuals.

How the production worked would be created by the person who created the show, which only seems fair.

There's my brain dump. Have at it.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Between a rock and... well, another f**king rock.

So, a friend of mine wrote (and said I could post) this:

"Anyway, I'm dying to post on your site but bc most of my background is WGA live-action, I sorta feel like an animation impostor. But I've written a bunch of animation and the project I'm doing right now with ******** is animated, so I'm silly to feel that way. My question to you is this: Do most of the members of the WGA even give a flying f*** about animation writers? I know I didn't -- until I became one.

Is animation even one of the main things on the table? I'm not sure the guild has ever or will ever care about us. They'd sell us out for a hundredth of a point of DVD sales. No matter how this strike resolves, do you believe it will actually benefit animation writers?? I'd really, really, really like to believe that, but I'm not sure I do."

And to that I say, so far, you are right. The strike rules specifically carve out 839 / IATSE projects in television, while making a grab at animated features. Features, I suppose, are a gray area. TV Animation has been IATSE for as long as I know.

The fact is, there isn't an animation writer on the planet that wouldn't prefer to be represented in a way that gets them residuals on reuse of their efforts. And the fact is, the WGA has tossed animation writers to the wolves in return for... I don't know what. I wasn't part of the WGA at the time.

The fact is - Fairly Oddparents, Spongebob... shows like that, they rerun MORE than most shows when they first air. Syndication? No. Because they are owned lock, stock and shmock by the channel that paid for them. But on those channels? I can tell you by the BMI royalties (music) that they have the crap played out of them.

And writers are paid once.

If given the choice, I would rather see the union I am within - 839 - fight for the same rights that the union I am also in - the WGA - for the job I do... which is the same job I do for both unions.

I would rather see Story Board artists - who are not part of the WGA - get the same respect that any writer gets, when it comes to animation.

Do I have answers?


But I do know what I think I'd like to see.

And now, a word from IATSE.


As you are aware, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is currently in negotiations for a successor contract to the current agreement that expires on October 31, 2007. While the IATSE remains hopeful that a new agreement can be reached between the WGA and the Employers, there is a potential for a work stoppage.

The IATSE has over 50,000 members in two countries engaged in motion picture and television production. Any work stoppage may have a profound and long-lasting impact on you and your families.

The IATSE contracts contain provisions that require us to continue to honor our contracts. These "no strike" provisions require the IATSE to notify our members of their obligation to honor these contracts and continue working. Any individual member who chooses to honor any picket line is subject to permanent replacement (our emphasis)."

So, just to summarize.

SAG: Supports WGA.
UNION 839: Reminds us all we could be replaced. You know. Because... they're required to do so.

I'm just saying.

Confessions of a Triplicate Mind: Day 1

So, here we are, at the beginning of what could be a long and messy strike. I say "could be," because I tend to be an optimist about stuff, and I'd like to believe that perhaps the WGA's brinkmanship will be rewarded with serious negotiations...

...but I have my doubts, because so much money is involved.

It's gone past the simple negotiations of one piece of talent, one representative, and 12 lawyers and business affairs people (slight sarcasm, yah, but you get my point) to becoming a larger debate about writers and writing.

In a world where a dog skateboarding on "You Tube" is seen more than "Viva Laughlin" on CBS, how do you define the importance of writers?

But then: The above question says more to their importance than their irrelevance, I think.

The debate isn't about the now: Now, it's all about reality shows and dance contests and all that crap that I hate. (Honesty.) It's about what happens when the pendulum swings back and suddenly, people want scripted things again in a digital age. Or if, I suppose.

It's about what ideas are worth in success, which is the frustrating part. Nobody's asking for a ridiculous amount more upfront (I think). They're asking for a little bit more in success: In success, I might point out, where everybody's making more money.

But then again, good TV is like creating a really good new medicine. A lot of money up front to create it, and then a lot of time to see if that's paid off. Look at Studio 60. The whole season is out on DVD right now, BTW. Get it, if you'd like a set of coasters with creator commentary.

So as this thing starts, I have three minds, all of which I'm trying to balance, all of them which I'm going to have to strive to remain ethical and consistent with, which won't be easy.

* The WGA mind - which supports my union, supports it's members and is proud to be part of something bigger than myself. As a friend of mine said today - others have walked this line and fought this fight for me, it's only fair that I do the same.

* My Hyphenate Mind - Which is about to executive produce my first live action, WGA covered single-cam,era idea, something that I've waited my whole career for. It's been very hard to watch this unfold at the exact same time - a little like getting a holiday gift and then realizing it came from China and it's chock full of extra lead.

* My Union 839 Mind - Which continues to produce cartoons in the midst of all this, because the cartoons I produce are not covered by the WGA. 839 is part of the IATSE which I always tend to find myself conflicted over - they represent writers, but we're 8% of their 839 (am I right?) - and we're not even called writers. We're... "Story Persons" or something like that. And you don't need to be a forensic scientist to know the divisions between writers and artists within 839 is deep indeed.
There are good things about 839 - but I also tend to find animation representation to be super limited - a small number of agents, and a limited number of talented people that are in bed with a small number of companies, which creates an "eggs in one basket" mentality that makes it very hard to push for "in success" pieces of the pie.
Everything substantial I've ever gotten in animation - outside of their Health care - has been through the effort of an agent, a lawyer, and individuals in a larger company that believed in me outside the parameters of my union minimums. And that, by the way, includes the studios I work for.

And within all of that, I have friends who are producers and directors, family, co-workers, people I work for, people who work for me... all of whom have their own individual agendas inside a million larger issues.

It's no wonder the debate has gone to brinkmanship... there are too many moving parts. Everybody has to fear the car falling apart, or nobody's gonna take it into the shop.

There's so many sides to this it sometimes feels as though my head's going to explode, but it really boils down to attempting, to the best of my ability, to act with integrity and be proud of my actions when this is all over.

It's day one.

That's where my mind is at. All three of them, actually.

How about yours?

- Steve

P.S. Sorry about the duplicate Emails. Outlook for Mac is ASS.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hey, board artists!

So, the strike's coming, but it doesn't affect 839 because... well, quite frankly, 839 is cheaper than the WGA.

That's it, really.

Don't think for a minute that what I do is any different than Family Guy or the Simpsons (not quality, I'm just saying process). It isn't.

I open up final draft, I type, I hand to a talented artist and it becomes a cartoon.

The only difference is, I'm paid once, out of my salary, and then the money is done.

So let me ask you this: And it's hypothetical. You, board artists and directors, believe you are cartoon writers (and I don't disagree.)

There's a union that represents WRITERS - and they rep writers on prime time shows that probably make 5x what you make... AND they get residuals.

In an open playing field, would you:

1) Fight for change within 839 and hope that, like other writers in Hollywood you were able to get more money, residuals and a larger contribution to your health and pension?


2) Move to the WGA because, as a board artist, you ARE a writer and maybe there's a cast to be made that you be treated as such?

That's the STRICTLY HYPOTHETICAL QUESTION we should all be asking ourselves, because the unions are the unions, the rules are the rules and it exists way outside the realm of what any one of us can decide.


Monday, October 29, 2007

T minus 72 hours.

At the very least.

There's a federal mediator coming in to "help" the WGA negotiations... Which means that by this time Thursday, every writer in Hollywood will have been evacuated to the Superdome.

Will Sean Penn or Anderson Cooper float in to save us?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

More on the Biersch thing


...a lot of strike talk was discussed, and to be honest - much of it was tongue in cheek but SOME of it was really poignant.

Both 839 (Steve Hewett) and the Writers Guild of America were represented... and I thought it was interesting... because everybody there was passionate about the impending writers strike. I tried to corral them to the same table, to see if it would explode into two angry wet cats clawing at each other, but in the end, they were both civil and I couldn't manipulate an "Accidental cage match."

An evening's worth of theories:

1) Regarding a strike: There's movement. I don't think there's going to be a strike on November 1st, because people are talking. I could be wrong. That being said, I stick by my Strike Pool choice.

2) Script writers are acutely aware of the board/director animosity towards us. But they are also - by and large - willing to open conversation with people that they, in general, consider peers who write a different way. It would be nice if certain animation professionals (Rhymes with Shmon Shmay) would stop poisoning young animators minds - the same way the Taliban gets 'em young in Afghanistan.

3) A nice long discussion with the WGA about the fact that as long as TV Animation is considered the bastard child of a bastard child, we know that animation writing will be the first thing surrendered to up the residuals on a box DVD set, or digital downloads. We think, in general, we are a disliked minority within our own union where we are labelled "story revisionist monkey" or some such nonsense, and a disposable subsection of another. Is it any wonder we spend most of our days reading comic books and playing video games?

4) We could use a little bit more diversity in our field.

5) Whatever AGEISM exists in prime time television does not exist in TV animation. The writers ran the gamut, from newbie kids to old school types. There was a lot of history there last night, and it was cool.

That's that for that. It's 1 AM, and I am wiped.

Again: Good to see you all. Post. Reply. All that stuff.

And I'll probably pull another one of these together mid January.


- Steve

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We animation folk are an honest lot.

So, to start the story, Jack Thomas put the "over under" at $150.

To reserve the Gordon Biersch, I had to slap my credit card down and guarantee a certain amount of boozing and dining would happen. $700 worth, to be exact. I figured, with 80 people RSVPing, that wouldn't be an issue.

But when I arrived at Biersch, they informed me there would be one check for everyone -- which put me in the position: Trust my animation brothers and sisters to chip in on appropriate levels, or raise a stink.

I trusted my kinfolk.

So the evening starts at 6:20 - I get there early to connect with the Biersch folk - and run into Stan Berkowitz and his lovely wife. Word was spread: Anything not paid for becomes the responsibility of Marmel Dynamics (My loan out company), and a small wicker basket was placed out for people to toss what they felt they drank, ate or whatever into it.

Like Church, I suppose, but with funnier people.

Here's the math.

The bill was 849.00, not counting monies paid via credit card.

I probably enjoyed about 40 bucks of food and drink, two people who work on the same floor as me at Frank G. Wells promised another 40 between the two of them, I paid $7 to the nice valet people and I picked up the tab of the nice lady from the WGA who came out to meet animation professionals.

That means I needed to pick up $742 in cash to break even. I picked up, I shit you not, $723.

The pot was off by 19 bucks. I can live with this.

So while everyone is arguing about money, and a bunch of animation professionals converged on Gordon Biersch to eat, drink and be curmudgeony... everyone was talking about residuals and strikes...

...everyone had a good time and pitched in their fair share.

I know things are more complicated than that.

But then again, maybe it's as simple as that as well.

Thanks for not sticking me with the tab, guys. See you all in three or four months.


- Steve

Friday, October 19, 2007

In Praise of Not-Writers

Funny LA Times opinion piece about the glories of "not-writing" and how it relates to the current strike unpleasantness.
As a professional writer, I've always been pretty good at not writing. Not writing, in fact, is one of my chief skills. I can not write anywhere -- on a plane, in a coffee shop, in my office -- and I often feel that a day spent without not writing is a day wasted. I even keep a notebook by the side of the bed, in case I wake up with an idea at 3 in the morning and don't want to write it down in case I don't forget it.

Monday, October 15, 2007

STRIKE POOL! Your comment is your entrance.

And it's five bucks per guess, honor system.

Everyone gets to pick one day - if it happens, the person closest to the guess wins whatever the pot is.

Since we don't have any control over it, and all we're doing is idol speculation, I figure we might as well make it official.

Ties split.

Comment here and pick your day. By commenting and picking a day, you are tossing $5 into the pool. And with any luck, it'll never even happen that we'll have to collect.

I'll start. I choose Friday, November 23rd.

Who's next?