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?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Kumbaya! Remembering Eek! the Cat

Fifteen years ago this Fall, Savage Steve Holland and Bill Kopp’s Eek! the Cat (soon to be Eek! and the Terrible Thunder Lizards, then Eek! Stravaganza) premiered on FOX Kids (defunct as of 2002, sadly). I was 11 when Eek came on and it was pretty special, with its movie parodies, celebrity voices, self-reflexivity, and sometimes dark sensibility (Eek himself routinely seemed serenely fatalistic and even a bit perverted).

Eek debuted at the tail-end of an era where toy tie-in Saturday ‘toons were still common, if not the (shaky) rule. Fittingly, its playful disregard for Saturday morning comedy conventions often gave it more in common with original, new wave cable cartoons like Doug, Ren & Stimpy, Duckman, Beavis and Butthead, Rocko’s Modern Life than its own network sister shows. In fact, during its run, Eek’s S&P-defying innovation did not go unnoticed by mainstream entertainment press. Here’s a short Entertainment Weekly piece on the show’s hilarious S&P notes.
*Page 3: ''I found the shot of Rambo blowing Santa Claus to bloody smithereens excessively violent. We would like to edit this so we don't see Santa exploding.'' *Page 4: ''Even though it is Eek's fantasy, it will not be acceptable to show the child walking into the surf to commit suicide.''
Eek!'s frequent reformatting occassionally made it hard to find -- and even understand -- (is it just my imagination or did Eek once show up in the Thunderlizards's universe?), but the show's sincerity, strangeness, and refusal to ever talk down to its audience remains permanently in my mind. And for that, my "tween" years are thankful.

Much more about Eek! here and here. Interviews with showrunners here.

Meet the New Guy

Steve has given me permission to start blogging here. You may have gotten brief glimpses of my work here or here, and you may have enjoyed (i.e. tolerated) longer glimpses of my work here. Anyway, I love cartoons and they make me laugh, so that’s why I’m here.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Writer-Palooza III on October 23rd

If ya didn't get an invite, I didn't have your email addy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

I find it interesting...

...that the animation guild is talking more about writing today than they have since, I dunno... forever?

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An ill wind blows.

But ill for who, when it will start REALLY blowing and how long it will blow, is anybody's guess.

Nobody wants a strike.

But everybody wants a union they believe will fight for all them.

In the Writer's Guild, I am a writer. In 839, I'm a "story person." In one guild, I get residuals, ownership, protection...

...and in the other, I get what I negotiate for. That being said, I am compensated well, and have no complaints. I have a generous employer that respects what I do and pays accordingly.

But the job I do that's covered in 839, is the exact same job I do for the WGA. And quite frankly, I find that baffling.

So on November 2nd, or December, or whatever it is... whenever the strike happens, if it happens...

...every animation writer - storyboard or script - should take a peek and see what the WGA is doing, and whether they accomplish their goals or not.

It affects all of us.