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.