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?

18 comments:

Steve Hulett said...

No residuals.

Like Patric Verrone didn't get on Class of 3000 under a WGA contract.

Steve said...

Jesus, God, Steve. We've shared liquor and conversation.

Are you always this negative?

Lil said...

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

That's what I was thinking as I read Hewett's blog before yours, in fact. Children's cartoons can be repeated ad nauseum because they never seem to get tired of it. On cable, they will even show episodes of the same show several times in the course of a day, and repeat the same episode in a matter of days.

I always knew they did it to be cheap, but knowing this about residuals puts a new and infuriating spin on it for me. It makes no sense to claim that union members are receiving their residuals in other forms like health insurance. Health insurance costs do not rise or fall in relation to how often your show is played, or how much advertising revenue is made from it. Thus they pay the insurance - a relatively flat rate - and then play the bejeebers out of what's been written, and as a side effect there's less need for *new* cartoons which might deliver more actual income.

The mind boggles. How did anyone come to agree to it in the first place? It must've been a very different climate at the time. *Very* different.

Steve Hulett said...

Jesus, God, Steve. We've shared liquor and conversation.

Are you always this negative?


Negative? How about realistic?

I spent nine months with the 2000 negotiating committee working to get writer residuals.

Once upon a time (1997? 1998? I forget.) Tom Sito ran around to lead animators at Disney, the feature directors, and lead animators asking them to help us go after residuals. "Get on board," Tom said. "Lend your clout and name to this." We even had some industry lawyers talking to heavyweights, talking resids up.

There were polite demurrals all around, with the addendum: "Hey, if you get them anyway, thanks a lot."

Both those times -- as you probably already guessed -- no luck.

I've got no axe to grind with Patric Verrone. I've never met him. He's a good speaker, talented writer, no doubt a good lawyer. He could well be leading the WGA to a watershed moment in its history ...

But ... unless studio execs are lying to me, and God knows that's been known to happen ... Patric story-edited and wrote a daytime series under a WGA contract with no residuals.

Now, why is that?

Because that's what the WGA had the leverage to get.

But if you call that being negative, then fine. I think of it as being clear-eyed about the biz.

In Hollywood, results are tied to leverage. Many people 'round and about like to ignore that.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Marmle, are you being cute when you repeatedly misspell Hulett's name, or just not interested enough to notice.

Anonymous said...

"Tom Sito ran around to lead animators at Disney, the feature directors, and lead animators asking them to help us go after residuals."

This is a lie. Tom Sito worked against the writer's effort to get residuals.

Anonymous said...

I love writers who are so biased and myopic that anything, no matter how factual, is flatly denied as not existing in their little universe.

Of course the reference to Tom Sito trying to rally for residuals was in the '90's. It's a fact, not a lie. He tried to get residuals for a bunch of people, not just writers. It went nowhere.

In 2000, Tom let anyone who wanted to be on the negotiating committee get into the fray. A group of writers joined in and dominated the committee. They sought to get residuals . . . for writers and only writers.

Directors, story artists, character designers, animators were all considered unworthy of residuals. One member of that committee, a writer, proposed reclassifying storyboard artists as "graphic enhancers," since any job title with "story" in it might want to claim a piece of those residuals. That suggestion never became an official proposal of the committee, but it was seriously considered by the committee.

Tom Sito let that information be known to story artists. And guess what? They were pissed. Wouldn't you have been?

Anyone, writer or board artist or anyone else, who seriously wants to try again to get residuals in animation would do well to actually know some history, and know what's gone before. Yelling that Steve Hulett is a liar or that Tom Sito was the enemy is a good way to make sure you're as ineffective as the negotiating committee was in 2000.

Anonymous said...

I was on the committee in 2000 and nobody proposed reclassifying storyboard artists as "graphic enhancers”. That is an absolute lie!

The writers also made it clear to the artists also serving on the committee that if we (the writers) got residuals it would open the door for artists.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, it's not a lie. I was at a meeting of the animation writers caucus where Tom Sito was the invited guest (yeah, they invited him BEFORE the whole meltdown happened with the negotiating committee). After his presentation on some animation history, the Q&A turned into a bitch fest, and Tom was attacked for his supposed lie about "graphic enhancers."

Finally, when the writer from the committee who had made the proposal wouldn't step up, Tom called him out. The guy (sorry, don't remember the name) reluctantly admitted that he had, in fact, suggested the term 'graphic enhancers," but he quickly framed it that it had been an unofficial suggestion, made during a brainstorming session, and the it hadn't gone further than that.

Tom's point was that a writer on the negotiating committee, as part of his efforts on that committee, had suggested reclassifying story artists as graphic enhancers. The fact that the suggestion died, that it hadn't been turned into an official proposal by the committee, wasn't the issue. The reclassification HAD been suggested by a committee member. I heard the guy admit it. There was so much heat in the room, I'm not even sure how many other people even registered the admission -- Tom was the scapegoat, the enemy, and even after the writer copped to making the 'graphic enhancer' suggestion, people were still pissed at Tom.

Rewriting history isn't going to help you going forward. The efforts of the 2000 committee, no matter how well intended, were exclusively for writers, and many of the committee members displayed a shocking lack of understanding or regard for their colleagues in the animation business.

Oh, and how can anyone "make clear" that residuals for just the writers will lead to residuals for others in animation? Where's the precedent for that? Actors in animation have been getting residuals for years. Writers on the Fox shows have been getting residuals for years. Many TAG writers have gotten residuals on their TAG work going back a ways. And NONE of that has built even the slightest traction for artists to get residuals. I hate to sound so negative, but my impression is that some people want to make this issue about "fairness," when fairness has nothing to do with negotiating with the AMPTP. Like Hulett says all the time, it's leverage. Writers getting residuals doesn't give any leverage to anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Many TAG writers have gotten residuals on their TAG work going back a ways.

Who?

Anonymous said...

Mark Evanier has written about it on his blog. He's one who has. Best I can tell, it used to happen more than it does now, partly because the WGA has repeatedly emphasized that local 839 writers don't get residuals, to the point where studios now accept that as gospel.

I remember one story (I forget if this was from Evanier or one Steve Hulett wrote about) about a new exec at a studio stopping the residual payments to an 839 animation writer who had a deal with residuals. The exec, who didn't know any better, just knew that he'd repeatedly heard that 839 writers didn't get residuals, so he stopped the payments. Of course, the company eventually had to pay, but it's unlikely that exec ever let another 839 writer negotiate for residuals.

Marty said...

To my knowledge Mark Evanier is the only animation writer who ever received residuals outside of a WGA contract -- and I'm pretty sure it wasn't with an 839 signatory either. I'm sure our resident historian Mr. Hulett will correct me if I'm wrong, but one guy doesn't quite count as "Many TAG writers".

And on the "graphic enhancers" issues, I wasn't in the room when it was first discussed, but I believe the context was in reaction to the writers' classification as "story persons" in the 839 contracts. My understanding was the tone of the proposal was more along the lines of "How would you board artists like to be called 'graphic enhancers'?" Or something like that. I doubt that it was ever a seriously considered proposal.

Anyway, no need to reopen old wounds. Particularly when the tenor of this particular forum has been that board artists and writers are equally deserving of residuals.

Steve Hulett said...

To my knowledge Mark Evanier is the only animation writer who ever received residuals outside of a WGA contract -- and I'm pretty sure it wasn't with an 839 signatory either. I'm sure our resident historian Mr. Hulett will correct me if I'm wrong, but one guy doesn't quite count as "Many TAG writers".

You'd have to ask Mark or whoever else received them. They would have come out of personal service contracts, not the c.b.a.

And on the "graphic enhancers" issues, I wasn't in the room when it was first discussed, but I believe the context was in reaction to the writers' classification as "story persons" in the 839 contracts.

I was there. But this stuff happened 7 1/2 years ago, and though I remember the flap, I don't remember all the details.

The one detail I recall from the board artist/writer meeting which occurred in 839's upstairs meeting hall (chaired by Earl Kress) was an exchange between a writer from the negotiation committee and a board artist. The writer was explaining a new credit arbitration procedure that was being proposed, and said that board artists would have a crack at getting a writer's credit under the new guide lines. "There's going to be a credits committee," he said.

"Who's going to be on the committee?" said the board artist.

"Writers," said the writer.

At which point a long "AAAaaah" went around the room.

Steve Hulett said...

"Tom Sito ran around to lead animators at Disney, the feature directors, and lead animators asking them to help us go after residuals."

This is a lie. Tom Sito worked against the writer's effort to get residuals.


Thanks for your support. Tom ran around in the middle nineties in attemtp to get residuals for animators, directors, and story people.

Sorry you think it's a lie, but facts remain facts.

And while we're talking about writers, I wrote on four Disney features, one Disney featurette, and a bunch of teevee stuff.

Nice to know I'm no longer considered a part of the scribbling class.

Anonymous said...

According to what Evanier has written on his blog, he's definitely not the only one, and this was indeed through 839 studios. And there was one recent case several years ago that involved about 10 writers at an 839 studio, none of whom had the initials M.E.

Also, the writers have been known as writers for quite some time in the 839 contract. You might want to read it sometime.

Anonymous said...

I've worked on PLENTY of animated features that were, for a fact WRITTEN by the story artists. Mainly because the "writers (or as I prefer to call them, 'typers')" considered working in animation beneath them. Not so beneath them that they'd take the money and credit, though. I've seen them go into story rooms and literally copy down dialogue written on the storyboards by the story artists, and claim it as their own. This isn't a once in a while thing; it happens a LOT.

Marty said...

Yes, anonymous, I DO read the 839 contract and I'm well aware that writers are referred to as "writers" NOW. But at the time of the incident we're discussing they were still referred to as "Story Persons".

Just curious, the "10 writers at an 839 studio" you're referring to, would those be the writers on "Father of the Pride"? Because that was a deal largely initiated and negotiated by (wait for it) the WGA.

Again, I'm sure Mr. Hulett can fill in the details, but I think it went something like the studio -- an 839 signatory -- refused to sign a separate WGA agreement for the writers (who all assumed they would be working under a WGA agreement, but the studio never bothered to tell them otherwise) so they worked a compromise wherein WGA-style residuals were worked into their contracts.

And if you weren't referring to "Father of the Pride", I'd be curious to know more.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty clear that those residual-getting writers on Father of the Pride could have benefitted from the help of non-residual-getting story artists. Due to schedule and mostly arrogance help from story artists wasn't appreciated.