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?


Kevin Koch said...

I'd be interested in a side-by-side comparison of the WGA and IA pensions. How does the WGA pension work?

Steve said...

That's an excellent question.

From what I understand, TAG folk get health faster (which is good) but the pension for the same amount of money is half (which is bad).

If that's right.

I leave that to people who are much smarter about this, and more informed about this, than I, to debate.

Kevin Koch said...

I'm not so much interested in a debate -- one pension or the other is better for the same kind of show. I just have no idea what kind of pension contributions someone on a WGA daytime animated show gets, compared to a Fox primetime show, compared to a TAG 839 show.

Any WGA writers out there want to educate us? Because that would be useful information come contract negotiation time.

Steve Hulett said...

Stan B. said he was going to get Steve M. some pension data: WGA compared to IATSE. Steve?

The relative values of the different pension (and health) plans are tricky to calculate. I know I can't.

As I was saying to Stan on Tuesday, the IA pension plan was downright awful when I started in the 1970s (health plan was excellent). Now it's semi-adequate but not great. (OTOH, the health plan is good to very good, but no longer excellent.)