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!


Anonymous said...

So if they receive their 10.5 for the internet re-airing then they won't scream for the same 10.5 the first time it's re-aired on TV?

Alex Weitzman said...

Anonymous implies an interesting point. How does inevitable Internet reairing affect the rerun process that currently exists? And conversely, how much money is trading hands in regards to this Internet reairing?

It would be unfair for the WGA to ask for a flat rate of money that's not actually being earned by the Internet reairing, despite what your average and established TV rerun will earn. But I trust that they're not asking for that. The reasonable thing that occurs to me, the audience member, is to simply ask for a specific percentage of what that Internet reairing gets, which would obviously increase as the Internet becomes the dominant medium.

Which, of course, is where that whole problem of sketchy language and net/gross conflicts comes up again. And that's where I look at the situation and I cannot help but charge the studios with purposeful greed. Screwing around with language and getting the writers to agree to a crappier arrangement thanks to dodgy phrasing is hard to justify by accident or principle. All it does is remind me of this exchange from Shakespeare in Love:

Philip Henslowe: But I have to pay the actors and the author.
Hugh Fennyman: Share of the profits.
Philip Henslowe: There's never any.
Hugh Fennyman: Of course not.
Philip Henslowe: Oh, Mr. Fennyman. I think you might have hit upon something.

Steve said...

I actually think the Guild is asking for a "split the difference" on this issue.

Money up front for the rerun, more money in success if there's a lot of downloads.

I tend to think the guild might be aggressively realistic about things, but the emphasis is on realistic.

It's unfair to simply cut out that second window.

But it's silly to assume that the world is what it was a decade ago.

That being said, the difference can't be 10,250 vs. 250. It has to be in the middle.

Matt Wayne said...

Alex, it isn't that the studios are greedy. They have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders. By which they get all the benefits of greed, guilt-free.

Alex Weitzman said...

Steve - Yeah, it's obvious there has to be an amount in the middle that's reasonable. However, that money given up front would seem to depend (at least, as I can see it) on what money is being generated from the current structure of Internet reairings. As in, the WGA shouldn't be asking for money that's not there. I don't think they're doing that, but I'd be intrigued to see what the earnings are from the Internet (ads? studio-provided budget? etc.) and see where that all figures out to. Again, an honestly-done sliding scale or preset language regarding percentage would seem like the best choice, allowing the writers to get the correct piece of the pie no matter how big or small the pie is at the time. What sucks is that the studios don't seem to be arguing what the correct piece of the pie is, but whether they deserve a slice at all.

Matt - Funny how that works, isn't it? Human psychology is an easy-to-predict bitch; if you've got some remote source to lay all your hangups or baser urges on, you can sleep at night like an innocent baby. I'm sure the eighth circle of Hell is waiting for them with open arms (although it'll have to fight off the fourth circle for the privilege). BTW, Matt, the Legion episode "Chained Lightning" was freakin' fantastic.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing a lot will be discovered when the Director's Guild starts to negotiate in January. I understand they've actually been talking to experts about the internet - unlike the WGA.
My guess is that the WGA's approach is all wrong about the internet. It's trying to pigeonhole into the same formula as broadcast TV, but since there are no specific times everyone needs to 'turn on' the interent to watch a specific show it seems like it operates closer to, say, Netflix or a rental service like that. Where everyone watches a show at different times and may hold onto it for awhile as a download and watch it later or mulitple times, etc.
It seems like a better model might be broadcast radio and how they pay publisher/artists for the use of their songs where there's a collective pot that is divvied up amongst all those involved to cover 'x' amount of time.
Personally I think they're jumping the gun right now on trying to predict how the internet will be the only way to view TV. It seems like it might be better to wait until it actually happens and chances are good it won't happen before the next time their contract comes up. Settle for a small toe in the water and renegotiate later when it's clear what is happening with the internet. Right now it's a guessing game.

F.D. Beckham said...

my name is Frances Beckham
I know this is off the subject but I could not find any other topic to ask this question under. I have written a children novel and I have recently published it. I am interested in having it made into an animated movie. I wonder do could you direct me to any studio contacts that I can present my book to for consideration for an animation movie or series. If you can this info would be helpful to me and my agent. My email address is