Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Who then, speaks for the animation writer?

It's been the topic of a lot of commentary:

"In order to make absolutely clear our commitment to bringing a speedy conclusion to negotiations, we have decided to withdraw our proposals on reality and animation. Our organizing efforts to achieve Guild representation in these genres for writers will continue. You will hear more about this in the next two weeks."

Me? I'm disappointed, not surprised. Forgive me if I don't clutch my heart over this.

So who represents animation writers?

Well, at least, for now, it's not the WGA. We're off the table again.

And as an animation script writer, I can say... I don't really think it'll ever be IATSE. We are a small voice in a gigantic union.

The IATSE contract is up in 18 months. Lets see how that all shakes out. Will IATSE use the WGA as a template in the same way IATSE wanted the WGA to use the DGA agreement?

Hell if I know.

If you're an animation person, and you want good representation, you're gonna have to find it, pick it, and pay for it.

For a lawyer to read your fine print and protect you.

For an agent to fight for you and you alone.

For an accountant, or a business manager, to help you save money and build your own pension.

And most importantly, for your own talent to shine bright enough that it can secure a future above minimums.

Because apparently, as of right now, I don't see a better option.

31 comments:

MFDub said...

Just wanted to say...I'm currently in a grad writing program, and everytime I tell people I want to go into animation I get the same response: "That's really difficult, why not just do TV?" It ticks me off because of course any worthwhile dream is going to be difficult.

Anyway, point is, although I know this post is about the disappointment from the WGA fallout, I just wanted to say it's also somewhat inspiring as an aspiring-animation writer. Hearing people say "You can't do it," is much more annoying than hearing someone say, "You can do it, but, man, you are going to have to work your ass off."

Thanks for that. And hopefully dropping animation means bigger gains elsewhere. Because if the WGA can get a good contract, it can live to continue the battle for animation.

One question: who seems to be impeding the progress towards the WGA covering animation writers: the studios or IATSE?

Anonymous said...

One question: who seems to be impeding the progress towards the WGA covering animation writers: the studios or IATSE?

Answer: The WGA

Anonymous said...

The WGA certainly has made mistakes along the way, but for anyone to rank them as a bigger impediment than even the studios is someone that has a big chip on their shoulder. (Unless it was just a joke, in which case I apologize).

If you ask any animation writer, I think it's safe to say that the vast majority would choose to be in the WGA over IATSE.

And the real answer to your question is the studios.

Anonymous said...

I imagine the WGA will go after animation shows and features that aren't covered by anyone yet. Despite what was reported, that's the language that was used in the negotiation -- it wasn't a poaching of IATSE as was widely reported. I don't believe they can afford to fully let animation features go in the long run because of movies like Beowulf and the like. It will be more and more of an issue to them.

As far as people already in IATSE, I have no idea how that would work. Can a group vote to splinter off from a union they're already in? I think there are examples of that, aren't there? In which case, there would need to be a concerted effort to accomplish this in unison so that people don't get fired by the companies. That fear is what's stopping most people in the first place.

Anonymous said...

"I tell people I want to go into animation"

Don't do it, unless you want to be poor.

Kevin Koch said...

"Will IATSE use the WGA as a template in the same way IATSE wanted the WGA to use the DGA agreement?

Hell if I know.
"

I know. The answer is yes. It's called pattern bargaining, and it's the reason why the WGA and SAG contracts won't be significantly different than the DGA contract on the common points.

outsideTVsafe said...

"Pattern" bargaining? Check that pattern a little more closely next time you bargain, would ya? You seem to be leaving out the part where I get residuals for what I write. It's near the top of the inseam I think.

Anonymous said...

well, the wga worked a deal for you. go write for a wga shop.

Kevin Koch said...

outsidetvsafe, when the WGA figures out how to get individual residuals for anything other than primetime TV at Fox, let us know. I'd love to see their model. Maybe ask Patric about how they did it for "Class of 3000."

Wndell Wilkie said...

ooh, Snap

Anonymous said...

Way to support the writers, Kevin.

Anonymous said...

Jesus. No kidding. If you're looking to make the writers in the union that you're president of feel even more alienated than they already are, keep it up.

Steve said...

I think Kevin is in a shit position... there are writers that are treated with more respect and paid better than those within his union...

...but he's also in the position of having to answer to people above him - like Tom Short - who's contempt for our little corner of the universe is palpable.

I think this is the year of things coming to a head. The WGA will solve their issues to the best of their ability. Then, the IATSE contract will come up, and IATSE will have to address - or dismiss - our concerns, and we - as individual writers - will have to decide what that means.

I don't think anyone here is a villain.

But I don't see a lot of heroes, either.

Kevin Koch said...

Thanks for the defense, Steve, though I don't think you really framed it accurately. I don't answer to Tom Short, and Tom Short doesn't have contempt for our corner of the universe. It's just not that simple.

Here's the sad truth that too many people don't want to acknowledge: none of us, Tom Short and Patric Verrone included, are ever going to get exactly what we want from this town. I used an example above that shows that even the president of the WGA can't get what most animation writers want, even under a WGA contract.

Now, you can look at my pointing out that fact as evidence that I hate writers, or the WGA, or Patric, or puppies. Or you can take it as factual information that reveals some of the truth about the landscape we find ourselves occupying in animation-land.

The WGA talks a great game, but when you step back and look at what gets accomplished, well, it doesn't always match the rhetoric. I'm just sayin'.

My experience as president for the last 6+ years is that most writers either don't care, or they've already alienated themselves. It's not my doing. Earl Kress has been the only writer who has consistently stepped up during that time and tried to make a difference. But hey, if it serves you to blame me for your alienation from TAG, so be it.

Right now, there's some interest among at least a handful of writers to make some change. That's fantastic. But as long as writers cling to pie-in-the-sky expectations, and make faulty assumptions about who their friends and enemies are, it's going to be a rocky road.

Anonymous said...

In your opinion, what kinds of things if anything do you believe are achievable, and what actions would need to be taken by writers to achieve them?

Anonymous said...

MFDub said...

I'm currently in a grad writing program... I want to go into animation.

Don't.

Unless you want:

Low pay
No residuals
Artists who hate you.
Studios who don't respect you.
Executives who don't respect you.
"Real" writers who don't respect you.
And a Union that won't represent you.

It's too late for us, save yourself while you have the chance.

Anonymous said...

And don't forget:
animation writers that don't respect themselves and hope that someday they might get a chance to right something with the "real" writers.

Let's admit it. Most of us that write animation (though I'm sure not all) would rather write on a WGA live-action project for better pay and residuals then on animation.

CR said...

Writers tried to "do something about it" in 2000 when we asked for residuals. And we all know how well that went over with the rest of our 839 brethren.

Anonymous said...

"Don't.

Unless you want:

Low pay
No residuals
Artists who hate you.
Studios who don't respect you.
Executives who don't respect you.
"Real" writers who don't respect you.
And a Union that won't represent you."

or you could change your mission and decide first to work on something good, and creative and in a field you love. watch how quickly all that other shit goes out the window.

it's only when that creative innovative project become successful that all these things even matter. decide to be an artist or writer first. it's why you got into this, right? its why people go into animation or any other craft. because they love it. if you think you're getting ripped off, then get a law degree, marry someone with one, or hire one when you've been rewarded for being true to your craft. if you're REALLY making artistic ground and become well known posthumously, make sure you send your kids to law school so at least they can benefit.

its the road less traveled. don't expect studios or collective bargaining alike to keep you company. you and you alone are responsible for getting ripped off.

Steve said...

Jesus Christ. What an anonymous pile of bummer.

To the first poster's question:

You want to go into animation writing, go into animation writing. You're doing something you want to do because it speaks to you, not because of all the negatives that come with it.

If you love something, the positives will outweigh it.

And to whichever anonymous said we'd all rather be on a live action show with a WGA coverage...

I'd like to counter with this:

I would prefer to work on a show I'm proud of that gets WGA residuals, health and benefits. Whether that means the WGA, or it means getting IATSE to push for it, at this point, I can't say I care.

I don't consider animation a "Stepping stone" into another career that's more prestigious... I consider it all part of the same writing/producing career that started many many years ago.

I write and produce cartoons.
I write and produce live action shows.
I write stand up comedy and jokes - for myself, and sometimes for others.
I'm a writer. And a producer. And I very much enjoy my career.

If you don't love what you do, you might as well go into the highest paying job in the service industry, because that's what you're doing. Serving somebody else's... whatever.

But if you do love what you do - even if that is serving somebody else's whatever - none of the negatives matter.

Getting off the "Shmaltz" box now, and moving on to the day.

Kevin Koch said...

In your opinion, what kinds of things if anything do you believe are achievable, and what actions would need to be taken by writers to achieve them?

That's an interesting and worthwhile question. Given that there are some (many? most?) animation writers with the attitudes and beliefs expressed by the commenter that came directly after the one I've quoted, I'm not necessarily optimistic. If you expect to be treated like shit, and you're eager to shit on the efforts of those who have gone to bat for you in the past, then things probably won't change much for the better.

But if you seriously want to kick around the above question and some possible answers, maybe invite me to one of those meetings at the Blue Room or Castaways or wherever, and I'll brainstorm with you.

Anonymous said...

since when do studios NOT respect animation writers? studios kiss your inept asses and make you producers. you writers are just lucky studio executives have no idea how animation works or they would realize that MOST of you bog down your stories with crap slow down the pipeline and make shows twice as expensive to produce. instead you get promoted to producers and showrunners and sometimes they even call you directors.
if you want to be an animation writer and stand out from the crowd then be the opposite of what most of them are right now. study more than writing. study film and art and design. artists only hate writers who are crap at scriptwriting so if your actually good at it you will be loved.
as for the pay dont worry about not getting residuals because when you are made a producer it will make up for it. until then just accept everything else as "part of the job" the way this blog constantly tells storyboard artists that fixing shitty scripts and working 80 hours a week is just "part of the job".

CR said...

See Kevin, see how much the artists loooooooooooove us writers. And you wonder why we want out of 839.

Anonymous said...

Good thing no writer interfered with that masterpiece Atlantis.

Anonymous said...

It's true that there's good writing and not so good writing, and good animation and not so good animation, but I think the whole writers vs. artists bad blood is counterproductive to both sides. Aren't the companies responsible for everyone's poor pay structures? Aren't both sides playing right into the companies hands by keeping up this back and forth bickering. Both writers and artists deserve better treatment across the board. I say take Kevin up on his offer and see if anything comes from it.

Anonymous said...

thats your best comeback? atlantis? talk about reaching. for every artist driven flop i can point you to a thousand writer driven flops.
and as for cr as usual you have basically admitted to being a lousy writer. if you were one of the good ones you would have no reason to be offended. go ahead and get out of 839. were better off without you. go work on one of the hundreds of horrible sit coms you guys would kill your own mothers to write for.

Anonymous said...

Hey everyone! It's the bitter artist guy again! The one who thinks he's a better writer than all writers even though he's probably has never written anything! I love that guy!

Steve said...

kevin;

Consider yourself pre-invited to whatever the next shindig is.

Speaking for only myself, I don't care who makes it better for writers in animation - whether it's TAG, IATSE, or the WGA. My loyalty, and my passion, is for my peers... not any organization that speaks for them.

Moving on to the new posts...

Matt Wayne said...

Just catching up with this board...

I don't think it's a given that writers would rather do live action. Writers want steady work that pays well. Artists feel the same way, as do waitresses. A few artists have admitted to me they'd rather do comics, or fancypants fine art, but have to pay the bills.

As for who's really impeding the progress toward better pay for writers (or even toward writers keeping even), it's everybody. It's the WGA, which always makes sure that animation is on the table, but only as a bargaining chip.

(To the WGA, daytime animation writers are mostly low-paid or unemployed, more of a drag on the WGA's pension and health funds and other resources than a source of dues. We're refugees to them, a charity case. It's an important piece of the puzzle that I had to have explained to me.)

There's also IATSE, which has all of the shortcomings of organized labor in 21st-C. America plus its own Tom Short-comings.

And it's also writers. We accept work at any price, because it's usually the right move.

Nobody else will benefit from improving our situation--not either union, not the studios, not our colleagues--and we have to work on that. If we can make it in somebody else's interest to take our side, we'll do better.

Anonymous said...

fuck the WGA. Fuck them for their lies and just using us for "leverage. FUCK Patrick who is a glad handing back stabber... thanks a lot, you douche.

Why are they saying they're going to continue fighting for us when they took us off the table? God, I hate those primadonna assholes. If I ever get my own project FUCK any writers who are guild members.

watching voice artists and composers get residuals when us writers and board artists should get a piece. Hearing for the last 3 months how the only way WGA crybabies survive the dry times is with residuals makes me sick. Try writing animation where the job pays a fraction and last a fraction... unless you're a board writer.

Yeah, we shouldn'e be surprised - but how come we all are? At some level we hoped... I remember Patrick's big rah rah speech at the Guild last year, "We're gonna the animation language into the contract. DOUCHE BAG!

Matt Wayne said...

Come on. That's somewhere between harsh and parody.

I'm glad the WGA is playing hardball, and jealous of their position.

But we can only rely on ourselves to represent our own interests.