Monday, January 21, 2008

You'll notice, the guild didn't react.

A lot of people are reacting FOR the guild.

But the guild is running numbers. And the guild is rightly trying to figure out what this means for its members, not how it affects directors or what they look like in the media.

The very fact that CBS has to advertise "Big Brother 10 (or whatever)" as "Now that's good television" should say something. Maybe it is: If you're grading on a curve.

With awards shows coming and an actor's strike brewing, this is the perfect time for the WGA to make a decision as to whether this is a good deal, and negotiate from it... or to stand strong, and keep up the fight.

I don't have an opinion. I don't know the numbers.

I also don' t have an opinion, because I have a weekly paycheck. I am vested, and I am affected... but I am not suffering as others are, for this cause.

Everybody wants this over quickly. But for it to be over without meaning would mean it shouldn't have happened in the first place.

The WGA can take heart in the fact that any big gains given to the DGA were a direct result of the pressure the WGA put on the AMPTP in the first place. The gains given to the DGA, that they made that deal in six days, is proof that there was merit to the WGA argument... and the AMPTP gave in on some things but gave them to the DGA as a face saving measure.

The question now becomes... is it enough for the DGA? Would it be enough for SAG?

Interesting days.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nikke Finke weighed in...

"That Shitty DGA Deal Is At Least A Start..."

Kevin Koch said...

Nikki Finke goes out of town . . . and progress on the strike happens.

Coincidence?

Steve said...

Well, it depends on your definition of progress.

I'm going to wait until the WGA weighs in before I judge.

Alex Weitzman said...

I'll bet if there was more ice cream available at these negotiations, they'd be a lot less hostile.

That's my random thought for the day.

Kevin Koch said...

My definition of progress is pretty straightforward: the DGA gets a better deal than most observers thought was likely or possible, and the WGA leaders are quietly in informal talks with the AMPTP that could lead to formal talks.

By even the most conservative standards, the progress of the last week exceeds that of the entire 12 months that preceded it.

Before the DGA deal, there wasn't even the remotest framework for a settlement between the producers and the writers. Now the door is open a crack. I understand not wanting to get one's hopes up to high too soon, but this is real progress.

Steve said...

Kevin;

But when you say this:

"By even the most conservative standards, the progress of the last week exceeds that of the entire 12 months that preceded it."

You intentionally negate the pressure the WGA put on the AMPTP. The fact that the deal is better than people expected wasn't because the residual fairy came down and bequeathed anybody anything.

It was pressure.

In my opinion, of course.

- Steve

steve too said...

My best guess (and that's all anyone can really have) is that the studios never intended on dealing with the WGA and always intended on dealing withe DGA. The fact that the DGA had actually spent a little time (and money) to try and figure out what the landscape is and could be there was qactually something to talk about. The way the writers went into negotiation isn't a lot different then if you tried to negotiate a personal deal and had no idea what a script paid - so I'm guessing the writers being on strike had little to nothing to do with the DGA deal. And my opinion is as accurate as anyone's.

Anonymous said...

What amazes me is the WGA still hasn't asked the DGA for what their research showed them. Could it be they don't want to know? Could the research show that what their fantasies of what will or won't be are wrong?

I'm seeing a lot of bitching by writers about what a bad deal the DGA made - seems to be typiical of many writers who like to think of themselves as the smartest guys in the room and can't handle the idea that someone else may have actually fixed their problems for them. Something that happens all the time and something writers refuse to acknowledge.

writer of wrongs said...

DGA shared their research with the WGA before they negotiated. Sorry anonymous. That negates your specious argument. Everyone in town knows the AMPTP has always been the one refusing to negotiate with the WGA or offer even the semblence of a fair deal. Now after three months of striking the WGA created an environment for the DGA to make a deal which is a positive step for everyone.

Not Steve said...

Word is SAG will officially be reacting to the DGA deal soon (according to a couple strike captains). But unofficially (from these same captains) SAG would go on strike over a couple seriously craptacular deal points. Specifically, the 17/24 day free "promotional" airings is a dealbreaker. Same goes for the 15K per minute budget threshold for internet projects for determining jurisdiction.

As I understand it these are 2 issues that IATSE should be in totally in sync with SAG and WGA since they could dramatically affect the health/pension fund of IATSE members. Sure in the short term the strike hurts everyone. Everyone. But in the long term, if these issues aren't properly resolved then the health/pension fund of BLT workers could dry up. The studios will definitely use these two loop holes to replay shows and movies "residual" free. And many projects (which they claim will be for the internet, but will really be for TV) will be completely non-union (WGA/SAG/IA/DGA).

Anonymous said...

Does anyone have any idea what the revenue is for ads on the internet? and how that compares to ads on TV?
That seems like an a pretty importsant piece of info that the WGA should have in their hands...right?

Steve said...

No, I doubt anybody knows what revenues exist from the internet yet. But the fact that Viacom sued Youtube for a billion dollars (cue Dr. Evil Music Sting) is a good hint.

And good luck getting real accounting from any of the bigguns.

Nobody knew what the DVD formula was, and they've been stuck in a bad deal for 22 years.

So no - they don't know what the math is. But they do know that you can build "fair share" out of percentages and proportion... provided both sides are negotiating honestly.

Should be an interesting day of analysis and spin.

Anonymous said...

Who cares what ad rates are now when we all know it will change as TV migrates to the Internet? And even if it doesn't, who cares? The WGA's position from the beginning has been to use percentages so no one has to worry about things like that. If the congloms make money, writers make money. If the congloms don't, writers don't either. Simple and fair. This strike has always really been about maintaining a creative partnership arrangement (what writers want) vs. moving toward work-for-hire (what the companies want).

Anonymous said...

Initial number crunching in:
Not that much movement after all...

AMPTP offer to WGA on December 7th:
$23.1 million dollars over 3 years

AMPTP/DGA deal summary value:
$32.1 million dollars over 3 years

WGA last proposal to AMPTP:
$122.5 million over 3 years.

Kevin Koch said...

"You intentionally negate the pressure the WGA put on the AMPTP."

Steve, I'm not negating anything. I was talking about progress towards a deal. The prior 12 months was characterized by each side escalating the rhetoric, with zero tangible negotiating progress. Actually, less than zero -- the sides were getting farther apart.

Yes, pressure was being applied, and that pressure likely contributed to some of the DGA deal, but there was no tangible progress -- just the opposite. Now progress is being made. The sides are now closer to being real negotiators, and that's happened only in the last week or so. That's all I'm saying. Not everything is a swipe or an attack on the WGA leadership.

Kevin Koch said...

I guess they really are getting serious. From the leadership's latest letter:

we have decided to withdraw our proposals on reality and animation.

Everyone on the planet knew this would happen, and now that it's done they can really get down to business.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to have to agree with Steve on your general wording, not for 11:48am, but for this one of 5:39pm. It totally reads (even though you probably didn't mean it as such) like WGA was not serious until now and was the stumbling block all along and not the AMPTP.

I totally understand why WGA couldn't budge on it until now. It would be responding to an ultimatum, which they couldn't do. The AMPTP finally dropped the ultimatum, so now they could act.

By the way, the release also added:
"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."

Will be interesting to see if they can come up with anything meaningful in these areas...

Anonymous said...

Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, free at last!

Do NOT appreciate being used as a bargaining chip while being forced to sit on the sidelines to watch our benefits coffers being drained in the process.

The WGA Animation Caucus should be called to task for this giant f up.

Kevin Koch said...

To the anonymous above the last:

It totally reads (even though you probably didn't mean it as such) like WGA was not serious until now ...

Frankly, I think they WERE serious about their attempt to simply claim reality and animation without organizing it, but it was supremely naive and counterproductive. Everyone who knows anything out the AMPTP and labor law knew it had absolutely zero chance of succeeding. I understood those items being in their demands, but they we're clinging to them way too long.

I totally understand why WGA couldn't budge on it until now.

And thats exactly the problem. You make demands that you cannot win, then you retract part of those demands, then you put those demands back in so you look petulant and silly, and then . . . you're stuck. The other side says again and again the demands are nonstarters, and you're given yourself two lousy choices. Take 'em away, and show yourself as weak, or leave 'em, and show yourself as pointlessly stubborn.

It would be responding to an ultimatum, which they couldn't do.

This is an area where I think the WGA negotiators showed their inexperience. It's not simply a matter of going in with a laundry list of demands. Making a major public stand on points that no reasonable people think you can get only sets you up for failure. And you don't throw out your own ultimatum, as Young and Verrone did repeatedly regarding Reality and Animation, unless you're ready for the other side to up the ante.

In poker, every time you bet instead of call, you give the opponent a chance to reraise you. So if you have a drawing hand, you just call. Feigning strength when you don't have it usually doesn't work when the other side has a strong hand and lots of chips. They ran the Reality and Animation bluff way too long.

The AMPTP finally dropped the ultimatum, so now they could act.

My bet is this is one of the first things taken care of in the informal discussions over the weekend. I doubt they AMPTP put out their olive branch without being sure it would be reciprocated. Consider the resumption of negotiations and the dropping of these two points the first results of the real negotiations.

By the way, the release also added:
"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."

Will be interesting to see if they can come up with anything meaningful in these areas...


I'll be surprised if it amounts to much. This isn't snark -- the WGA simply has little leverage in animation. I'm just stating that objectively. Since they got the Fox primetime TV shows 10 years ago, what have they accomplished? Seriously? Recently, they got a contract so concessionary for "Class of 3000" that they never mention it, and what else? Go to the WGA Animation Writers Caucus page, and read the "News." It looks like it was last updated 8 years ago. It's not hard to guess why.

Now maybe they've got some deal cooking quietly with a studio and there'll be a big announcement. That would certainly be newsworthy. The "next two weeks" part is pretty specific, and they've be stupid to give themselves that deadline unless something was brewing. I guess by the first week of Feb. we'll see. But don't be surprised if it's little more than an impassioned, heartfelt bit of rah-rah.

Anonymous said...

And thats exactly the problem. You make demands that you cannot win, then you retract part of those demands, then you put those demands back in so you look petulant and silly, and then . . . you're stuck.

Those demands had been there from the start of this negotiation. There was never any retracting and then putting back (at least as far as this negotiation goes -- I imagine you're talking about previous failed attempts to make headway in the area?). I wish there had been putting back of things retracted... with DVDs.

Also, these 2 demands were tied with 4 other demands that the AMPTP said were nonstarters -- a couple of those ending up in the DGA deal! So I'm glad no one listened to your advice to drop everything the other side says is a nonstarter.

We could argue over taking them out much earlier or not, but my point was that once the ultimatum was made, there was no room to budge on any of those 6 items until the other side came back to the table. They finally started talking again, so movement could be made. Taking them out between the time of the 6 item ultimatum and now would have been one of the biggest mistakes in the history of negotiations.

Anonymous said...

"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."

The great animation unwashed eagerly await the guilds divine words of wisdom on how animation is created and rewarded!

Actions speak louder than words, and the walk off certainly spoke volumes to all the artists unlucky enough to be in the way.

WGA - please explain this - how is the execution of the written story worth more than the execution of the visual story? Execution. We're not talking about someone just throwing out a three word premise and calling themselves an author and landing a screen credit for the "idea".

Please, pose that to Marjane Satrapi, author/artist of Persepolis. You know, she's up for one of the Oscar's that may or may not happen.

Execution.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8PM:
The live-action arrangement doesn't support your criticism. Directors tend to get more than writers. Actors tend to get more than writers. But at the same time, writers do create something from nothing, and that creates value for everyone else down the line.

As a writer, I don't begrudge the value you bring to the table. The writers haven't set up the payment structures. I would think your anger is misdirected and should be directed at the companies instead. I'm sure we'd be thrilled for you if you were able to use your leverage to get better treatment from the companies.

Anonymous said...

the animation artist director can and should speak for animation. more could be accomplished for animation than what Verrone and the caucus has tried to deliver from the writer side of the story. they're the wrong candidates.

as for creating something from nothing, i see that in LA from every single person on a crew - daily.

Anonymous said...

of course the live action arrangement doesn't support the crit. it's live action. it's not animation.

now if we could just boot those awful a-list 'voice talent' back-enders from the animation rosters, everything will be perfect!

Anonymous said...

how can I get in the dga?

Kevin Koch said...

Somewhere above someone said there was no retracting. In fact, Verrone took Reality off the table. When things broke down, he put it back, and said the WGA would NEVER take a deal without Reality. I don't make this stuff up.

And as for the other 4 items, I never referred to them, so don't put words in my mouth. Reality and Animation jurisdiction were lost causes from the start, and a lot of time and energy was wasted yelling about them. The WGA had already shown, with it's earlier failed campaign in Reality, that it had zero leverage there. They've never had significant leverage in Animation. Everyone could see that handwriting on the wall on those two issues except the WGA negotiators. That's all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

In fact, Verrone took Reality off the table. When things broke down, he put it back,

I have no idea where you're getting that from. They never took Reality off in this negotiation. I'd love to see your proof of that. I've been following this very closely, and it's just not true. It was on there from the start and was never taken off until today. Simply not true.

and said the WGA would NEVER take a deal without Reality. I don't make this stuff up.

Now that is provably a partial misquote because I've seen the footage and it's on the Internet so you can check for yourself. His full quote (in my words because it's not in front of me) was that it will be in the next contract but he sets it up by saying because it's ALREADY in the contract. The WGA contract already covers all game shows and variety shows and the like. Did you know that Dancing With The Stars is actually under WGA? There's this haphazard blatant attempt by reality shows to not use the title of Writer so they can get around the contract which ALREADY covers all game shows and variety shows.

I personally never understood why they never made a bigger effort to correct that misquote taken out of context, because so many people like you have jumped on it, but the proof of the full -- in context -- quote can be found on Youtube. He says that Reality will be in the next contract, but he sets it up by saying because it's ALREADY in the contract.

Anonymous said...

of course the live action arrangement doesn't support the crit. it's live action. it's not animation.

The original complaint was that the WGA or writers in general didn't value execution. If that were true, wouldn't it also be true in live-action? Or do you think the WGA has it in especially for animation?

A good chunk of what I'm reading here is that animators don't value writers. Is the complaint that writers just have a three word idea and then do nothing? Because I wish that were the norm and I wish that would happen to me. Usually they make me write entire script after entire script for free until maybe they're happy with it. Or is your complaint that even entire scripts have little value as well?

Kevin Koch said...

Sooner or later I'll learn never to debate on the internet, especially with someone who feels the need to be anonymous. And especially not about this strike, since it's such an emotional issue that otherwise rational people see what they want to see and little more.

I'm not going to waste the half hour it would take me to document everything I've written, so you can stay secure in your selective certainty. Go team go, fight fight fight.

Anonymous said...

If your source is Variety, as I now suspect, then I respectably submit that it is you who is staying secure in your selective certainty.

[My speculation is that you're going from a Variety article just before the strike in October of 2007 that reported that WGA had dropped Reality efforts. But the article turned out to be erroneous in that regard. WGA had dropped the sanctioning of WGA members who worked in Reality during the strike. They never dropped the Reality demand in the negotiations until yesterday.]

Now I understand why people here were so surprised that the DGA deal didn't fully satisfy WGA members.

Speaking to anyone in general, if you want balanced reporting concerning the strike, you are forced to read two sources. The mainstream press is owned by the big media companies which comprise the AMPTP, and Variety and Hollywood Reporter get most of their income from those companies as well. So if your only source is one of those, you're only getting one side. If you want the other side as well, you have to go to Nikke Finke (Deadline Hollywood Daily) or United Hollywood. Then you can weigh each side as you see fit.

Ironically, while Variety articles are generally incredibly pro-AMPTP biased, the Variety blog on the strike isn't that bad a place to go. They post a lot of listings of all the He Said and She Said so you can usually figure out for yourself who's trying to spin what and why.

Anonymous said...

it all comes out of what happens in the thick.

as for the anon labels - very useful. now we can all go back to work and give each other those pursed-lip smiles in the halls between the cubes.