Saturday, June 21, 2008

Apples and Oranges? My breakdown of the residuals discussion


So, I'm not the biggest fan of how IA/TAG handles writers within it's fold. No big secret there.

But for very good reasons, I've had to do some digging into something I think IA gets right for writers - Health care.

Steve H - You'll be better at the math than I am, but here's my guestimation.

If I writer writes one half hour of material - they are paid 7500 and clock in at 300 hours. That is enough to qualify them for health care for six months. That means someone making 15K per year can get health and pension. Do that fifteen years, and you get health care for life. (I don't know what the "for life" plan is for the WGA).

So now, I want to do some math. I am intentionally NOT differentiating between animation and live action, and I am rooting all of this in the basic cable world, because that's what I know.

Animation writer
One half hour: 7.5K
No additional monies. Ever.
Healthcare: Triggered for six months upon completion of script, 300 hours of pension and health credited.

Basic Cable Live action writer
One half hour script: 12K
Reruns ONCE: 6K more.
Total with 12 runs (since that's where the math stops changing): 21K (ish)
Health care: Triggered at 31K

Head expoloding yet?

So here's what it boils down to:
You write two scripts a year, you get health with both.
With IA/TAG - You make 15K, and that's it.
With WGA - You make 42K, with the potential to make more.

So here are the questions every writer asks when they think of this stuff:

Is an IA writer compensated higher in credited hours for work than others in the union? (300 hours for one script? I would say yes.)
Is there a difference between the two if there are no reruns? (Yes. 4.5k)
Could a writer take that 27K and buy their own health plan for their family? (Maybe. Depends on health, I suppose.)
Does a writer qualify for health care in IA faster than the WGA? (Sorta)

So for people like me - people who work in BOTH unions - it's a conundrum. I would much rather be getting WGA minimums for my work. But if I wasn't getting WGA work, my world view would be much, much different.

The question is this: What is apples and oranges?

Writing vs. Writing?
Prime time animation writing vs. Basic cable animation writing?
WGA Basic cable writing vs. IA basic cable writing?

Those are the facts, as I know them. I know how I feel about the whole thing. The question is, if the above is correct, how do you?


Steve said...

Moving stuff over from the TAG board that I think is relevant:

Well, don't take it that I'm happy and content with the way things are run, when it comes to writers.

I wish there was some sort of math that I - as a writer - could use to put my IA writing hours into my WGA account. Even if they counted for less, like the difference between Southwest Airlines miles and American Airlines miles, I'd feel a hell of a lot better about it if it was my choice.

And I would like it if IA and the WGA had a better relationship when it came to the things they share - writers - than they do.

The above is a much larger debate.

Saturday, June 21, 2008 7:28:00 PM

steve hulett said...
Animation writer
One half hour: 7.5K
No additional monies. Ever.
Healthcare: Triggered for six months upon completion of script, 300 hours of pension and health credited.

Basic Cable Live action writer
One half hour script: 12K
Reruns ONCE: 6K more.
Total with 12 runs (since that's where the math stops changing): 21K (ish)
Health care: Triggered at 31K

Okay, so if you write a live action with script w/ one rerun, you don't get health care? Because you haven't reached the 31k threshold?

What I know about animation, if you are not new into the plan, one half-hour script that includes synopsis and outline will get you six months of health care. (300 hours).

If a newbie, it'll take two half-hours with synopsis/outline (600 hours).

But this deal is always going to be apples and oranges. One is hours based, one is wage based.

Bargaining history and historical jurisdictional lines tell the tale.


And my point is this:

With a very small group of people - writers who write for both - IA is a block toward more in pocket money, more pension... more.

If the Sit Down / Shut Up writers can be covered under the WGA agreement, and they have the ability to make that happen, they should be cheered, not resented.

And if that happens, IA/TAG should take notice, and see if there's a way to up the minimums that story people within their union are compensated.

But you're right - TAG is a great place for new writers to find themselves with health and benefits, very quickly. Even via freelance.

But when writing becomes more of a career than a periodic quick hit, I think it changes the sheen on the deal. They rerun the CRAP out of cartoons.

So... How do the residuals work in kids' animation? My $7500 / 300 hour script. Lets say it's rerun 12 times. What has the union collected on it? Same percentages?

If that's true, there are $5775.00 in additional payments (12 airings) that I personally do not see.. in return for health care and pension.

With two scripts, That's 11.5K in a year more in my pocket. I would have had heath, benefits AND cash.

I don't know if this is apples and oranges or apples and apples.

In a world of hours, how does it work?

I am asking because the more I learn, the less "unequal" it seems, unless you are someone who does the same thing - script writing - within two different unions.

And, quite frankly, the more I know, the less unfair it seems to me. But that doesn't mean it's completely fair.

(Please don't go into your "there is no fair" discussion. I get it.)

Still - I'm mostly curious about the numbers, because that's what it really boils down to.

Saturday, June 21, 2008 8:10:00 PM

Steve Hulett said...

Steve, I mean this in a good way not bad: the "fair" and "unfair" thing doesn't take anybody much of anyplace, here's why:

I've been talking off and on with the WGA for YEARS ... all the way back to the Brian Walton days. The Guild wants jurisdiction of writers, I get it.

And guess what? I'm agnostic on the subject. If the guild can organize animation writing, then bully for them. But here's the difficulty from an institutional perspective.

The studios are hard against it, and will fight (have fought) tenaciously against it.

The IA will fight even harder.

The IATSE loathes the WGA's current administration. The IA sees the WGA trying to organize animation writers and is reeal irritated, because it's been the IA's jurisdiction for 57 years.

The IA sees the WGA attempt to organize tape editors in reality programming and becomes ENRAGED. Because from the IA's perspective, this has NOTHING to do with writing, or the WGA's traditional jurisdiction.

And the IA's right. So the IATSE goes to war with the WGA, and works night and day to screw the WGA any way it can. And guess what? The IA has 120,000 members, sizable resources, and probably has the WGA outmatched.

(Oh. And the IA wasn't pleased with the 110 day WGA strike, because it put thousands of IA members out of work, torpedoed the Motion Picture Industry Pension and Health Plans, and got -- from the IA's perspective -- no more than the Writers Guild could have gotten without a strike.)

Now, where does TAG (and moi) fit into all this? Doing what the IA tells us to do, that's what. I'm an employee/organizer for the IATSE. The day that I start organizing for the WGA, is the day I'm looking for other work.

When I say this to writers, they say: "Ooh. You're not looking out for OUR interests." Now, I think they're mostly wrong on the issue, and here's why:

If I were to disavow repping writers under TAG, the studios would say "uh, no." The IA would say "HELL no!"

And the writers -- even if they successfully severed -- would still not be repped by the WGA. They would be non-represented, and what would likely happen is the scenario a Warner Bros. attorney described to me years ago:

"TAG stops repping animation writers, we'll start hiring all those writers as independent contractors. Then they can't be repped by any union."

And Warners could do it. Independent sub-contrators can't be organized by a union because they're not employees. The NLRB has already ruled on this, back when DIC made all its writers independent contrators.

The L.A. NLRB ruled that DIC couldn't call writers independent contractors because they were being treated as employees. But the Reagan-era National NLRB reversed the decision and said that DIC most certainly could.

The ruling still stands.

Now maybe I'm wrong on many of these things. I've certainly been wrong before in my checkered career, so who knows? But I think -- at best -- you're looking at a shift in representation that will take years and years and more years.

The WGA couldn't even get the animation restrictions taken out of its collective bargaining agreement.

So much for leverage, so much for power, at least now. The one hopeful thing is, nothing ever remains static, and power relationships change over time. Who knows? Maybe one day the WGA will get the muscle it needs to represent every film writer in L.A.

Just don't hold your breath.

Steve H.

Steve Hulett said...

And after all the above, I forgot to include a crucial acronym.

The last sentence of the second paragraph should read:

"The Guild wants jurisdiction of TAG writers, I get it."

Wonderful proof-reading.