Sunday, June 22, 2008

Obama as a metaphor

Nothing kicks the debate up to 11 like a talk about residuals, huh?

To Steve (and others): As I said, here and there, some of my venom has less venom right now, for a few reasons.

On a larger scale - I know that the 9 scripts I wrote the first season of Yin Yang Yo probably chunked enough hours into the pension to help cover the insurance of 7 additional workers. Not writers, workers.

Seriously, if that's how the hours work, I have to assume IA gets paid on my work and when I go "over" on my hours, that money goes somewhere.

And now I have to think - as a human being, as a person... as someone who makes money in a business that takes so many other people to make happen... is that bad? Am I going to be annoyed about that?

It's an election year. This year, I am voting AGAINST pocket book issues and voting for Barack Obama. (As long as we're mixing apples and oranges). Why? Personal reasons... but voting for Barack WILL affect my pocket book. My taxes WILL go up.

And I wonder: How is that different from my work in IA? Everybody talks about universal health care - that shit's gotta be paid for. Well, I think it's safe to say that at 7500 per six month period, IA health care is pretty much socialized medicine, and pretty much universal. You work in animation, chances are you're going to get it. You work for IA, chances are you're going to get it.

IA covers what - 100k people with health and benefits? I have to assume my hours help with that. So perhaps, on some of this, I have to put my ACTUAL money where my PHILOSPHICAL heart. Unlike every other union, IA is NOT a single issue union. They have writers (which I think they could do a better job servicing) but they have a lot more. Even TAG is not a single issue guild. They have writers (which I *know* they could service better).

We're part of a whole, whether we like it or not.

Which is why I'm starting to feel change needs to come from within, rather than waiting for any other union - or lack of one - to save the day.

13 comments:

Kevin said...

I'm completely confused by this statement: Seriously, if that's how the hours work, I have to assume IA gets paid on my work and when I go "over" on my hours, that money goes somewhere.

First off, the IA doesn't get paid on your work. The IA gets a teeny tiny portion of your dues. Most of your dues go to TAG 839. And absolutely none of the payments made by the studios to your pension and health plans go to TAG or the IA. They go to the MPIPHP. That's a distinction with a difference.

In the above statement, are you talking about the residuals money that those 9 shows you wrote the scripts for generated? Because your hours ONLY benefit you. The more hours that you're credited with, the bigger your pension. None of your hours help anyone else's pension.

And with the health plan, your extra hours above the initial 600, and above the 300 in subsequent 6-month periods, go into your own personal "bank of hours." The bank of hours caps at 450, and those are the hours that are used to keep your health plan active FOR YOU for about a year and a half after your last script is turned in. After the bank is filled, extra hours aren't credited to anyone else.

So your hours don't help anyone but yourself. Now, maybe you're referring to the studio contributions to the health plan, and which are partly based on your hours worked. If that's what you mean, realize that almost everyone in TAG works many hours above the minimum required to qualify for health care. Most non-writers I know working in the industry are doing 2000-2800 hours a year, year after year. That's far, far above the 600 hours they need to continue to qualify for the health plan. But they aren't paying for the health coverage of 7 additional workers. The studio is paying, based on their work, for ALL of our health coverage.

If you're healthy and don't go to doctors, then the contributions made in your name are in effect paying for other people's health care consumption. And when you get sick, have a surgery, whatever, a lot of other people's work is contributing to your health care consumption.

Bottom line is that your 9 scripts aren't generating an extraordinary contribution to the health plan. The key point is that the minimum number of hours to qualify for health coverage is FAR, FAR from the number of hours that will generate contributions sufficient to pay for the typical TAG member's health care. I hope you can see the difference.

By the way, I appreciate the "we're all in this together" tone of this piece. Just realize that the TAG CBA has been structured so that writers (above every other job classification) can most easily qualify for health coverage. Which means a lot of non-writers are all carrying a slightly larger portion of the health-contributions load.

Steve said...

Sorry if I confused you. Here's my math.

I write 9 half hours of television in a year for a basic cable animated series.

Seven of those are what I need to qualify for health care, right?

My math goes like this: Residuals on a live action show would have been another 11.5K, and since I dont see any of that, I assume that goes to health care.

Then, there's seven more scripts, which, same math, toss nearly 80K into the pot, which I don't see.

That's basing it on pay, not hours.

So that's what I'm asking - does IA/TAG get their money from my pay? From residual payments from reruns? Or something else? Not to be a complete wonk here, but what's the math?

And yeah, I'm trying to do some larger social math for writers like myself at this point as well. It's the guys with dual memberships that have the most internal debate about this, I think.

Strictly IA guys may not like the deal, but that's the deal. You know my feelings on that.

Strictly WGA guys who work only on WGA shows - same math.

It's IA / WGA dual card members - who work in BOTH unions - that see what looks like a gross inequity. And if that's the case, maybe the math proves that... and maybe the math makes that debate a little less vitriolic.

Hey! It's 110 degrees again! Awesome!

Kevin Koch said...

So that's what I'm asking - does IA/TAG get their money from my pay?

In a word, no. The IA doesn't get any of their money from your pay. TAG doesn't get any of their money from your pay. Further, neither the IA nor TAG get a cut of the residuals generated by shows you work on.

You seem to keep coming back to this way of looking at things, and it's incorrect and counter-productive. The MPIPHP is a separate entity from the IATSE and TAG.

By the way, are the numbers you're using for WGA Basic Cable Live action writer the same as those in the concessionary WGA contracts like Class of 3000? It seems to me that the more this kind of comparison is made on actual, real-world deals, and not theoreticals, then the more useful it will be.

I appreciate that you're trying to get to some more realistic and meaningful comparisons than most writers have done before, I just think this could be even more realistic.

Kevin Koch said...

Another question/clarification - you write So perhaps, on some of this, I have to put my ACTUAL money where my PHILOSPHICAL heart.

I'm curious what ACTUAL money you're giving up? I think you might be referring to the THEORETICAL residuals money you would have gotten if you had been writing under the WGA live-action basic cable agreement instead of the TAG 839 agreement.

I think it's probably useful to stick with the actual meaning 'actual.'

Steve Hulett said...

Just to look through the residual/ no residual prism again:

The TAG contract reads:

"Nothing in this Agreement shall prevent any individual from negotiating and obtaining from the Producer better conditions and terms of employment that those herein provided ..."

Animation writer
Mark Evanier
long maintained that he got residuals, whether he was working TAG, WGA, or under no contract at all.

Steve said...

Holy crap dude, relax! I don't want to fight.

I'm trying to find the middle ground here. And, this post is my chalkboard, so I get to decide what Algebra I use. (Intentional tongue in cheek petulance.)

I am trying to give you insight to how one of your union script writers looks at this math, so you can understand that point of view.

TAG/IATSE doesn't get their money off my check? Okay.

But that work is funding the system somehow and I am attempting to use math to show that maybe it's not as bad as animation writers think.

This all started as I did some digging, and began to compare and contrast. So I'm processing this - out loud, here - because I'm doing the same number crunching in my head that I think every animation writer does. In light of "Sit Down, Shut Up," now's also a good time.

So I'll make you a deal - if you don't throw "Class of 3000" at me, I won't throw "King Of The Hill" back at you. "Class" Math doesn't help my argument, "King" math doesn't help yours.

Here's the math, as I am presenting it here, on my chalkboard:

A Script = One Script Unit.
Again - I take prime time scripts off the table. That's like comparing apples and bars of gold.

Two Scripts Units in Basic Cable (Non WGA)
2 Units = 15K
2 Units = Qualifies you for health care
2 Units = $0 in Residuals

Two Script Units in Basic Cable (WGA)
2 Units = 24K in pay
2 Units = Qualifies you for Heath Care
2 Units = 18K in residuals after 12 airings.

So the difference, using scripts as a unit? $27,000 in cash.

I'll take one more step toward the middle:

Residuals and what a union makes off a show are based on percentages, correct? If not, then lay some factoids on me.

In the meantime, lets live in a world where Basic Cable WGA Scripts pay less than what they pay. Lets base residuals on what TAG scripts pay.

Remember - Steve H. has said on more than one occasion that residuals are paid, but they all go to pension and health. So, more math:

One Script Unit X (12 additional airings) = 1.77 script unit. (You get 77% more on a script fee with 12 airings, per the WGA basic cable agreement)

Two script units x 1.77 x 15,000 = $26,550
So, even using generous math, that's $11,550 I personally don't see in my pocket.

My questions right now - not at you, by the way, but just questions I have that do NOT need to be answered on a Sunday:

Show me where I'm wrong and how that money doesn't exist. What is the valid, reasonable, real world reason for that?

OR - show me how that extra moneyl is being collected and spread around my production and industry, so that everybody on my crew has health and pension. Is it valid to think that the $11,500 difference over two scripts goes into a pot that covers the animators that work on a show I write for?

How about something in-between?

This post is about "the whole" as opposed to "the individual."

Understand: I am coming at this from the point of view of someone who knows they are fortunate, who has worked in animation for 10 years, who is a card carrying, dues paying member of the TAG and the WGA...

I like unions. I think they serve a very important purpose. Without unions, be it WGA or TAG, we'd all be working for food or tickets to amusement parks.

I am not, as you say, trying to be counter productive, or incorrect. I am trying to reverse engineer the situation and find an answer that makes me calm.

That's all I'm looking for today. That, and shade.

Kevin Koch said...

Holy crap dude, relax! I don't want to fight.

Since these things apparently have to be explicitly spelled out, let me put in writing that I'm about as relaxed as a human can get, and that I wasn't trying to fight or stir up anything.

As I said, I appreciate what you're trying to do here. I honestly do. I also put a premium on clarity and transparency and precision. Unfortunately I've seen scores of WGA press releases, and interviews with WGA officers, and statements by writers that, intentionally or not, skew, distort, and misrepresent how our benefits work. I think such misrepresentation has negative consequences, and I do what I can to ground these discussions in reality.

I can't tell you how many times I've had someone angrily confront me about some issue, only to completely reverse themselves after I spend lots of time (that I could better use elsewhere, since I don't get paid dime one for this exercise) explaining to them how things really work. And it's not just explaining how things are and why they're the way the are, but it's really convincing them that a lot of nonsense that they've been told, or that they made incorrect assumptions about, are false. There was a recent example on the TAG blog where an animation writer was taking us to task because writers working under the TAG contract don't get pension benefits. I mean, c'mon, let's get real.

And I appreciate that that's exactly what you're trying to do, make some realistic comparisons. Shed light on the situation. Thank you. Seriously, it's a fine and worthy exercise. But if in doing that you inadvertently confuse some of the issues, I'm going to point that out. I think it's essential to make clear that "the union" doesn't benefit one bit by the health and pension contributions generated by your work. Steve Hulett and Tom Short and anyone else on an IA payroll don't see nor control a penny of that money. It doesn't make the union stronger or richer and anything. So when you talk about "the union" getting a percentage of "your money," then you're setting up a false set of expectations. When you write Residuals and what a union makes off a show are based on percentages, correct?, I have to say that's not even a meaningful question. TAG is not making any percentage off any show (if the WGA works this way, I'd be interesting in knowing). If you want to talk about "contributions to our benefits plans," then I'm with you. If you want to talk about "the union" making money outside of dues, then you lose me.

And the reason "Class of 3000" gets brought up is that it's a real-world piece of data in the discussion of the kind of TV writing that TAG generally covers. It's honestly not meant to be snarky. It's an antidote to the assertion, which I've had made to me many times by animation writers, that if TAG didn't exist, all animation writers would be getting lots of mailbox money. I happen to think that if TAG didn't exist there would be a lot more writers working under concessionary WGA contracts, or more likely as independent contractors, with no benefits at all. But that's a different discussion.

Now, to what I think is your basic question: Does the fact that writers, story artists, character animators, and directors in animation don't get direct residuals mean that the benefits of everyone covered by TAG are better? Basically, yes. But those residuals aren't calculated the way you're calculating them. The residuals that flow into the MPIPHP aren't based on what a writer would have gotten under a different contract. The residuals formula for the money that flows to IA member's benefits (and realize it's not all IA members, just those working in TV and motion pictures) is based on an overall residuals formula.

Hope this reads as clear and unemotional and even tempered as it was written. And I'm sorry I made a bad joke about your math skills.

Steve said...

Actually, you didn't make fun of my math skills, I think you made fun of Matt Wayne's... and I'm not sure he's that great at math.

When you have some free time:

"The residuals that flow into the MPIPHP aren't based on what a writer would have gotten under a different contract. The residuals formula for the money that flows to IA member's benefits (and realize it's not all IA members, just those working in TV and motion pictures) is based on an overall residuals formula."

I would love to know how that works, and how and why it's different. No judgment... just wondering.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

No, actually, I did make a joke about your math skills. I even quoted from your post to illustrate exactly what I was referring to. Which made Matt's rant about physics majors all the more odd, but whatever.

The difference is that the residuals formula for the MPIPHP is not based on a hypothetical calculation of what someone under an IA contract would have gotten under a WGA contract.

The way you're framing it, the residuals money that flows into the MPIPHP effectively comes out of your pocket. It's "your" money that you're involuntarily conributing to the greater good. But that money was never slated to be in your pocket.

If you want to do a hypothetical calculation comparing the way the two contracts work when writers are paid the minimums under each contract, have at it. But realize you're doing a hypothetical comparison. It's about as relevant as me, as a character animator, comparing what I would have made if I was covered by SAG.

Kevin

Steve said...

Oh, you did make fun of my math? Cool. I can be a little more blunt then. :)

No, it is not comparing what you did and Sag. It's Aftra and Sag. You don't do what I do, I don't do what you do.

But actors act. And those two unions are squabbling over the deal.

You keep not answering my "how is it computed" question, like it's some secret. Im sure it's a visible formula that I figured you'd know, but I can investigate.

But basically:

Why is there 77% more for a script in basic cable than in animation? If it doesn't exist, why? If it does exist, who does it benefit?

If the Sit Down Shut Up actors get a WGA deal, with all the pretty shiny benefits that follow... will TAG go after some of that in their next negotiations?


- Steve

P.S. Hey! You're not one of my snarky anonymous guys, are you?

Kevin said...

Actually, Steve, what I do in animation is what an actor does (under SAG) in a live action film. It's a direct analog. I create, often out of thin air, the character performance. That's what actors do.

As for the specifics of how the residuals payments to the MPIPHP are computed, I don't know. It's not a secret, it's a formula that I don't happen to know off hand. But it's a formula that was created, I believe, before most of us here were born.

And that's my point. Saying "a script is a script, and I'm being screwed if I don't get paid what other writers in other situations are getting paid for their scripts" is an inherently skewed way of looking at things. If you write a script for a super-hero cartoon, and a virtually identical script for a super-hero comic book, are you going to ask the same question? Will you get the same pay? Will you get WGA benefits? Or any benefits? I mean, it's the same kind of work, taking the same writing skills and time and creativity. Yet we all know the average comic-book script-writer has a much crappier deal than the average animation script-writer.

The money that "exists" for a script, whether for basic live-action cable, or an animated show under TAG, or a comic book, only exists because that's what the producer pays for it. There is not some magical bag of money allotted from above for every script, and if you get less than the whole bag, you've been screwed.

And you ask if TAG will go after "some of that" if the SDSU writers get a WGA deal. What does that mean? Do you assume that success by the WGA is the only reason TAG would try to get more for writers. That TAG hasn't been trying to get better terms and conditions for their members prior to this? I assume you're are aware that a couple of negotiations ago, virtually the entire TAG negotiating team was TV animation writers, and they negotiated for months and months (I think it was a nine-month negotiation, but I could be off) without getting the slightest budge from the producers. Did they not try hard enough? Did subsequent negotiating committees, which have gotten proportionally larger bump-ups for writers (compared to non-writers) in both payments and in benefits hours not care, either?

We negotiate for the best deal we can get. Period. If the happenings at the WGA give us more leverage, then we'll take it. What I'm unclear on is how the SDSU situation gives TAG any more leverage. The WGA deals with Fox for their animated shows hasn't given us any more leverage, so I'm not sure how this one show would change the equation one way of the other.

In fact, I think the way the WGA has handled this has highlighted the schism between the WGA and TAG, and has actually weakened the hand of animation writers. Prior to the WGA dabbling in animation, it wasn't that uncommon for animation writers to negotiate personal service contracts with residuals in them (or so I've been told by several writers who got them). Over the last decade, the WGA has repeatedly pounded the drum that ONLY WGA writers get residuals, and it appears to me that the producers have accepted this idea and are no longer willing to negotiate individual residuals deals for writers under TAG. I think on balance the relationship the WGA has fostered with the IA has been a tremendous disservice to animation writers.

If the SDSU writers don't get their WGA deal, the WGA has shot itself in the foot. If they do get the deal, and the show tanks (and it doesn't sound like the show has many fans among those who have seen it), then they've also shot themselves in the foot. And if the WGA does get the deal, and the show is a big hit . . . I really don't see how it gives us any more leverage in our next negotiations.

Realize the SDSU deal is about getting a small group of writers who have ONLY worked under WGA contracts to write for that show. If these were writers who were in demand on TAG-repped shows, it might change the equation. But the TAG-repped shows, as far as I can tell, aren't having trouble getting the writers they want. It's only when that happens that TAG has leverage. See what I mean?

And no, I'm not one of your anonymous posters. That's why I signed my post when I was posting from a different computer.

Steve said...

Seriously - do you negotiate this hard with studios, or is it only people within your organization that get this? :)

Actually, Steve, what I do in animation is what an actor does (under SAG) in a live action film. It's a direct analog. I create, often out of thin air, the character performance. That's what actors do.

Really? You really feel that way? Then you should be annoyed with your lack of reuse and residuals as well. Are you creating it for a new show? Did you create the character from thin air for a pilot, or a movie? Then if this were a guild show, you would be entitled to something called "Seperated rights," which would reward you for that. If you really believe that, I wonder why we don't fight harder for some of the things that I'm talking about here.

As for the specifics of how the residuals payments to the MPIPHP are computed, I don't know. It's not a secret, it's a formula that I don't happen to know off hand. But it's a formula that was created, I believe, before most of us here were born.

Fair enough. Residuals for writers started in the 1960s. I don't know if they've evolved, or have taken a slow, backwards decline. (I think the latter). I am simply wondering.

And that's my point. Saying "a script is a script, and I'm being screwed if I don't get paid what other writers in other situations are getting paid for their scripts" is an inherently skewed way of looking at things. If you write a script for a super-hero cartoon, and a virtually identical script for a super-hero comic book, are you going to ask the same question?

Actually, yes, I will. If I do the same work for a different vendor, I will always fight for the same pay and the same rewards. I'm certain publishing can use circulation as a benchmark, in the same way that TV can use ratings and download.

Will you get the same pay? Will you get WGA benefits? Or any benefits? I mean, it's the same kind of work, taking the same writing skills and time and creativity. Yet we all know the average comic-book script-writer has a much crappier deal than the average animation script-writer.

Tell ya what: If I enter into that world, I'll be glad to share my exploits. If I find I am treated better, the same or worse, I will also let you know.

The money that "exists" for a script, whether for basic live-action cable, or an animated show under TAG, or a comic book, only exists because that's what the producer pays for it. There is not some magical bag of money allotted from above for every script, and if you get less than the whole bag, you've been screwed.

Yes, but Unions negotiate for us, and unless you push for parity, then the studios will keep the difference.

And you ask if TAG will go after "some of that" if the SDSU writers get a WGA deal. What does that mean? Do you assume that success by the WGA is the only reason TAG would try to get more for writers. That TAG hasn't been trying to get better terms and conditions for their members prior to this? I assume you're are aware that a couple of negotiations ago, virtually the entire TAG negotiating team was TV animation writers, and they negotiated for months and months (I think it was a nine-month negotiation, but I could be off) without getting the slightest budge from the producers. Did they not try hard enough? Did subsequent negotiating committees, which have gotten proportionally larger bump-ups for writers (compared to non-writers) in both payments and in benefits hours not care, either?

No, and I didn't say that. I'll answer that with two points.

1) I think writers are a small part of TAG, and a smaller part of IATSE and because of that, you can ask for that until you are blue in the face but unless the membership at large is willing to support the writers, it's not going to happen. Consequently, when I see internal divisions within my Guild, I feel as though it is a lost opportunity. If the shoe is on the other foot, and one day 839 has to strike, you will want the writers to support you. As writers want to feel supported.

2) I think TAG/IATSE does somethings very well. And the whole point of this post was to find that, and shine a light on it. Not have to get into a three-post-a-day battle about it when the heart of it was "I think I'm on your side." You are framing this in a way that makes it seem like I think you're doing something wrong... and I'm not saying that. Do you think you're doing something wrong? Clearly not. So... can we dial the rhetoric back a little? I know you're in charge of the union, and I'm a member, but at least online we're two adults who are having a discussion. I promise you, Kevin, I am not pointing fingers or attempting to be unreasonable. But I am asking you questions that I think every animation writer asks.


We negotiate for the best deal we can get. Period. If the happenings at the WGA give us more leverage, then we'll take it. What I'm unclear on is how the SDSU situation gives TAG any more leverage. The WGA deals with Fox for their animated shows hasn't given us any more leverage, so I'm not sure how this one show would change the equation one way of the other.

I have a point for this, at the bottom of the reply.

In fact, I think the way the WGA has handled this has highlighted the schism between the WGA and TAG, and has actually weakened the hand of animation writers. Prior to the WGA dabbling in animation, it wasn't that uncommon for animation writers to negotiate personal service contracts with residuals in them (or so I've been told by several writers who got them). Over the last decade, the WGA has repeatedly pounded the drum that ONLY WGA writers get residuals, and it appears to me that the producers have accepted this idea and are no longer willing to negotiate individual residuals deals for writers under TAG. I think on balance the relationship the WGA has fostered with the IA has been a tremendous disservice to animation writers.

You and I agree on one thing - I think the WGA could have been a lot better about reaching out to Animation writers. It's been a lot of "Lucy Holding The Football" with us, and it's been a grind. They may smile and say the things we want to hear up front, but in the end, at least when it comes to our little corner of the world, we're still flipping through the air, no field goal to be had, screaming "AAAAAAAAAUGH."
I hate - HATE - the fact that there seems to be a third standard for writing - Prime Time, Basic Cable, Animation... and that the two unions involved with that discussion are at each others' throats.


If the SDSU writers don't get their WGA deal, the WGA has shot itself in the foot. If they do get the deal, and the show tanks (and it doesn't sound like the show has many fans among those who have seen it), then they've also shot themselves in the foot. And if the WGA does get the deal, and the show is a big hit . . . I really don't see how it gives us any more leverage in our next negotiations.

For what it's worth, I think they'll get the deal. And for what it's worth, I don't think it matters if it's a hit or not. The principal of "prime time network animation writing is covered by the WGA, along with all the rights, residuals and ownership of ideas that affords" is what's being battled here, not whether the show is a hit or not. Lord knows you have to scramble a lot of eggs ("The PJs") to make an omelette ("Family Guy.")

Realize the SDSU deal is about getting a small group of writers who have ONLY worked under WGA contracts to write for that show. If these were writers who were in demand on TAG-repped shows, it might change the equation. But the TAG-repped shows, as far as I can tell, aren't having trouble getting the writers they want. It's only when that happens that TAG has leverage. See what I mean?

I do.
Here's my question: I think the WGA would flip their sh*t if a WGA group of writers decided they wanted to go IATSE. So I'm wondering then, how does TAG feel about it if it happens the other way around, as the SDSU situation could be perceived? Isn't this an opportunity to go "Whoa, these people were supposed to work within our union and we have about 80 members of our union on your team. You like directors? You like board artists? How about character designers and color stylists? Do you want those people unhappy?" I think - again, in the original spirit of all this - that we're a hell of a lot better together than we are not. I am no longer one of the writers screaming that we need to be in the WGA - I am simply, kindly and openly asking questions that I think have been asked - a lot - by old writers and new.
And with that, I'm getting back to writing. But first...


And no, I'm not one of your anonymous posters. That's why I signed my post when I was posting from a different computer

Crap. I forgot the smiley face. I knew that. :)
June 23, 2008 11:59 AM

Anonymous said...

Back on the other computer . . .

Seriously - do you negotiate this hard with studios, or is it only people within your organization that get this? :)

You have no idea. I know you put the smiley face in there, but honestly, you have no idea. Few TAG members do, so you're hardly alone. But it does make it pretty boring to be constantly told that the TAG leadership doesn't fight for them and doesn't care enough.

Actually, Steve, what I do in animation is what an actor does (under SAG) in a live action film. It's a direct analog. I create, often out of thin air, the character performance. That's what actors do.

Really? You really feel that way? Then you should be annoyed with your lack of reuse and residuals as well.


Yep, I feel that way, as do most character animators. But few of us are bitter, because most of us were well aware of the deal when we entered the industry. (It was that awareness of how the comics industry worked that made me turn away from my childhood dream of working in that field. I met too many bitter, burned out, destitute comics writers and artists to think I would be the exception.)

Before I took my first animation job, I knew exactly what the union minimums were, and had an idea of how the benefits worked, and what prevailing wages were. I accepted that reality, without giving up my right to push for a better deal in the future. Kinda like the way I bought a house in Highland Park, a block away from Pasadena, and I decline to complain that it's not fair that I don't have the same property values, schools, and amenities as someone in Pasadena.

For a variety of reasons, some real, some arbitrary, my house will never be worth as much as it would be if it were located 100 feet to the east. That doesn't stop me from fixing it up and living happily in it.

If you really believe that, I wonder why we don't fight harder for some of the things that I'm talking about here.

There you go again (in the immortal words of Ronnie). ;) Yeah, if only we fought a little harder, then it would all be so different. Sigh.

Let me ask, did the incredible and complete success of the last few WGA labor actions shed ANY light on how the deck is stacked against unions?

From where I sit, the willingness "to fight harder" (which I think translates to "willingness to strike" for those who don't understand labor negotiations) isn't a meaningful factor in this shit. Is SAG willing to fight right now? Was the WGA? Did it make a difference, especially relative to the cost?

If you look at the actual gains made by the WGA over the last dozen years, and the actual gains made to the IA basic agreement and the TAG CBA, I would posit that more real gains have been made on our end. Yeah, we had further to go in many areas, but real progress has been made. And we'll continue to push for more improvements.

... the heart of it was "I think I'm on your side."

And I can't tell you how much I appreciate that. I really do, and I applaud you for being willing to publicly think about this stuff, and question the status quo, and look at actual examples. My hat is off to you.

You and I agree on one thing - I think the WGA could have been a lot better about reaching out to Animation writers. It's been a lot of "Lucy Holding The Football" with us, and it's been a grind. They may smile and say the things we want to hear up front, but in the end, at least when it comes to our little corner of the world, we're still flipping through the air, no field goal to be had, screaming "AAAAAAAAAUGH."

Now here I'm not sure you're being fair to the WGA. See, Lucy has a choice to hold the ball and let Charlie succeed. But we all know, she's a bitch. The WGA may do something I hate -- overpromise, and posture like they can get things they can't get, but they aren't doing what Lucy does. They aren't choosing to pull the ball away just to mess with you. They soooooo wish they had that ball, so they could set you up for the kick.

Which is a big reason I keep bringing up things like the "Class of 3000" deal, and the way the WGA walked away at Nick, or the way the WGA Animation Writers Caucus is an empty show. The WGA isn't malicious, they just believe that appearances can become reality. But the AMPTP doesn't give a damn about appearances. The posturing just muddies the water, gives people false impressions about TAG, and ultimately works against the majority of animation writers.

I think the WGA would flip their sh*t if a WGA group of writers decided they wanted to go IATSE. So I'm wondering then, how does TAG feel about it if it happens the other way around, as the SDSU situation could be perceived?

But it's NOT a group of TAG writers suddenly wanting to go WGA, and it's not a "roll back" of the recently negotiated WGA contract (as it's been construed), and it's not a referendum on one union over another. What I'd really love to know is, who exactly said what to whom. We know that the writers were initially told that it was a TAG show. I believe them when they say they balked at that. I don't blame them -- all they know is the WGA, and from published comments they clearly have no clue how TAG benefits work. At that point (when they initially balked), someone apparently told them what they wanted to hear, and they kept working for a time. My impression is that as individuals and as a group, they and their agents did a piss poor job and verifying just what their deal was. It appears there were some pretty obvious red flags that they ignored. They should have sorted this out before any of them did a day's work. I kind of wonder if someone on the writer's side didn't think that they'd have more leverage if they worked for a while and then went out -- if they did that, I have little sympathy.

But if they were lied to, then I hope they get everything they want. Either way, I hope it gets settled ASAP so the whole crew can start getting paid to do the jobs they were promised before this blew up.

I think - again, in the original spirit of all this - that we're a hell of a lot better together than we are not. I am no longer one of the writers screaming that we need to be in the WGA - I am simply, kindly and openly asking questions that I think have been asked - a lot - by old writers and new.


I agree, we are much stronger together. And I, too, am trying to answer these questions in simple, unemotional ways. I'm sure some frustration creeps through my comments and answers. If you've been screamed at, and lied about, and denigrated repeatedly (and I get about 1% of the garbage that Hulett gets), then you'll understand where that comes from. Still, I apologize for it.

Ultimately what I want is what you want -- to look at were the animation industry has come from, where we are, and where we might go to improve things. Your questions actually AREN'T the kind that many writers have been willing to ask in the past, so this is a great development. Individual creative types and unions both face staggering odds, as they pretty much always have, and there's nothing easy about any of this.

Kevin