Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Poached from the TAG blog... thoughts?

From Steve H:

The Indecision is Over
... Let the employment begin!

Kevin beat me to the punch with this, but I post the news anyway:

After five weeks of negotiations, we have accepted employment as writers for Sit Down, Shut Up! under a new contract.
Though the program will be produced under the jurisdiction of IATSE Local 839, The Animation Guild (TAG), we have achieved Writers Guild of America (WGA) parity in key areas such as auditable residuals, new media, script fees, merchandising rights as well as a guarantee that these gains apply not only to ourselves but also to all future writers on the show.
We thank the WGA for its guidance and support during this process. We believe we’ve made a statement to the studios how important the standards of the WGA are to working writers. All animation writing -- television and features -- should be covered by the WGA.
This contract is a compromise: an improvement over the standard TAG terms we were initially offered, but not full WGA coverage. Compromises are never easy nor satisfying, always less comforting than a clear victory. We know that this is part of an ongoing struggle.
Reaching a deal will allow this program to move forward, providing jobs for many writers, animators, actors and production staff. Not every writer originally offered employment on Sit Down, Shut Up! has decided whether to return, and we understand and respect whatever decision they make. We remain hopeful that all animation writing will one day be covered by a WGA contract ...
As we say, negotiations are about leverage and momentum. It appears that nobody came away from this totally satisfied, but I'm happy that the writers made a deal that's acceptable to them. And I'm pleased ... no, delighted ... that a lot of folks are going to have work for a while.

Congratulations to everybody.

Posted by Steve Hulett at 7:36 PM

Kevin Koch said...
Wow, I'm amazed at the viciousness (and ignoranance) of the comments coming from fellow writers over at Deadline Hollywood Daily. The "Dirty Nine"?!? Ugly and uncalled for.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008 10:25:00 PM


We can go back and forth on IATSE/TAG/WGA whatever until we're blue in the face, but minimums are minimums and you get what you negotiate.

These writers were in the middle of their own post-strike strike... What did they think was going to happen when they let go of their fight for prime time animation?

At the same time, I think TAG has a responsibility now to take what these writers negotiated and use it as a springboard to raise incomes across the board for TAG writers.

This was the last battle of the strike, and even though they weren't trying to, they won a victory for IATSE animation writers.

Will our union do something with that?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Apparently there ARE residuals on my work, and they cover more than just me.

...and I feel better knowing that.

(Here comes math. I prepare to be corrected.)

So... apparently, when I write a half hour script, and am paid $7500... management kicks in about $1750 per script into health care. Which means that as an IATSE covered union type, you get full health care for $3500 per year.

Good health care probably costs 5 times that.

What makes up the difference? You guessed it: Residuals that go to the union, not me.

So, going back to the root of all this - the "Greater Good" comment:

How do feel about the fact that freelancers, and people who work on daily call, and short-term employees that work on my productions get covered because of these residuals? Better than I would knowing that money was simply not being collected.

It doesn't mean I'm thrilled with all aspects of TAG, but it does give me some small peace of mind to know that monies being raised on my work, work which COULD NOT have existed without others working on (or fixing, depending on who's leading the discussion), does something for them as well.

Other writers reading this? Kevin? Steve H? Obligatory Angry anonymous guy? Am I right in my numbers?

And if so, why the hell didn't somebody say so 48 comments ago? :)

July 10th


Nothing like a dust up to make me want to realize there are faces attached to these names.

July 10th. Evite going out to writers.

If you haven't gotten it yet, shoot me an E-mail.


- Steve

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.

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?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sit Down, Shut Up? Honestly... when it comes to my unions, I'm used to it.

So, yeah. There's this:

Writers take a stand over 'Sit Down'
Dispute highlights ongoing tension between unions

On Thursday, the writers for Sony Pictures TV's upcoming animated Fox series "Sit Down, Shut Up" walked off the show in pursuit of WGA representation.

The writers, who are members of the WGA, claimed that they were misled by Sony TV that they would be covered by the Writers Guild, while the studio had made arrangements with another union, IATSE.

The labor dispute highlights the ongoing tension between the two unions over jurisdiction in primetime animated series. The writers on all other animated Fox series, produced by 20th Century Fox TV, are represented by the WGA. (20th TV also co-produces "Sit Down," but Sony TV, which developed the comedy with studio-based writer Mitchell Hurwitz, is the lead production entity.)

Sony TV produces "Sit Down" through its animation division, Adelaide Prods.

Under IATSE, writers not only won't get new-media revenues and other terms the WGA negotiated with the studios during the strike, they also won't get paid residuals, a crucial safety net for scribes between jobs.

There's a bunch of other blah blah blah stuff in there - but it really boils down to this. The writers on this show are getting a taste of how little animation writers make under the IATSE contract. Or, to be fair, how little they make "in success." I'm sure their episodic rate was the same - it's the residuals and the back end that's lower than they're used to.

And by lower, I mean NONEXISTENT.

I'm torn here: Of course, I'm pulling for the writers, because in the end, all they're asking for is money "in success." But then, there's ambivalence, because I am not so foolish as to think it will affect anyone but these individual writers. Good for them, doesn't mean anything for the rest of us.

The WGA had a moment where they could have stood their ground for animation writers, and animation writing was one of the first things they folded on during the strike. No surprise, really. Animation writers (of my level, not of the Simpsons/Family Guy/King Of The Hill level) simply are not a large enough part of the WGA, and they weren't going to strike over us.

I get it.

Meanwhile, the same math works on IATSE. Non-writing union members call the shots. We're a small percentile (Steve? Got a number?) within the union that does represent us.

One doesn't want us. And one doesn't hear us. But they're both fighting loudly over us.

Thanks for the invite, guys, but I know you're only doing this to make the girl you love jealous. Call me when prom is over.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Falling Hare: Update

Hey there!

Okay, so... you're probably wondering what's up.   First, the obligatory preamble.

Seven scripts went to Stephen Worth with the caveat of "read this when you have time."  They were messengered over - scrubbed clean of any identity - and he has them.  At his leisure, he will read them.

Then, he'll let me know which script he felt best took the cartoon and backward engineered it into script form.     I have my choice, but that's not the contest.

Once a winner is picked, I will reach out to that person and see if they're okay with their work being scanned, and uploaded, as a PDF file. 

Part of my radio silence has been a little bit of good news which I'll share with anyone who wants to shoot me an E-mail.  

With that, have good weekends...