Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Shock Settles In

At about 2pm on Friday, the Writer's Guild of America called for a strike against the American Motion Picture and Television Producers. It begins on Monday at 12:01am. This means no writer shows up to work on Monday or any day after that until a deal between the two is agreed upon.

I've been a bit cavalier in talking about the strike on my blog. I think I've been trying to avoid really considering what being out of work for an indeterminate amount of time means. I guess the truth is, I don't know how I feel about it or what to expect. Part of not knowing is what is exciting to me. It might push me to do something different, find something new, shake me out of this sitcom stupor I've been in for a couple of years.

My brother Jimmy sent me a very astute email regarding strike situations. Apparently negotiating contracts between laborers and UPenn is what Jimmy does for a living. Now I knew he worked at Penn and I knew he was head of all Operations there but I was never quite sure what that meant. And being totally self-involved, never bothered to ask. Turns out my brother is kind of a big wig over there. Oh, and he's wicked smaht. Here's his email:


I just saw the blog, boy I hope you're wrong. Nobody really wins in a strike. Hopefully if it happens, it will be like most and be settled within 7-10 days. It all depends on how smart the negotiators are; they have to separate themselves from the celebrity of carrying the flag for the cause and realize that in order to settle any labor issue both sides have to have some give to them Probably the biggest part of my job is dealing with labor contract interpretation and negotiations. The negotiations are always tough, mostly because people do not understand how to place themselves in the other side's shoes. I've learned that even a win is not a win unless both parties can walk away with some level of self respect. The problem on the Left Coast is that everyone is an actor in some regard, so this gives them a stage to parade on.

It sounds like your battle is about the changing paradigm of entertainment payment and compensation (pretty Ivy League - huh?). I was going to delete this but after a few VO's I decided to leave it in.

Do you think your side has identified clear money trail that can be better distributed? Has they quantified the value? If so, what are the growth estimates?

What term is the Guild looking for?

Sorry for the quiz, but this is what I do for a living - believe it or not, its like a fight without the sore hands and bruised nose.

Don't worry, how many reruns of "Dancing with the Stars" can America stand?


I've read Jimmy's email a few times to see if I can answer these questions, because f*ck, if I have to walk the picket line everyday this week, I should be able to.

1) Do you think your side has identified clear money trail that can be better distributed? Has they quantified the value? If so, what are the growth estimates?
The quantified money trail and it's growth estimates is the deepest issue up for negotiation. The "new money" trail begins with Internet downloads (or "new media" as they call it). The producers are claiming that they have no way of quantifying how many downloads or viewings a product might have on the Internet. They view the Internet as a strictly promotional tool. And they believe they have the right to put anything we write for them on the Internet for free and then charge you for it or make you watch commercials at every break. Commercials you can't fast forward over. So they are making money from either the advertisers or a straight charge (like iTunes) but are telling us that they can't quantify downloads. Hmm... well you seem to be able to quantify it when you're telling Target how much they have to pay you for advertising on their site. And I can tell how many people look at my blog everyday. Seems like they might have an idea how to quantify their new media. The Writer's Guild knows that the second we fold on this bullet point, the producers will go, "Oops, we just figured it out! Sorry, suckers!" I believe the Guild is right.

2) What term is the Guild looking for?
The Guild would like to increase the percentage of money made off DVD's and New Media. A few years back the Guild folded to a shitty deal regarding DVD's. Off every DVD sold the writers make like .3% (point three!). It costs about 50 cents to manufacture a DVD. Everything above and beyond that is profit. The Guild estimates that by not making the deal they wanted last time around writers lost about 1.5 billion dollars. BILLION! They'd like to try and amend that deal somewhat and get a fair percentage of the profits being made off Internet downloads and viewing. Remember, it costs nothing, not even 50 cents, to put something on the Internet once it's produced.

People watch "TV" in a totally different way now. I download entire seasons of shows I missed and watch them on my computer. I slip on my headphones and snuggle in front of the fire with my computer and a martini. It really puts the "Friday" in Friday Night Lights (Which is the best show on television bar none. Download the first season or get the DVD's. You will not be disappointed. See?! I can't help myself. I promoting against the cause!! But is sooooo good.)

That's all for now. Sorry for all the heavy stuff, but I wanted to answer Jimmy's questions the best I could. I'm sure I'm missing some really important facts but these are the ones I know and these are the ones that'll get me to the picket line every day this week. Well, that and it's mandatory. Everyone has to do four hours a day, five days a week. Should be very interesting.

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