11.08.2007

Hi. I would like to inform you, especially those who are not in the U.S. and may not know or care, that the Writers Guild of America is on strike.

I would also like to encourage some conversation, debate, and support for the WGA writers.

The Writers Guild is one of the few white collar/artistic labor unions. Of the others, while most SAG (Screen Actors Guild) members are respecting the picket lines, the DGA (Directors Guild) is not. The Hollywood Teamsters, and also individual Teamsters, are also not crossing picket lines.

The last writers' strike, which lasted five months, gave rise to reality tv (which requires fewer, and more easily non-union, writers). This writers' strike will take an estimated 1 billion dollars a month from the US economy. GE, Sony, Time Warner, etc. -- are diversified and multinational enough not to care.

The debates are many:

- residuals for online screenings or downloads -- not about napster-esque stealing and swapping: the studios are running television shows and feature films on their own websites without paying the writers residuals. they are additionally saying that these are "experiments" for "marketing purposes" while 1) one cable network runs all of its film programming ad-free and pays residuals according to contract formulas, 2) part of this marketing is building share for the network and for the shows, which should be compensated, 3) we are no longer in the experimental phase of internet advertising, broadband, etc.

- residuals for the creative offspring of film and tv: so-called "baby writers" are exploited by the networks, and regular staff writers are required, to write webisodes for existing shows for internet-only showings. neither the creators of the characters, situations -- the show -- nor the writers of the webisodes are paid residuals. sometimes, they're not paid for writing them.

- do not be fooled by studios saying they want to pay residuals to writers, actors after shows or films make a profit. studios, now all part of large corporations, are now able to manipulate the books so that shows officially never show a profit. for example, the simpsons, one of the most popular and longest-running television shows thus far, and one with only voice actors, is officially still in the red.

- the WGA has been forced to make significant cuts in its union health care benefit, especially to writers who live outside Los Angeles, and has extended the number of working years to become fully vested in the health benefits.

At any one time, less than 5% of the WGA members are working. the average WGA member makes less money per year from writing than a minor league hockey player. [there have been some ravings I've heard about the average salary being close to what the average first team major league male athlete makes: not so]

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