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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog


-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Clarifications, Updates and "Thanks, DGA!"

After reviewing my last (extremely rambly) post, I realized I could have made my points much more clearly. Or at least, they could have been made more clearly. How do I know? Because I read a few other posts around that did just that. So for clarity's sake, let me point them out. And while I'm at it, I'll update a few things.

First of all, I discussed that by demanding that the WGA take 6 points of the table before any further discussions commenced, the AMPTP was countering the meaning of "negotiating." This post makes that clearer by stating, "The AMPTP wants to make the WGA reduce our demands to the bottom line so we’ll negotiate down from an acceptable deal to a bad deal." Negotiations are compromises -- I take this off, you take that off. (Get your sick minds out of the gutter!) But if we start from our bottom line position, what can we possibly take off that will leave us with a deal that is fair and acceptable?

I also focused on the issues of reality and animation. In this post, Crazy Canadian writer Alex Epstein addresses these issues more effectively than I did, but with similar sentiment. He writes, "A big chunk of the AMPTP's effort during this strike has been to identify where the movie and TV industries are going -- CGI animation, internet distribution -- and then get a contract that excludes the future."

It is for this reason that I am in support of the WGA's claim filed with the National Labor Relations Board against the AMPTP. The AMPTP have been acting with such arrogance and a sense of entitlement for far too long, both in these negotiations and in the way they treat unions in general and reality TV staff in particular. Well, to put it in literary terms, the AMPTP's tragic flaw is hubris, and such an attitude in conflict with the law must be met with legal challenges. Let them call it table pounding. I don't care. Because I don't think that's what it is. When you flaunt the law, you must face the law.

It is also for this reason that I respectfully disagree with some of Craig's points here. I agree that the reason the AMPTP has taken the tack they have is most likely because "This offer is a red herring designed to distract us from their real position, which is that they don’t want to make a deal with our union at this time." I've stated this opinion already. I just disagree with what the appropriate response to that is. Craig believes the WGA should, "dramatically reduce all of our demands down to the only one that matters, in an attempt to wrest this negotiation back to our union and away from the DGA." I believe that by doing that, the WGA inevitably will be forced to take a deal that is unfair and unacceptable. Even if the WGA never expects to close a deal that includes reality and animation (though I think they are points worth fighting for), they can't take them off the table with no quid pro quo from the AMPTP.

And no, agreeing to come back to the table is not acceptable "quo" for our "quid." (Sorry if the Latin doesn't hold up there -- I never studied it!)

I discussed force majeur taking effect at the end of this week. This article gives more details of how that might play out. And for more on how much the strike actually is hurting the networks (despite the offensive and ridiculous pay they give to their execs), this article tells the bottom line.

So, where does this leave things? Well, for starters, the DGA has basically said they will start negotiating with the AMPTP in January. Well, I certainly have no problem with the DGA beginning negotiations with the AMPTP before the WGA has settled their issues... in theory. My fears relate to how the DGA's negotiations may proceed.

They say that with the right circumstances "the DGA will commence formal talks in the hope that a fresh perspective and the additional pressure we can bring to bear will help force the AMPTP to settle the issues before us in a fair and reasonable manner."

What could that "fresh perspective" possibly be? Are they dissatisfied with the desires and/or demands that the WGA has put forth? Do they feel the WGA is being unreasonable? I can only see one possible "fresh perspective" and it is the one I've been worried about all along. Undercutting the WGA in making a deal with poor residuals.

Why, some may wonder, would the DGA accept that? Wouldn't they want good residuals as much as everyone else? My understanding is that directors split their residuals with many below the line crew members, and thus are less reliant on residuals to begin with. Keeping this in mind, they negotiate better up-front deals for themselves to begin with. And so, with less reliance on residuals, they may very likely accept a contract that has a low residual rate.

And though the WGA is fond of claiming that they don't care what deal the DGA strikes -- the "just because they take something doesn't mean we have to" mentality -- the truth is that like it or not, once one guild settles for something (especially when that guild represents such high profile talent as the DGA), the AMPTP will be using it as a benchmark. Period.

Maybe I'm being an overly pessimistic doomsayer, but with the above DGA statements, and this response by the AMPTP, it almost seems choreographed. January rolls around, the DGA-AMPTP negotiations start, they take a bad residual deal quickly, and to make it seem like it wasn't planned, we have the AMPTP statement here. Back-channel negotiations happening already? You think? Man I hope there are some "fresh perspectives" out there that I'm overlooking!

Lastly, I want to congratulate MTV Networks' "permalancers" on winning their fight. Hopefully the same will come to the writers if we stand strong. And if we remember who are friends are, and aren't. Sorry, I couldn't resist -- that last one makes me laugh.

(Looks like I can't help but ramble. Sorry, and thanks for reading this whole thing, if you did!)

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Blogger Jake Hollywood said...

Just a couple of things.

No matter what, if the DGA signs a deal and it's one the WGA finds unacceptable to live with, I can virtually guarantee you that the WGA will NOT make that same deal.

This time around (unlike previous years) the WGA is all about proving how important writers are to the process of filmmaking and they're not taking a back seat to the DGA or anybody else.

As far as Craig Mazin, his ideas are his and he's welcome to them. I'm convinced though he only worries (this despite his "apologies" of late) that his own myopic interests are served.

Bottom line here is the WGA has decided that writers matter and their needs come first. And to that I say, it's about damn time.

2:17 AM  
Blogger potdoll said...

Hey, found your blog now too. See you Tues! :)

2:41 PM  

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