Monday, November 12, 2007

On November 13th, this blog and the blogs listed below will be on strike for the day in solidarity with the Writers Guild of America. As fellow writers and as TV fans, we are coming together to express our strong support for the writers and their goals. We believe that when a writer's work makes money for a company, that writer deserves to be paid.

Many writers depend on residuals for a stable income, and that income shouldn't be based on an outdated formula which ignores the existence of new media and all but a tiny percentage of DVD sales. The talented writers responsible for so much of what we love about television should and must be paid fairly and equitably, and we will stand with them until they reach that goal. For everyone's sake, and for the sake of television, we hope both sides can come to an agreement quickly.

To further that goal, we are calling on our readers to sign this petition and to contact the following television networks, voicing support for the writers and for a return to the negotiating table:

500 South Buena Vista Street
Burbank, CA 91521
(818) 460-7777

10201 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90035
(310) 369-1000

7800 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
(323) 575-2345

NBC / Universal
100 Universal City Plaza
Universal City, CA 91608
(818) 777-1000

After the blackout, we intend to continue our campaign to support the WGA until the dispute has been resolved fairly. Since we will not be posting any new content on the 13th, we encourage our readers to visit United Hollywood instead for frequent updates about the strike.

In solidarity-


jana said...

I have a question...
When the writers write something, aren't they compensated and then the product becomes the "property" of the network? The only reason I can see that they continue to get any residuals is because it's been negotiated as such. I believe the writers have a clear point, however, when I buy a Ford from the dealership, my salesman gets his cut, the dealer gets his cut, Ford gets paid by the dealer and the guys who actually built it are paid by Ford. None of the 35,000 paid for my new vehicle goes back to the guys who built the vehicle, they've been compensated for their work under the agreement they reached at their employment. I suppose UAW could take a cue from the writers' guild and go on strike for a commission from the eventual sale of vehicles and then the resales afterward.

Probably not a very popular thought on the subject, but just puttin' it out there.

Shea said...

But it's not that simple. You now have to imagine that the same truck is being resold again...the very same product is making another $35,000 again...

You have to remember that when a tv show is put on the internet there are advertisements that are paying big bucks to run alongside those "webisodes or reruns"... so who should get that money? Should the people who create and wrote it into existence get a percentage of that profit? Absolutely. Should producers get 100% of the new profits off the same product? Absolutely not.

If you were a hairdresser and came out with a hair product and were told by a salon that you could sell the product in the salon and that you get your cut for the product and the salon gets a cut of the product for allowing you to sell in their store. Is that Fair? Yes.

Now you decide to sell the same product on the salon's website. The salon keeps all the money from the same product. You get zero money. Fair? Not so much.

This is NOT an issue of writers wanting more money. This is an issue of wanting a percentage of a product they created, which is being re-aired in a new media format and absolutely no money going to the writers while millions of dollars are going into the hands of already greedy (and filthy rich) producers.

Just puttin' it out there.

The CineManiac said...

I was going to write a long answer but Shea did a pretty good job.

The main difference is the people making a truck or car are just putting the parts together, like on an assembly, where writers are creating a product completely from their minds.
A better analogy would be the designers of a clothing line, creating something from scratch and allowing the stores to sell them. The designer is getting a percentage of every sell.
But in this case the designer is giving their product to the store who is turning around selling it and giving the designer nothing.

jana said...

But if the designer has been paid for their work, it's a done deal. I think where the networks have gone wrong is their pleading of ignorance on how the internet and downloads will affect their profits. Don't get me wrong, based on the precedent set with prior contracts, the writers should get a commission on the new media broadcasts. I'm just saying that the UAW (or the designers who "invented" the truck) doesn't get paid again and again when the truck I bought for $35,000 resells for $18K a couple of years later, then $10K, then $5K. An argument based on "...and absolutely no money going to the writers while millions of dollars are going into the hands of already greedy (and filthy rich) producers," is immature.

If the salon buys the product from you and resells it on their website is an entirely different proposition than You deciding to sell on the website. The networks post eps on websites because they own the product. The writers didn't ask the network if they could make their product available to the web. What I do with a product after I've paid the price is entirely my business. I bought my house for $160,000 and intend to sell it for $200,000. I do not intend to give the family from whom I bought the house any portion whatsoever of the $40,000 profit. I guess I'm a greedy and filthy rich homeowner.

The CineManiac said...

But it's entirely different then you buying a truck then reselling it. That would be like me buying a DVD in a store then reselling it and having to pay the writers a percentage, and I agree that's not right.

Basically the writers deal is that they get residuals, which amounts to about 80% of their income. With this deal in place, the writers know that most of their income comes from the backend. That's just how their deal is set up.
But with the internet and television merging and more and more people getting their TV online either through places like iTunes or streaming video from the networks website, their residuals will dry up, as reruns become more and more rare.
The writers just want to ensure that they are getting the same percentage that they have always been getting, otherwise some of them can't afford to pay their bills.
The studios are taking this new media and not wanting to give the same deal they have always given. Since the internet sells/streams are rebroadcast they should be getting the same deal as with tv.
But, the networks are saying it's new so we don't have to pay for it anymore, and instead of rebroadcast, which writers get paid for, they call them "promotions" and say they don't make money off of it.
But the fact is they do make money, there is no overhead cost, so every penny of a sale like on iTunes is profit. (The Office alone sold 7 Million episodes, so someone got $14 Million, how is that not making money) And they sell ads for the streaming video, at a higher rate then TV ads. So all of these ads are profit as well.
So while the networks continue to make money and get richer, the writers' money is drying up and they are not getting a fair deal. And that's why they need to be paying the writers.

You just can't compare it to someone making a product then reselling it, because that's not what they are doing. Each sell is a new sell, not a resale.
They are selling it in a new way and saying, well this type of sell wasn't in our deal because it didn't exist, so you can't get paid.

jana said...


I understand. I believe the writers should be paid according to their contracts. Internet *is* new, so everyone's contracts should be re-negotiated. This is just like Metallica going to bat for the music industry and that downloading. I believe the union is correct in going on strike in order to renegotiate their contracts, however, don't couch it in the "greedy" networks, or "poor me, I'm not getting paid." Your contracts do not cover internet replays and therefore at this time do not apply.

The CineManiac said...

But the fact is the "greedy" networks/studios are just that. The day before the strike was to begin the parties went back to the table. There were two issues they really had to discuss 1)DVD revenue, the writers wanted 8 cents instead of the 4 cents they currently get (because back in 88 the studios told them there was no money in home video, which includes DVDs) and 2)revenues on New Media.

The writers were told if they pulled the DVDs off the table the studios would budge on the New Media issue and they could avoid a strike. Instead after they pulled DVDs off the table the Studios declined to move on the New Media issue. They don't want to give any money for New Media, again saying there's no money in it, which invokes the Home Video market argument of yesteryear which clearly became a huge money maker for the industry.
When the Studios won't budge on giving ANY money for New Media, I don't know what to call that but greedy.

jana said...

Travis, them's the hazards of the union. When you as an individual turn over your opportunity to profit to collective bargaining, you put yourself in this strike situation. The networks aren't greedy. They are in the business of making money, for themselves, their investors, and their employees. As soon as you introduce the idea that 'x' amount of money is too much for someone/thing to make, you begin the slippery slope of communism. When the strike begins to hurt the networks/owners/investors, they will make a deal; until then, I think they're dug in. Do I believe they're (the networks) being disingenuous? Yes, but they are well withing their rights to refuse to the union anything they want. The power of the union is that they strike and eventually hurt everyone enough that they will be heard.

The CineManiac said...

I honestly don't have a problem with people making tons of money, good for them for being good at marketing. I have a problem with them not sharing the profits with the creators.

There would be no strike if the Networks/Studios would have simply carried through with their word and made a compromise on New Media, but they want to keep all the money for themselves without giving it to the people who create it.

Take The Office webisodes, they made NBC money, won an Emmy and yet none of the writers were paid for this work, at all. They created it because they work on the show, but were never paid.

My main problem is that the Networks/Studios didn't even try to make a concession after the WGA moved towards a middle ground. Rather than make a deal the Networks/Studios chose to leave the table and let the WGA strike.
In negotiations one side makes a concession and typically the otherside does the same. Instead they walked away.
And the worst part is they did so after promising to make a concession if the WGA did the same.

But let's be clear I'm not for communism, I personally hope to make millions one day, and have no problem with that.

jana said...

OOPS, I just lost my question for you. I think my comment was something like I never said the Networks weren't jerks, but they don't have to give anybody anything. Up until now, the writers have been paid, according to their contracts. They need to include new language in their contracts to reflect new forms of media. But in the mean time, they've been compensated.

What I wonder about is scrub-type of writers who do not belong to the union who are willing to write for a paycheck, per se. I understand that they will not be allowed into the union in the future, but can they submit directly to the suits and make their own financial arrangements?

The CineManiac said...

I'm not positive on this, but I'll tell you what little I do know. The Networks/Studios might purchase something from you once, but traditionally to be a writer for any length of time you would need to join the WGA.
Also, in almost all cases, before anyone will even look at your script you have to have an agent, and I would presume an agent would be unlikely to take you if they knew you couldn't join the WGA, and thus were unlikely to have any type of career.

jana said...

You know what else? What about 'On Demand' on my DVR cable box? I watched Mad Men all summer and early fall OD. Does that count as a rerun? What about all of the movies I watch OD? All of the movie networks have all of their movies available all month OD, so I may not watch when it's broadcast on HBO or Showtime, but I watch when I want. PPV also, I buy and watch those OD instead of waiting for the broadcast time.

What is the average salary of a working writer? Is there a union minimum you receive when you enter the union? It sounds to me like it's mostly commission-type of work. There may be more money available out there if they work for themselves and make their own arrangements. The rest of the working universe seems to do okay that way.

The CineManiac said...

I believe On Demand is part of the New Media they are not getting paid for. This is another reason reruns are in decline because people are becoming more and more able to watch whenever they want instead of at a specific time, and as time goes on this will become more and more common. (I'm not sure about PPV, but it's been around a while so they might get compensation for that)
The average salary for a writer is somewhere around $60,000 a year (which I believe includes residuals, which are somewhere around 80% of that) so if the internet and TV become one like people think, and they don't get a new deal comparable to their TV deal, they lose 80% of their income.

jana said...

Shea, regarding the strike, doesn't your husband do some kind of production work in "the industry"? Is there any concern about his position? What about your acting carreer which seems to be on the brink of taking off?

Bring TV Back... said...

I urge anyone willing to help to check out:

The site is intended to publicize a letter writing campaign that will really target the offending CEOs who refuse to address new media.

It contains all the addresses of the CEOs who REALLY call the shots, has a sample letter and breaks down WHICH CEO is responsible for almost every show, so fans can make the letters specific to their favorite shows.

Please consider helping us spread the word!

Berrio Productions said...

Bloggers need to let the world know what the media is not telling them and show the faces that belong to those names that scroll by so fast at the end of your favorite TV show. I hope to see you on the picket line. Those bloggers, who can walk the picket line, I encourage you to do so. If you are not in New York or LA, United Hollywood has artwork that you can post on your blog to help get the message out there and you can also walk a Virtual Picket Line on Myspace.

In solidarity

Tony Figueroa

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