Seriocity: Strike edition!
So tomorrow, we picket. Hopefully, it won't be too combative, but you never know, right? We're writers. We're not confrontational by nature, unless it's on the 'net.
All anybody outside the WGA has to go on is what they hear on the TeeVee and radio and read in the newspapers and on the internets. I've been checking out the internets a little and it's been illuminating. There have been several posts in places like The Huffington Post about the strike and we've gotten support from people with NAMES, y'all, folks even your Aunt Tillie in Weewaw has heard of. Do regular people get to post on The Huffington Post, or is it just famous folks? I really do not know.
The press seems to think it's important to talk to these highly visible folks, as if only they can lend credence and heft to the situation. Because unfortunately, in our celebrity-driven culture, an interview with the middle class just won't cut it. Who would care?
But the strike isn't about the people who are, at the moment, massively successful. It's not about making the rich richer. It's about a few things that are more important than that, and the press continuing to focus on "names," which when you're talking about screenwriters and TeeVee writers, seems rather hilarious. They'll have a MUCH easier time if SAG strikes. Nobody turns on the TeeVee and goes, "Oooh, Martha! Come quick! Carlton Cuse is talking about the strike!"
The asshat who's negotiating for the studios claimed that the average writer makes $200,000 a year. Now, I don't know about the rest of y'all, but even during the good years, I wasn't making close to $200,000 a year. This is a tactic on their part to show that writers are greedy fuckers who just want to get their fat, grubby fingers on the studios' hard-earned cash. Which simply isn't true. So why the WGA continues to push these writers front and center is a mystery to me. And the press, of course, continues to interview them as well. So as far as the public is concerned, the rest of us are in the same boat.
You can see this on the internets. There's a lot of "Boo hoo, rich Hollywood writer, now you'll know what it's like to be one of us." Honey, I already know, okay? And it would be lovely to know where my next paycheck was coming from. I haven't known that for several years. What's even more amusing (because it's SO wrong-headed) is the contention that writers don't deserve to be treated fairly because TeeVee and movies suck. Yeah, as if all of this is contingent on how good a writer you are. If that's the case, well... I won't go any further than that. And these posts are on the supposedly liberal blogs. Imagine what the Freepers think!
I say "imagine" because I sincerely don't want to know. Don't tell me.
The people who support the strike -- others who will be financially screwed by it -- need to see that the writers will be, too. The Teamsters are risking a LOT if they don't cross our picket line. If we're perceived as not risking anything, why should they put themselves on the line for us?
While big-name TeeVee writers are walking away from the shows they've created, nurtured and protected, this unfortunately doesn't have the same weight as do the financial considerations, because that's all the press talks about. So by interviewing only big-name writers, our cause is done a disservice. And Shawn Ryan talking about walking away from the last episode of "The Shield" EVER doesn't have the heft and weight that it really needs to.
People understand financial hardship. It's as simple as that. And when you see prima donnas elsewhere on the internets whining about how the WGA has basically hard-lined us into a strike, and then complaining that their massive paychecks subsidize the rest of us AND pay for the strike, you gotta wonder where their heads are. Because the way it looks from here is, Big WriterDude is only thinking of himself and being singled out as the internet spokesmodel for the Guild feeds his already healthy ego. So he begins to think of himself as said spokesmodel and begins to bleat that the sky is falling.
I'm talking about one bloviating spokesmodel in particular here, just in case that was lost on y'all.
At this point, we're on strike. And certain spokesmodels seem to think that it matters why we're here. It really doesn't anymore. The only thing that matters is solidarity and support. Regardless of how we feel personally, if somebody's going to be interviews on, say, the radio, they'd better have their shit together. We can't afford to be emotional wrecks. We can't point fingers at the leadership at this point. We have to throw our collective weight behind them and fully support them. This is the kind of crap the Democrats do, when they fight amongst themselves and won't just fucking come together. We need to fucking come together, and if the higher profile writers don't see that, I don't know what's going to happen.
These folks may have been annoyed and irritated by how the WGA leadership handled the negotiations but they have not been hurt and, let's face it, destroyed by it. I was. And I hate and loathe the way they handled this. It took a year's wages away from me. But that's neither here nor there anymore. It's irrelevant. All of this is irrelevant, the politicking, the strong-arming, any of it. It doesn't matter. We can't be irresponsible when we're talking to the press. We can't make it about an individual. It's about all of us, together. And it's even more important than that. It looks like the studios are trying to break the unions. We're the first one on the front line and if we cave, the DGA and especially SAG (which has more in common with the WGA than does the DGA) is fucked. SAG is completely with us and yeah, suddenly, I love actors. Because they know how important these issues are. Although it's about specific issues what's really at stake here is stopping the rollbacks. Because if we don't stop the rollbacks now, then there will be more at every negotiation and eventually, the unions will be completely destroyed.
The studios and the networks already walk all over writers. Imagine how much worse it will get without a union.
So what the fuck are the issues, you ask?
Downloads. What the studios are offering is the same sucky DVD rate for downloads. But the problem is, there are NO manufacturing costs for anything you put on the internets. If they're going to charge the same for downloads as they do for DVDs, they're going to make a lot more from the downloads because of the dearth of manufacturing and distribution. And one of the things they've always been bleating about is how much it costs to make the little DVD thingies and ship them and shit like that. So if you remove that element, the writers should share in a bigger piece of the MUCH larger profit, yes? They say no.
Streaming video and residuals. Normally, when you write an episode of a TeeVee show the show will at some point be rerun, and a writer will get a residual for that second airing. The studios hate this, and it's always up to the WGA to chase down residuals. The studios do not freely hand them over. You have to pry residuals out of their cold dead hands. But what's happening now is, these shows are not being rerun. The studios are streaming the episodes on their websites. Why should a writer get a share of that, you may ask? Because these bad boys have commercials. That's right -- the studios are selling advertising for these streaming videos. If you want to watch an episode of some NBC show on their website, you have to sit through myriad commercials.
Obviously, they're getting money for this and they're delighted because they've managed to find a way around paying us residuals. In order to avoid paying us for the streaming video, they've now said that they don't have to because the use of the video is promotional. It's the same way with streaming movies, or hell, downloaded movies. It's a promotional tool. For what, nobody knows. But that's what they're saying.
If you're not working, and most writers do not work steadily, that green residual envelope keeps you alive. It is not, as the press reports, there to keep your kid in some ritzy boarding school in Gstaad. The green envelope doesn't buy all writers their fourth vacation homes. It's a fucking lifeline.
Now let's talk about DVD for a moment. Most shows are no longer syndicated, and when shows were syndicated in the past, writers got a share of that. But now, shows are being released on DVD. So the syndication market has dried up. Yet another revenue stream that no longer exists. So if the only revenue stream that's going to exist is DVD, writers naturally want a larger piece of that, to offset the loss of syndication. And naturally, the studios and networks wouldn't be putting all their eggs in the DVD basket if it wasn't profitable for them. But they don't want to share, because they think they've found ways around sharing their profits with writers, directors and actors.
It's this ancillary stuff that is saving the asses of people who aren't lucky enough to have written a lame, inexplicably popular parody film.
If you want to take a look at what some writers are saying, check out United Hollywood. Not a ton of posts so far, but it'll give you an idea of what's going on.
np -- The Redwalls, "The Redwalls." Probably a grower like their first album.