Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Singing Rule Brittania

I haven't run out of song titles, but I've run out of strike-related titles. And it was a long day. So get off my back.

Three days of picketing down and rather than flagging in our resolve, we're making up more union slogans. The support from the passersby and from the entertainment community has been fantastic and, with the exception of a few thumbs down, virtually unanimous. We had the inimitable Harlan Ellison picketing yesterday with an excellent homemade sign that said "Nick Counter Sleeps With The Fishe$$$$." It was taken away, and then given back. Today, Garry Marshall showed his support by marching and chanting with us at Warner Bros. The "ER" actors came out yesterday and the "Grey's Anatomy" actors came out today. A guy had a sign that read "John 3:16 -- somebody wrote that." And Carlton Cuse had a funny one that said "Want to know what's on the island?"

Actors and talk-show hosts continue to buy food for everybody but Gate 2 at Warner Bros. Seriously, what do we have to chant to get a pizza over there?? Come on, Jimmy Kimmel, where's the love?? Next we're doing noisemakers and tambourines. Think we're noisy just yelling? Wait till later.

The AMPTP -- clearly they are not creative, or they would have come up with a less confusing acronym -- keeps trying to scare the WGA membership into giving up the ghost by saying things like, "We've got a full schedule of programming. We're not worried" to "We're good till about June."

Well, Les Moonves and Peter Chernin, if that is indeed true, I suppose we'll be on strike until June. But are the shareholders REALLY going to see that CBS has ordered "Baby Nation" and be fine with that? Really? These asshats, rich cocks though they are, only run the studios. They don't run the corporations. So it'll be interesting to see if their fat asses get handed to them by the people who are REALLY in control.

I believe that the WGA leadership wants to negotiate. They want talks. And they want us to get a fair contract. They're not turning down anything that the membership wouldn't have guffawed at in the first place.

Here's a nifty YouTube page with some video from the first two days, and from the membership meeting announcing the strike. This week, the studios sent out letters to people on deals, effectively ending those deals. And here's what is ironic. We got aced out of selling a pilot this year partly because of those deals. Yeah, I'm laughing pretty hard about now. Ha fucking ha.

Some illuminating posts at The Huffington Post, and some stupid, inane ones. Even a few idiotic posts that weren't from John Ridley. I know. Amazing, huh?

There were bunches of comments this week. A lot of them are from folks who've drifted over from Artful Writer. So let's see what y'all had to say!

Tim W., you had a question from Halloween that got lost in the shuffle. Sorry about that! I said it was almost impossible to work outside of L.A. Tim's from Vancouver, so that's not a problem. You guys have a thriving TeeVee industry, yes? I was talking about people from rural areas who think they can be professional TeeVee and film writers without relocating. They cannot. You're fine.

Deering found me. Hey there! Glad you stumbled across the blog, and that you think as much of "Mad Men" as I do.I think the strike kind of effed everything up and I didn't talk about how much I adored the finale. I mean, shit. Seriously. You go through the entire season alternately hating Don and understanding him to feeling deeply for him. It's a terrific set-up for the second season. My favorite storyline, though, is Peggy's. I did NOT SEE THAT COMING. But in retrospect, it's fairly obvious. I sure hope we get to see a season two of this show. TeeVee should survive and the strike should end only for that.

And PH is here as well. Geez. Talk about the olden days! We were pleased with our "Moonlight" episode, although it's weird doing a freelance because we're so accustomed to seeing it through editing and post. So it's a little disconcerting.

Wendy wants to know what she can do to show support. Wendy, go ahead and watch those DVDs. Yes, we're being underpaid for them but at least we ARE being paid. What I don't want people to do, however, is download episodes from iTunes or watch episodes on a network's website. WRITERS DO NOT GET COMPENSATED FOR THAT. Our "Moonlight" episode was one of the most popular downloads of the week and we get nothing.

When you illegally download something and the network doesn't get any money for it, they call it piracy. But when you download something or watch streaming video with commercials and the writers don't get any money for it, the networks call it promotion. DON'T LET THEM GET AWAY WITH THIS. Steal from the networks. You KNOW how much they hate it. But we're not supposed to hate it if they steal from us. Somehow, that's their logic. If you don't know how to use Bittorrent, go read up on it. It's very simple, and you can find anything you're looking for via Bittorrent. The quality of Bittorrent downloads is, ironically, FAR better than the downloads you can get at iTunes or the streaming video on the networks' website. So if it's not out on DVD, don't let those bastards make one red cent off the writers, directors and actors. Because they're STEALING from us.

Tim W. wanted to clarify a post I made over on Mazin's site. Tim, I was not accusing Craig of making the idiotic "Writers make $200,000" statement. My beef had to do with his claim that rich guys like him subsidize the rest of us.

Crystal says:
I can attest that every gate at NBC Universal has been covered. Even the Chaplin-Hollywood-whatever studio that I've forgotten existed had picketers in front of it. That to me was impressive, because like I said, I had forgotten it existed.

I worked there once. Glad it's being covered, but I do pity the people who have to cover it... although there IS a Starbucks close by...

I'm not WGA yet, but I'll be helping with the picket lines whenever I can get away... on my free time... and when they shut us down... as people need to understand, this affects us all... it's about the present... and the future...

Thank you, Crystal!!!!

And Bill sends a link from the picket line, with the writers of "The Office." I hadn't watched this yet, and I highly recommend it to anyone who's unclear on what this whole strike is about. guys rock.

BooM says:
I ain't the best writerer. Thank god there's a guy, albeit a TV guy, who's in hell over his hyphenate situation (a struggle I haven't really seen at the other place). This guy's chosen "Writer," no matter the cost. That guy is Shawn Ryan, about the series finale of his baby:

"I will not go into the office and I will not do any work at home. I will be on the picket line or I will be working with the Negotiating Committee. I will not have an avid sent to my house, or to a new office so that I can do work on my show and act as if it is all right because I'm not crossing any picket lines."

Here's the difference between now and then. People like Shawn Ryan. Shonda Rhimes. Greg Daniels. Josh Friedman. Damon Lindelof. Bryan Fuller. Josh Schwartz. These people created their shows, but they're all out on the picket line. They're executive producers, which means they manage the writers, they hire the staff and the crew, they deliver cuts to the networks and studios, and they do the notes. But they are all, first and foremost, writers.

It is DAMN HARD to get a show on the air. Getting your own show is the epitome of TeeVee writing, the culmination of everything you work so hard for. I've said this before, but it must be reiterated because it is SO important. These people are walking away from something that they may never have again. If they didn't do this, we really wouldn't have much of a leg to stand on. Because we'd be split. As they do when they're running their show, they lead by example. And the example they're setting is, I believe, why we have the public overwhelmingly on our side.

There are producers, directors, actors and crew members crossing our picket lines. And many of them are heartsick about it, but most unions have a no-strike clause. They either go to work, or they get sued. And EVERY actor who has been interviewed has said the same thing -- they wouldn't have a job without the writers. The TeeVee actors are, understandably, much more vocal about this, since they work more closely with the writers and the showrunners who hire them. This is solidarity, people! This is why we make up our silly-ass chants and picket OUTSIDE, for God's sake, which is not natural for us. It's hot, and sunny, and there's air and ground. It's WEIRD.

np -- White Whale, "WWI." Geez, this album's REALLY good...


Tim W. said...


Thanks for your reply to my comment. I thought that I'd be safe here (obviously if I want to work in Canadian film or television), but my worry was that American studios would only hire writers out of L.A. (for television). I read on Jane Espenson's blog about her coming out to Vancouver to do so writing for Battlestar Galactica. I would think having a writer they could go to in Vancouver might advantageous.

Charli said...

I'll be at the picket lines here soon to support writers, and as I am a writer in progress, to support my own future.

We have the story.
We have the content.
Therefore, we have the POWER!

Little Miss Nomad said...

Jamie Lee Curtis's HuffPost was fairly moronic. All she had to say about the strike was that the writers should come up with better chants???????? All I have to say to that is, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?

VDOVault said...

Kay we fans want you writers to know that we’ve got your backs. Obviously it’s a little easier for us to support TV writers with regular offices but if you let us know how to reach you, then you too can take advantage of our support

Here are some sites you should check out
WGASupporters LiveJournal Community (it’s a multi-authored blog representing many fandoms)

Fans For The WGA (which covers 27 different TV show fandoms at this writing)

Fans4Writers (started by Joss Whedon’s fans but soon to be populated by other fandoms)

You’re welcome to stop in at any or all of them, comment or ask us for help.

Oh and we'll see if we can swing some pizzas for you through our Food For Thought campaign which is being run through

Daniel S. said...

You all have my complete support.

I've watched all but one episode of Moonlight. The one that I missed will not be watched online.

I'm an aspiring actor-screenwriter-comedian so I want a good deal in place when I break in.

Bill Cunningham said...

Kay -

Just wanted to say thanks for spreading the word. I went by Sunset-Gower today and shot a little video, which I'll post tomorrow.



cgeye said...

You know, I figured out what the studios are doing by using the term "promotional": Equating solid bits of content with the icky class of entertainment, commercials.

Commercials are disposable, sloughable. But don't actors and jingle writers get royalties from commercials, every time they run? What makes commercials better than webisodes, that their workers should get residuals, without question?

It's absurd that the web commercial within a episode's internet rebroadcast generates more residual income than any income generated for creative staff, for the rebroadcast itself (or, as in the BG webisodes, flat rate cash money to any actor, writer or director). When we hear any equivocation regarding promotional internet airings of work, we should shove the accepted practices of the commercial industry back in their face. It's a sin that they make advertising look good.

cgeye said...

And another thing.... why are the IATSE boyos making a stink about the strike, when their big macher just gave final strike authorization tor the Broadway stagehands union -- a little industrial action that could make Bway dark just in time for the holiday season?

If the IATSE expects actors and crew not to cross NYC picket lines, then how the heck do they get off undermining solidarity, in LA? Consistency, for everyone involved in this strike, is too much to ask, ain't it?

Dave said...

Hey Kay,

It’s Dave here again – your old pal from the MBATEOTU. First off, let me say that your picketing accounts have been both intriguing an illuminating. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed your posts at Mazin’s site.—you and Josh Olson seem to be the informed voices of reason over there…sadly, much more so than the douchebag who actually runs the site (did you see his “magic cake” blog? WTF?) You’ve really helped provide perspective in the face of the few dorks shouting “you’re nothing but a bunch of lazy fatcats” ad nauseum.

Anyway, I had a question I wanted to run by you regarding something that recently happened to me. Over the last year and a half, my writing partner and I have written three TV movies and one feature for Larry Levinson Productions, which is a non-signatory prodco – it served as an excellent proving ground, and the checks were enough to keep the lights going and food on the table. We did some good work over there and built a solid rep. Soon afterward, we scored some meetings at Lionsgate, where we began to work out a deal on a project that would’ve qualified us to join the guild – writing the remake of an 80s horror flick that already had a director attached – but the contracts didn’t get signed before the strike, so it pretty much went into an infinite holding pattern. Yeah, we were initially bummed, but we’re both fully in support of the issues, as we know our careers will be defined by the outcome of this strike.

The day after the strike began, I got a call from an exec we worked with over at Levinson. He told me that they were still moving ahead with various projects and that they’d love for us to take a couple more assignments for them. He spun it as if it wouldn’t be a problem, since Levinson’s non-signatory, we’re not guild yet, we’d be signing non-union contracts, etc. Thing is, one of Levinson’s main financial partners is RHI Entertainment, and they most definitely ARE a struck company – their name pops up first in the credits on every one of the movies we’ve written. Levinson also sells their films to a variety of other struck companies, like Lifetime and Spike. I told the exec that, although this seemed like something of a gray area, I didn’t think it would be right to accept any assignments for films that would wind up with these companies, even if they weren’t technically the ones who were signing my checks – the whole thing seemed somewhat shady to me. The exec, of course, told me that I was being paranoid and that doing work for them wouldn’t affect our standing when it eventually came time for us to join the guild. Still, I felt that it would be backhanded and shitty, so I turned him down.

Did I do the right thing here? Despite my non-union status, I want to show solidarity for the union to which I will (hopefully sooner than later) belong. Basically, I just want to know that I wasn’t being an asshole.

And speaking of solidarity, I’d very much like to support my brother and sister scripters on the picket line. Would I be welcome to come down and join in?

AJ said...

There is just so much good stuff here. Just the dialog here in the comments is totally compelling. Best of luck to all of you writers. I think your solidarity will be rewarded.

Paula said...

Dave: I don't know crap about the details and gray areas of the WGA strike, so can't say anything concretely useful. I would like to think I do know enough about honor and guts to recognize them when I see them... and I do see them in your action.

I've been reading Mother Jones' autobiography. It strikes me that one of the virtues of the internet is that it enables communication makes it easier to avoid some of the manipulative tactics she had to face, with strikers unwittingly being played against each other.