We're in week four of the strike and it seems that the growing potential for optimism is counter-balanced (heh) by an equally growing mass of malcontents. Everywhere you go on the internets, gruff dissenters are bleating about how THEY WON'T BE SILENCED! IT'S CENSORSHIP! YOU BASTARDS! Well. Just... bullshit, okay?
So. A few things need to be re-stated.
1. We're on fucking STRIKE.
The WGA is on strike, and the AMPTP would like nothing more than to see a cracking in the ranks. I wasn't in the WGA during the 88 strike, but my understanding is that one of the things that led to a settlement was that very thing. The showrunners broke with the leadership and demanded a deal.
That deal sucked, which is why we're here today.
Now, we have the showrunners making a very hard decision and on the internets, asshats are criticizing them for it. Whether you agree with their decision or not, this is not the time for the troops to criticize the leadership. I'm sorry; it just isn't. I realize what a remarkably unpopular view that is, and I get why -- because we're living in Bush's America and he's ALL about the no-criticism zone. But that's a different situation. I wouldn't expect the troops to say to Bush, "Um... you're an asshole, and this job sucks." Because they're doing the job, and they need to be fully committed to it. What we're doing doesn't begin to compare with that, not by any means, but it's the same general idea. And really, our leadership supports us much more than the Bushies support the troops. At least we get t-shirts and donuts.
2. CENSORSHIP! FASCISM! BLACKLISTAGE!
Those who cry "censorship" are idiots. You bleat about how you have a right to say what you want, and then you say it, but if somebody tells you they disagree with you, it's censorship. That doesn't make any sense.
We NEED to believe in what we're doing. The time for criticism is gone, and if we get a deal and go back to work, then you can complain and say that Verrone, et al, didn't represent us well. But right now, I am fully, 100%, behind our leadership. And I believe that seeing our resolve strengthens theirs. I want them to go into the negotiations believing that we're behind them, that we support them. Those of you who think this is crap need to broaden your focus past your fancy house and your kids' nifty private schools. People are constantly accusing Hollywood folks of not understanding "real people." You're proving that to be true.
Health care, a pension, a fair residual/internet deal... maybe this isn't important to you people because you DON'T live in the real America. You don't see how the middle class is being obliterated. You don't see how corporations -- the very monsters we're fighting here -- have assumed control over every aspect of our lives. You believe in the "customer service" and "convenience" bullshit. This isn't important to you, because you take for granted what we have now. But people FOUGHT for it. Writers GAVE UP THEIR RESIDUALS so you could have your fucking health and pension. Don't piss all over that. Get some historical perspective.
Not convinced? From Nikki Finke:
WGA member Ed Decter (co-screenwriter of There's Something About Mary) emails me: "Please mention to your readers that while Oprah's gift basket (The United Artists 90th Anniversary Prestige Collection) contains some incredibly wonderful classic films on DVD, the writers of those historic movies will make only four cents out of the $869.00 that the basket costs. Ninety DVDs times four cents would come out to $3.60. That is the writers' share of the Presige Collection. Hold on, I have to amend that. Only the writers of the movies AFTER 1960 will be eligible for the four cents. Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond had the misfortune of writing Some Like It Hot in 1959, so their estates will receive NOTHING."
Everything that working people have in this country was fought for, at great expense. Those who don't acknowledge this, who just want to moan about how upsetting it is that their lives aren't perfect right now, don't know how good they have it because of these other folks. In this age of Corporate America, we need unions and guilds. And really, we have it pretty sweet. As Americans, we don't have to give up a fucking thing. We're even told to go shopping when things get rough. We're living in a fairy-tale world of giant cars and plastic shoes, of midnight Best Buy sales, American Idol, and the best technology the world has ever seen. But what's the point of it if we're fucking unconscious?
The talk about how we're all rich fat cats isn't helped when writers don't think walking the picket line is mandatory. It's not a choice, people. You don't get to sit on your asses at home, choosing on which day to make your appearance, when the rest of us are out there every single day. Yeah, I'd like to get shit done, too. But this is my priority. The irony is, all the asshats who are staying out probably make more money than me anyway, and will benefit more from a better contract. They'll all go back to work and sell shit and get on shows. They've got nothing to worry about. So why am I out there every day (except for today, because my ^%&*^& car broke down) and they aren't?
Because I don't take shit for granted and I think it's important, even if we don't stop one truck from going through that gate. By not picketing, these folks are not supporting the leadership. They're not supporting their Guild, or their fellow writers. I see showrunners and show creators out there every Goddam day. I see staff writers, assistants, Guild associates (some of whom are doing the lion's share of the work and won't benefit like we will), I have even seen a few big-time feature writers. I've seen IMPORTANT, RICH-ASS PEOPLE on the picket line EVERY DAY. Those who aren't picketing, you're not too good for it. Trust me.
4. What the hell is the internet?
Good LORD, people... learn some shit. I was interviewed by John Ireland yesterday, he of the cranky writer caucus, and it was fairly obvious he was trying to get me to agree with him. I doubt very much that the interview will be seen anywhere, because I do not agree with him. He's trying to put bandaids on larger problems. Why isn't anyone going, "Hey, that whole POD thing? It's destroying TeeVee." But no... he's focused on the loss of freelance jobs in TeeVee. Buddy, that ship sailed a LONG time ago.
Then we talked about the internet. Now, I'm no tech genius, TRUST me, but I know some shit. Not much; just enough to get by. But apparently, I know a LOT more shit than others do. People seem to think that we're about three seconds away from streaming GLORIOUS high-def video straight into our brains. People don't REALLY understand these delivery systems; they think iTunes looks peachy. They don't understand video compression. They don't understand compatibility issues. WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND THIS STUFF. Everything is so user-friendly and click-simple now that people don't know how anything works. I like to know how things work. I like to know where to find the best MPEG-2 conversion software. I like to figure out how high a bitrate I can use on a DVD so my DVD player will play it. I like to convert video with a variable bitrate, when all the templates just use a constant bitrate. I like to know how to convert and burn DivX files. So I have a pretty basic understanding of file sizes and bitrates. I wish the people blathering on about internet and HD had a fucking clue. Storage and delivery will become a bigger and bigger deal. Computer chips will become a bigger deal. Integrating computers and televisions will become a bigger deal.
We have a lame-ass internet deal because people don't do their homework. For those of you who want to take a peek into that world, check out VideoHelp. Just browse a little.
The biggest one going is that we're losing support. That's such bullshit, y'all. The United Hollywood blog has a rather pointed entry up about how the AMPTP is hiring shills and trolls -- a la the right-wing nutbars -- to spread disinformation. Just check out Mazin's site. They're everywhere. Naturally, the shills and trolls, in their anonymous guises, flood the gates and insist that they're not trolls. It's a little tough to believe them, since they're all spouting Nick Counter's erroneous talking points. We HAVE seen this before. the Bushies do this all the time. Yes, Saddam was responsible for 9/11. Got anything new, Tinfoil Boy?
Here are the numbers from the recent WGA e-mail:
Three separate surveys indicate overwhelming support for the WGA. The most recent source of good news comes from Daily Variety. Nearly two-thirds of their readers, representing a wide range of affiliations, support the strike. Even more impressive, when Writers Guild members were given the chance to express their opinions in a secret ballot without peer pressure, 84 percent stated the strike was necessary. Furthermore, 69 percent of all the Variety subscribers polled see the WGA as being "more honest and forthright" than the media corporations.
The AMPTP has less reason to smile. Fifty percent of respondents said that since the onset of the strike their view of the corporations has become more negative. Two per cent like them better. Adding to the AMPTP woes, 52 percent of Variety subscribers blame the media corporations for any crew layoffs that have taken place.
Today's Wall Street Journal (11/26/07) praised the strength of the WGA, saying that the "walkout has enjoyed strong unity" and warning media corporations that the strike could lead to the "total collapse of Hollywood's entertainment machine." Obviously, that is not our objective. We are committed to bringing this strike to a timely end. A robust and profitable entertainment industry benefits us all.
Yeah, there's our militant leadership, all right...
The real interesting part, though, is how the trolls keep "worrying" that the WGA isn't getting its "message" out to the "public." Based on the above numbers, the public gets it. If I talk to someone who doesn't, I explain it. And check it -- THEY GET IT. People aren't stupid. But ultimately, it doesn't really matter if the public understands or if they're with us, because they're not going to vote on anything. But it's nice to have the support. WHICH WE HAVE. SO FUCK OFF.
Another fun fallacy is that all us writers make $200,000 a year. First of all, that's total bullshit and the people who bleat on about this don't understand how the industry works. If one more person mentions minimums, I'm taking someone the fuck OUT. This is a sweet Republican nutter tactic. They get people talking and arguing about a fallacy so the truth isn't revealed. The trolls try to derail the real conversation because they know they're wrong. Remember the SwiftBoat bullshit? Yeah. Like that. The truth is, this isn't about how much we all make. It's about a fair deal.
4. The IATSE/WGA war
Can we just STOP? Film is a collaborative medium. We all need each other. Residuals benefit IATSE members. All us writers are sorry that every one of you is going to lose his house in the next month. At least you have a house to lose. Okay? So cut it the fuck out. Those IATSE members who are supporting the WGA -- you rock. Thank you. To the rest of you -- whatevs. Believe whatever you want. It's not my job to convince you or to apologize EVEN MORE. This benefits you, so you're welcome.
A few comments:
The other as I watched videos and read blogs about the strike, it occurred to me that we hear a lot about television writers but that we have heard very little about feature film writers or even feature film actors joining the picket line. Any thoughts on that?
I think some film actors have been out in NYC. I haven't personally seen any. A lot of film actors have done the Speechless campaign, which is pretty cool. There are a few feature writers out. I wish they'd be more vocal so we'd know who they are! I know several who have been out there every day.
Also, much has been said about the rights of writers, etc. What hasn't been spoken much about is the work writers do, those lonely hours by the laptop, thinking, and thinking, and more thinking - our minds escape the reality and slip into a world we create, a world only writers seem to understand is real before others can envision it. Writers are a different lot, souls who explore what isn't real but we all believe could be real if we can somehow break the veil of our own reality and existence.
It's virtually impossible to describe a writer's job too a non-writer, for the reasons you stated. We're basically working all the time. We can't just clock out and go home. As Red Smith said, "There's nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." E.L. Doctorow said, "Writing is a sociably acceptable form of schizophrenia." And Emily Dickinson said, "Publication is the auction of the Mind of Man."
Writers know how to use words, yo.
I had an altercation with a writers assistant who was a bit mean-spirited and snide about the WGA wishing everybody a Happy Thanksgiving when thanks to them, there was no money for turkey. When someone (not me) pointed out that that was mean-spirited, she came back with 'her rights to speak her mind' and 'right to pay her rent.' To which I came back with the comments that the right to free speech was fought for by someone willing to shed their blood, and that the right to unemployment benefits, indeed, all rights have been fought for by someone because the bosses give up nothing they don't have to. To which I got blasted by her because she didn't like getting a history lesson. There's always someone in every situation that makes things harder.
Exactly! My opinion, people need more history lessons.
And D goes,
Oh hell, are we going to turn this into another IA vs WGA thread? That's why I left Mazin's site for so long. Yes Josh, thank you for writing scripts so we can have jobs. Yes IA thank you for turning scripts into movies so writers can get paid. Thank you most of all Kay. When you call someone a "pussy" it makes my day. You are the coolest.
Well, shucks! This won't get like Mazin's. Trust me. Because here's the deal, as I said above and will say again in case anyone missed it:
WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER. All the writers I've talked to get that. I know it's frustrating for the IATSE members because they're casualties here. WE KNOW THAT. WE'RE NOT STUPID. So it shan't be addressed anymore. Anyone tries, and I'll talk about ponies. Swear to God.
I found this howler of an article online. It's from the LA CityBeat magazine, and was written by Natalie Nichols. She's upset at the dearth of good genre shows. Fair enough; I agree with that. But then she says this:
Most of these new shows are derivative and, worse, dreadful to mediocre. I’m almost glad, because this means they’ll do poorly, the networks will lose interest, and genre can be pushed back to the fringes, where it thrived for years in the hands of passionate people who had something to say and knew what they were doing.
Yikes. Claiming that those who created this year's genre shows aren't passionate isn't really fair. Okay, there's David Eick. I'll give you that one. But Ms. Nichols shows a total lack of industry understanding if she thinks that the passionate, smart genre people aren't out there selling shows and trying to get them on the air. That's total bullshit. As for the fringes... where are these, exactly? With vertical integration, there's just no such thing anymore.
Some asshole on Mazin's site went after me because I talked about the number of layers one has to go through to get a show, or just an episode, on the air. Apparently, being a writer means accepting that everything is in glorious Technicolor at all times. This simpleton didn't understand the point -- we all accept how difficult it is, but we reserve the right to be frustrated. People who take everything on face value go, "You chose the job. Stop whining." But if we all sit around and just do what they want without trying to find a way around it, the industry will stagnate. There seem to be only two viewpoints with the simpletons -- one, that writers are bad/incompetent/passionless, and two, that executives are evil/incompetent/passionless. Neither is true, and it's a lot more complicated than that. Ms. Nichols essentially says that the bad writers are pretty much doing whatever they want, and it sucks.
She also says this:
Yet the classic networks, though more recently fascinated, are apparently already out of compelling genre ideas.
If you doubted her competence, doubt it no more. Girlfriend doesn't even know how the industry works at its most basic level.
I do wonder how CityBeat finds their reporters.
In closing, a few links:
WGA Strike: A Love Story. Just... watch it. And see how the writers are using the internets while the studio CEOs probably don't even know how to turn their computers on.
Mark Evanier explains it all.
np -- The Twilight Sad, "Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters"