Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When the Deal Goes Down

I've been woefully behind on responding to comments. Mea culpa, gentle readers. They'll have their own post and everything. Since the strike is over, some things are going to change about the blog. Because of what happened on Craig's site, I publicly stated that I would approve all comments here. And throughout the strike, I did just that. Any screed that was sent got posted.

The salad days are over. I've rejected my first comment.

It came from the CraigNonymous and seriously, enough is enough already. Yes, you love Craig, and you'll defend him to the far corners of the interwebs. I'm very glad for you. Although I've talked about Craig's blog because of the effect it's had on the strike (more on that below), I never intended for this blog to become a forum for the bloody Mazin battle. A comment here or there, fine. But a litany of crazy? Not fine. At some point in the hopefully near future, I want this blog to regain some balance. Disagree with what I post or with other comments, fine. I'm not gonna censor y'all. Even if it gets wild, the folks who comment can obviously take care of themselves, so have at it. But I've reached my limit with the Mazin.

So the WGA voted overwhelmingly to call off the strike. Just to make sure we didn't feel TOO good about our success, there was another horrific article in the L.A. Times. Good to know they're continuing their string of erroneous, offensive articles about the WGA! Today came the article that essentially said, "Thank GOD for the smart, rich people who put the brakes on the negotiating committee and got this thing solved. If it wasn't for them, God only knows what would have happened! Whew!"

I'm paraphrasing the article like it paraphrases the truth. Throughout this strike, our negotiating committee has been portrayed as a bunch of well-meaning, know-nothing bumpkins who couldn't luck into a decent deal if one fell from the sky. Article after article has decried that if it wasn't for big-name writers, the strike would be a total and complete disaster. Yes, more than half of them were written by the execrable Michael Cieply, but STILL.

Obviously, none of this is true. But it offends me deeply that any of these little Vichy groups are lent credence at all, even if erroneously. At the meeting on Saturday, John Bowman mentioned "the Dirty Thirty," a group of writers who wanted the WGA to take the DGA deal. He then derided and dismissed them to thunderous applause.

The L.A. Times article is painting the Dirty Thirty as a group of writers who spoke to members of the negotiating committee and tried to get them to not respond unfavorably to the DGA deal. Now, I have my own thoughts and feelings about the accuracy of the group mentioned in the article. I do know that there were many higher-level people who brought their concerns to the negotiating committee, and it's not those people I'm talking about here.

It's the others.

The word "showrunner" keeps getting bandied about, but let's get something clear. The showrunners are people who walked away from shows. The executive producers are people who are at showrunner level, but weren't running shows. It may sound like a small distinction, but it's not. It's a HUGE distinction. The stakes were MUCH greater for an actual showrunner than they were for people who were on deals. It's much more understandable that a showrunner would get nervous and try to broke a deal, and much more believable that someone like Shawn Ryan or Shonda Rhimes would have the kind of power that would mean something to both sides. Those are the people you want to keep on your side. The rest of them? Whatever. A buncha ordinary lucky assholes with overall deals. So what?

The article is breathless in its desire to drum up drama. These folks were apparently worried the leadership would remain so hardline that they wouldn't be able to broker a deal. They had ideas about how the committee should proceed, and they used their giant ape-ness to push the committee to take them seriously. Truth is, some of these people are understandably scared shitless. Deals were being force-majeured. Pilot season was in danger of going away. For a lot of these folks, that would cause them considerable and perhaps irreparable financial harm. So for them, the strike stopped being worth it. And when the DGA deal was announced, it looked fucking good enough to them to end this thing.

Look, we all have our tipping points. I am never going to judge somebody for how far, or not, they are willing to go. I don't have the right. But I do have the right to judge how they went about it. What's trickling out now is, a number of people were disingenuous about their agendas. Either the strike should be over for "the town," or the strike should be over because of all those middle-class writers. Yes, I, Giant Ape, am only thinking of the poor lowly non-Me writers who are scrabbling for a living, who are being royally fucked by the strike. WE CARE ABOUT THE LITTLE GUY, you see, so PLEASE stop this. Try to make a deal. It's for the children!

Our industry is not alone with this sort of thing.

The Presidential election, so far, has been largely about the vanishing middle class. The candidates talk about "working families," which is offensive enough for obvious reasons, and they also talk about how they want to help the middle class. They want to give the middle class a voice, help it up by its bootstraps, help it to regain its strength and its place in our society. Aw. So sweet. So caring! They'll do all of that but what they won't do is actually give the middle class a voice they can USE. They won't give the middle class the one thing it actually deserves -- POWER. No, instead, they give false power with one hand and numb the populace with the other. Because a middle class with power is a Terrible Thing to those already in power. A middle class with power will FUCK YOUR SHIT UP.

The middle class of our strike didn't have to be talked down off a ledge. The middle class fucking understood the tactics of the AMPTP, and of our negotiating committee. The middle class never wavered because they saw the machinations. The middle class used its fucking BRAINS. The middle class is the kid who quietly goes about his business and gets no credit for it. The middle class is pragmatic and understanding and, above all, patient. The solidarity of the middle class, and the unwavering support for the leadership, should not be mis-characterized as cult-like. Because it isn't. Because just maybe, the middle class looks at the deal and actually fucking LIKES it. I for one was willing to strike forever if our offer was the DGA offer, and I knew a lot of people in my position who would have done the same.

In my viewpoint, we weren't sold a bill of goods but I know others who think so. The type of people I'm talking about, though, aren't the ones who patronize the membership -- calling them "rank and file" and "working writers." No, these types are people who get why you would vote yes on the deal but wished you'd want more from it. I get that.

Does somebody who has worked hard but has also gotten lucky carry more weight than someone who's worked equally as hard but hasn't gotten lucky? What the L.A. Times article and other things I've seen and heard throughout this strike have told me is, ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY.

So everybody went back to work or unemployment on Wednesday. The Oscars will happen, and will probably be just as boring as always. Shows are already being given episodes. Pilots, I suppose, will get made. And because of the strike settlement agreement, the scabs who were hired to replace WGA writers will be FIRED. I hope the good people of this strike, folks who've shown great fortitude and character, people like John McNamara, get great deals elsewhere. And I hope the guild retains the unity it developed during this strike and manages to not rest on its laurels but instead pushes forward, readying to dig in a little more and win bigger.

We've got three years to organize and find out.


Jake Hollywood said...

Because just maybe, the middle class looks at the deal and actually fucking LIKES it. I for one was willing to strike forever if our offer was the DGA offer, and I knew a lot of people in my position who would have done the same.

In my viewpoint, we weren't sold a bill of goods but I know others who think so. The type of people I'm talking about, though, aren't the ones who patronize the membership -- calling them "rank and file" and "working writers." No, these types are people who get why you would vote yes on the deal but wished you'd want more from it. I get that.

I'm not really sure where I fit into all this -- I'm one of the 7.5%ers -- but i will say I understand why people wanted to go back to work...

For me it's different. As a features writer there's no steady paycheck, almost no camaraderie with my fellow writers--there's just me in the room (which is frightening enough), so I'm used to the ups and downs. In fact, I've come to love poverty, except for that steady eating thing, having a place to live, etc., it ain't bad.

I don't like "the deal." I've studied it up, down, sideway, back-to-front, and even took another language in an attempt to understand if there was something missing in what I read. There wasn't.

And I still don't like (I'm not alone, see Blogging.LA to see what Harlan Ellison thinks--scroll past the Greg"My Name is Earl" Garcia thing to read it) it.

But that's me, hard to please and stupid as shit.

However, what I am though is a believer in solidarity. And my fellow writers are endorsing the deal. So, so be it. I'll vote, "no," but it'll pass and life will go on.

And I'll celebrate with them the joy of being a screenwriter.

As to scabs, some of them won't be fired, some of them were WGA writers (and I could name a few, but what's the point?) and will keep the gig. Sooner or later they'll be outside looking in and I'll wave my one finger hello.

All I'm trying to say is, if your part of something, it's important to keep your integrity and support those who support you. If you disagree, it's important to not tear apart the whole, just be true to yourself and do nothing that harms your brethren.

In the end, we're all writers and lucky to be doing what we love. Why ruin it with destructive acts?

Michael said...

Kay, before you (or anyone else) villainizes the 'Dirty 30' (who comes up with these names anyway?) I'd recommend reading NegComm member Howard Gould's account posted on He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named's blog. http://artfulwriter.com/?p=331

It provides a pretty different account of things than the LAT article-- and remember, Gould was one of the NegComm members who was at that pivotal meeting discussed in the piece, so I'm inclined to believe him. And it doesn't really sound like a bunch of rich assholes behaving recklessly or condescendingly. Not to me, at least. But mileage may vary.

AJ said...

Regardless of whomever 'won,' I trust that this was enough of a wakeup call for the WGA to, as you said, 'push forward' and not allow this to happen again in three years.

Thanks for the fly-on-the-wall experience of seeing how you and those of your ilk handled this situation these past few months, Kay; it was truly fascinating to behold.

Here's hoping a new pilot/series deal is on the near horizon for you.

I wish you continued success and look forward to seeing what you have up your blog-sleeve, going forward for 2008.


Michael Taylor said...


As a lighting technician (IA local 728) idled by the strike, I followed the war of words on Seriocity and other Industry blogs with the interest of a war refugee huddling in the ruins while two opposing armies slugged it out. I'm a juicer -- not a writer -- so it wasn't my place to comment, but now that the smoke has cleared, I hope the deal works out for all WGA members, established veterans and one-script newbies alike. I also hope the stress-fissures created by the pressure of the strike heal soon. We're all in unions, and depend upon internal solidarity if we're to make any progress at all.

I will say one thing about Craig Maizen -- whatever his faults (which you and your readers know far more than I), he had some smart things to say about the Above-the-Line vs. Below-the-Line sniping that took place early in the strike. His call for more understanding between our very different crafts was right-on, and I hope it won't be lost in the stampede back to work. There are more labor/managment battles down the road, and we'll all need to stick together (or at least not shoot each other's wounded) if our side -- the worker's side -- is to prevail.

If you're interested in a below-the-line take on Industry life, click on over to my blog:"Blood, Sweat, and Tedium: Confessions of a Hollywood Juicer," where I try to shed more light than heat on the reality of working in the trenches of the Industry.


The more we understand each other, the better we'll all be when the producers once again try to cut us off at the knees -- and they will.

Congratulations to you and all WGA members on the strike, and for reaching the compromises necessary to bring it to a successful conclusion. And now - hopefully - we can all get back to work.

Michael Taylor

PS: Anybody who likes "All About Eve," "Rebel Without a Cause," Philp K. Dick, and Robert Crais is okay in my book.