Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Short Enz

If you put the word "short" into a blog post title, the post itself must be short.

Let's see what happens.

I was rooting around the interwebtubes earlier, procrastinating like all writers do, and I came across Robert Hewitt Wolfe's Untitled Novel Blog, wherein he lists word count by the day. DAMN, he was disciplined during the strike! I hope he finishes it and sells it and it makes him a gazillion dollars and more famous than JK Rowling. So there.

That aside, I thought it was a fun idea and since I started a new book today, I will play along. Although don't get too excited -- I'm not that disciplined. But anyhow. The new book was started. Chapter one was vomited forth. The word count for day one is 2029, which is a good number and an excellent science fiction title.

I don't think I'll get anything done in the next few days because we'll be breaking our Moonlight episode. See? I said there would be excuses right out of the box. But 2029 for a first day? Not bad. It will all be rewritten in the end, but not a bad opening salvo.

I don't have a ton of time for content today (remember -- 2029 words!!) but there's a lot to talk about. Here's something I can mention but don't feel the need too build into a gazillion word rant.

Diablo Cody won an Oscar, as y'all know, and the Diablo backlash has gone a bit mad. Some dude who writes for the LA Times (friend to no writer -- see strike coverage) had this to say:

"Everybody was ... rallying behind her before `Juno' hit $125 million at the box office, and now comes the inevitable backlash where they see her selling out to Hollywood," observed Tom O'Neil, a columnist for the Los Angeles Times' "The Envelope" Web site.

"She always seemed like a rebel, a social rebel who now seems to have cashed in and joined the club. And I think what we're witnessing is resentment to that," said O'Neil, who noted that Cody's raunchy backstory likely proved irresistible to Hollywood types who don't get a chance to show their bohemian, darker sides in public.


Hilarious, right? Diablo Cody wrote a SCREENPLAY, it got MADE, she won an OSCAR, and now she's sold out. What exactly was she supposed to do with a screenplay? She's not that DIY band playing in their parents' front room. SHE'S A FUCKING SCREENWRITER. She writes screenplays. She's reached the goal of all screenwriters -- to see their fucking words onscreen. So WTF? Is she not supposed to succeed? Even a hipster (in a good way) like Cory Doctorow makes a living as a writer.

I love the notion that Diablo Cody's a rebel, too. Exactly what is she rebelling against? What the dude really means, frankly, is that she doesn't look like the rest of the schlubby writers. Girlfriend's got a persona, she worked it, and it got her noticed. But what seems to be lost in the shuffle is the fact that she can also write. She's got a gimmick, but she's NOT a gimmick.

And her "raunchy backstory" makes "Hollywood types" jealous because they "don't get a chance" to be that way? WTF does that mean? They're not clergy. If some "Hollywood type" wants to get all up in the world of pole-dancing, then go for it. Nobody's stopping you.

Seems to me that this dude is pissed off that somebody he considers a novelty has garnered acclaim and legitimacy. Seems to me that buddy-boy's jealous. Look, no matter what goes on with Diablo Cody's persona, she's got to put the work on the page. Maybe she'll be a flash in the pan. Maybe she can't top Juno. But maybe she'll have staying power and she'll really make her mark. It's impossible to say now, and it's ludicrous to begrudge her the success she earned by writing a script people really liked.

In the interest of full disclosure, I enjoyed Juno but do not consider it anywhere near genius. But then my geniuses include people like Paddy Chayefsky and Billy Wilder, so maybe Diablo will forgive me for not including her in that illustrious group just yet.

In this age of the internetwebtubes, we should all take advantage the way she did. It's hard to get noticed and just sitting down and writing is, unfortunately, less and less a part of that than ever before. Anybody who can game the system is a hero in my book.

There's an "oh, SNAP" moment from another dude:

Movie critic Robert Wilonsky of the Dallas Observer thinks potshots against Cody are rooted in jealousy.

"She deserves what she has coming to her," Wilonsky said. "This is not accidental and it's not undeserved. Anyone who says otherwise is just a would-be screenwriter with a movie script sitting in their desk that nobody has any interest in."


Word, other dude, even though I fit the latter category, I ain't jealous of Diablo Cody. Well, not in the bad way. In the "Gee, I wish that were me" way, absolutely. Because we, too, have that funny, weird script that we're totally proud of, the script that makes people go, "Um... what?" in a good way, the script an agent won't touch and a producer won't read. But we haven't figured out how to get it noticed yet.

But that isn't Diablo Cody's fault. So congratulations, Diablo Cody, for winning an Oscar and having the ride of your life. Thanks for raising the torch for all female screenwriters, for making writers hot, and Goddam you to hell for giving sleazy producers the idea that they can find hot female screenwriters by searching the web for porn.

Now we all have to start hitting the gym, trade in our jeans for animal print sarongs, and figure out our stripper names.

np - Crash My Model Car, "the Flying Rodleighs"

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Deep Dark Truthful Mirror

Happy Oscars, all. Things are fervently going back to normal after the strike. We're doing our Moonlight script, which is very nice and much appreciated. Universal has just teamed with Hasbro to turn board games into movies. And Bruckheimer has hired a feature writer -- the dude who wrote The Invisible -- to "pen," as the trades like to say, the pilot for Eleventh Hour. At least Danny Cannon, who directed the pilot for CSI, is directing. But, erm... there's a reason Eleventh Hour ran only four episodes on the BBC, and as adroit as the writer of The Invisible may be at his craft, he doesn't have the necessary tools to solve the massive series problems this show has. No, that'll be up to whoever the showrunner will be. He'll get none of the credit if he manages to crack it, and all of the blame if he doesn't.

Yup, the strike changed nothing at all.

Thanks to everyone who tried with Blue Angels. While I'm still looking for the actual vinyl, Edouard managed to track down the mp3s, and I am eternally grateful.

I have over a month of comments that have gone unanswered. Welcome to my procrastination, and let's get to it!

StampnBead (love the name) is a big Millennium fan who wants to buy me a drink. Thanks!! I don't know what happened to Horace, but he pops up every now and then, so hold onto your hat. You never know.

Carlo C. had this to say:
I'm surprised nobody mentioned the threat reality TV has over the livlihood of scripted television.


Well, Carlo, because it hasn't yet. It's made inroads, sure, but at the end of the day, the pros of a hit drama outweigh the pros of a hit reality show. Unless it's American Idol, of which there is only one. And even in that case, it doesn't re-run on network TV, the DVDs don't sell all that well, it doesn't syndicate, and the music industry isn't too happy with it lately. Carlo also asks about comedies. They're not as cheap as you think they are, and there's something wrong with the comedy paradigm, in that it sucks. Comedies need to be fixed. Desperately. But the people who can do the fixing aren't being allowed to play the game.

Michael says:
Seems to me that for scripted programs to survive, writers and executives need to figure out how to make shows with cable-sized budgets appeal to network-sized audiences. I'm told that Burn Notice patterns at about $1.5 million, for instance. If you could put a show like Burn Notice on NBC and get a network-sized audience, that would be an amazing thing for the industry. But just cutting fat from POD deals, etc., doesn't seem like enough. The price differentiation between scripted and reality is just too great. And though I'd love to believe, as Jake Hollywood does, that this is just a cyclical phenomenon, I see no evidence to support this optimism.


The audience doesn't actually care how much Lost costs. All they know is, they like the characters and the stories keep them intrigued. When you're talking about the mass audience of people (the folks who aren't into their shows beyond turning the TV on once a week) their demands are rather small -- ENTERTAIN ME. The budgets and all that nonsense, that's about the networks. It's a sales tool. So it's rather easy to fix the problem.

Unfortunately, not enough POD fat was cut, and I fear the studios will use the PODs for development again this year. They'll try and cut from production, which is disastrous. They'll try and cut staffs even more (although at this point, that's next to impossible). They won't fire executives. They won't cut POD deals. They won't stop using feature directors for pilots. They'll continue to charge deals against shows. They'll micromanage every word and then wonder why they're not producing the next Mad Men.

I'm going to save the rest of this for my annual "Ten Things Wrong With TeeVee" post.

Brian McCabe beats this horse to death:
Kay says it's a good thing that Mazin shutting down comments is a good thing. Jake Hollywood says it's gutless to not allow people to reply.

Unity everywhere it seems.


Huh. You have an interesting idea of unity. I wasn't aware total agreement was a necessity. Freedom is slavery, I suppose...

Joshua,
Lemme know when you're going to be out here, man.

D says,
Are you fucking kidding? "Call To Your Heart?" I saw Giuffria open for the mighty Journey in 1983 and they fucking SUCKED in a way that only children who experienced the thrill of pairing a purple shirt with a pair of gray parachute pants can understand. I fucking love that shit. I also love "Big Country." Oh you minx you've opened a door now. How dare you, ma'm, how dare you? Oh, you are an evil mistress.


Hee. I'm glad Giuffria sucked, because... it just makes sense.

Jake says,
And as it pertains to "the deal" I'm voting against it because I don't believe it's the best deal we can get. A starting point, a road of improvement, a foothold into the future? Yes. The best deal? No.

But I'll live with whatever way the vote turns out.

And I'll do it with the knowledge that everyday of the strike I stood shoulder to shoulder with my brethren--together we stood up for our principles and our working lives. And except for those who were too cowardly to stand with us, I'm damn proud to say that I cannot think of a better group of people to be associated with.


Sadly, I think your sentiment is too complex for most people. But bravo.

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.


People lost their fucking minds when they read this. "Harlan Ellison called me a quisling? WTF???" But they read it without understanding it which, sadly, seems to be how most things are read these days. I blame the political punditry because, well... I just do. Let's break everything down into a black or white position, then let's break it down more, soak it in a salt solution to soften it, then let's masticate the holy crap out of it and spit it lovingly back into the baby bird's beak -- the American consumer brain. Harlan doesn't do that, and he has a fuckload more respect for the human condition than these other asshats.

Brian McCabe again:
I agree that writers are the primary source for what the town creates. I don't think embracing that fact is the problem of recognition though. I think writers need to not be so willing to canibalize each other. The re-write kills the uniqueness of the product and the uniqueness of the service. Directors are rarely replaced. And when they are that is usually the end of the project 9especially of one drops out). Ditto actors. But it is a fact in this town that any writer will do. Any writer not in the top tiers is going to eventually be replaced somewhere along the line (usually by one of those top tier guys).

I know you guys just want to write, but there is plenty of work that can be done within the guild to strengthen it for the next round of negotiations in 3 years.


You're right, Brian. Unfortunately, there's too much precedent, and there's also the issue of turning down work. But that's a trap we find ourselves in, and you're absolutely right. More on this in another blog post. I now have about five blog topics backing up against each other. God help me.

Crystal says,
But I have some questions. I understand that a negotiation means that nobody ever gets everything they want, but doesn't it concern you that these are among the things that you didn't get?

1. The cap on the percentage makes the percentage meaningless when everyone knows that the internet is going to be yielding a fortune in the future and history has shown that while the cap may or may not go up a small amount, it will be there forever.

2. The lack of favored nations, which has been there before and has been touted from the beginning as one of the reasons this is a fight for all unions, will mean that the writers won't share in any advances made by other unions on the sweat of the writers brow. I'm thinking, even the DGA, which did nothing to help writers, will benefit from whatever SAG might get and the writers won't.

3. The giveaway of leverage by allowing them a three and a half year contract to May 2011 so that the WGA will never again be able to hold their TV season or awards show season as hostage to negotiations, much like the granting of the year extension by SAG leadership last time meant that writers and actors weren't able to go out at the same time, unless the writers waited and let the studios stockpile for six months.


All a concern. Definitely. But my thinking was that the deal is acceptable. Not great, and there's some egregious stuff in it, but... it's okay. There's an assumption being made that the internet's gonna explode. It might, but it might not. And a percentage, even capped, is still favorable to the flat fee. Regarding MFN, I suppose we'll find out at some point if a handshake deal is worth anything to these weasels. And we DO have MFN for DVD, as some contract wonks have pointed out. I know exactly what you're saying about the contract expiration, and we could end up with another '88 season. But if TV starts to inch year-round before then, it's still going to be a problem. And there's something nice about not having to go out eight months before SAG. Something very nice. Also, the stockpiling simply isn't ever going to be an issue. You cannot stockpile in TV. It's not possible. And they could stockpile movie scripts but you're still going to have the same problem -- directors and big stars need to shoot fluid movies, and they will be reluctant to without the possibility of rewrites.

Greg Luce,
Thanks, man!

David,
Most of us don't spend a lot of time on the internet. But you'd be amazed at how much anger people in this guild have for Craig Mazin and the so-called "dirty thirty" and other assholes who felt they were above the rest of us. Josh - and many other A list writers, and top showrunners were out there just like the rest of us ever day, balancing the record. They weren't trying to subvert the union, they weren't trying to shut down the strike, they weren't spreading false rumors about how badly it was all being run. They just did what everyone else did and supported their guild. If some of them think they're better writers than most of us, that's because the world's confirmed it. Art isn't democracy. But people like Josh have proven that just because you're an elite, top of the line writer, you can still be just another joe on the line.


Ditto that, and everything else you said. Great response.

On the Dirt Thirty, Michael says:
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.


Let me just point out one thing, Michael. You're assuming there's only one of these groups, and you're assuming that the Dirty Thirty tag John Bowman applied was meant for this group. I took great issue with the way the Times portrayed, well, ALL of us in that article. And they use the term "showrunner" incorrectly. But my ire for the Dirty Thirty has nothing to do with that particular group.

Michael Taylor says,
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.


Thank you for that, and for your support. I'm linking your blog as well. The ATL/BTL fire seemed to be fed by outside forces, and a few disgruntled folks from both groups. Because I've always respected crews, and so have other writers and showrunners I've worked with. I know I couldn't do those jobs. I would totally get fired. I know you guys don't always get the respect you deserve. I know, because writers don't, either. So thanks to all the BTL people affected by the strike who hung tight and didn't blame us. I hope you've all gone back to work!

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


Backatcha. And dude, there's a NEW Elvis Cole novel coming out in July. Bliss!!!

In response to my "Profit In Your Poetry" thread, Anonymous was astute enough to post this link to Butcher Boy's MySpace page. Go have a listen. They're fucking great. The album's gonna be one of my top for the year. No doubt about it.

np - Well, Butcher Boy, right???

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.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Please Do Not Adjust Your Television Set...

Well, cats and kittens, the fun ain't over yet. Josh Olson has some shit to say, and he's going to say it right here. Funny... just in time for yet another dreary "Craig RAWKS!" comment from CraigNonymous...

Without further adieu:


Ditto to all that, and then some. Especially the shout out to Deric and Priya. Those fuckers carry weight in this guild.

Many people will write about the deal in the weeks to come, picking it apart, holding it up to the light, making late-in-the-day realizations that we all missed.... it’s all in the game. I knew from the get-go (I like to think we all did), that none of us would walk out thinking “We won!” We wanted a decent deal. We wanted to eradicate the rollbacks and make some progress, and it’s safe to say we did. It’s also safe to say we could have done better. Sorry. That’ll piss people off, no doubt, but it’s true. We could be a stronger union than we are if we’d all just embrace the fact that we’re the primary source of what this town creates. Always have been, always will be, and never get the credit.

I don’t believe that because I’m a writer. I’m a writer because I believe that. Grasp the difference. My reverence and respect for what we do doesn’t come out of selfishness. My career - my life - is founded on the fact that I recognize that simple truth. I’ve been happily reminded over the last few months that many of my WGA brothers and sisters know that. And I’ve been reminded, as well, that some don’t. C’est la vie. (The DGA recognizes that, too, I suspect. Which is why they didn’t come out with us to support us. If I have to explain that, I will, later.)

The short version is this - I’m so fucking glad it’s over I could shit. I can climb back into my cave, get back to to writing work that matters to me, and guild politics can go back to whatever the hell they are when I’m not paying attention. I don’t care. Horrifying to some, I’m sure. But I don’t. God bless the WGA - we’d be fucked without them, and I send them a warm and fuzzy vibe every time I go to the doctor, but as far as Guild politics go, I am so looking forward to returning to my apathetic state it’s ridiculous.

And you’re right about Craig - he actually started spinning it two days ago. Says his “inside sources” informed him the deal was the DGA deal, basically. Except, of course, it wasn’t. And we all knew that before Craig even posted, cos all you had to do was talk to one of the Neg Com members on the line to find that out. I don’t resent Craig not being there, but I do resent his attempts to portray himself as a position who matters, who knows things the rest of us don’t, when the truth is he doesn’t and he doesn’t.

Craig’s positioning himself to be able to say, “It’s the deal I was pushing you to take.” And, as ever, the droogs will mindlessly chant, “Yes, Craig, it’s the deal you were pushing us to take,” and everyone else will, again, shake their heads at the enormous ego and perfidy of “The Artful Writer.” He will, of course, say some nice things about the committee, and about Patric and maybe even David... he’ll go so far as to say he was wrong about some things. That’s politics, baby.

Bleargh.

Craig has chastised me for suggesting he and Ted are using their site and their little private community to build up for another run at the board. Okay. Maybe they aren’t. But they DO use it for decidedly political purposes, and the goal IS to create a power base for them to influence guild politics. It frustrates them that their vote counts no more and no less than yours. Welcome to democracy, fellas. If it’s any consolation, the rich and powerful always find ways to subvert it, so you’re in good company. And by “good company,” of course, I mean “bad company.”

But here's the thing - in the end, it doesn't fucking matter. We'll go back to work, and everything will be pretty much as it was. People like Craig, who devote ludicrous amounts of time to posturing and politicking and spinning, to gathering and grooming toadies and to networking like demons will carry on as ever. They’ll continue to tell themselves they matter, even though they had less to do with this strike than the average spec writer living in Duluth. People will argue over whether it was the strikers who got us this, or the folks who sat on the sidelines and tsk’d tsk’d over the awful embarrassment of finding themselves perceived as part of the loathsome labor movement in America.

(We are, after all, above such things here in Hollywood. Laborers are poor, and sweaty, and mostly less well-educated than such as we, so it offends our delicate sensibilities to be equated with them. Heh. We storm out of meetings in a pissy huff when anyone dares suggest that we’re just another chapter in the story of the labor movement; that we have anything in common with workers in the field; that, perhaps, the battle for economic justice that Martin Luther King was fighting when he was assassinated could possibly have room in it for such as we. We are not sweatshop laborers, we are what Garth Marenghi calls “dreamweavers.”)

They'll keep meeting on their private message boards and continue to pat each other on the back for perpetrating more mediocrity upon the world. They'll continue to whisper in the dark and to move pieces around and to quietly e-mail each other in conspiratorial manner, in spite of the fact that they're really up to nothing more than ego-burnishing and ball-slurping. Seriously - what’s the end-game for these jackalopes? Do they have a secret lair somewhere with a giant map of the world on it? Maybe I need to take them more seriously...

An aside - lately, I’m very often reminded of some folks I used to run across in the early days of AOL’s screenwriting boards. There were a few folks who fancied themselves very Serious and Important people because they were in the WGA and had projects set up at studios. All well and good - you can definitely learn from pros. But they weren’t there to share experiences with people so much as they were there to be respected and adored. But they were also there for something else. What was never clear, but as time went on, it was discovered that they’d been heavily petitioning AOL for some time to be put in charge of the screenwriting boards. Why was anyone’s guess. The boards worked fine, the community neither wanted nor needed their stewardship. But the sense of entitlement these folks had positively reeked off the screen. One gets the same stench from Craig and Ted and co.

To this date, I don’t get it. Why the need to rule, to lead, to be recognized for something other than just the damn work? [Talking about the ones who CAN do good work, of course. For the others, the answer is obvious.] Is there some prize you get at the end that nobody’s told me about?

My guess is it’s a high school thing. These are people who were painfully aware during high school that the most popular cliques wouldn’t have them. Apparently, that’s a pain that lingers, so they’re using our thing here to make up for that. It happens. Or, Christ, it just dawned on me - they’re something worse. They WERE the popular kids, but unlike most of those kids, they never woke up to what an utterly meaningless accomplishment that is. What drives them is not the need to be part of it, but the rage that comes when other people don’t care at all about being part of it.

An aside to an aside - I remember early on, on another screenwriting board, one of the pros, or semi-pros, posted breathlessly that he had just secured the feature rights to F Troop. He’d managed to get them for next to nothing because of some clever loophole or somesuch, and the crowd went wild. “Brilliant!” they said. “You rock!” they said. “Inspirational!” they said. I posted something to the effect of, “You’re kidding. F Troop: The Movie?” and was instantly pilloried as a snob. The point, you see, is not to get into the business and try to establish a career as an honest to god writer of actual movies of any lasting value. The point is to make as much fucking money as humanly possible, period, end of story.

Anyway....

It’s just sad to see Craig can’t leave it alone for once. Sad he can’t resist the urge to rub his smelly balls on our good day, our good week, our good THING that he really wasn’t part of. You want proof that he’s lost in his own fantasy? He thinks it’s ironic he couldn’t be there Saturday night. Yeah, it’s ironic. Like rain on your wedding day is ironic. Like a free ride when you’ve already paid is ironic.
(Poor Alanis - will she ever live that down? Well.... This helped)

No, Craig. It’s not ironic at all. No more ironic than the fact that my mother couldn’t be there, either. (Although now that I think of it, she DID send cookies to the line one day, which puts her one up on you and some of your pals.)

I don’t mean to be a downer. Thursday was one hell of an experience over at Disney, and last night at the Shrine was impressive. One grand reminder of who and what this Guild is, and why I’m proud to stand with these people. When I go back to my cave and start working again, it’ll be with a renewed sense of community with my fellow writers, even the egomaniacal dickweeds who think they carry more weight than they do. (Yet another shout out to Priya and Deric).

And in the end, I guess I’m a little petty, cos I find myself resentful of the people who sat on their asses and did nothing while the rest of us put up and put out. Not the ones who couldn’t be there, who had jobs to attend to, or families, or lived too far away.... the ones who just couldn’t be bothered to take part, but who will happily be cashing the checks that we got for them with the sweat of our brows, and the ache of our feet.

But fuck it. We DID get it with the sweat of our brows and the ache of our feet. Striking worked. Picketing worked. Setting aside our monstrous egos and standing together worked. And really, in the end, that’s all that matters.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming....

An End Has A Start

Apologies for the time between posts, but this has been a crazy coupla weeks.

Thanks to all who helped out with the Blue Angels. Fingers crossed that I get this soon. I was going to set you on the Dixons next, but I realized I have all their stuff on cassette, so it has been duly digitized and iTuned. The Dixons are awesome, by the way, and you can see some of their stuff on YouTube.

Our last big group picket/hug (I can't believe I can call it THE LAST) was at Disney on Thursday and had the sense of the last day of school. Lots of group pictures being taken of new and old friends. Happiness marked with a slight tinge of regret. Would we all change over the summer? If Thursday was the last day of school, Saturday was graduation. I was a little nervous about the meeting because I thought it would become contentious. There is, after all, a writerly cabal of folks who've been down on this strike since it began. There are writers who refused to picket. And there are writers who urged our leadership to just take the fucking DGA deal, already!

So it was natural to assume that some of these writers would have something to say at the meeting.

They did not. Instead, the leadership was the focus of one standing ovation after another for their dedication, commitment and sheer tough assedness. Just goes to show you that the real moderates in this guild belong to the majority.

This strike was run beautifully. Sure, there were mistakes and oversights, but with something on this massive a scale, that's to be expected. It felt to me that the leadership's first priority was to unite us, and to make sure we stayed united. Although some of the more radical, cynical members of our guild thought unity and solidarity belonged only to coal miners, they are flat-out fucking wrong. The AMPTP spent months trying to divide us. They tried to divide the leadership, and to make the members think our leaders were unqualified asshats. But this is a negotiation tactic and if I know that, everybody else should, too.

And because of the high level of communication and the strike captain system, that shit didn't fly with the majority. Folks said, in public, that the guild was fucking this up. And while you could wallow in some doubt while in front of your computer at four in the morning, by the time you hit the picket line the next day, that feeling had dissolved. The leadership was always available for questions, comments and complaints. Patric Verrone answers every e-mail he receives. I would like to e-mail him my appreciation for all he's done for us, but I don't want to force the poor guy to respond.

If availed upon, this transparency worked. Some folks chose to remain gloomy and angry but that's truly their own fault. If they wanted to get clarification or complain, the door was open to them.

The strike is not officially over, of course. The membership is going to vote on Tuesday whether or not to end the strike, and then the contract vote itself will be a ten-day process. There was a lot of grumbling about us being forced to take this deal. Folks felt that the leadership was all up in their kitchen and wouldn't give them time to digest the information before lifting the restraining order that would end the strike. But the negotiating committee recommended to the board that rather than the board calling off the strike, it allows the members to vote to call off the strike.

So the leadership of our guild continues to be transparent and thoughtful, and that pretty much shuts up the nay-sayers. Well, it should, but nothing can shut up a truly determined nay-sayer.

We didn't get everything we wanted or hoped for in this deal but hell, it's a negotiation. That's how the things work. You win some, you lose some. The things we won are tremendous, in my opinion. The things we lost are gonna sting a bit. Maybe we'll never win those things, but we fucking tried. Our leadership went to the mat for this guild and the membership returned the favor. I felt a real sense of unity, not just out on the picket line, but at the Shrine. We also created unity with other unions and guilds, people who supported us, sometimes in unexpected ways. The cynics among us will say that it won't last. If SAG goes out, or another union finds itself in a labor dispute, the writers will look the other way. I find that patently untrue.

The support was massive, and it surprised all of us while embarrassing only a few (more on that downstream). It's one thing for the guild members to pick up a picket sign but it's something entirely different for those outside the guild to do so. The strength of character I saw from our supporters was seriously unbelievable.

Of those picketing with us, enough cannot be said about the members of SAG, who made us look like the sane ones and helped us get our deal. We had writers who aren't yet in the guild out there every fucking day (I'm looking at you, Priya and Deric!). Their commitment put that of some guild members to shame. The ancillary support was something else, too.

The Burbank police didn't ticket one car around Warner Bros for the duration of the strike. The local businesses supported us and brought us food. Drew effing CAREY, who's too Goddam modest to take credit for what he did for the writers. Jimmy Kimmel, ditto. The late-night guys for paying their staffs. Everybody who drove by and honked. Even the shouty people, because when someone screams "FUCK YOU! GO BACK TO WORK!" at seven in the morning, it wakes you up. Teamsters and other union members who refused to cross the picket line. Hell, all the unions that supported us and believed that what we were fighting for meant something. John Edwards, for giving a shit. Any politician who didn't cross the picket line. Mike Huckabee, for sneaking across the picket line and making himself look like an even worse candidate than he is. And the fans. Good lord, the fans. They brought us snacks. They donated money to the strike fund. They bought us coffee. They made websites. They signed petitions. They picketed. They wrote eloquent things about what writers mean to them. Fans, you have earned my complete gratitude with this one. Good on you. I for one will never forget it.

Once the strike was called, I supported this leadership and the guild wholeheartedly. My belief is that unity and solidarity are hella important in this situation. And that decision has been rewarded on many levels. Not with cash, unfortunately, but you take what you can get. It was scary, too, to put faith and trust in the hands of people I don't actually know. But then the showrunners walked out. And major feature writers, who could have just gone to Fiji until this thing blew over, picketed every day (except for that one day they played video games). And when you're cold and miserable or hot and tired, it means something to see these folks out there. We all sacrificed something for this strike and we all reap the benefits.

Now, things can hopefully go back to normal. But I think the strike will remain as an undercurrent of our business for awhile. I know I'm going to remember the aforementioned good, but also the bad. I'm not a political animal, which is an enormous drawback in this business and something I want to talk about in another post. But there are a lot of politicians among us and I have to say, I'm not totally jazzed at how they behaved. Before I go on, though, I will say that everybody has a right to their opinion. If you're in the guild, I would never tell you that you don't have the right to feel however you do about all aspects of this strike.

But that also gives me the right to think you're a complete tool for how you've behaved, and to use hyperbole about heart-punching if I choose to. I think that has something to do with my non-political leanings because I've seen some ugly political maneuvers and they just don't sit well with me.

I don't like it when people won't admit they were wrong, which leads me to yet another dissection of one of Craig Mazin's posts. I'm still trying to organize my thoughts about the dramatically-named "hijacking of our union" and all that other crap. I don't for one second believe that these guys had the numbers or the organization to do such a thing, so the guild was never in danger. But when you've been out on the picket line for nearly four months, you tend to get a little emotional about this sort of thing.

I also get emotional when people decide, apparently on my behalf, that we should be ashamed to be acting like a labor union. Just because we're not coal miners or auto workers doesn't mean we don't deserve a fair deal. The writers who were too embarrassed to get involved in this strike can feel free to deposit their embarrassment money into my PayPal account.

I won't apologize for the emotion, but I don't want to keep talking about it forever. I do want to try and get it out of my system a little and figure out what it really means as we move forward, though.

So over at the Artful Writer, Craig Mazin is, as he puts it, "advancing the common good." This has apparently been his goal with the blog. I did not know that. He also says this:

Once it appeared that our union had a chance to bring this strike down on the runway without splintering apart, then it seemed to me the best course of action was the shut the good sweet hell up and let leadership work it out with the other side in peace.


Honestly, I'm touched. I had no idea Craig would actually take my advice! It's pretty awe-inspiring. In all seriousness, good for him for making that decision. I sincerely mean that. However... you know what would have been even better? If he'd shown some fortitude when the going was rough. He's not the guy putting fifty bucks on Barbaro to win the Derby back when he was just a turf horse. No, he's the guy who bashes Barbaro's form and then, when he's made one of the favorites for the Derby, puts him at the top of his exacta, like he's discovered something shiny and new. Well, he hasn't. What Craig's really saying here is, he wanted to wait until it looked like we were going to win before he offered his support. Well, his sort-of support in the form of not saying anything doesn't go down well.

I think what's really disappointing about his statement is that it says something about the guild that simply isn't true. We weren't splintering. I realize that Craig has a small circle of friends who probably feel the way he does so to him, it looked like the end was nigh. But if he'd been picketing on a regular basis and talking to people who feel differently than he does, he probably wouldn't have had such a narrow radical viewpoint.

Before I go on, though, I want to make it crystal fucking clear that I don't believe, and never believed, that Craig broke any strike rules. That's a sleazy assumption and I emphatically do not believe that.

Okay.

Part of what Craig's feeling has to do with the isolation of being a feature writer. I think the strike gave feature writers a sense of community amongst writers that they hadn't felt before. It was easier for us TV folks. Those who were on shows saw their bosses walk off the shows in order to support the strike and, by extension, their staffs. There were many feature writers who were confused by that and didn't truly understand the sacrifice. So I think the showrunners walking off did something for the feature writers as well as for the TV writers.

But it's about more than what kind of a writer you are. It's about character, and being able to see and care about something larger than yourself. The guild is that community and the future is that issue. Guilds in the past got us where we are now, and they suffered to do it. I realize that we live in a country that no longer demands personal sacrifice for the greater good, and I guess that has trickled down to certain members of our guild. It's all about Me, and what I want. My comfort is the only thing that matters. Fuck the rest of you and especially fuck the future.

This is a short-sighted and out-of-touch viewpoint. Because we are normally competing against each other for jobs, the sense of community only exists in times like these. People who consider themselves above it all just do not want to become joiners. That brass ring that they've so effortlessly grabbed has been taken out of reach by people who haven't yet achieved that level of success, but also by those who have: those who've shown the character necessary to throw their weight in with the less fortunate.

My vote counts just as much as Craig Mazin's or Ted Elliott's, which must make them writhe with fury. People who fill themselves with a love for power can't fucking stand equality.

Being out of touch means that you don't have any idea that anyone lives differently than you do. You can pay it lip service ("I'm doing this for the little people") but you can't truly understand the reality that there ARE people who live on residuals, and you can't fathom that those people aren't folks who haven't worked in decades. They're the writers who come in to pitch you pilots, the ones who haven't yet gotten lucky enough to get staffed on a hit. But then we're talking about people who were born on third base and think they hit a triple, so I guess their attitude makes some sort of sense.

I didn't hear from these people at the meeting, by the way. Craig wasn't there either, but I expect him to blog erroneously about it at some point, as he tries in vain to spin the deal. I expect him to either say that this is the DGA deal with a better dress on, or the time-honored criticism that we would have gotten this deal without a strike.

One thing that seems to happen in the dark corners of the universe is that people celebrate their status. They all band together and credit-whore themselves into a sugar coma. The strike has negated a lot of that. A giant ape walks the picket line exactly the way a staff writer does. This strike HAS brought our guild closer together, and those who put such a high stake in their status find this inconceivable.

But at the end of the day, it's really about character. Either you have it, or you don't. I would go to the mat for the people I met on the line, because I saw their strength of character. Conversely, there are disappointments. But in this situation, the good most definitely outweighs the bad.

Looking for a much more eloquent take on the folly of the A-list? Josh Friedman says it best here.

And for now, I am finished.

I expect a few more posts on the strike but I really do want to talk about some TeeVee stuff next, particularly how the TeeVee business is supposed to change radically because the stoopid writers went out on strike. And I think I have some comments to get to. So until later, gentle readers, and thank you for your support.