Ronald D. Moore on NBC: They Weren't Going to Pay Us

by Paul William Tenny

ronald-d-moore.jpgIt seems like the popular thing to do now. Go out to the picket lines and score quick interviews and quotes from showrunners on everything that's been pissing them off lately. Well, Ron Moore is plenty pissed off at NBC and it's easy to understand why. I've written on this subject before and had my reporting linked from the WGA website and quoted in a trade labor magazine, because I think this is important and because I knew it was a pretense to the struggles going on right now over digital media.

NBC wanted Ron Moore and company to create a series of webisodes - basically two-minute shorts that step outside the main thrust of a TV show - to broadcast on the web only, sourced from the Battlestar Galactica franchise to wet viewers appetites between the second and third season. Moore had his guys start writing and producing them and then found out NBC had no intent of paying for the material at all. Not a dime, not for anybody involved.
Moore halted all work on the webisode production until an agreement on payment could be made, causing NBC to seize the material immediately which they then pushed out onto the web as planned. NBC also filed a complaint against the Writers Guild of America claiming they were illegally interfering with their contract with the shows producers and writers (the one that requires they be paid for writing.) Intimidation, essentially, is what they said the WGA was doing to Moore and company.

Well, without going into it any further, I'll tell you that NBC lost the original ruling and an appeal, and they lost it by a mile. Moore never really spoke out on the matter, but he told someone at Entertainment Weekly while he was walking the picket lines precisely what went down and why this strike is all about things like webisodes.

At Battlestar, we had a very specific situation last year, dealing with webisodes, which opened my eyes to the problems. When we were approached to do Galactica webisodes, the studio's position was they didn't want to pay anyone to do it—they considered it promotional material. They weren't going to pay any of the writers or the actors or the directors to do it, which we thought was crazy. We refused to do it, and eventually came to an accommodation where they said they would pay us, but then when we were almost done, they decided they weren't going to credit anybody. They weren't going to acknowledge anybody who wrote it. And then I refused to deliver the webisodes, and they came and took them anyway, which is their right since they own the show...but it really made me aware of these issues. I mean, my staff writer, who is the lowest man on the totem pole, they want him to do all this work for another media, not pay him for it, and then make money off of his work. Ultimately, that's why we're here, because that's just wrong.

Imagining what it would be like to fight over residuals when you don't have such a thing in your job can be a tough sell, but this is something I think anybody can understand. This is a "duh" moment if there ever was one. As Mal says, "I do the job. Then I get paid."

Damn skippy.
in Labor, Television


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