When It Comes To The Studios, Greed Looms Large

by Paul William Tenny

There hasn't been much movement on the Hollywood labor front over the past 24 hours, the studios are still effecting a de facto lockout by halting all writing hiring a few weeks ago and refusing to bargain in good faith at the table, even now that the previous three-year contract has legally expired. The Ass. of Motion Picture and Television Producers' (AMPTP) President and lead negotiator - who has failed to impress and by all appearances looks to be nothing but a thug that is in the midst of a full-on meltdown now that WGA has leadership more stubborn than he is - is spinning the news in his favor by claiming to have made many good-faith attempts to reach a deal, almost all of which have been universally recognized as garbage that had no chance of ever being accepted.

We’ve been working hard to come up with a package in response to your last proposal. But we keep running up against the DVD issue. The companies believe that movement is possible on other issues, but they cannot make any movement when confronted with your continuing efforts to increase the DVD formula, including the formula for electronic sell-through.

The magnitude of that proposal alone is blocking us from making any further progress. We cannot move further as long as that issue remains on the table. In short, the DVD issue is a complete roadblock to any further progress.

Writers are seeking a doubling in the DVD residual formula so as to receive between 7-9 cents per sale, up from about 4-5 cents. On this issue, the studios believe such a change (which would also then end up being given to SAG and DGA for a grand total of change of about 40 cents) would put them right out of business. If you listened carefully late at night (before the fires) you could actually hear people laughing across the entire state of California.

No one seriously believes the studios can't afford to pay writers an extra $0.04 per DVD on a $20.00 sale, which is why the WGA's leadership have constantly accused the AMPTP of stalling and negotiating in bad faith.

According to Deadline Hollywood, WGA responded with the following (not quoted in full, from the same link above) comment:

This morning we presented the AMPTP with a comprehensive package of proposals that included movement on DVDs, new media, and jurisdictional issues. We also took nine proposals off the table. The Companies returned six hours later and said they would not respond to our package until we capitulated to their Internet demand.

After three and a half months of bargaining, the AMPTP still has not responded to a single one of our important proposals. Every issue that matters to writers, including Internet reuse, original writing for new media, DVDs, and jurisdiction, has been ignored. This is completely unacceptable.

Other players in this deal are being dragged into the fight, or have sensed an opportunity to increase their own power by offering underhanded services to one side or another, and it appears that agents have forgotten who they work for in the past few days. Let's get this straight: if you pay someone to do something, they work for you, not the other way around. Agents exist soley to acquire work for their boss, be it a writer, actor, or whatever. They do not work for the studio unless that studio is picking up 5% of their commission while writers pay the other half.

Try that, see how well it works, then come back and tell me once again what the paradigm is:

I just received this email from a top WGA source: "There's a campaign of fear and lies being waged by several top agencies today, telling TV writing clients that if they're co-producer or above, they are a hyphenate and have to report to work during a strike. This is false. Evidently, instead of pleading with the companies to make a reasonable deal, some agents have resorted to attempting to scare their clients out of complying with the strike rules. It's really fucked.

Bear in mind, that most TV writers who have producer titles often perform very little actual producing, if any. The titles are mostly in place to indicate the writing staff hierachy. We're not talking about showrunners here -- mid-level writers are getting this call. One top agency has told co-producers and above that their jobs may not be waiting for them after a strike if they don't report to work. Another big agency has told clients they can do punch-up on screenplays during the strike if that screenplay has been submitted to the Producers prior.

Writers need to know to call the Guild if they have questions about what services they can perform and NOT rely on self-serving agents for that information."

Any agent who is trying to coerce their boss like this is a dishonest greedy thug that needs to be fired, pronto. I understand that they are going to be hurt by a strike, and perhaps unfairly, but that's simply not an excuse to try hurting your employer in retaliation. Someone that underhanded and deceitful can't possibly be worth anything as an agent anyway, so save yourself the trouble if they're personally hassling you (as opposed to just relaying messages) then show them the door.

Before I go, I want to link you to a post called Greed is Good: How Big Media Wants to Steal From It's Workers which points out what a crazy system writers have to deal with in the first place, and the kinds of money these companies are making every year and how much their CEO's are making (not a one of them under $12 million) compared to the residual increase writers are seeking: eight cents per DVD instead of four cents. If this was a truly public issue and people could see these numbers, this would entire deal would have ended three months ago.

Found that via United Hollywood.
in Labor


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