Friday, November 09, 2007

My Weekend Crush

I believe in unions. I really do. Which is good, since I also belong to a union. And while the Writers Guild of America strike is not my union or my fight, I feel unbelievably invested in its outcome. All this week I’ve read the coverage obsessively. Maybe it’s because it involves writers, and that happens to be an occupational hazard of mine. Or maybe it’s because it involves the people who make the shows and movies I watch/enjoy/ marvel at every single day. Or maybe it’s because I’ve sat in on contract negotiations and know the kind of money-grubbing, mind-boggling, flat-out-evil crap that companies will put on the table.But I think I feel most invested because it’s an example of solidarity at work. A union’s sole power is the strength of its support. Strength in numbers isn’t just a saying, it’s a fact. So I’ve been greatly heartened and down-right moved by the solidarity I’ve seen so far on the lines. Writers, actors, showrunners -- they’ve all turned out. They’ve all carried signs, brought food and generally rabble roused. I get a sense that there is an organic groundswell of support in the creative community. This may not be an actors issue or a directors issue or showrunners issue per se, but they all believe that to be unfair to one segment of the creative process is to be unfair to the entire creative process. And they know what is at stake is the future of the industry and the future of who its future profits will go to. Isn’t it better to share success fairly? (And when I say fair, I mean fair; the writers only want a bump from about 4 cents to 8 cents on DVDs and from 0 cents to any cents, period, on internet downloads.) Who would you rather a piece of the profits go to? The people who come up with the ideas in the first place or the people in the nice suits with the big offices? It’s a no-brainer in my book.And while some may argue that it’s easy (and, dare I say, hip) to be all rah-rah now, I would argue that now – more than ever – is the time to get all Norma Rae. The stronger the solidarity now, the more quickly all production grinds to a halt. The more quickly all production grinds to a haul, the more quickly the people in the posh offices feel the pinch. The more quickly the people in the posh offices feel the pinch, the more quickly this thing gets resolved. For the suits, it’s all about the bottom line and the sooner the strike touches it, the better. This does not discount, in any way, the very real financial and professional suffering this strike will have on countless other worker bees in the entertainment industry (the grips, the assistants, the makeup artists, the caterers, etc. etc. etc.) But it’s a question of long-term thinking versus short-term survival. Once a company feels it can ride rough-shod over one segment of its workforce, how long do you think it will take for it to come after the rest? Yes, strikes suck. But if everyone shows a united front now, it will hopefully make it a much less painful process. It’s like ripping off a bandage – either way, it’s going to hurt like hell. But do you do it fast and all at once or slow and piecemeal?So with that, this week’s crush is all the amazing writers, actors, actresses, directors, showrunners and the like who have put on red shirts, picked up placards, chanted slogans and pounded the pavement for writers everywhere. While I can’t post all their pictures, I can thank them all from the bottom of my heart. As a writer, a union supporter and a entertainment junkie, this outpouring of support has inspired me and reminded me that even in a town as cynical as L.A., our better angels can still win out if we work together. Thanks for helping to restore my faith in the power and the purpose of unions. Solidarity, scribes. Happy weekend, all.p.s. For further inspiration read strike blog United Hollywood and for further reporting read Deadline Hollywood Daily. Fans can chime in at Fans4Writers or sign the WGA Online Petition. And in case you’re still fuzzy on the issues, this is why they’re fighting:


Joanna said...

Oh. My. God. REALLY?!!!
Are you fucking serious!?
Poor, poor elite white wealthy people. I am swelled with pity and sympathy.
People are being murdered and systematically wiped out in the Darfur region of Sudan and a bunch of celebrities are posing at photo ops and I'm suppose empathize? Let's do some perception checking here... Dorothy I adore your blog but uh-uh... no chance I'm agreeing with this bullshit.

sang said...

Oh, for heaven's sake Joanna... this blog doesn't do Darfur @#$%^&*

Of course Darfur is important (although I'm beginning to think that Darfur is being used as a shorthand for I'm-more-pc-than-you) but if that's what you'd like to discuss, you're seriously in the wrong place.

and Dorothy, thanks for this thread. I do believe in unions too. And its inspiring to witness the solidarity.

Len said...

"I really feel for that person who broke their leg."

"What? There are people dying of cancer! Dying! Screw some jerk and their leg."

"Someone stole your car? That sucks."

"The level of privilege you need to even consider owning a car is disgusting! What are you doing about poverty in rural China?!"


1. Dorothy runs what is primarily a pop culture blog with a feminist/lesbian focus. I'm sure she cares about Darfur as well, genocides and armed conflicts around the world are kind of off topic.

2. Setting aside "wealth" vs "poverty" in a global first vs third world sense, most members of the WGA (and SAG, for that matter) are not wealthy. There's a thin strata of top level talent who make the proverbial big bucks, a bunch of people making middle-to-working class incomes, and a bunch struggling along, just like many other industries. Casting the writers as rich, latte sipping whiners is inaccurate and unfair.

3. The old WGA contract is patently, ludicrously unfair (4 cents per DVD? _No pay at all_ for original, _commercial supported_ work just because it's shown online instead of on TV? You've got to be kidding), and no one with a shred of spine presented with a similar deal would take it if they had any choice.

4. No human institution or endeavor is perfect, there are always the lazy and the criminal somewhere in the mix. That being said, unions are incredibly important, they're improved all of our lives, and it's unfair to attack the WGA strikers (and the SAG actors who are using their celebrity to help pressure the studios) because there's some arbitrary level of blue collar authenticity you feel they may lack. They work, they have families and mortgages and rent payments and health scares and (long) periods of unemployment just like everyone else, they deserve to be compensated in a way that reflects the money their labor makes for the studios, and right now they aren't, period. Management historically will _take_ and _take_ and _take_ everything they can get, and as workers, as human beings, we all have the right to try to defend our little patch. If forming a herd helps against the predation of the lions, so be it.

MetaSin Girl said...

Joanna – how selfish of you to focus on Darfur. Why, right here in the US, they’re killing whales in the rainforests; American children are severely undermedicated; and gay senior citizens want the right to marry sheep.

In rural areas, children eat Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise; entire families shop for clothes in Wal-Mart; people suffer with dial-up instead of broadband connections; and our homeless wear last season’s clothes. So it’s not just Darfur that’s got problems.

PS - GO WRITERS! I hope you bleed those soulless fuck producers for every dime they’ve got....

El N said...

You can also follow this strike through one of my favorite writers Pamela Ribon aka Pamie. She's currently writing for the show Samantha Who? and has written for Mencia. The great thing about Pamie is that she's totally blogging about it from Darfur!

slacker said...

Go writers!

Just because a few make a lot...there's a lot more who are just working writers that want a livable wage, insurance, etc.

Despite the fact the writers have poor marketing and PR, they do have a good claim and, for the most part, do good work.

Good pick, Dorothy...and I hope the technology is better (or better soon).

cappuccinogirl said...

I'm sure I should be all about how I support the striking writers about now, but instead I'm pondering how incredibly hot Julianne Moore looks in that photo. *headdesk*

Anonymous said...

i must admit, it's great to see people coming together for something they believe in. becoming more and more rare nowadays.

jennifer from pittsburgh said...

I come from Union Town, aka, Pittsburgh, so I know what it means, good or bad, to have a union issue. The thing is, these writers are getting screwed, and not in a good way. Reminds me mightily of AE cheapskatedness.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why the studios ever agreed to pay residuals to writers to begin with. The writers are paid a wage to produce a product. That should be the end of it. The people who make money off of sales are the people who put up their money to fund the project...ya know, the people who own the rights to it. If you buy a piece of the rights, then you get a piece of the profit.

If I work for a company that makes widgits, and I come up with a new widgit design that my company then produces and sells, I don't get a percentage of each sale. My company paid me a wage for the use of my design skills. They then own the rights to anything I designed for them. Why do writers get to have a better deal than the rest of us?

Len said...

"Rest of us"? Speak for yourself anon.

Depending on your company/industry, you might get profit sharing, stock options, or a patent royalty for your widget, instead of or in addition to your salary/commission.

The alternative to residuals is the studios paying higher up front money to writers for projects which may turn out to be unprofitable. And the studios long ago conceded that creative talent were to be paid for repeated live performances, the performance-to-provide-the-audience had value, back when there was no way to record it. That value doesn't go away just because the repeat performance is a recording (audio or visual), especially given the profits for the studios are the same or higher.

People who are against royalties/license fees/residuals generally strike me as either ignorant of the way the industries that have them work, or bitter that their own job allows their employer to undervalue the profit they make for the company and not compensate them fairly. Don't blame the writers because you allow yourself to get screwed out of the reward you deserve for your labor.