13 February 2008

WGA: Take these pretty beads

Over 92% of WGA members voted to suspend the work stoppage, sending writers back to work today. There is still no signed deal with the AMPTP, but this vote is a clear sign that the membership backs the agreement in principle and will ratify it by the February 25 deadline. So what did the Guild win? What concessions were ripped from the industry after a three-month strike that hit the economy of LA county for an estimated $3.2B in direct and indirect costs?

Here's a link to some initial analysis from Jonathan Handel who practices entertainment, digital, and technology law. Read there if you're interested, but my take is that the Guild basically won three things that truly matter: new media jurisdiction, new media separated rights, and calculations based on distributor's gross. Beyond that, the flat-fee structure for streaming media is very bad for TV writers (and potentially film writers) and the 17-day window for free streaming (supported by ad dollars!!!) is devastating.

Some writers are content to say that in three years they can always renegotiate. They've shown the studios that they can be committed, organized, dedicated, and united. To those writers I'd say: see 1988. It's a generational unity that must be used to its full advantage when it arises. The very bad (for the writers) terms in this deal will be in place for at least 15 years. They might be modified slightly - oh, we'll give you $1300 for a year's worth of free streaming, and narrow the window down to 15 days - but they're pretty well set in stone until the next wave of writers says "what the fuck were they thinking?"

Obviously it's easy for me, hundreds of miles away and not dependent upon Hollywood for my income, to bash this deal. I'm just a spec monkey. It's easy for me to wait and hope that current writers get a deal that's nigh-perfect so I can, with hard work and luck, take advantage of it in the next few years. It's also easy for me to see from a distance that the Guild lost three months worth of work, allowed the studios to invoke force majeure to kill a crap-load of development deals, gave Ben Silverman an opportunity to open his trap and spew his idiocy, all for a handful of shiny beads.

"If this deal passes, it wasn't worth it," said Alfredo Barrios, co-executive producer and a writer on the TV series "Burn Notice." "If I had known three months ago, I wouldn't have voted to authorize the strike."
Right indeed, and not just because he's an EP on a fun show that gives Bruce Campbell a regular gig. This strike cost billions and garnered pocket change.


Luzid said...

From one future WGA member to another, I couldn't agree more.

I think writers will rue the day they let that ad-supported window be opened, as they wave residuals goodbye.

If the studios make money, the writer(s) should make money. This contract doesn't ensure that, and looks to destroy the concept as much as possible.