Friday, January 4, 2008

Strike Day 60-61 - Back to Hollyrock

Hello out there in television, movie and -- most importantly -- INTERNET land!

Well, I left home to come back home and so here I am, back in sunny Los Angeles -- only it's not so sunny.

My wife and I just collected all the flashlights, battery-powered lanterns, candles, candlesticks, firewood and Duraflame logs in reaction to the growing rainstorm currently raging outside. We've also got a good supply of batteries on hand.

My guess is this can't last all the way through the weekend and into next week but if it does... I imagine there won't be much picketing on Monday.

Hopefully the clouds will spill their fill over the weekend and we will return beneath the gleaming blue skies that usually follow such storms.

I suppose we are weathering a storm of our own here in the movie/TV industry.

The past couple of days have been filled with a number of developments on the strike front.

Amongst these are:

the emergence -- or pseudo-emergence -- of the "Super-Successful Screenwriters" squad, a group of approximately 30 "A-list" feature writers and/or writer-directors, said to be holding a secret gathering some time this weekend, at which they will strategize on bringing pressure to bear on the WGA leadership to accept the deal that they believe is about to be hammered out by the AMPTP and the DGA;

the announcement that WGA member John Ridley has chosen to "Go Fi-Core" -- or "financial core" -- thereby freeing himself to return to work for struck companies which full-fledged members of the WGA cannot work for;

the continuing controversy over whether or not WGA West president Patric Verone gave Jay Leno the go-ahead to write his own monologues when his show returned to the air without its writing staff (other than Leno himself), who remain out on strike;

and the connected controversy over how the WGA should respond to Jay Leno continuing to perform services for his own show which his WGA membership prevents him from performing.

Well, ha-hah... where does one start?

It's getting late and to be very honest I'm going to approach all this stuff the way I think it truly deserves -- the way it merits -- by simply saying:


If there is a group of very successful screenwriters who wish to convince the WGA leadership to sign on to whatever deal the DGA ends up getting from the AMPTP, let them strategize in secret about how best to go about it and then let them emerge from their shadowy realm and do their utmost best convincing job. I highly doubt they will succeed -- at least until anyone knows what the DGA deal comprises. If it turns out the DGA got something real on the internet residual front, the WGA will be signing on whether or not the "Super Successful Screenwriters" squad exists. If the DGA deal doesn't have any real profit participation for New Media, then I find it impossible to believe that such a "special interest lobbying campaign" will lead to the WGA accepting a bad deal. After all, doesn't the membership have to vote before we accept the deal they bring back -- just like we had to vote on whether or not to give the leadership the go ahead to call a strike...? Those thirty men and/or women may vote to go back for $250.00 a year worth of internet residuals but I don't think a majority of their fellow guild members will.

I don't know John Ridley personally -- other than through third parties -- so his personal behavior is pretty much meaningless to me. He is one writer. The only way his decision to "Go Fi-Core" will be of any significance whatsoever to the wider world of writers at large is if a huge chunk of the membership of the WGA suddenly chooses to do the same, following in the footsteps of said Mr. Ridley.

Personally, I don't expect that to happen.

As far as the Tonight Show/Jay Leno issues go... well, I'll admit, if it turns out the president of WGA West really did tell Jay Leno he could go ahead and write his own monologues... well, it would piss me off. It would count as a pretty serious dropped ball. But as I have said before: in any game that lasts more than a few minutes THERE WILL BE DROPPED BALLS.

No one is perfect. That includes the current leadership of the WGA.

Right now there is no way for anyone who was not there personally to know what really happened between Leno and Verone or whoever else was on the WGA side of that conversation.

But what we do know is that we are still on strike because the AMPTP still refuses to sit down and negotiate a remotely-fair deal with us regarding profit participation on scripted entertainment delivered over the internet.

I admit, whatever the WGA ends up doing to penalize Leno for breaking the strike rules -- if anything -- will make for compelling reading on websites and dramatic chatter over phones and on picket lines... but guess what?


Unless we allow this petty crap to sap our determination, weaken our resolve and distract our focus.

None of this matters now.

Some day in the future when this strike, like every strike, comes to an end, there may indeed be an opportunity to address some of these issues -- but focusing on them now will lead to one place and one place only: DEFEAT.

This strike is not a war of maneuver. It is a trench-grind, pure and simple. It is about who can last the longest.

I know the AMPTP has lots more money.

I know the AMPTP has an easier job keeping all the members on its side of the dispute on the exact same page all the time, no matter what they may individually think about the situation.

Nonetheless, the timing can work for us.

If we can keep pulling together we can win.

If the DGA deal doesn't include real profit participation for the internet and therefore the WGA does not choose to sign on to it, we will simply have to wait until July -- when SAG will join us on the picket lines and the AMPTP will be left without any scripted film or TV in its future.

How long do you think the companies will continue to hold their line once that happens?

July 1st is the deadline for the AMPTP, with emphasis on the word "dead."

I know July 1st is a long way away.

Half a year in fact.

But that's how it is.

Unless you want to slink back to your studio or network provided office knowing you just wasted 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 months of your productive professional existence for absolutely nothing, you will find a way to stick it out until July hits and the actors join us.

All the theorizing and all the plotting and all the scheming are absolutely MEANINGLESS.

All that matters is one thing: HOLDING THE LINE.

I realize it's difficult for thousands of men and women who tell stories for a living to just accept the simple, somewhat boring, perhaps even soul-deadening reality that we are now in the midst of -- but if we can accept it, we will all be better off.

Personally, I suggest putting all that spare brain-power into something useful -- like writing a play or a memoir or a novel or brushing up on web-design or getting a job at McDonald's. Whatever.

Just so long as it doesn't mean walking away from the impressive unity which the WGA has heretofore been able to present to the AMPTP throughout this strike.

It may be simple, dull and painful but I'll say it once more anyway...

The only thing that matters is that we:


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