Friday, January 18, 2008

Strike Day 76 - the A.D. era begins...

Today was the first day of a new era in the history of our strike.

I have lifted the historical term "Anno Domine" (Latin for "Year of our Lord") and dubbed this new era "A.D." -- for After the Directors deal.

So welcome to the new era.

So far, it seems a lot like the old era -- in that the mainstream press is filled to overflowing with exactly the kind of coverage I would dream of if I was a top executive at a big media conglomerate helping to set the agenda for the AMPTP.

The papers are filled with articles explaining how the incredible deal the DGA got sets we in the WGA up to collapse, to fall apart, to turn against our leadership and against each other -- if our leadership does not instantly sign on the AMPTP's dotted line to accept the DGA deal lock, stock and however many smoking barrels may turn out to be included.

Man, I wish they would just list the name of ONE F*#@ING WRITER WHO TELLS THEM THAT in the actual articles themselves -- don't you? And no, I don't wish that because I want to do anything inappropriate to the people who said these things, I wish that because then I might actually believe what I was reading was true.

Then again, I suppose we're better off if it's not true, so maybe I should just hope they keep leaving all the names out.

The only names of WGA members I have seen talking about how fantastic and wonderful the DGA deal is and what a disaster it will be for the union if we don't sign on to it ASAP are Dick Wolf and John Wells.

Those two guys are worth more than a hundred-million dollars each.

Both those guys have multiple TV juggernaut shows on the air -- and every day one of those shows isn't being produced hurts their bottom line.

Of course, every day my own TV pilots aren't being produced and every day the movie my partner and I are supposed to be writing for Universal isn't being written is hurting our bottom line as well -- and the same holds true for every working writer in the country.

At least John Wells, after pretty much jumping up and down with joy over the detailed terms of the DGA deal, said the only reason the DGA got a deal that good was that the WGA was conducting a successful strike. For that I nod my head to him. Also, what he had to say was in an e-mail that got posted, with his permission, on a writer's web-site -- not at a press conference.

It's kind of funny actually, in a bitter and twisted way. The mega-successful TV writer-producer worth more than 100-million dollars who said something good about the WGA, said it to a limited audience, while the other mega-successful TV writer-producer worth more than 100-million dollars had this to say to the press:

"If the WGA rejects the basic concepts of a DGA deal, there's going to be a great deal of dissatisfaction among the membership," Dick Wolf, creator and executive producer of the Law & Order franchise, told reporters. "The bottom line here is: this town should be back to work in three weeks."

If you are a writer who desperately wants to end the strike and return to work you would probably know that the way to make that happen is by convincing your fellow striking writers and the leadership of our guild that the DGA deal is a good template for a writers deal and we should move as fast as possible to settle with the AMPTP.

Now please tell me: do you further that goal by publicly predicting dissension in the ranks and sowing discord?

We are where we are now. No matter how much you might be against the strike -- philosophically, politically, personally, strategically -- do you really think that weakening your guild's position in the eyes of the OPPOSITION -- in the eyes of the opposing side in the current confrontation in which we are now engaged -- will help settle the strike under the best terms possible for you?

I certainly don't.

But of course, I don't run my own television empire either.

I wish I did. I'm jealous of those guys. But even if I had three shows on the air and was losing the opportunity to earn millions more every week, I can't believe I would say something like that -- something whose only absolutely predictable effect will be to give aid and comfort to the AMPTP while our guild remains out on strike against them.

I know Dick Wolf was against the strike more than a year ago. Just like I was. This has nothing to do with going on strike. This has to do with ending the strike on the best possible terms for us -- the Writers Guild of America.

The New York Times had an article about the impact of the DGA deal on the writers strike. It was shockingly inaccurate, at least from where I'm sitting or standing and picketing and listening to my various fellow guild members. One of the highlights was this paragraph:

Dennis Palumbo, a screenwriter-turned-psychologist whose practice includes a number of Hollywood writers, said guild members — many of whom have come to regard the companies as negative parental figures — appear to see Mr. Verrone and Mr. Young as friendlier alternatives. “Which parent do you go with, the big, bad parent that you know, or someone who’s presenting himself as an Alan Alda parent?” Mr. Palumbo said.

Now I see what the strike has been about all along, us writers finding a better father figure for ourselves. Thank you, New York Times -- paper of record -- for pointing that out to me.

Later in the article the writer says the DGA decided now was not the time to "make a stand" regarding New Media -- but in the following sentence he goes on to say:

In the meantime, however, they will receive for digital distribution roughly double the residuals rate that has been paid for decades when films and television shows are resold on videocassettes or DVDs, and for the first time be paid a reuse fee for advertising-supported programs streamed free on the Web.

Funny but he never spends one syllable trying to figure out WHERE THOSE GAINS IN THE REALM OF DIGITAL DISTRIBUTION CAME FROM!

Like, say... the WGA's ongoing strike?

I suppose it's pointless to get riled over these things. They will write what they will write. At least it's not as bad as what Variety writes.

But please tell me -- what kind of big-time newspaper reporter can't connect the dots between one union's ongoing strike which is having a devastating impact on an industry and a brother union gaining serious concessions from contract negotiations conducted simultaneously with said strike? There wasn't even a passing mention of how one situation MIGHT have effected the other.

And I swear, I am not looking for "pro-writer" articles in the paper! Just an impartial presentation of the facts.

Ah, well...

Let's just wait and listen when the Negotiating Committee finishes crunching the numbers and tells us what they think of the DGA deal and how it applies to us.

After that, if you want us to take the DGA deal as is, great. Tell that to the leadership and try to convince all the rest of us.

If you want us to look for at least one major gain -- like shutting the "free window" for internet distribution -- great. Tell that to the leadership and try to convince all the rest of us.

If you want us to demand everything we ever asked for and hold out until the actors come to join us on July 1st in hopes that we will get it all... well, then the truth is I think you're crazy but for now I'll still say: great. Tell that to the leadership and try to convince all the rest of us.

And the same holds true for any opinion anywhere in between.

Just do me a favor and please don't hold a press conference where you announce that if things don't go exactly the way you want them to, the sky is going to fall.


hhangel said...

The true VICTIMS in your strike, and yes we are a Union Family.

mrburkemath said...

FYI, I put a link to your blog on my blog.

Hope that a little levity can brighten your day.

Brooklyn scribe said...

Whoa -- Chris Burke from Brooklyn?

Thomas's younger brother...?!?!?!

That's awesome, dude!

Thanks for stopping by -- and thanks for the promotional link.

Say hi to your mom and big brother Joseph for me and my entire family!

mrburkemath said...

That's me all right. And I'll pass onthe regards. Thomas told me about your blog.

As far as my cartoon is concerned, it could've been called "Scene from the top of the Fridge". It was so dopey that I took a couple of pictures before I even knew what I'd do with them.