Friday, February 8, 2008

Strike Day 97 (22 A.D.)

There's a bunch of stuff I should be doing right now but I feel compelled to do this instead.

Right now it's Friday night, 11:16pm... and the much-heralded "deal e-mail" has yet to arrive -- at least here, at my place.

It seems like today was filled more with discussions and concerns regarding the manner in which we move forward from here to there than the actual "there" which we are now headed towards. Writers seems more obsessed over and concerned with the manner in which we are being asked/pushed/cajoled/railroaded towards this new deal than they are obsessed over or concerned with the deal itself.

But of course, we don't have the deal itself in our hands yet, do we?

No, but it is a good bet that nearly each and every one of you reading this now (not including football players in Queen, actors in Sherman Oaks and/or film & TV editors in North Hollywood) will have heard most of the pertinent "big ticket items" from your respective Strike Captains, near all of whom were present at the big captains meeting this morning-thru-afternoon. I know I have.

And I'll be the first to admit that those details leave a lot to be desired.

If the deal sounded even just a little bit better, I would be chaffing at the bit to get the red-tape out of the way and charge back to the office on Monday. After all, I pretty much live for my work, I didn't want to go on strike, as I've said here before I did not vote to go on strike (though I didn't vote against it either) and this strike hit in the midst of a rather strong run career-wise for my partner and myself.

But the phantom-deal just doesn't sound all that good.

For me personally, the toughest pill to swallow remains the 17 day/24 day "free window" for internet streaming.

As my partner puts it, that's like saying: "We'll pay you a cut of what your movie makes at the Box Office -- but we won't count the receipts for opening weekend, week one and week two."

To be honest, it's probably ten-times more difficult for me to swallow since that member of our Negotiating Committee who was visiting the picket line at Warner Bros. Gate #5 replied to my question about it by looking me in the eye, smiling and saying: "I think you're going to be happy."

WTF is up with that?

Just tell me, "Hey, man, we can't always get what we want" -- or say, "I wish I had better news for you but there are a lot of other good, solid gains in the new contract." Phrase it any way you like -- but don't flat-out fucking bullshit me. What does it gain you? What does it gain me?

I need to shake that moment out of my mind and approach things more rationally and less emotionally -- but that being said, I may waste everyone's time tomorrow night by directing a very specific question to that dude, who I presume will be up on the stage with the rest of the leadership.

It would appear this deal is going to go through.

It is being universally endorsed and its approval universally encouraged by our Executive Board and Negotiating Committee -- the same people we have been following in about as close to lock-step as is possible for ten-thousand autonomous individuals.

We followed them out onto the picket lines -- even though they dropped the universally-beloved demand for doubling the DVD profit-participation formula; we kept following them through the emotional roller-coaster ride of the Nikki Finke engendered highly-raised hopes which were dashed when the companies walked away from the negotiating table the second time, ensuring the strike would last through the Holiday Season; after the holidays we came back and kept following them as the DGA sat down with the AMPTP and came out with a deal (though no real contract, as we all know) in less than one week; then we kept following them through the to-be-expected but still traumatic professional bloodletting of "Force Majeure"; so the idea that the majority of us will not continue to follow them now -- when the opportunity to go back to work is just around the corner -- is a hard one to sell.

But that doesn't mean it's not worth trying.

My problem is... from where I'm sitting... all the reasons for rushing to approve this deal -- be it good, bad or indifferent -- are driven by the other side's agenda alone.

As I've mentioned before, my partner and I have 2 pilots that survived the "Force Majeure" shutdowns -- we also have a movie less than half-written at Universal, as well as another movie at Universal set to go into production next month -- though production may be delayed if the strike is still on.

On the one hand these could all be seen as very good reasons for me to want to end this strike this moment, no matter what the details of the new contract may be. If you roll all that stuff together we are talking millions of dollars here.

But so what?

What should the individual stakes of any individual writer or writing team mean to the WGA at this point?


The loss of pilot season is a threat to the companies.

The loss of all further feature film production come mid-March is a threat to the companies.

The loss of any further production of current 1-hour and half-hour scripted TV is a threat to the companies.

Will the exercise of these threats negatively impact various members of the WGA?

Of course they will -- the same way the strike we have been conducting for over three months has negatively impacted pretty much all of us, as well as a whole bunch of other people.

Why do these particular benchmarks of pilot season, the last vestige of current series episodes, the last vestiges of feature film production and the Oscars mean enough to call for the end of the strike -- even before anyone of us has seen a copy of the new contract?

It just hit Twelve Midnight and I went to check my e-mail... and there's nothing new. No notice from the Guild. Nada. Zippo. So maybe we won't have to worry about any of this tomorrow -- maybe the AMPTP lawyers ended up screwing themselves out of a deal. Maybe, maybe not. Maybe there is no "Midnight deadline" after all. No doubt we'll find out soon enough...

It could be argued that all those "benchmarks" will hit our collective membership in a big way -- but wasn't that to be expected...?

I can't understand preparing for two years to go out on strike and leading your union out on strike -- and not having prepped to see that strike all the way through. In the case of this strike, "all the way through" doesn't mean until the Oscars or pilot season or any of that other crap that we now seem to be in such a rush to save -- it means July 1st, when SAG will come out on strike beside us and the 70,000 actors who reside in Greater Los Angeles come join us on the picket lines.

That's the way I saw things. But it would now appear I was wrong. It would appear that for some reason or other -- perhaps because, having spent so much time up close and personal in intense negotiations with their opposite numbers from the other side -- our leaders have discovered that whatever this new contract we are about to be offered contains is the absolute be all and end all of what we will ever be capable of getting out of them.

I hope that is what's driving our leadership to drive us to accept this deal with such rushed abandon.

True, the new contract -- even in deal-point form -- does contain one profoundly great gain.

This is the gain that was given to the DGA but was in fact earned by our own shockingly effective WGA strike.

I refer of course to the establishment of a formula -- any formula -- for profit-sharing on digital delivery.

That is huge. That is the thing the other side said would "destroy our industry" before we went on strike.

Maybe I just need to concentrate on that and forget all this other stuff and then I'll be able to quietly accept going back to work on Monday, if it comes to that.

But a very big part of me just can't believe we're walking away from the strongest position the WGA has held vis-a-vis the companies in a generation, for what will basically be summed up as a modestly-improved version of the rather innocuous DGA deal.

I just have to keep reminding myself:

Innocuous but for the inclusion of the profound gain of unionized residuals for internet distribution!

Well, it's 12:30am -- and still no e-mail from the Guild.

Guess we'll see what develops tomorrow...

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