A: It depends where you are when you write.
The Artful Writer is visited most frequently by Americans, but we do get a fairly good-sized international readership as well. There are lots of you from Canada, The Netherlands, Australia, Great Britain, New Zealand, Finland, Hong Kong…
…well, you’re pretty much from everywhere. Even Latvia.
Many of you have a similar question: if you sell a screenplay to a WGA signatory company, must you join the Guild? Embarrassingly, I’ve gotten the answer to this one wrong in a number of ways, and I’ve spread a bit of bad info in the past, so this post will hopefully set the record straight.
The determining factor when it comes to non-U.S. citizens is location.
The WGA is mostly concerned with jurisdiction, rather than prior membership or national citizenship. Regardless of what your passport says, if you perform the majority of writing services for a signatory while you are in the United States, then you must join the WGA if you’re not already a member, and the work is covered under our Minimum Basic Agreement.
However, if you live in the UK, you may work for a signatory to the WGA without the work being covered under our agreement. The WGA cannot compel you to join or compel the company to abide by the WGA’s collective bargaining agreement. However, you can negotiate to be treated as if you were under WGA jurisdiction! In other words, you can live in England, write a movie for Paramount Pictures from your home in London, and still get residuals and credit protection…but only if you get Paramount to agree to that deal.
If you hop on a jet and fly to New York, hole yourself up in a hotel and write the movie from midtown, then Paramount has to abide by the terms of the MBA.
The one final point to consider is that WGA membership isn’t really something you ever have to worry about choosing. If you meet the terms of membership through the appropriate amount of actual covered work, the WGA compels your membership. If you don’t, then you can’t join anyway.
For those of you writing outside of the United States, if you do sell or option literary material to any company that is a signatory to the WGA, try and negotiate yourself as if terms. The work won’t be officially covered by our MBA, but it’s well worth trying to get some of the goodies that those of us doing covered work get automatically. The company can certainly say “no”, but since they give those terms to thousands of other writers in the U.S. as a matter of course, you may find that they might be willing to bend a little…and give them to you too.
(Ed. Note: This is the last reprint. I’ll be back around January 6th or 7th with a new article.)
Writing is freedom, or so say people who don’t write. We who ply the live action screen trade are all-too-familiar with the concept of restraint. Our limitation is that annoying little aspect of life known as “reality”. I used to think the choke collar of reality would tug the hardest when I was trying to dream big.
Hah. Totally wrong.
Reality’s endless jabbing annoys the most when I haven’t been dreaming at all.
Case in point: you cannot walk into an office building.
Try having a character “walk into an office building”. That’s fine for now. It’s fine ten drafts from now. But if you’ve done your job well and the stars align, you’ll find yourself sitting across a table from the 1st Assistant Director in the production offices of the film of your movie, and he’s going to ask you what the hell you mean.
“Now, are we talking skyscraper, suburban office complex, three-office law firm type thing, is it nice, run-down, art on the walls, cheeseball, full of doctors or large businesses or crappy accountants, does it have marble on the floors, receptionist, elevator or walk-up, is it imposing, diminished, old, new, light, dark, clean, dusty, crowded, empty…”
And no matter what you end up answering, the first answer in your head…the real answer is…”Umm, I don’t know.”
Gentlemen and women, the rubber has hit the road. Welcome to production.
While it’s true that all the niggling questions of production will ultimately be determined by the director, that doesn’t mean we can’t help guide the director and the production as they create the world of the film.
No, I’m not suggesting that we write all of this stuff into a script. That would be awful. What I am suggesting is that before you find yourself face to face with the 1st A.D. (the person who’s really the field marshal of the shooting set), you prepare yourself with the answers.
There are lots of ways that we screenwriters can find ourselves disappointed with the rendering of our stories. One of the most common is the “that’s not how I imagined it!” syndrome. Oh? And how did you imagine it?
If you imagined it specifically, and by “specifically” I mean that you could have supplied the 1st A.D. or the producer or the director with a document describing in detail your imagined locations, costumes, hair styles, car makes, and all the other tiny flecks of color in your neural painting…then yeah, you get to be disappointed.
If you didn’t, then one of two things is true. Either you knew everything but decided not to speak up, in which case…your fault. Or, as is more often the case, you hadn’t really thought it through.
I am obsessive about “watching” my scenes before I write them. That’s how I’m able to prattle at length when the 1st A.D. asks me for those details. Still, he catches me every now and then, and I’m forced to say something like, “Dammit.”
It’s a scary “dammit”, by the way. It’s like someone asking me where I was yesterday, and there’s a two-hour period I can’t account for. We’re supposed to know our stories inside and out.
The point is not that we must do this to prepare for production. We must do this because it’s what makes a screenplay worth producing. No one will make a movie that seems like it could be shot anywhere with anyone wearing anything. The more you know about your world, the more it affects the story you set in that world. Do yourselves a favor. Go through your scripts like they were someone else’s, and your job was to actually go and shoot it. The only information you have is what’s on the page.
Make a list of questions.
And when it’s your time to sit down across the 1st A.D., make me proud, wouldja?
That inspired me to share a similar “glossary of terms” developed by David Zucker, Jim Abrahams and Jerry Zucker. I do a lot of work with David these days, and I can vouch for the usefulness of the list. Finding a shorthand (especially in comedy) is a very important part of the self-critical process. Sometimes it seems like we spend all day trying to explain to each other why we’re wrong. A list of established terms helps codify those reasons and legitimize the critique.
The following list (copyright David Zucker, reprinted here with permission) is intended for feature comedy writing. Any of you drama guys have something like this?
Shoe Leather: The physical traveling or action of a character in a scene. If not in direct service of a joke, it’s superfluous.
Drive-By: A joke that appears briefly and then out, as opposed to filling up an entire page or two.
Bric-A-Brac: Jokes not intrinsic to a plot or scene that only serve to detract from the point the scene is trying to make.
Gilding the Lily: Taking a joke so far that it’s no longer funny.
Hair Under the Wings: A joke that compromises the integrity of the plot. A joke proposed for AIRPLANE! involved a shot of Ted Striker’s plane taking off with hair under its wings. Funny, but not good for the audience’s investment in the reality of the story.
Ya-ta-ta-ta-ta-da: A joke so hokey it needs washboard and kazoo music.
Knocking Down the Posts: It’s not enough to set up a parody, you have to do the jokes. In AIRPLANE!, mere recognition that the girl chasing the plane was a spoof of a particular movie was not in itself funny. The laughs came only when she began Knocking Down the Posts.
Floocher Dialogue: Filler lines recited by foreground characters to enable the audience to focus on a background joke.
But, I Wanna Tell Ya: An extra beat of Floocher Dialogue added to a punchline to make it less of a swing, or to help the audience hear the next line.
Ba Dum Bump: Obvious sitcom-style punchline.
Transplant and Whack: The joke is the organ we save. Transplant it to a scene that can live and whack the rest.
Blow: A joke funny enough to end a scene.
EAT: A setup so obvious that it might as well have one of those restaurant neon signs with the blinking arrow pointing right at it.
Cumulative Effect: Too much of one thing is never a good thing. One sex joke may be funny, but too many and it’s diminishing returns.
Manic Dumb Show: Slapstick for the sake of slapstick, but without character/plot motivation or wit.
People Talking in Rooms: The concept that witty dialogue in confined spaces can often times be as effective as huge comedy action scenes.
Turn the Play Inside: Use existing characters in all possible instances instead of creating new parts and endless residuals.
Off Message: A line or scene that steers the movie off its main plotline.
W.P.A.: Scenes so extraneous to plot that they merely serve to fill up pages. Like those old FDR New Deal programs, they’re strictly “make-work”.
Eating Your Young: On second draft and beyond, cutting one’s own jokes or scenes that only seem unfunny because of repetition.
Dynamite Plunger (hand signal): At the end of the movie, you can get away with things that you couldn’t in the body of the movie. With only moments until credits roll, it’s often okay to blow the bridge, getting broader and sillier with characters previously grounded in a lot more reality.
Schmuck Bait: A twist ending that makes the audience feel cheated, such as the old “It-Was-All-A-Dream”.
Bridge Too Far: Taking a joke to its illogical conclusion.
Cheese Factor: W.C. Fields once said, “If you’re going to smash a car, make sure it’s a beat up car. If you’re going to stomp on a man’s hat, make sure it’s a tattered one.” Thus, in “Scary Movie 3,” the best aliens were the cheap ones (Ed. note: semi-robotic aliens were used for initial scenes, but time and budget constraints forced us to use crappy Dr. Who-quality aliens for reshoots. The resulting aliens were absurd, flimsy, obviously fake…and much much funnier.).
Black Hole: Some actors just aren’t well disposed to be funny. Often producers think they’ve scored with two A-list actors but are surprised when the result is “Ishtar.”
Broken Field Running: Saving a scene by improvising fixes on the set.
Outlet Pass (to avoid a #33): An alternate shot, usually in a master, with no attempt at a joke.
The Extra’s Socks: A small detail obsessed over by the director, diverting his attention from a real problem.
Apollo 13: Saving a scene without reshooting through the ingenious use of loop lines, outtakes, footage before “Action” or after “Cut,” reversing film, inserts, etc. Anything to avoid a reshoot.
Dailies Laugh: Hilarious in dailies, crickets at a preview.
Cutting Out the Cancer: Eliminating dud jokes or superfluous story. The most pressing task after a first preview with Angry Villagers.
Flywheel Theory: Keeping the audience laughing is a lot easier than starting them back up from scratch.
Swing & A Miss: An obvious attempt at a joke that doesn’t work. It is essential to get enough coverage so that every joke attempt connects. Also avoided by shooting an outlet pass.
Angry Villagers: The reaction at a first preview when a succession of jokes doesn’t work. The lost momentum inevitably results in the audience turning against the movie, conjuring up the “Frankenstein” image of a mob carrying torches and pitchforks.
The Director’s Rail: At the old Sherman Oaks Galleria – the third floor balcony rail outside the multiplex. After a first preview, most directors want to vault over it.
Sonny on the Causeway: Thinking a joke is a sure-fire winner, then getting ambushed by the silent audience reaction.
Filling up Compartments: Each bad joke, like a torpedo hit, fills a compartment. Too many in a row sinks the ship.
Hail Mary: Usually after the last preview (no time left on the clock), an ADR or an edit thrown in as a last ditch effort to make a joke work. The risk being, of course, a Swing & A Miss.
The Lion: Telegraphing a joke. In NAKED GUN 2 1/2, a lion attacking Robert Goulet didn’t get a laugh until a third preview Hail Mary, in which the set-up was eliminated.
Going Through the Guard Rail: Any outrageous comment, joke, or statement in the writing room that results in absolute silence and appalled looks.
Calling in an Air Strike (On Your Own Position): Saying or doing something self-defeating.
Dancing Around The Calf: Rejoicing over some idea or concept that seems great at the time. Dancing typically continues until a wiser voice arrives to point out how stupid the idea or concept actually is.
It’s that time of year. My family and I will be spending Christmas in this lovely cottage depicted to the left. We call it “Olson’s Yule”, and you’re all welcome to join us. Doesn’t it look warm and toasty? It has twelve fireplaces. No matter how cold it gets outside, inside it’s always an inviting 575 degrees.
I’ll be rerunning some of my favorites for the next couple of weeks. Look for new stuff starting in the second week of January.
A week or so ago, I received an email from a manager named Rick Siegel, who is a principle at a management firm called Marathon Entertainment. He has a message he wants to get out to writers, and he thought I’d be a good place to start.
His message? Managers are in danger of extinction.
Before I begin editorializing, let’s answer the oft-repeated question: what’s the difference between an agent and a manager?
The simple answer is that agents are representatives licensed by the State to procure work for their clients. Managers are representatives who aren’t licensed by the State and can’t procure work.
So what do managers do?
Well, in the strictest sense, they’re supposed to, um, manage, your day to day affairs. Agents get you the job. Managers can deal with your ongoing needs in relation to the job. Agents get you that writing assignment on location, and managers make sure your hotel room is waiting, your schedule is accurate and up to date, etc. Other managers are less hand-holders and more partners. They may produce your work and advise on creative issues.
Of course, there are many managers who don’t operate like that at all. They act as agents. They do procure work and they do negotiate deals.
One of those managers is Rick Siegel.
It appears to be illegal.
There’s a statute on the books in California called the Talent Agency Act. It says, among other things, that only licensed talent agents can procure work for clients. They can only charge 10%. They cannot produce or otherwise “own” their clients’ material. They must be bonded and insured.
Oh, and if anyone else tries to do what an agent does without getting a license, then they have a wee bit of a problem.
Their client can file a complaint with the State Labor Commission. If the Commissioner finds that an unlicensed individual has done the job of an agent, then any contract between the unlicensed individual and their client, written or verbal, is considered null and void ab initio. That means the contract isn’t just null from the verdict forward, but it’s considered retroactively null and void, and the unlicensed individual can be compelled to disgorge commissions they received from up to one year prior to the date of the complaint.
What’s this all mean? Well, according to Rick, we’ve got a situation where lots of managers are doing the job of “agent” for their clients, but if their clients decide they don’t feel like forking over big commissions once they get a job, they can tattle to the Labor Commission and get out of paying the bill.
Rick is right. That is pretty much the way the law is written. Rick is also fighting this. He sued Nia Vardalos over commissions, but as that was settled out of court, I can’t really tell you how it turned out. More interesting is his case against Rosa Blasi, an actress who fired Rick, then went to the Labor Commission and argued that he had been acting illegally as an agent for her. She asked the Commissioner to negate her contract ab initio, and he did.
Rick also lost a parallel lawsuit against Blasi, but he appealed…and here’s where things get interesting.
From what I’ve read about the Blasi case, it appears that the appellate judges ruled that if a manager is found to be illegally acting as an agent, he’s on the hook to fork over commissions on the deals in which he acted illegally, but not on the hook for the commissions on the deals in which he didn’t illegally do the job of “agent.”
The case has headed back to court. I don’t know where it’s going, but I do know this: the WGAw is filing an amicus brief on behalf of Blasi and against Siegel. Rick suggested that I should be against this filing.
I respectfully told him that I was not against it. I’m for it.
The entire point of the Talent Agency Act is that representation of artists needs to be paired with accountability to the law. Just as lawyers can’t argue cases without being admitted to the bar and doctors can’t prescribe medicine without a medical license, talent agents need to be regulated. The reason is simple. There is an enormous potential for abuse.
In that regard, think of managers as “builders” instead of “licensed contractors.”
Some of the abuse comes in the form of punitive commissions. It’s not uncommon for managers to get 15% of their clients’ gross earnings. That’s ridiculous.
Some of the abuse comes in the form of conflict of interest. Many managers produce their clients’ projects (I’ve been one of those clients). At that point, who are they most interested in representing: their client, or the studio paying their producing fee?
Don’t get me wrong. There are decent managers out there. Excellent managers. Honest managers. On the other hand, they are unaccountable to the law…with one exception.
The Talent Agency Act…the very act that Rick believes ought to be amended to exclude “managers” from its provisions (as if anyone and everyone couldn’t just dub themselves “manager” and thus avoid the burden of law). I think that if Rick wants to do the job of an agent, he should just drop this “manager” thing and become an agent. If he doesn’t want to be an agent, that’s fine, but then he shouldn’t expect to flout the law with impunity.
Rick also believes the Talent Agency Act is being enforced unconstitutionally, which I also disagree with, but that’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax.
I grant that there is something disconcerting about a manager having to fork over commissions that were honestly earned because other commissions weren’t honestly earned, but I’d rather the law be tough than understanding.
So, where do I agree with Rick?
He believes that if the current trends continue, managing will no longer be a viable pursuit. The economic risk of providing a service to someone who can get out of paying for it easily and legally is simply too great.
I agree. I think a lot of managers are eventually going to go the way of the dodo. Some will always stay, but the heyday of the manager is probably drawing to a close.
Rick believes this is bad for writers. He thinks double representation is a good thing.
I’m not so sure. I had double representation for a long time. In the end, I don’t think the cost-benefit analysis worked out in my favor. I just have an agent now. That method has worked for writers for decades.
No reason it can’t work for decades more.
If you have a manager or wish to have one, don’t think that I’m discouraging you. I’m not. Do know your rights, though. The deck may be stacked against us in a lot of ways, but this is one part of the business where we really do hold the aces.
No HP for you!I certainly don’t want it to seem like I’m piling on here, but there’s something irksome about tithing 1.5% of my gross earnings to an organization that has lost its mind.
The latest failure of rational thought at the Guild involves something close to my heart: the public status of screenwriters.
Even though I tend to blog about what we can do as individuals to increase our presence in an industry obsessed with actors and directors, that certainly doesn’t mean I’m against someone else giving us a helping hand.
Like, say, the Guild.
That’s what I was excited to hear about a proposal that came out of a Guild committee.
Yes, that’s right. Something actually came out of a committee. Namely, the Publicity And Marketing Committee, which was recently formed to do something about the fact that screenwriters are given less public attention than a pilled-up Nicole Richie driving the wrong way on the 134.
The committee came up with a cross-promotion with HP, the computer, etc. company, with the help of PR firm Davie-Brown. The idea was that HP would run a contest called “The Scene Of Your Life.” Contestants would mail in three-page scenes, and the winners would receive HP computers including screenplays by big name writers…and those writers would actually autograph the computers.
Is it going to leapfrog us ahead of directors when Premiere Magazine does their Summer Preview issue? No. Is it smart? Yes. It starts the good work of equating writers with movies, screenplays with content…and most of all…screenwriters with some form of celebrity.
This is good. This is very good. Mind you, I’m not a big fan of celebrity, but I am a big fan of the celebration of screenwriters and what they do.
So, the committee has this idea, gets HP involved, it’s starting to come together…and what do Verrone and Young do?
They kill it. And why? Oh, brothers and sisters, you’re going to want to be sitting down for this one.
They killed it because Davie-Brown, the firm that reps PR for Hewlett-Packard, is also involved in product integration.
Let me say that again, because sometimes when I repeat something monumentally stupid, I’m not sure it’s real, so bear with me.
They killed a project that would have cost the Guild nothing and netted it free publicity and advanced the name of WGAw members and celebrated screenwriters…because it seemed like it might be contrary to their totally pointless and futile war on product integration.
Hmm, yes, it’s real.
See, Patric and David honestly believe that “altering your strategy to conform to new information or evolving circumstances” is just a fancy way of quitting. And because of that, they are apparently all-too-eager to start firing bullets into their feet.
Wait. Scratch that. Our feet.
To refresh your memory, Patric and David wanted to attack product integration to pressure the advertisers to pressure the networks to give us reality to strengthen our strike to get us better residuals. It’s a strategy Rube Goldberg would have passed on as “too complicated,” but these guys can’t let it go, even though our reality organizing campaign is dead, 18 months of attacking product integration hasn’t resulted in anything except a continuing hemorrhage of dues money, and there’s nothing left to gain by pretending it matters at all anymore, much less using it as a litmus test for whom we ought to be in business with.
Now, before I’m accused of rumor mongering, my information comes from two members of the committee, one of whom is the chairman and a political ally of Patric’s. Yes, there were some other issues with the deal that needed to be worked out (liability and so forth), but what the committee was told was that the “primary reason” it was being killed was the product integration issue.
I can understand Patric and David’s thought process here. They’ve staked their leadership on this strategy. Ergo, getting into business at all with a company that does the very thing that they’re attacking seems wrong.
Of course, they don’t really care about product integration. It’s just a wedge to get reality, which they also don’t care about, since that’s a wedge to get better residuals. And even though any casual observer can see that their strategy has failed, they still kind of have to stick to it, because if they don’t, then Lucy’s got some ‘splainin’ to do.
In other words, their pride and their public face is more important to them than our collective pride and our collective face.
Stupid failed strategy first, screenwriters second.
Like all absurd decisions, this one was as pointless as can be.
So, what next? Who knows? I can only presume Davie-Brown will turn to the DGA and run a “three minute video” contest. Winners will get computers signed by famous directors, screenwriters will continue to hunker in the darkness, but by God, Patric Verrone and David Young’s consistency will be intact.
David YoungAfter writing a bit about my migraines, it’s time I started doling some out to other people. I think I’ll start with Patric Verrone and David Young, who, as the leaders of my union, are chiefly responsible for conceiving, coordinating, and then ultimately killing the effort to organize reality television writers into the WGAw. No, you won’t see any official announcement from the guild that the effort to organize reality is dead. No funeral, no flowers.
But don’t mistake the Guild’s silence for a pulse.
This thing is dead. It’s over. It’s an ex-organizing campaign.
If you’re thinking, “Well, hey, nothing ventured, nothing gained,” I’m afraid to say that quite a bit was ventured…to the tune of seven figures of dues money…and not only was nothing gained, but we actually lost some yardage.
Yes, by my last count, our very expensive reality organizing campaign has managed to bring a net total of negative 12 writers into the WGAw.
What went wrong?
Well, just about everything.
Let’s roll back to the genesis of it all. Patric Verrone, the current President of the WGAw, has been banging the drum of organizing for a very long time, and for good reason. Organizing, which is the catch-all term for bringing new groups of employees into a union, is certainly a major part of union work. The fact that the WGAw lost an organizing battle with IATSE over animation writers, for instance, means that no one ever gets paid residuals on movies like Happy Feet or Shrek or Ice Age or…any of them.
This is bad.
As such, I believe in organizing.
However, where Patric and I differ is that I believe in organizing primarily as a moral imperative to improve the lives of non-unionized employees, while he believes in organizing primarily as a strategy to increase the bargaining power of already unionized writers.
See, I wanted reality writers to get covered by a WGA contract because it’s good for them. They would get minimums, pension and health, and decent working conditions.
Patric wanted reality writers in the WGA because he believed that would allow the rest of us to strike effectively and achieve the real goal, which is to improve our residuals formula. See, we all know that the companies use non-union reality as a wedge against our strike threat. If we strike, they can still keep running very popular reality shows, making our strike less harmful to them.
And Patric didn’t like this.
So he and David Young devised a strategy.
The Verrone-Young strategy goes a little something like this.
You might think, like I did, that this was the most rickety, convoluted, pie-in-the-sky Rube Goldberg strategy you’ve ever encountered.
Or you might think it sounds great.
Either way, here’s what happened.
The overtime lawsuits were batted away like gnats. The companies will likely settle them quietly if they haven’t already. Meanwhile, I’ve been hearing anecdotally that reality writers are being paid overtime…but they’re being paid less per hour…so their overall pay hasn’t changed.
In short, the companies were not brought to their knees.
The effort against product integration included an incredibly clumsy, ham-fisted website called Subservient Donald, a ripoff of Burger King’s wildly successful viral marketing campaign “Subservient Chicken.” The Donald is a Donald Trump impersonator who responds to user questions by slamming various products that are advertised through product integration.
David Young believed that this would “go viral,” which is a phrase that should be outlawed. If you’re trying to “go viral,” you’re not going viral. The internet is rather good at ignoring forced messages.
Unsurprisingly, Subservient Donald was dead on arrival. All other efforts to attack product integration, including guerrilla street theater, picketing in front of advertising conferences and even a lobbying trip to Europe to attempt to influence legislators there against the practice…got nothing.
Zippo. Well, the companies were annoyed by the papercuts, but they weren’t dying or falling to their knees or even flinching.
And so, with hundreds of thousands of dollars spent and nothing to show for it, the WGAw took the writers of America’s Next Top Model out on strike.
There were twelve of them.
The theory, apparently, was that once the rest of the reality writers in town saw both the bravery of these twelve writers as well as the incredible show of support from the rest of the union, they would rush out on to their own picket lines in a chain reaction of labor solidarity. With a thousand reality writers on the street, Patric and David would finally bring the companies to their knees.
As most of you know, it didn’t work like that. Instead, simple, obvious and oh-so-predictable human nature trumped Patric and David’s plan. Instead of rushing out to their own picket lines, the rest of the reality writers thought, “Hmmm, let’s see if these people make some progress or get squashed like bugs before we risk our jobs.”
The ANTM writers walked the line for many weeks. They were paid, in fact, by the WGAw. The picket line was catered (this is Hollywood, after all). WGAw members worked phone banks to get other members to walk the line with them in support (I made some of these calls myself).
Now, here’s what I said upon hearing of this strike, and I said it in the Board room.
“The CW would rather kill ANTM than give it to us now, and they would probably be compensated for it by the other companies.”
Why? Because the precedent of rewarding the WGAw for this kind of labor action would be unthinkable for them.
In the end, the ANTM writers were told that not only were they not getting WGAw deals, but all writing jobs on the show were being eliminated.
That’s right. ANTM said, “Hey, you know what, we can do this show with our editors. We don’t even need you, much less feel like giving you a union deal.”
And that’s how our millions in dues money got us the sum total of -12 writers organized into the WGAw.
Still, knowing full well that the ANTM writers were in the process of petitioning to try and get their jobs back anyway, the WGAw decided to light yet another bonfire of cash in a desperate attempt to save face.
They held a “unity” rally.
The entire staff suddenly focused on this event, as if it were ever going to make a damned bit of difference to the ANTM writers (one of whom told me that “if they ask me to speak at the rally, I’m going to tell everyone there not to listen to these people.”).
Hell, they even got Marc Cherry to record a phone message exhorting us all to show up, and then ran it on an autodialer out to all current WGAw members.
Hundreds of people showed up (estimates ran from 700 to 1,000 people), some of whom were non-members, but a good chunk of whom were members.
Patric and David spoke. They spoke about the need to fight. The need to bring the companies to their knees.
Everyone wore a red t-shirt. Then they marched past CBS as if to say, “Hey, CBS, don’t mess with us!”
Then they went home.
The ANTM writers are still looking for work. Some of us have been trying to help find them replacement jobs. The WGAw certainly isn’t.
Then again, I’m starting to wonder if the current leadership ever really gave a damn about these people. And now that this entire thing is dead and they’ve burned through the treasury and have nothing to show for it, all I can say is that I’m angry.
Writers have to earn nearly 67 million dollars to net the Guild a million dollars in dues.
I think they’ve probably spent more than a million on the reality organizing effort, which involved a major staff buildup, web expenditures, trips to Europe, trips to New York, research, production of a large number of useless presentations, catering, t-shirts, and flat-out stipends for strikers.
But let’s just say a million.
That gives me 67 million reasons to be angry.
That’s not all, though.
I have a friend. Good friend. I’ve known him for about six years now. I know his wife. I’ve known his kids since birth. He lives a few miles away from my house. I see him almost every week.
He’s been working in reality all that time.
He has no minimums, he has no pension and health, he gets no residuals, and he works ridiculous hours.
I came to Patric Verrone two years ago and said, “I believe we can organize his show if we take a vote of the staff, go through the NLRB process, keep it quiet, keep it out of the press, and in one year all of those writers will be in our union and have better lives.”
And he said, “So?”
See, that didn’t fit in Patric’s plan of everyone, so he rejected it.
My friend is still working non-union.
One last thought for you.
I had a conversation with a man who is currently on the Board and on the Organizing Committee as well. I put a hypothetical to him that clearly shows where the minds of our leadership are right now.
I said, “If the companies came to you tomorrow and said they’d give all reality writers a great collective bargaining agreement under the auspices of the WGAw, and it would guarantee them minimums and pension and health and great working conditions and even residuals, but the one condition was that it had to be separate from our agreement, so if we struck, they would have to keep working…would you take that deal?”
And he said, “No.”
That’s when I knew that my union, like Harold Crick, was living in a tragedy.