It’s been a couple of years, and I’m getting bored with the look here. Also, I’m seriously considering migrating to WordPress, because it just seems…well…easier.
So here’s your chance to tell me what you think works and doesn’t work about the current design. Should we stay three columns or go to two? Should the blog stay fluid (where it resizes as you adjust your browser page size) or go fixed?
The freakin’ quill???
Everything but the title is up for debate.
Also, if any of you know of someone really good at designing blogs for WordPress, clue me in. I’m willing to spend a few bucks to freshen the joint up.
Note: This redesign applies to the blog portion only. The forum is going to pretty much stay the way it is (for a while, at least).
I’ve got a few articles I’ve been planning to write, but sometimes a better idea comes along and you have to roll with it. Pro writer Derek Haas suggested that I write about how we get paid, what the various terms and methods mean, and how we can expect success or failure to impact it all.
Good idea. Frankly, I had no idea what anything meant when I started, so I hope that some of you find this of value.
There are a few basic ways to get paid as a screenwriter. You can option literary material, you can sell literary material, you can pitch an idea, or you can be hired on an assignment.
Options don’t technically fall under the WGA’s jurisdiction. Options are just rental agreements. The optioner pays the optionee a fee that grants the option the exclusive right to “set up” the project at a studio (typically as a producer). The writer will then sell the literary material to the studio.
If you sell a script, the studio has to pay you scale. “Scale” is just a term for the basic minimum amount. Right now, if you sell an original screenplay for a “big budget” film (a film that costs more than $5,000,000), scale is roughly $77,000 (including one additional rewrite step). You can learn about all of the various minimums here.
Minimums aside, however, most writers work above scale.
A typical deal for a pitch or assignment works like this…you’re paid your “quote” (your going rate) for a draft and a set of revisions (aka a second draft, often shortened to “set”). In addition, the studio will typically detail optional steps they can trigger if they desire. So, if your deal is, say, $500,000 for an original, you’ll get paid $500,000 for two drafts, but the studio might hold an option for another set for $150,000 and a polish for $75,000. If they want it, that’s what they’ll pay (and you have to write it, pending your availability). If they don’t want those optional steps, they don’t have to pay that money out.
Then there’s the credit bonus. Most writing deals include a bonus for sole screenplay credit and a reduced bonus for shared screenplay credit (I’ve never heard of anyone getting a bonus for story credit).
That’s where all this “X against Y” stuff comes in.
If your quote is $500,000 against $1,000,000, that means you get paid $500,000 for those first two drafts. If you get sole screenplay credit on the movie, you’ll get an additional $500,000 to get you to the $1,000,000.
Shared credit bonuses are typically half the sole credit bonus.
When working on deals, it’s always important to know what’s applicable against the bonus and what isn’t. For instance, the optional steps are almost always considered applicable, meaning that if you’re $500,000 against $1,000,000 and the studio pays you an additional $225,000 for optional steps, that optional money cuts into the rest of the money they owe you if you get sole credit. In this case, instead of getting $500,000 to get to the million, you’d only get $275,000 in bonus money (because you’ve been paid $500 + $225 already, and 500+225+275=1M).
Therefore, once you work beyond the initial quote work and optional steps, it’s critical to ensure that new payments are not applicable against the bonus, because you never want to be in a situation where working more doesn’t get you more.
Many writers will do an “all services deal” once the film heads into production. The all services deal is a flat payment that covers all the writing the film requires until release. All services deals should always be non-applicable against the bonus, and they should be made with care. Some kind of time limit on them is usually advised, in case a film drags on and on.
Payments are typically made for commencement and delivery, with a 2/3 – 1/3 split being ideal, i.e. you get 2/3rds of the money for a particular deal step when you’re told to commence writing, and the remaining 1/3 when you turn in the draft.
All services deals are typically tied to production milestones, e.g. you get 40% at the start of prep, 40% at start of principle photography and 20% upon completion of the film.
Unfortunately, studios are infamous for “late pay.” Writers will turn in drafts and be forced to wait weeks for payment. Or, as was the case on my first job, writers are hired and told to commence writing, but even the starting payment is held up for weeks.
My easy answer on late pay is that no writer need suffer it. My position has always been “I start when I’m paid” and “I turn in my draft when I’m paid.” Simple as that. The studio likes to say they can’t officially pay commencement until a longform contract is signed, but that’s baloney. A deal memo and certificate of authorship is all that’s required.
As far as quotes go, rewriting usually pays less on a quote basis than original work. The basic rule of thumb is that a rewrite gig should earn you about 75% of your quote for an original gig.
Of course, there’s the highly-desired weekly gig, which is a whole ‘nother thing. Weeklies are when studios hire writers on a week-to-week basis, almost always for production writing. Weekly rates tend to be quite high. The studio will always try and finagle the writer toward a polish if they think one week will turn into three or four.
That’s the tug of war that makes dealmaking so much, um….fun.
So, once you have a quote, how do you improve it (or get a “bump” in the industry parlance)?
There are three basic ways to get a bump. First, sell a pitch or spec in some kind of competitive situation (more than one interested buyer). Second, write a draft that gets a green light. Third, get screenplay credit on a film that performs at the box office or earns awards.
Some basic guidelines for what writers earn. Note that these groups exclude spec sales, which, at some point, no longer affect a quote in a specific way (for instance, Rossio & Marsilii’s $5M sale for Deja Vu doesn’t mean that their quote for an original is $5M, although I think they’re both doing just fine…)
Baby Writers: No, not my term, but commonly used around town to denote writers who are either very fresh to the business or who have little experience working. Typical quote is 100 against 250.
Typical Writers: They’ve sold scripts, maybe had a movie or two made, maybe it didn’t do so well, but they’re definitely in the game. Typical quote is 300 against 600.
Known Commodities: These are writers who have multiple credits, a number of fans at studios, a good track record and a hit to their name. Typical quote is 700 against a million.
A List: These writers have hits to their names, and are known to deliver the goods for the studio. They almost always have a few key relationships with top shelf actors, directors or producers. Typical quote is $1-1.5M against $2-2.5M.
Marquee Writers: Rarified air here. You’re talking about a pretty small number of writers who aren’t employees as much as investments. They earn more than most directors do. To be in this group, you’ll need a quote of two million against…well…more. Three million? Something like that.
I’m sure I’ve left out plenty. And it’s quite likely that people have different views on some of this stuff (particularly the last part). Lemme know what you think.
Sorry, I know I’ve been a bit Larry Kingish in my quick, semi-insubstantial bulletins lately, but it’s been very busy at work. I’ll have something for you guys soon.
In the meantime, I just found out about LeapFish, a site that appraises the value of your domain name.
According to them, artfulwriter.com is worth…
Awesome! I am totally selling this place and buying a Buick LaCrosse!
As a point of comparison, yahoo.com appraises at $1,523,846,985.
I have some work to do…
Clifford Green, one of the founding admins of WriterAction, has also resigned. What’s interesting about his resignation is the fact that he specifically chalks it up to not being able to work with Alex Sokoloff anymore.
And boy…do I ever understand that feeling.
I don’t doubt that my little cyberscreed precipitated his and Brian’s actions, although I also don’t doubt that this was a long time coming, and Clifford’s specific beefs probably don’t mirror mine. I don’t take any credit for his choices. I probably just served as an enzyme here.
Nonetheless, something’s happening behind the curtain at WA.
I can’t tell if all I’ve done is start a process where the well-intentioned admins up and quit in disgust with the institutional paranoia and reflexive defensiveness (that would be bad), or if these recent defections might open the admins’ minds to the notion that they step down and let other people be given a turn at the helm (that would be good).
Time will tell.
In the meanwhile…man, Lord Acton nailed it, didn’t he…?
John BowmanNow that the Kabuki Theater of negotiations is officially underway, I thought I’d reprint John Bowman’s opening remarks made on behalf of the WGA Negotiating Committee.
I really love this speech.
I love it because it’s the perfect tone. Calm, reasonable, business-oriented, without a trace of Norma Rae nonsense, no whiff of the words to “Joe Hill,” and no detectable mouth foam.
All in all, a huge step forward for us.
Naturally, Bowman had to put in plugs for a better home video residual rate and jurisdiction over animation and reality, but everyone knows those are essentially DOA. This fight is about downloads, and he’s positioned us strongly. With generous references to authorship and intellectual property rights, Bowman sure sounds like an Artful Writer to me.
I like what I’m hearing from my union right now, and it’s been a while since I could say that.
Here are John’s remarks.
First of all, I want to congratulate our corporate partners at CBS, Time Warner, News Corp., Disney, Viacom, and NBC-Universal on what appears to be another great year for entertainment revenues and profits. Box office is up, and broadcasters are getting ad rate increases across the board, driven largely by digital content created by many of the people in this room. We are all of us very fortunate to be working in an industry that is thriving. It is thriving not only because of the content created by members of the DGA, SAG, AFTRA, and the WGA, but also because the CEOs of these companies are proving to be extremely adept at finding ways to monetize the Internet and other new technologies.
There is a real disconnect, however, between what the companies are reporting to Wall Street and what they’re saying to the talent community. Investors are hearing about the changing landscape in entertainment and exciting new markets to exploit. In contrast, the AMPTP communicates nothing but problems to the Writers Guild. Problems like-and this was mentioned by AMPTP at a recent press conference-ad skipping, even though NBC Universal had just announced a one billion dollar DVR deal. And while WGA member revenues have not kept pace with industry growth-we are a line item that is definitely under control-the companies balk at giving us a fair and reasonable share of the industry’s success.
I don’t think anyone in this room is arguing about the right of writers, actors, and directors to residuals. As collective authors of a work, we are entitled to a portion of the revenue generated by that work. But you have publicly stated that you no longer want to pay us residuals on shows that are not in profit. Here’s why that is untenable:
Writers are a cost of doing business. They have no say in production, marketing, on advertising and publicity, directors, casting, the decision to spend tens of millions of dollars advertising, etc. They can’t be expected to be paid from profits when they have no say in the costs which affect those profits. Profits are under the control of CEOs and their executive staffs.
Intellectual property has rights, just as physical property does. Management has no problem paying the person who made the DVD box before a film turns a profit; they shouldn’t have any problem paying the artists who created the intellectual experience that came in that box either. To claim that intellectual property has lesser rights than physical property is a dangerous argument for anyone in our business to make. You are making the same argument to us that digital pirates make to you.
According to Hollywood accounting, The Simpsons is not in profits. How can we trust that kind of bookkeeping? What other business but ours has the accounting term, “monkey points?”
Residuals from shows not in “profit help” support a writing middle class, and keep writers in the business until they finally create that one great thing. Do away with residuals, and you do away with late-blooming careers like Marc Cherry and David Chase – they couldn’t afford to stay in the business. Your proposal transfers money from developing, promising writers, actors, and directors who need them the most to established pros who need them the least. It’s bad for the business.
Ultimately, your complaint is not about unprofitable shows, it’s about the portfolio nature of the entertainment business. Risk is spread out among many shows, some of which are unprofitable. This economic fact will never be changed, even if writers work for free, as you propose they do on the Internet.
Now let’s turn to your proposal that we do a three year study before bargaining about the Internet. Your reasoning is exactly the same as it was in 1985. Models haven’t emerged, the environment is uncertain, we’ll take care of you later. Well, we know what happened then. Home video and DVD sales soared, and nobody got taken care of later. But this isn’t 1985, when TV writers didn’t envision that their shows would someday end up on DVDs, and they’d get stuck with a .3% return. This time, TV writers can see how important the Internet is – our shows are already there. And, unfortunately for your argument, positive economic events are daily giving the lie to your doomsday scenario.
But if you insist on a study – I used to do studies for a living – I’ll give you one now. The Internet is a distribution channel with no major fixed costs, no media costs, no shipping or handling costs, and margins that are the envy of even the cigarette industry. Though you lose your monopoly on distribution, you have a strategic advantage that nobody else has: strong relations to the talent community. Above all else, nurture this relationship. If you don’t-if, for instance, you insist that members of that community not get paid for three years, or get paid, at most, a .3% residual rate, what possible incentive would they have to work for you? What incentive do they have to help you fight video piracy, when they’re only getting .3%? If you don’t pay them someone else will-Yahoo, Youtube, who knows? It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, and very quickly indeed, if you bargain so unreasonably that you force talent to go elsewhere for a fair deal. Of course this study is flawed, but then all studies are – you can make them come out any way you want to.
I can imagine an NBC-Universal Wall Street press conference, 18 months from now. Revenues are down, profits are down, due to a work stoppage which you, the AMPTP, collectively, forced. Shareholders are restive. They ask the company this: “Your industry paid 84 million to fire Tom Freston, 300 million to invest in “Last FM.” Yet at a time when it was absolutely crucial that we establish a presence on the Internet, you chose to alienate content providers, the best strategic advantage you had. And you made this catastrophic decision over how much money?
Today you’ll receive our proposals. They are designed to help writers keep up with the overall growth of revenues in our business. Our operating principle is simple: if you get paid for the reuse of our material, we get paid. So let’s now back away from the edge, get real, and get to work. Studies and profit-based residuals are not serious proposals. They have no legitimate basis in the economics of this industry. They are non-starters for this committee and membership. Our response to such proposals will be a polite “no thank you.” But there are serious issues to discuss, issues that come directly out of our real relationship. Those issues are:
How we will share new media income
How we will produce material together for new media
How we will deal with the non-union shell companies that you’ve created to avoid paying the talent, especially on reality and animation
How talent will get a fair share of home video money
How we will work together on issues like piracy
How we will work together to make sure that new technologies are a boon for all of us
These are real issues. Writers and the talent community deserve to keep up and we have not been. All of our proposals will be focused on that central fact. Writers have to keep up with the industry growth that we help create. It is simple and fair. We look forward to your response, and thank you.
Just a quick update. In the wake of my essay on WriterAction, one of the admins, Brian Horiuchi, has resigned as an admin. If he wants to comment here as to why, I’d welcome that.
Sadly, Brian was one of the few (and perhaps the only?) admin who really got it over there, and I think he’s left for that very reason. He was outgunned.
Looks like things are gonna get worse there before they get better.
Also, I’ve been told that I’m pretty much considered Satan by the remaining admins. Naturally, I find this comforting.
Rachel was wrong…John August has some terrific video and a link to photos from his recent trip to Malawi.
He mentions malaria on his blog. Malaria, a disease that had been impressively curtailed decades ago, has returned with a vengeance, killing millions of children.
And why has it returned?
My opinion? DDT.
Specifically, the horrendously stupid ban on DDT.
I know, I know. We’ve all been taught that DDT is the devil’s chemical, spreading death wherever it goes. Unfortunately, the opposite is true.
To read how DDT came to be unfairly villified…and the disastrous result of that politicization…check out this excellent essay in the New York Times.
You can read more about why American and international aid organization should support the use of DDT at 36 Comments »
Today, the negotiations began between the WGA and the AMPTP.
Well, at least the formality of negotiations began.
Leading up to this day, I’ve seen quite a bit of spin and positioning. As always, I’m here to try and untangle the truth from all of the hype. I’m keenly aware that there are some in union leadership who honestly wish I’d just shut up, because a membership that only gets their news from Pravda is a Happier membership, but we’re all too smart to be snowed.
And, frankly, I think leadership will probably like this particular article anyway.
Before I start with all that, I want to review some statistics that were released by the Guild in their annual report.
First, Guild members earned 905.8 million dollars in 2006 (under Guild contracts, of course). That’s down 1.5% from 2005, but still up quite a bit from 2004, when we earned 869.2 million. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to reconcile this major increase with our reported loss of jurisdiction. If we’re working fewer jobs but earning more money…could it be that fewer writers are just getting paid more?
It’s certainly possible.
Overall, however, the amount of working writers in the WGAw hasn’t really changed (even if the ones working have). Year after year, with minor fluctuations, about 4,400 WGAw members actually get hired to write. The total amount of “current active” members in the union? 8,084, which is down from 9,216 in 2000.
One thing to note about that: when it comes time to vote for contracts or vote for strikes, nearly half of the eligible voters will not have written under a Guild contract for at least a year. That’s not exactly an ideal political situation to be in if you are a working writer.
Television writing earnings held steady, although that number is practically worthless as an aggregate, since so many TV writers earn large portions of their dough as producers (which isn’t reportable to the Guild). Film writer earnings dropped slightly, but not in any major way.
The foreign levies situation still seems a mire. The program is still holding over $20 million. I’d like to see that number get knocked down into the single digits by ’08.
And what about residuals? After all, that’s the big issue this year.
Well, WGA writers earned more in residuals this year than in any year prior: $264 million. Television residuals were way up, mostly because the boom in DVD releases of old shows is still echoing.
However, film residuals from home video were down, reflecting the softening of the DVD market.
Wait, I’m sorry…the Guild publication has a different explanation for that…
…this area declined…reflecting the prominence of non-Guild animated features, each of which woud generate a million-dollar residual, and also reflecting the exhaustion of the release of the film libraries into the DVD market, which has been ongoing for about seven years.
That is just dumb. Do we really need to editorialize about non-union work when it’s obviously not the cause of the dip? Non-union theatrical animation has been booming since I was in college. It is not at all a significant cause in the dip for feature residuals. It’s entirely about the DVD market going soft.
I just find bad arguments to be annoying.
Anyway, enough with the statistics. There were two major developments preceeding this week’s start of negotiations.
First, the companies announced that far from being interested in giving us a good residuals formula on downloads, they were now interested in getting rid of residuals altogether and shifting to a profit-participation model.
Awww, that’s cute.
Residuals aren’t some rootless payment we argued for because it sounded sexy. Residuals are our financial substitute for royalties. We agree to work for hire, they agree to pay us residuals as if our authorship were meaningful (which it is).
Like royalties, residuals don’t exist to reward us for the companies’ profits. They don’t exist to make us partners with the employees. They exist to compensate us for the reuse of our works of authorship. Plain and simple.
It doesn’t matter how much money a movie makes. Every time you reuse it by selling a DVD or airing it on television or putting it on the internet, you must compensate the author for that privilege.
Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big fan of sharing in profit. But not to the exclusion of what is a basic right of authorship.
Happily, I don’t think the AMPTP is ever going to do this. I think some members would like to do it, but the cooler heads there are well aware that if they attempt to eliminate residuals, the WGA and SAG will strike until their dying breaths. Even worse, guys like me would be happily marching next to guys like Patric Verrone.
Eliminating residuals is simply not an option. It’s a poison pill.
That’s probably why they shouldn’t have announced it the way they did. In my opinion, it made them look a little bit desperate. An insinuation might have been more chilling. A news conference?
Not their best move to date.
Meanwhile, the WGA has suddenly figured out how to play the game. Even though our latest contract bulletin features an article by “Chief Negotiator David Young” (particularly amusing, given how much current leadership hated the fact that John McLean called himself “Chief Negotiator”…meet the new boss….), the star of the WGA for the past two weeks has been not David…not Patric, but…
John Bowman, chairman of the Negotiating Committee.
And what’s so hot about that?
Well, kudos to Patric and David for finding enough to humility to realize that they’ve blown a ton of credibility with the town. On the other hand, Bowman has some legitimacy. He created a hit sitcom, and he was a showrunner, which means he’s had real experience dealing with management in a partnership.
He’s got an MBA from Harvard, so he can speak Corporate.
Most importantly, he’s a fairly moderate guy. I’ve known John for about three years now. He’s calm, level-headed, and completely disinterested in an ideology-driven agenda. He was a great choice to head the NegComm, and I think he’s an excellent complement to Patric’s olde tyme religious fervor.
Therefore, it’s WGA 1, AMPTP 0 as we head into the first week.
Still, this is pretty much all about biding time. We’re not going to make a deal in the next few months. And we will work past our deadline.
The game is still the same. Will the DGA sit back and see if a WGA/SAG alliance can get a good deal? Or will they decide that brings too much of a strike risk, and slip in between to end all the strife?
I hate to say it, but this fight probably won’t get interesting until next April.
I’ll keep updating as it goes…
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t have to tell you what WriterAction is. You’d just know. Either you’d be a member of the WGAw or WGAE and thus, be a member of WriterAction…or you’d be someone looking forward to the day you could join it.
Unfortunately, things haven’t quite worked out that way.
WriterAction was started by a woman named Alex Sokoloff back somewhere around 2002, shortly after the last WGA credits referendum. Alex and some of her likeminded writer friends (Clifford Green, David Hoag, Katherine Fugate, David Odell and Steve Chivers) decided that what our union was missing was any real opportunity for a collective meeting place.
Sure, there’s the “writers’ lounge” in the WGAw building, but it’s about as conducive to discussion as an operating room.
Alex and her cohorts believed that writers did want to reach out and form a real community where experiences could be shared, information gathered and debated, and maybe most of all, where union members could democratically participate in and influence their union.
On the other hand, writers didn’t necessarily want to leave their respective caves either.
And so, they created WriterAction on the web, and restricted it to WGA members only. In the beginning, it was a fairly crude site hosted with the free virtual community provider EzBoard. EzBoard pretty much sucks, but it’s free, and it served the basic purpose.
I joined it about two years after its conception.
In early 2004, I didn’t really know who was running the WGA, I didn’t know who stood for what, I didn’t know how a union worked…
In other words, I was an average Guild member.
I attended an outreach meeting on the upcoming negotiations, and the host suggested that I might enjoy WriterAction (because, I suspect, I’m an opinionated bigmouth).
I joined WriterAction on April 7th, 2004. At the time, I think there were about 80 members in total.
I loved it. In a very short while, simply by participating in that very tiny community of writers, I learned an enormous amount about how my union worked, how my fellow writers thought, and how we could actually change things for the better.
Shortly thereafter, I was asked to help administer WriterAction. And after that, I was recruited to run for the Board of the WGAw.
Everything was lovely.
Except that I haven’t posted a word on WriterAction in a half a year now.
Well, for starters, Alex Sokoloff and I really started to hate each other. Rather than get into the personal issues there, let’s just stipulate that we had personal issues, I resigned as an admin in part over those personal issues, but I continued to post long after that.
Therefore, we can elminate that as a reason for my exit.
Was it out of boredom? Perhaps. The WriterAction community has never really expanded the way it should have. There are about 7,500 current active members in the WGAw (with another 3,500 in the WGAE, but since WriterAction continues to be a mostly-WGAw meeting place, let’s not consider them in the following equations).
Out of those 7,500 members, WriterAction currently boasts a membership list of 2,106 members.
Except that 1,590 of them have never posted even once. Always a bad sign.
There are 516 members that have posted at least once, but 81 of them have posted just once. There are only 284 members who have ten or most posts to their name, and only 360 members have shown up at all (to lurk or post) within the last two months.
From that, figure there’s about 350 regulars. Unfortunately, of those regulars, roughly half post at a rate of less than one post a week.
Even worse, the top 59 posters (which still include both myself and Josh Olson, neither of whom post there anymore) are responsible for a full 72% of all posts made in the whole history of the place!
In short, WriterAction really hasn’t grown significantly since the days when I found it on EzBoard.
Okay, so…why? Maybe it’s meant to be small.
No, it’s meant to be big. Its entire purpose, I think, should be in its inclusiveness.
Unlike this website, which is an extension of my will and personal philosophy, WriterAction exists to build community. You can’t build community unless you get some numbers, particularly when you’re trying to mirror a pre-existing community of 7,500 people.
At its best, WriterAction was considered a rising force in Guild politics. A number of active participants ran for the Board and were elected (including myself, Ted Elliott and Alex Sokoloff). Candidates visited the site to promote their platforms. In the Board room, people would say, “This issue is playing well on WriterAction” or “We’re getting killed over this on WriterAction.” There was a sense of accountability to the constituency for once, instead of the business-as-usual “no one’s paying any attention, so let’s just do what we what” brand of Guild politics.
And that’s all gone now.
Patric Verrone knew pretty early on that numbers are numbers. If the community doesn’t grow past 200 or 300 attentive eyeballs, it’s not going to make a real difference in the big game of Guild politics.
Mind you, the whole point of WriterAction isn’t to promote one idea over another. Rather, it’s to inform the membership, inspire the membership and hopefully hold the leadership accountable to the membership’s concerns.
A half a year ago, I stopped posting. I became fed up with the following:
Most of those are self-explanatory, save the last two.
The site’s technical stagnation is one that definitely bugs me. Denise Meyer and I (who, together, run the Artful Forum), found vBulletin and migrated WriterAction to it from EzBoard. Before we did that, poor Alex had to literally approve new members by answering individual emails to her AOL account.
While vBulletin isn’t exactly rocket science, you do have to keep up with it. There’s no reason that WriterAction shouldn’t have simple things like spell-check or the ability to embed videos. Would those things save WriterAction? No.
On the other hand, if the admins over there encouraged people to use the “warn admins” feature and then installed one of the various “warning reports” mods, they might have a better time handling the problems that crop up…and that brings me to…
Every board will have problems. Even a board like WriterAction, which doesn’t accept just anyone in off the virtual street, will have its share of cranks, jerks and miscreants.
The basic WriterAction rule is “don’t engage in ad hominem attacks.”
Here’s the problem.
First, they have some whacked-out definition of ad hom, which basically changes from circumstance to circumstance.
Second, they have this weird tic where they refuse to delete offending posts. Instead, they publicly post in the thread asking you, the member, to delete your own post…or they’ll do it for you.
And then, and here’s where they really jumped the shark, they decided that once they made a decision and implemented it, that decision could not be discussed at all.
This is just stupid. When I get into my little fights with Olson, or when a couple of commenters start going at each other, I do my thing. I delete posts if they deserve it (with special care to avoid deleting attacks on me unless they’re really out there), and if people complain, I answer back. If I don’t feel like talking about it, I just don’t.
But I don’t ban people from questioning me. That’s ridiculous.
Even worse, unlike this site, which is my own personal domain, WriterAction is supposed to be about the community of WGA members…not any one writer’s philosophy…
Ah, but there’s the rub. See, when you run a community, you inevitably start to feel like it reflects on you…and that it’s yours.
In my case, this place is mine. But does the community part…the part where other writers express themselves…does that reflect on me?
Hmmm, tough to answer. Probably not, although I have to struggle against that from time to time. I think that’s where the admins of WriterAction have gone wrong.
Well, that, and the fact that they don’t really do anything. I mean, here’s a short list of stuff they should be doing.
What they should stop doing:
Do I think the current administrators are up to this task? No. Not the majority of them, at least.
Do I think I am? Hell no. I’ve already done my part for WriterAction, and I have my own site to run.
No, it’s time for new blood. Not mine, not theirs.
WriterAction isn’t a personal site. It’s meant to be a mirror community for the WGA. We need it more than ever right now, as we head into elections and negotiations and possibly even a strike. We need an educated, engaged, connected membership.
And for WriterAction to become that, I think it needs new leadership. The current folks have done enough, but I think they’re tired and burnt and defensive and possessive.
The admins need to turn over the reins to some new members. They need at least one technical admin who does nothing but work the vBulletin side, and then they need about five people to handle the rest. Those people should spend their time revitalizing the site, and their only benchmark for success should be a marked increase in the number of active posters and active readers.
Anything less, and WriterAction will slowly bumble along as it does now: limited, unrealized and ineffective.
A lot of people in the business ask me how it is that I find time to run this blog and our forums, when I’ve got deadlines and family commitments and the rest of life bearing down on me.
Frankly, I don’t know. For instance, right now it’s just about 11:30 PM Pacific time, and I’ve got at least another two hours of writing ahead of me.
And so, I turn to this as respite.
By the way, if you don’t understand why a writer tired of writing would write in order to take a break from writing, then you may not be a writer.
Admittedly, part of my bleariness is because instead of writing what I needed to yesterday, I spent time getting and setting up my new iPhone.
Before I add to the infinite instareviews available to you on the internet, I’ve finally got my working theory about the ending of The Sopranos.
Yeah, I know. Old news. But I’ve been thinking about it for a while, and I’m not sure anyone else has forwarded this theory yet. I’m sure someone will dig up a link to something similar.
Like everyone, my first reaction to the final moment of the final episode was “Oh God, my TiVo…” Then I sort of reeled into a bit of shock. A bit of shock. It’s still a TV show, after all. Nonetheless, Chase managed to completely surprise everyone.
The quick theories were: it’s a meaningless surprise for surprise’s sake, Tony dies, it’s a cliffhanger for a movie…
I don’t think so.
I don’t think Chase invested so much time and energy and transparent deliberation into the final scene just to lead up to a “Ha ha, here’s something you never expected, it doesn’t mean anything but at least I didn’t do any of the dumb crap you predicted” moment. It just doesn’t seem within his creative character.
I don’t think Tony was killed. Yes, Chase wanted to ratchet up the tension to lead to what might be a whacking (and more on why when I get to my theory), but if the cut to black signifies Tony’s death, then why cut out on his face? Shouldn’t it cut to black off his POV?
Cliffhanger for a movie? That’s just dumb. An uncompromising master like Chase isn’t going to pimp his entire series out just to set up a first scene in some theoretical film that might or might not happen.
Why did Chase do that?
Remember when Carmela saw her own therapist for a single session, back in the 3rd season? A blunt man, he basically told Carmela that her problems weren’t psychological as much as they were crassly circumstantial: she’s married to a ruthless killer, and all of the money Carmela spends is blood money. The only advice a reasonable person can give is to take the kids and get away from Tony.
That was the truth.
Still, season after season, we the audience found ourselves rooting for Tony, particularly when inter-mob stories were introduced.
In the final season, Chase begins to really hammer home just how pathetic and evil Tony is. Tony kills Christopher. Tony celebrates Christopher’s death. Tony turns a session about A.J. into a whine-fest about himself. Tony cheats on his wife for the millionth time. Tony thinks about killing Pauly because he’s getting old and mouthy.
And yet, the audience (and by audience, I mean me and apparently many others) were mostly interested in how he’d make his way out of the mess with New York.
Would Tony win?
Chase seemed to recognize this. The federal agent once assigned to Tony but now on a terrorism beat apparently shared our problem. He slips Tony info to use in Tony’s war with Phil. “We might win this one!”
As awful as Chase made Tony, we kept loving him. When Chase would scold us for loving him, we would nod, then love him some more.
And our marriage to the show was a bad one. It had to end, because Tony isn’t a good guy, he doesn’t deserve our respect, and frankly, we shouldn’t give a damn what happens to a sociopath like him.
I think Chase’s finale ending was a message to the audience, and a bit of a punishment as well.
“You want to know what’s going to happen? Will he die? Is this just another day in his miserable life? Will he run the whole mob? You know what? Screw you. I’m not telling you. In fact, I’m pulling the plug on this relationship in the most vicious, unsatisfying manner just to rub your nose in your own sick need to care about this jerk.”
That’s my theory about Chase’s intention.
Tony’s intention? That’s easy. He picked it on the jukebox. “Don’t stop believing.”
Those are his last words to us. “Don’t stop.”
But Chase hit “stop” anyway, because Tony is a bad man, and we should take our TiVos and get as far away from him as possible.
So…that’s the old.
Here’s the new.
The iPhone is AWESOME. It’s everything Apple promised, and then some. If you can afford it, buy it. If you appreciate elegance in technology, buy it. If people say, “I don’t get it, it’s just a phone, Apple’s a cult, blah blah blah” then make a note that those people are idiots, and then get the iPhone.
I’d write more about it, but it’s a quarter to midnight now.
And there are pages to go before I sleep.