On The Verge...
Hope you had a pleasant Thanksgiving.
I really really really hope that the Verrones and the Counters and the Youngs and the Chernins and the Bowmans and the Meyers had a pleasant Thanksgiving.
They’re all back in the room tomorrow.
And there are rumors.
Hollywood rumors occasionally come on like seizures, grabbing everyone’s attention and shaking them around. More frequently, they emerge like one of Kant’s synthetic a priori judgments—supposedly unquestionably true, and yet not by way of reason or analysis. People suddenly just know stuff, and they don’t know why, but they sure as hell believe it.
Gotta love this town.
There’s a rumor out there now that Monday’s meeting is almost pro forma. The rumor says that the basic deal structure has been agreed upon, the next few days are about hammering out the devillish details, but whatever that magic number is…it’s been found.
Tempting to believe.
So tempting…that I believe it.
But first, some baseball news.
I was reading about Johan Santana today (for those of you who don’t follow the sport, he’s pretty much the best pitcher in the game…and a lefty to boot). The Twins have him under a cheap contract for one more year.
If they keep him for that year, he becomes a free agent…and leaves them, because they can’t afford to pay him what he’s worth on the open market.
If they trade him now, they lose him for one year but stand to gain some tremendous players in return.
Easy choice. They have to trade him.
Here’s where the game theory kicks in. They can’t trade him for scrubs. They need great players. So it would seem they have all the leverage. On the other hand, the teams they’re dealing with know all too well that the Twins have to trade him, or they end up with nothing…and those teams would then still have a shot at Santana on the open market.
So the Twins need to be strong but reasonable, and the opposing teams need to be strong but reasonable.
Right now, our situation makes the Santana trade look like child’s play, but still…we have some balance, and that’s what matters. Neither side can crush the other (despite infantile proclamations to the contrary from both the union and the companies). The companies know that their current offer is a non-starter in a general sense. By now, they’ve heard as much, I presume, from the DGA.
Either they dared us to strike to see if we had the balls (dumb, because their deal was so ridiculous, who would possibly agree to take it?), or they forced us to strike in order to….
…well, hell, Nick Counter, buy me a drink one day and explain that to me if it’s the case. It certainly seemed like the AMPTP forced a strike, but to what end?
Regardless, the balance in the equation may be forcing a compromise. We’re costing them money. We’re costing ourselves money. They have the DGA they can bargain with…but they still have to bargain with them.
If the rumors are correct, there’s enough impetus to get the AMPTP back to finding the magic number.
So let’s start defining “victory.”
To me, victory doesn’t have to include any DVD increase (and given that we already gave that one up before ungiving it up, don’t expect it folks…and yes, I’ve spoken with a number of writers who honestly believe that we’ll get one). It doesn’t have to include any jurisdictional gains, nor does it have to include anything at all regarding product integration.
Victory requires the following.
- Maintenance, at very least, of status quo for separated rights
- A better-than-DVD rate for electronic sell-through on the internet
- A reasonable formula for streaming reuse
Pretty muddy, I grant you. For instance, what if the companies promise a good residual rate, but insist on that rollback for separated stage dramatization rights? I’ll let other people chew on those. Similarly, what’s reasonable for #3? And how much better than is truly better than? .31% ain’t enough. 2.5% won’t happen either.
Perhaps, if the rumors are correct, those are the things left to discuss. They’re big things.
But if we’ve gotten past some of the major stumbling blocks and boiled it down to the serious stuff at hand…and more importantly, if the AMPTP is ready to acknowledge certain basic realities…then we might be back to work soon.
Before I go, there are two other matters to discuss.
First, attorney Jonathan Handel has written a fantastic primer on our residuals rates and the true numbers involved. Surprise, surprise…the whole “four more cents!” thing is reductive sloganeering with little bearing on the actual economic issues here…and yet…as Handel argues convincingly, we deserve more nonetheless.
I strongly recommend you read his essay. You can’t fit it on a picket sign, but it’s a whole lot more convincing than anything beginning with “Hey hey, ho ho!”
Secondly, I’ve received a number of emails all posing variants of the following question.
“I’m not a member of the WGA yet, and I’m wondering how the strike affects me. Can I sell material to or work for signatory companies? Is there any rule preventing me from doing that?”
Here’s my answer to all of you who’ve asked.
I’m not telling you.
I’m not telling you because I’m basically here to try and help writers and empower writers, and while I love truth and accuracy, I’m not obligated to write down how-to manuals for scabbing.
So here’s the answer I’ll give instead.
Regardless of the rules, regulations, laws, court decisions and anything else prevailing either for or against you, if you sell material to or make writing deals with signatory companies while the WGA is on strike, then you’re an asshole.
You’re an asshole because you’re undercutting, you’re an asshole because you’re exploiting opportunities made possible by people who are trying to better everyone’s circumstances, and you’re an asshole because…well…
…I’ll go back to a synthetic a priori judgment. You just are.
Good enough for Kant, good enough for me.
Aggh, one more thing (“Our three weapons are…!”).
Totally redoing it. I’ve decided that MovableType 4, while better than 3, is still inferior to WordPress. So I’m switching over to WordPress, and I’m redesiging the look of the whole thing while I’m at it.
Hopefully it will be done before the end of the year.
Some good news…commenting will be much more user-friendly. Specifically, you’ll be able to live preview your comments as you type them, and you’ll also be able to EDIT them (cue the angelic chorus) for 15 minutes following the initial submission.
I’m going to try and make the whole site feel cleaner and simpler, with a few Web 2.0 perks thrown in (like super-easy icons to refer articles to social bookmarking sites like Digg and Reddit).
Alas, I think the quill is going bye-bye. I liked it, it served us well, but progress demands that we pave that sucker over and build something new. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it.