Signal And Noise
As you can see, we’re still working on getting our formatting back, but in the meantime, I thought I’d catch up with all of you.
It used to be that folks would come here to catch up, I suppose, but you’re all ahead of me now. I go off and work a few 15 hour days in a row, and before I know it, everyone’s on top of everything.
You’ve read all the letters from Verrone, you know the WGA and AMPTP are back at the table on Monday, you followed the tit-for-tat wars between Tommy Short and Verrone (and between Ellen, AFTRA and couldn’t-get-anything-right-if-her-life-depended-on-it Mona Mangan), you know that Carlton Cuse is returning to work on the very same day…
So, what’s it all mean?
There’s an enormous amount of noise out there, literally and figuratively. Picking through it to get the signal is the tricky part.
For instance, the AMPTP runs an ad proclaiming that they are, in fact, paying us for internet downloads.
Signal? They’re paying us at a rate we don’t accept and have explicitly rejected as insufficient, and there’s an entire category of internet exhibition (advertising-supporting streaming) they don’t want to pay us for at all.
Meanwhile, Patric Verrone tells a crowd that we’re “kicking corporate ass” while David Young muses openly to the press about “all the havoc” he’s wreaked.
Signal? The Big Five congloms’ asses are still quite unkicked, and David Young needs to start talking publicly like the responsible, pragmatic guy into whom a lot of insiders are telling me he’s blossomed.
Tommy Short, the autocratic head of IATSE, complains that Patric is strike-happy and needs to grow the hell up before more IA members lose their jobs.
Signal? Yes, when writers strike, bad things happen. Duh. Production slowing down is obviously one of them. I’m pretty sure that if IATSE ever struck (which will happen in, oh, about a month after never), then writers would suffer too, as development would slow, production payments would cease, and showrunners would go dark. Putting aside whether or not Patrick is strike-happy, it’s absurdly unfair of Tommy to insist that the WGA shouldn’t strike for fear of hurting IA members. This is the guy who hung a rollback around the necks of the Teamsters. It’s his favorite move. He’s a blame shifter.
Speaking of the Teamsters, their decision to encourage their members to individually decide not to cross the picket lines has given our strike a major boost.
Signal? I’ve been talking to some captains, a lot of picketers, a bunch of guys in Local 399 and some people on the inside at the WGA. The Teamsters have been crossing, and I haven’t heard about any shows, lots or production companies negatively impacted in any serious way by Teamster support. I can’t blame the Teamsters here. They’re working men and women under contract, and while the announcement of support from 399’s leadership was a great PR coup (I sure fell for it), PR doesn’t put food on the table. The drivers keep on driving.
Then there’s the issue of the showrunners. They banded together and most of them walked off their writing jobs and their producing jobs (which generally pay them the bulk of their income). Their resistance would lead to a short strike.
Signal? They have to go back to work. They have to. The fact that they did what they did was individually brave and commendable, but collectively, it was a high risk/low gain strategy. Shutting down post earlier than normal maybe stole back a few more weeks of episodes than a simple cessation of writing would have, but ultimately, they can’t all end up in breach. Furthermore, whenever we can mitigate collateral damage to other working people (particularly unionized ones like crew), we ought to. I’m happy that Cuse is going back to work, and I’ve spoken with a showrunner who believes quite a few more will return now that negotiations seem to be percolating again.
Speaking of which…
Let’s see. Depending on which strain of rabies you have, this next round of negotiations is either:
a) evidence that our strike has dealt a terrible blow to the companies
b) a trap in which the all-powerful AMPTP crushes the rebellion and blows the bejeezus out of Yavin IV.
But you know me…
…I’ll go with neither.
There’s a decent probability that some vague structure of a deal already exists. It may be emerging from back-channels between WGA moderates and AMPTP moderates, or it may be forming out of discussions between the DGA and the AMPTP.
But is it a good structure?
Can either side afford a compromise at this point?
Sure. Both sides have to be aware of the truth of their leverage. Ignore the chanting and the ranting from the rabid extremes on both sides, focus on the inevitable compromises both sides must make, and we could have a deal in hand before Christmas.