Why We Fight - Or - The Magic Cake
It’s quite likely that a union can successfully wage a strike and still not convince a single damned person that what they’re doing makes sense. It’s not like these things are decided by popular vote.
On the other hand, the companies we’re fighting are notoriously sensitive to bad press. Sure, they are the press, but if we can do a good job of convincing people that our cause is just, it can only help.
Since the union struck, I’ve seen some explanations about why we’re fighting.
Some are good (nice job, WGA).
Some are super duper bad (ironically, you have to sit through a commercial to get to this streaming video…but gee, no one makes money off the internet!)
What’s missing, however, is a compelling reason for residuals that anyone, including your deaf aunt, can understand.
John August has a piece running on this tomorrow, and it’s a good one. He stresses why residuals are good things…citing what I call the “Marc Cherry” rule, i.e. residuals can keep writers afloat during the lean times, allowing them to stay in the business, support their families, and stick around long enough to create a huge hit that sends boatloads of profit to the companies.
But even if no one needed residuals, we should still get them.
I hear this complaint quite a bit these days: “I don’t have to pay the architect every time I walk into a building” or “I don’t have to pay my plumber every time I use the sink he fixed.”
But authors of movies (and I consider the authors to be the screenwriters and directors) create something quite different than “blueprints for a single building” or “fixed sink.”
Imagine two guys. One guy writes terrific recipes. The other guy is a fantastic baker. Together, they create a magic cake.
Bear with me.
What’s special about the cake is that you can cut a slice from it, and a new slice will just grow back in its place.
You keep cutting it and serving it, and you never run out of that cake.
Wal-Mart decides to start selling slices of this cake.
They pay the two guys a good amount for the cake, as far as that sort of thing goes. Maybe a hundred bucks.
But Wal-Mart sells each slice for three bucks, and they keep selling them and selling them.
Over and over.
Millions of slices of the same damned single cake.
Shouldn’t the two guys get some small amount of money back on each sale? Maybe four cents?
But definitely something?
Movies are a special class of intellectual property. Like music or novels, they can be endlessly reproduced and sold in millions of multiples. One movie can be sold and resold and repackaged and redistributed and rebroadcast and redownloaded and reprojected over and over and over…
If the seller can endlessly exploit this single, unique product, shouldn’t the true authors of that work share in each endless exploitation?
A plumber can only fix your sink once.
An architect’s building is built once.
But not a movie. Not a television show.
So if someone asks you why we deserve to get paid each time someone buys a copy of a movie, tell them about the magic cake.
If they slap you because your analogies are tortured and weird, I apologize in advance.