Friday, November 30, 2007

Nick Counter's Rollback Daze!

In case you've somehow missed it (cribbed off Nikki Finke):

THURSDAY PM UPDATE: I'm told WGA negotiators are still waiting for the other "half" of the AMPTP's Day #4 new proposals (the half that presumably contains the missing terms on ESTs, electronic sell-throughs?) which agent Bryan Lourd said should be in their hands by Tuesday if not before. Then the writers will make a counter-offer to producers on Tuesday. Here's the WGA West and East email to members critical of today's New Media offers by the AMPTP on streaming, content made for new media, and programming delivered over digital broadcast channels:

To Our Fellow Members,

After four days of bargaining with the AMPTP, we are writing to let you know that, though we are still at the table, the press blackout has been lifted.

Our inability to communicate with our members has left a vacuum of information that has been filled with rumors, both well intentioned and deceptive.

Among the rumors was the assertion that the AMPTP had a groundbreaking proposal that would make this negotiation a "done deal." In fact, for the first three days of this week, the companies presented in essence their November 4 package with not an iota of movement on any of the issues that matter to writers.

Thursday morning, the first new proposal was finally presented to us. It dealt only with streaming and made-for-Internet jurisdiction, and it amounts to a massive rollback.

For streaming television episodes, the companies proposed a residual structure of a single fixed payment of less than $250 for a year's reuse of an hour-long program (compared to over $20,000 payable for a network rerun). For theatrical product they are offering no residuals whatsoever for streaming.

For made-for-Internet material, they offered minimums that would allow a studio to produce up to a 15 minute episode of network-derived web content for a script fee of $1,300. They continued to refuse to grant jurisdiction over original content for the Internet.

In their new proposal, they made absolutely no move on the download formula (which they propose to pay at the DVD rate), and continue to assert that they can deem any reuse "promotional," and pay no residual (even if they replay the entire film or TV episode and even if they make money).

The AMPTP says it will have additional proposals to make but, as of Thursday evening, they have not been presented to us. We are scheduled to meet with them again on Tuesday.

In the meantime, we felt it was essential to update you accurately on where negotiations stand. On Wednesday we presented a comprehensive economic justification for our proposals. Our entire package would cost this industry $151 million over three years. That's a little over a 3% increase in writer earnings each year, while company revenues are projected to grow at a rate of 10%. We are falling behind.

For Sony, this entire deal would cost $1.68 million per year. For Disney $6.25 million. Paramount and CBS would each pay about $4.66 million, Warner about $11.2 million, Fox $6.04 million, and NBC/Universal $7.44 million. MGM would pay $320,000 and the entire universe of remaining companies would assume the remainder of about $8.3 million per year. As we've stated repeatedly, our proposals are more than reasonable and the companies have no excuse for denying it.

The AMPTP's intractability is dispiriting news but it must also be motivating. Any movement on the part of these multinational conglomerates has been the result of the collective action of our membership, with the support of SAG, other unions, supportive politicians, and the general public. We must fight on, returning to the lines on Monday in force to make it clear that we will not back down, that we will not accept a bad deal, and that we are all in this together.

Patric M. Verrone, President, WGAW
Michael Winship, President, WGAE

Here's the AMPTP official statement from Talks Day #4:

LOS ANGELES, November 29, 2007 - "The AMPTP today unveiled a New Economic Partnership to the WGA, which includes groundbreaking moves in several areas of new media, including streaming, content made for new media and programming delivered over digital broadcast channels.

The entire value of the New Economic Partnership will deliver more than $130 million in additional compensation above and beyond the more than $1.3 billion writers already receive each year. In response, the WGA has asked for time to study the proposals. While we we strongly preferred to continue discussions, we respect and understand the WGA's desire to review the proposals. We look forward to resuming talks on Tuesday, December 4.

We continue to believe that there is common ground to be found between the two sides, and that our proposal for a New Economic Partnership offers the best chance to find it."

Least the AMPTP could do is buy us dinner first...

Monday, November 12, 2007

All solidaritized and nowhere to go

A few of you have noticed my red t-shirt.

I live just outside of Orlando, Florida, far from the studios and the chanting picketers. Far from the anger and the energy and the unity of the strike.

Since January of this year, I’ve been a full-time screenwriter. I spent a couple weeks on the set of my movie, AMERICAN SUMMER, but aside from that, I spend my days at home, writing. My time has been focused (when my time has been focused) on a spec called THE MIDDLE AGES, that’s made a fan of a producer (who has, likewise, made a fan of me).

If you’ve been following along at home, you know I recently had to file suit against the producers of my movie and that one of them, Seven Arts, then turned around and filed suit against my reps and me to the tune of ten meeellion dollars. (If you’re curious about my thoughts on that, see my post of October 29th.)

The bullshit leading up to my lawsuit occupied a lot of headspace since I got home from set and, as a result, this draft of THE MIDDLE AGES is taking longer than it should’ve to finish. In an example of übershitty timing, the script is now, finally, approaching great. Just in time for my way-cool manager to send it nowhere.

And that fucking sucks, but I’ll live. My hubby and daughters and I will continue to make ends meet until the strike ends and the market is ready for new specs.

Thing is, I’m acutely aware of all the people out of work due to the strike, people whose lives – unlike mine – are very different today than they were just a couple weeks ago: writers losing hard-earned feature deals or staff jobs; teamsters honoring our picket lines; television and film crews whose sets are now dark; showrunners abandoning baby shows before they’ve even had a chance to grow legs. Lots of out-of-work parents looking ahead to lean Hanukkahs and Christmases this year.

I ache knowing that the sacrifices these thousands of people are making will ultimately benefit me. Not just me, of course, but you get me, right?

I spent most of last week jumping around the internet (yeah, that new-fangled thing) soaking up every strike-related word, picture and video I could find. I joined every strike-oriented group I stumbled across and emailed articles and videos to everyone in my address book who isn’t already reading every frigging blog in the scribosphere.

But that’s all nothing. I want to DO something. I’m not DOING anything.

I’ve only just barely qualified for membership to the WGA, but my legal battle is kinda like a microcosm of the WGA / AMPTP war. Every picture or video I see of the picketers feels like they’re marching for me. But I’m doing nothing for them and that kills me.

That being the case, one day last week, here in my little Florida town, I decided to wear my red shirt, even if no one I saw knew what it meant. And I figured, long as I had the red shirt on, I might as well take a picture and use it online where the people hang out who do know why I’m wearing it. Then I added the text about supporting the WGA, ‘cause I know how forgetful people can be sometimes about stuff like that…

So, if you came for the shirt, that’s cool, but don’t forget the message, okay? ‘Cause we “schmucks with Underwoods” work hard and deserve to be paid fairly for that work. And we're done getting jerked around by assholes with God complexes.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Rally at Fox - Strike Day 5

How much ass does this kick?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The future is, um, y'know...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Shawn Ryan is my hero

In case you haven't seen this yet, Shawn Ryan, showrunner of The Shield, The Unit, and The Oaks and a member of the WGA Negotiating Committee sent the following note to fellow showrunners and TV writers earlier this week. It's inspirational as hell -- give it a read:

"As you all know by now, we are on Strike. It's sad that we have arrived here and I don't know each and every one of your opinions, but I wanted to share my personal plans for what I intend to do until we have a fair contract.

I am currently quoted in today's Hollywood Reporter as saying that I will do some producing work, but won't do any editing as I consider that to be writing. While I said something similar to that earlier last week (I've learned you can't trust a word of what these trades report), that was before I went to the Showrunners Meeting yesterday and became very crystalized in what I need to do. Like many of you I have spent the last week contemplating what to do in case of a strike. What are my responsibilities to my writers, my cast, my crew, my network and my contract? How do I balance these various concerns?

At the Showrunners Meeting it became very clear to me that the only thing I can do as a showrunner is to do nothing. I obviously will not write on my shows. But I also will not edit, I will not cast, I will not look at location photos, I will not get on the phone with the network and studio, I will not prep directors, I will not review mixes. These are all acts that are about the writing of the show or protecting the writing of the show, and as such, I will not participate in them. I will also not ask any of my writer/producers to do any of these things for me, so that they get done, but I can save face.

I will not go into the office and I will not do any work at home. I will be on the picket line or I will be working with the Negotiating Committee. I will not have an avid sent to my house, or to a new office so that I can do work on my show and act as if it is all right because I'm not crossing any picket lines.

I truly believe that the best and fastest way to a good contract is to hit these companies early, to hit them hard and to deprive them of ALL the work we do on their behalf.

How do we ask our staff writers to go out on strike as we continue collecting producer checks? How do we ask the Teamsters to respect our picket lines if we won't ourselves or if we're sneaking around to do the work off-site?

Just so you all know what I am prepared to give up....

Tomorrow, we begin to film the Series Finale of The Shield. I think it's the best script our writing staff has ever written. This is the show that made me. This is the show that is my baby. If the strike goes on longer than two weeks, I won't be able to step on set for the final episode of the show. I won't have a writer on set, as I have had on every episode since the fourth episode. I won't be able to edit this final culminating episode. I won't go to the wrap party that Fox TV and FX are paying for. You can't tell me that any episode of television is more important than this one is to me, and I am ready to forego all those things in order to strengthen my union.

Tomorrow, we begin filming a new pilot, The Oaks, that I am Executive Producing. It's an amazing script that David Schulner wrote and I signed up to help him make this show. Until we have a fair deal I cannot do that now and it kills me.

We are currently filming Season 3 of The Unit, a show that does fairly well, but against House and Dancing With The Stars, usually finishes in 3rd place. We have no guarantee that we will back for a 4th season. I just gave a director friend of mine his first TV directing gig. I'd like to see him succeed. He'll have to finish the show on his own now without a writer on set, or my help in the editing room.

Some people have made the argument that if they don't do this producing work or this editing, that someone else will do it, and this act won't hurt the companies. I respectfully disagree. If we ALL stop ALL work tomorrow, the impact of this strike will be felt much more quickly, much more acutely and it most likely will end sooner, putting our writers, our cast and our crews back to work sooner!

I spent nearly 12 hours today in the Negotiation Room with the companies. I watched our side desperately try to make a deal. We gave up our request to increase revenue on DVD's, something that was very painful to give up, but something we felt we had to in order to get a deal made in new media, which is our future.

I watched as the company's representatives treated us horrendously, disrespectfully, and then walked out on us at 9:30 and then lied to the trades, claiming we had broken off negotiations.

I can't in good conscience fight these bastards with one hand, while operating an avid with the other. I am on strike and I am not working for them. PERIOD.

You will use your own instincts and consciences to decide your own actions. But if you would like to follow in my footsteps (and those of many, many others who made this pledge at the showrunner's meating on Saturday), I encourage you to sign the trade ad that the WGA will be putting out on Tuesday by the dozens and dozens of showrunners who will simply not work at all beginning in the morning."

~ ~ ~
Me again. I hate not being there, carrying a sign -- it's a real, physical ache. I'm all the way across the country and don't know what to do, how to help.

To Shawn and everyone else out there walking and sacrificing, supporting the WGA, this "baby writer" thanks you.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Seeing red

I hate where we are right now. I hate that it came to this.

Wish I were in LA or NYC so I could carry a sign. I'd carry this one:

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Magical Musical Meme

Thanks for the tag, Shawna, ‘cept you didn’t give me the info! No worries, I went to the source and pulled this:

So here is your assignment for today, dear readers. Find a song that inspires you to write something, whether it gives you an idea for a script or just puts you into a better frame of mind. AND/OR (don't you love choices) peek into the lyrics and find a stanza that sums up the theme of whatever script you're working on. It's quite uncanny how the two circumstances go together.

If possible, post a video of the song to really get people into the mood. (Yep, I'm aware of the irony of using Internet clips during the pissing contest. I like irony as much as bitchiness.)

Then, send the assignment (by e-mail or posting to one of their blog entries) to 5 other writers to do. Inspire the world! Or just some random people from your blogroll, like me. Then pass it on like a gonorrhea outbreak on a Degrassi episode. Woohoo, TV rules!

(Beautiful simile, Rhys!)

Hm… Choices, choices…

Nothing beats my last post for putting me into a better frame of mind, so I’ll go with “Better Together” by Jack Johnson for summing up my current project.

Maybe this sounds strange, but this song reminds me of jumping on a bed, and that’s not a euphemism for some freaky sex thing that I know about and you don’t. I mean really jumping on the bed. Kicking off your shoes and being a big dork. That kind of goofy energy feels like the movie my script, THE MIDDLE AGES, screens in my head.

It’s the energy for me, more than anything, but here’s a chunk of lyrics that are kinda apropos of my story:

Love is the answer
at least for most of the questions in my heart, like
Why are we here? And where do we go?
And how come it's so hard?
It's not always easy and
sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together

And now, I hereby tag:

MaryAn, and

Thanks for reading and best wishes for a strike-free tomorrow…