Wednesday, November 07, 2007
the writer's strike

The article below was written by a very talented screen writer named Howard A. Rodman. His father before him was a very very wonderful writer, Howard Rodman, (no A.) so his knowledge and understanding of what this strike is really about goes deep and goes far far back in the history of the struggle of "artists" and "management".

This article was published in The Huffington Post, on Monday, November 5th, 2007....It is illuminating in every way.

The Writers Guild of America is a middle-class union. Almost half our membership receives no income from Guild-covered employment in any given year. As a result, the median income of Guild members from screen and television writing work is $5,000 per year. That's right: five thousand.

Among the lucky half who actually work, one quarter earns less than $37,700 a year. And even that income is sporadic. You sell a spec screenplay in 2003, you may not sell another one until 2009. More than half of those who have 'safe' staff jobs on television series will not be on television writing staffs five years from now. So like everyone else, we do what we do to (as the President would say) put food on our families.

One of the things that tides us over during the leaner years is residuals. In other words: when the work we create has a longer tail, a continuing revenue stream, some of that comes back to us. Marc Cherry, who created Desperate Housewives after a long dry spell, would have had to give up writing altogether as a profession had he not been supported by residuals.
But those residuals for things like television syndication are drying up, as syndication, re-runs and the like are replaced by DVDs. You don't watch re-runs of The Sopranos on channel eleven: you watch them on boxed sets. But the residual rate on DVDs is a fraction of a fraction: point oh three percent.
As re-runs and syndication dry up, and a decent formula is replaced by an indecent one, our members stand to lose roughly 80% of their residual income--of what tides them over.
This is why we're asking for four cents more for every DVD. And that's why we're asking that the DVD rate--calculated when cassettes were in their infancy, when DVDs were a gleam in no-one's eyes, when the internet was still ARPANET and closed to commercial interests, when George Michael was in Wham!--not be the determinant of how we're compensated for downloads in this brave new world.

In simplest terms: the costs of manufacturing videocassettes were relatively substantial. The costs of DVDs (stamped rather than spooled) were much less. The costs of internet downloads are smaller still: no box, no disc, no shrinkwrap, no warehouse, no inventory, no shipping, no rackjobbers, no damaged merchandise, no returns. Yet the media giants want to compensate us at the same fraction-of-a-fraction rate.As you know, the media conglomerates are not charitable. If you believe Fox wants to compensate writers fairly, you probably believe that The No Spin Zone is a no spin zone. And just as in other industries, the gap between what the CEO makes and what the lowest-paid worker makes has multiplied exponentially. The fact that we create the intellectual property, that none of their earnings would be possible absent what we being to the table, is not a matter of large concern to them. It is truly a new Gilded Age, no less so in the IP industry than in real estate or hedge funds.

The conglomerates have put rollbacks on the table, they have put insults on the table, but they have yet to put on the table a complete economic package. We are striking because the conglomerates will not negotiate in good faith otherwise.The news stories--on radio and television stations owned by the same conglomerates against whom we negotiate--are filled with stories of limo drivers, caterers, florists, waiters, even agents, who might be laid off if the strike is at all protracted. What they don't talk about so much are the writers, thousands of them, who are putting their houses and cars and families and kids and futures in jeopardy to fight for what they believe is right. And what the conglomerate-owned media talk about even less: that no one on this food chain, from high to low, would be eating without the intellectual property writers create.

It's the money, stupid. They have it. They don't want to let go of it. They care so deeply and profoundly about not letting go of even a little of it that they're willing to let thousands upon thousands suffer. In their moral universe, a fifteen-buck DVD of a movie doesn't have another four cents in it for the people who dreamed up that movie in the first place. And in that same moral universe, a rate set experimentally in the 1980s for videocassettes must be set in stone for the internet era, or else.Jake Gittes, courtesy of Robert Towne, ("Chinatown"), once asked of Noah Cross, "How much better can you eat? What can you buy that you can't already afford?" Noah Cross replied, "The future, Mr. Gitts, the future." .

The cost of any one CEO's severance package is, the way these things have been going, in the hundreds of millions. In other words, substantially more than they are offering all screen and television writers over the next three years.Howard A. Rodman said it all. I hope this has been illuminating to those of you who might feel that the Writer's Strike is about Greed. Because you are correct. It is indeed about greed, but not on the part of the Writer's.

More To Come......

Links to this post:


had this to say:

Thanks for giving us an insider's view. American Airlines is based here and I am constantly reading about how the top dogs screw over the pilots and other workers. I guess this stuff happens everywhere. I guess it just comes with being a capitalistic society. I told my husband, "CBS could muddle through this by showing their mid-70's schedule." And I was thinking about "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and "Newhart" and such but does CBS even own that stuff? Maybe you know how syndication works. I do hope the writers get what they want, I just hope the networks don't drag it out too long.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 12:26:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Excellent article Naomi.. thanks for putting it on your blog for all to read.

This is always the way.. most especially since big business owns the movie industry and not creative folk..

I'm glad i like reading because when the reruns begin that's most likely what I will fall back on!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 4:08:00 AM PST 

Blogger PI
had this to say:

Where would we be without the writers
but they - in all walks of life - have always been exploited. I commend their courage and hope they win through. Oooh I nearly forgot. Guess who sent me? Michele:)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 4:37:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

We also have our share of daily strikes here but most of them are senseless. This one you're sharing is really for a very worthy cause.

Good luck to them!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 5:00:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Thank you so much for sharing this article, Naomi.
As you know, from our emails, I support these writers 100%! And after reading the article...make that 110%!
To not give these writers what they deserve is stealing their creativity, in my opinion.
I loved what Jay Leno said on the news the other night, "I'm talking to you right now and I'm NOT very funny, am I? It's the writers!"
OF course it is and I can only hope those powers-that-be see this and give them what they rightfully deserve!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 5:05:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I listened to a great segment about this on NPR yesterday (More with the NPR, it's a problem...hehe). Unfortunately, it takes a while for the general public to even notice this is going on. In 1988, it went on for 22 weeks, I hope not again.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 5:59:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I am absolutely 100% behind the writers. No show can be a success, no matter how big a star acts in it, without a good script. The script is where it starts. The actors and directors have something to do with it, too, of course, but without a good script, there is nothing for them to work with in the first place.

Being a huge television fan, I truly hope it doesn't drag on too long, but if it does, I'll get to the point where I stop watching most of what is on television until it's over. I respect every actor who is out there marching with them in solidarity.

And I hope the networks get their heads out of their rears quickly and take care of their most precious commodity - the writers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 6:44:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I was on their side already but that explanation helps.

I read somewhere that the CEO's of many companies (or maybe it's an average) make 300 times the salary of their workers.

Without the writers there would be no show and without the "rank and file" workers there would be no corporations.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 6:55:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Thank you for sharing this story. And they are correct. But it is not just about the writers. It is about most of the working people in this country. And regardless of the status of being part of a union or not. The top dogs, are over paid, and the rest are left to live on the crumbs. And think that this includes every industry from, Entertainment to people who are trying to grow our food. Things are at the point for a good portion of the country, where we are all just trying to survive. And the Health Insurance Industry. That whole thing makes me totally nuts. Sorry if this seems like a rant. I am going to pray for these folks, hopefully they get what they need. Hard to understand that 4 cents, a DVD is what they they do not want to give them. Packaging alone has got to cost more than that.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 7:23:00 AM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Sorry forgot to sign.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 7:23:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Just came in for a quick hello, but I'll be back to read this very soon. One of my online friends has decided she's dropping out of NaNoWriMo in solidarity with the Writer's Guild. I'm not about to do that because a)I'm Canadian living in Canada and 2) I'm already just over 10,000 words, or one-fifth of the way. Would seem silly for me to give up now. I'm with them in spirit though.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 7:49:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Yes, thanks for this insider's view. Your finishing sentence summarizes all...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 8:48:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Amen to that. I hope this unjust and unfair situation is resolved in a positive manner for the writers.

Anyone who believes what the media and press tell them should question what the motivation is of the owners of the papers and news channels.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 12:29:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

I love tv. I love to act. I am a writer, though and am 100% for the writers. I think it's disgusting to throw millions of dollars at actors and nothing at the creative genius behind them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 12:39:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Like Mar said, your final line sums it up.

Funny, I was just reading about the strike on my online newspaper here. Writers are wonderful people and I am sure, all us bloggers, know what writing is like. Sometimes you have no idea on what to blog about but the majority of us do not do this for a living (though sometimes it feels as if I do.)

Thanks for highlighting this today.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 1:23:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

What a mess. I really didn't understand what was going on but you have enlightened me.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 1:25:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Thanks for posting this, Naomi. It sheds a whole lot of light on an area I didn't know much about. The problems experienced by the writers are also experienced similarly in many service industries throughout the country, and it is not right! Without the writers, none of the executives would have a pot to P*ss in!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 4:12:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Excellent article, Naoimi.
I hope that the writer's get what they want, and that it is settled sooner rather than later.
And I hate re-runs...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 5:00:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Martin has been watching this strike with a lot of interest.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 7:12:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Great article...I sincerely hope this strike is resolved soon so the writters don't starve...It really is deplorable how *Hollywood* can spend money with such discusting excess...yet not compinsate those who make all this money possible in the first place...The gazzillions made in advertizing during great programs..wouldn't be paying at all if we weren,t all enjoying the great writting that makes these programs great!!! Really makes me mad....I pray for all the writters!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 8:32:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Honestly, if there were no writers, there will no stories and no movies that makes these companies flourish. Writers are the foundations in this industry.

Wonderful article indeed!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007 at 10:16:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Writers. Do they lose credibility for being behind the scenes??Without them, nothing is possible. Why can't they figure that out? It doesn't make any sense.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 5:20:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I have no stake in this as I watch no television that will be impacted. Well I would see Daily Show or Colbert but only when I would remember. I have not formed an opinion on who is right but it has made sense to me that if there is money to be made from someone's work and it's not currently apportioned, it should be taken into consideration. Hopefully the shows will find their 'stars' backing the writers as there is probably a lot of writing talent out there that could be brought in to break the strike. It's amazing how many people actually can write if they get the chance. It's not an unusual talent as we tend to assume. Just some get the chance and some never will. If they try to break the strike with the acting staff and others, not backing the writers, they can be next. I am in favor of people getting fair wages for their work; so hope this works for the writers. It takes us all standing together.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 7:58:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Just dropping by to say hello and thanks for your kind words about my area.

You inspire me to add videos on my blog. Take a look on the wild duck's videos, that I just updated.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 8:35:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

The media sure gives a different story than the true, behind-the-scenes story, don't they?

I heard the other day on the radio that the writers make a bunch of money and have excellent health care, so they can hold out for a long time.

Thanks for sharing the article. :)

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 8:43:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

thank you for sharing this. i've wanted to really know what the issue was all about. i hope the strike gets resolved soon and that the writers get what they have been asking for (and truly deserve). the networks and producers owe it to them.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 9:22:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Thanks for the nice compliments to Carlos's videos! He appreciated it very much and said thanks to you!

No, it wasn’t Flora barking in the background on the first Video! I am glad you thought about her! It was a dog of another person walking around there. Someday I will make a video with Flora barking, just to you hear her in Hollywood Hills! LOL!

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 9:33:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

I heard a discussion about this on the radio, and now I've read your post. After both of these, I came away backing the writers and their strike.
It's the material that makes or breaks a show's success. From that, you need wonderful actors, directors, and producers, but if the writing stinks, the show stinks.
I hope they get what they are asking for. It's not greedy to want a fair increase in wage that keeps up with the times. If striking was the only way to get what they deserve, then I support them!!
There's a funny typo in this post where it says, "putting food on their families." I got a little chuckle from that. :-)

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 10:16:00 AM PST 

had this to say:

Oh, Naomi!!
I should have KNOWN that was referring to one of GW's verbal faux pas. The joke went right over my very dull head. I just chuckled thinking of people putting food on their families and didn't make the connection. I'm envisioning myself slathering my family with pudding and lasagna and oatmeal...
WHAT a mental picture!!
If I actually did it, then took some photos, maybe it would be considered a great work of art??!!
Who knows???
Do you think you could book me a show in LA??
I might call it A Family Feast.

Okay, enough of that...
I need to get back to reality and laundry.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 12:16:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Thanks for posting this. I've been so busy lately that I didn't know WHY they were striking.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 7:24:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Writers are so important and deserve to be compensated for their talent. Good writing can make or break a show, no matter how big or talented the star or how great the director.
I was impressed to see a lot of the stars out there picketing with the writers. They know who helps make them great.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 7:39:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

It starts with writers. Where would any show be without them. Writing is an art. It's like artists up against corporate CEO's.

Is that Julia Louise Dreyfess?

I'm glad you posted this, Naomi. I figured as much but it's nice to see the writer's side presented in one read.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 8:16:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Efforts to exploit artists of all types -- be they writers, musicians and others -- seems never to end. There are so many people who want to take a share of any artist's creation under ordinary circumstances, but what these mega-corporations are greedily trying to do is immoral, unconscionable. Seems they justify lack of morals and conscience on the grounds it's just business.

Thursday, November 8, 2007 at 11:45:00 PM PST 

Anonymous Anonymous
had this to say:

Just wanted to say thanks for the non-bias information. I cannot believe they have waited this long to strike. Larena

Friday, November 9, 2007 at 6:24:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Thank you for sharing that article. I knew I was on the side of the writers and could vaguely explain it, but now I have a much clearer idea.

Saturday, November 10, 2007 at 12:06:00 PM PST 

had this to say:

Thanks for sharing that article Naomi. It just goes to confirm, once again what I've always known: the content providers—the ones who actually create all the products which are then marketed and sold all over the world—are always very low on the totem pole. A few of them manage to "make it big" but they're unfortunately the exception rather than the rule. Michele sent me ;-)

Saturday, November 10, 2007 at 9:17:00 PM PST 

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