LB: WGAW & WGAE Ask Members for Strike Authorization Vote

by Larry Brody

As usual (don’t trust us, google Writers Guild of America AMPTP negotiations over the past two decades and see for yourself), the AMPTP is stonewalling the Writers Guild on all fronts during the early negotiations.

It’s a thing they do because, well, because they think it shows the contempt they feel for our oh-so-unnecessary-selves. (“We don’t really need writers because any one of us could do what they do if we just had the time” has been a mantra since the early days of silent films.)

To me, what they’re demonstrating is just the opposite. Not contempt but fear because only we writers can do what they can’t. I can’t prove it, but I don’t believe there’s a single studio, network, or production company who hasn’t at some time tried to write a script…and failed miserably.

So they try to bully us into “submission” by blowing off our proposals and calling for cutbacks in the current pension and health plans.

The result of their tactics was inevitable. Here’s the latest email on the subject from the WGAW and WGAE:

March 24, 2017

Dear Colleague,

The initial two-week bargaining period agreed to by your Guild and the AMPTP concludes at the end of the day today.  We do not yet have a deal. We will continue to bargain in good faith to make such a deal.  But, at this point, we want to let you know where we stand.

We began the negotiations with two truths about the current state of the business at the heart of our proposals:

First, that these have been very profitable years for the companies.  This past year they earned $51 billion in profits, a record.

Second, that the economic position of writers has declined sharply in the last five or so years.  Screenwriters have been struggling for a long time. They are now joined by television writers, for whom short seasons are at the core of the problem.  In the last two years alone, the average salary of TV writer-producers fell by 23%.  Those declines have not been offset by compensation in other areas. In Basic Cable and new media, our script fees and residual formulas continue to trail far behind those in broadcast – even though these new platforms are every bit as profitable as the old model.

In light of all this, we sought to tackle a number of issues that directly affect the livelihoods of all writers.

–We asked for modest gains for screenwriters, most particularly a guaranteed second-step for writers earning below a certain compensation level.

–We asked for a rational policy on family leave.

–We sought to address chronically low pay for Comedy Variety writers.

–We asked for 3% increases in minimums – and increases in the residual formula for High Budget SVOD programs commensurate with industry standards.

–We made a comprehensive proposal to deal with the pernicious effects of short seasons. This included a limit on the amortization of episodic fees to two weeks, a proposal that sought to replicate the standard that had been accepted in the business for decades.  It addressed, as well, the continued problems with Options and Exclusivity. And it sought to address the MBA’s outdated schedule of weekly minimums, which no longer adequately compensates writers for short terms of work.

–Finally, we sought to address script fee issues – in basic cable and streaming – but also in the case of Staff Writers. Unconscionably, our lowest paid members are now often held at the staff level for multiple seasons, with no compensation for the scripts they write.

What was the companies’ response to these proposals?

No, in virtually every case.

–Nothing for screenwriters. Nothing for Staff Writers.  Nothing on diversity.

–On Family Leave they rejected our proposal and simply pledged to obey all applicable State and Federal laws – as if breaking the law were ever an option.

–On short seasons, they offered a counter-proposal that addressed the issue in name only – thus helping no one.

–They have yet to offer anything on minimums, or on HBSVOD.

–They have made some small moves on Options & Exclusivity – some small moves for Comedy Variety writers in Pay TV.  But that is all.

On the last day of these two weeks, the companies’ proposal has barely a single hard-dollar gain for writers.

$51 billion in profits and barely a penny for those of us who make the product that makes the companies rich. But that’s not all.

In response to our proposal to protect our Pension and Health Plans, this has been their answer:

Nothing on Pension.

And on our Health Plan, two big rollbacks.

First, they have demanded that we make cuts to the plan – $10 million in the first year alone.  In return, they will allow us to fund the plan with money diverted from our own salaries.

More, they’ve demanded the adoption of a draconian measure in which any future shortfalls to the plan would be made up by automatic cuts in benefits – and never by increases in employer contributions.

This, too, is unacceptable. The package, taken as a whole, is unacceptable – and we would be derelict in our duty if we accepted it.

Therefore, your Negotiating Committee has voted unanimously to recommend that the WGAW Board of Directors and WGAE Council conduct a strike authorization vote by the membership.

Once again, we are committed to continue negotiating with the companies in good faith to get you the deal we all deserve.  We will continue to update you as things progress.

Respectfully,

The Negotiating Committee Members of the WGA West and WGA East

Chip Johannessen, Co-Chair
Chris Keyser, Co-Chair
Billy Ray, Co-Chair

Alfredo Barrios, Jr.
Adam Brooks
Zoanne Clack
Marjorie David
Kate Erickson
Jonathan Fernandez
Travon Free
Howard Michael Gould
Susannah Grant
Erich Hoeber
Richard Keith
Warren Leight
Alison McDonald
Luvh Rakhe
Shawn Ryan
Stephen Schiff
David Shore
Meredith Stiehm
Patric M. Verrone
Eric Wallace
Beau Willimon
Nicole Yorkin

Howard A. Rodman, WGAW President, ex-officio
Michael Winship, WGAE President, ex-officio
David A. Goodman, WGAW Vice President, ex-officio
Jeremy Pikser, WGAE Vice President, ex-officio
Aaron Mendelsohn, WGAW Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio
Bob Schneider, WGAE Secretary-Treasurer, ex-officio

Here’s another, more detailed analysis of the situation than my intro, from Facebook friend Micah Ian Wright:

And just like that, Hollywood’s TV Distributors slit their own throats. They survived a strike in 2007-8 by airing lame gameshows and reality shows. Audiences put up with that because there were few other options for viewers. Today, however, there’s Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu, where viewers can go to watch a bunch of new (and old, and British, and Swedish and Israeli, etc.) TV shows, many of them far better than what ABC/NBC/etc. are putting on the air.

Worse for the AMPTP, today’s business market is massively different. Global TV licensing has grown 320% since 2008. Today 40% of the AMPTP’s profit comes from global licensing of scripted entertainment. No one in Germany wants to watch “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” or “The Weakest Link” — they can produce domestic versions of that kind of low-budget dreck themselves. They can’t make “House of Cards” or “Game of Thrones” themselves, however, so the AMPTP is playing a very dangerous game by egging us toward a strike.

I know this is the Era Of Trump where rich corporations imagine they have the freedom to crush unions and steal all the cash for themselves, but they’re forgetting that he actually lost the popular vote by quite a wide margin and that he’s more unpopular than ever. These companies GAVE Trump $4 Billion in free airtime and helped elect him president. We haven’t forgotten that, and we aren’t inclined to cut them any breaks for helping foist this dictator upon us, hoping he’d make it easier for them to scalp their employees and loot their pension funds.

They have unprecedented profits built on our labor. They can share that money or feel our pain.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. Learn more about him HERE

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘The Navajo Dog Walks Her Talk

by Larry Brody

NOTE FROM LB:

The Navajo Dog is back today, and while I don’t think anyone could be as happy about that as I am, she definitely is worth keeping company with. Oh, and yes, this is a true story, every word. To let it be otherwise would betray everything she has lived for.


The Navajo Dog Walks Her Talk

The Navajo dog walks her talk, has been for at least

A thousand years. Lost items are a specialty. She

Has found a hidden concho belt, the skull of a vanished

Cat, and several renewed friends. Money she isn’t

That good at, but opportunities abound at her call.

The problem is, she drives me crazy, demanding a

Quid pro quo. “What have you done for me?” she

Will say. “You trade with the medicine men. What

Will you give your medicine dog?”

For awhile, rides in the truck were enough, her

Nomadic origins satisfied by the bumping of

The bed. Locking up the Navajo dog was impossible

Anyway. I would close the garage door on her,

Turn around, and there she would be, laughing.

Food as a thank you is hopeless. Anything she wants

She can take for herself. Once, I buried a sack of

Dog food beneath half a ton of oil drums, just as a

Test. The Navajo dog didn’t flinch, just waited until

I turned away. Then—wham!—a rumble, a crash, and

A dog munching contentedly, while the drums shivered

And swayed.

One of the skills the Navajo dog has taught me

Is the making of spirit staffs. It began when I

Wanted a stick to guide me over some rough

Paths. She told me where to find a good strong one,

Then guided me to some turkey feathers, and corn.

I stained the kernels with vegetable dye,

Strung them as beads, and attached them to

Both the feathers and the wood. Still, the

Navajo dog felt it wasn’t

Enough, took me out again. This time, we found

The skeleton of a cow, and the dog went directly to the

Spine. “Pick a backbone, any backbone,” she said

In stage patter. “You need a reminder to be brave.”

“I am brave,” I said.

“Sometimes,” she said, “you forget.

I attached the vertebra to the staff, using the

Corn beads. Still, the Navajo dog felt it wasn’t

Enough, took me out once more. This time, we

Made a fire, and kept the ashes, and at her

Instruction I used them to paint a black spiral

The length of the wood. “Black is a sacred

Color,” she said. “Where I come from,” I told her,

“Black means death.”

“Where I come from,” she told me, “everything

Means death.

And life as well.

With the black, and the corn,” she said,

“And the feathers, and the bone,

Your new staff will carry you

Straight to heaven, or maybe hell.”

I have walked many miles with my spirit staff,

And climbed the steepest slopes. I have fallen,

And gotten up,

And fallen again,

But never has the staff failed. It carries turquoise

Now, set into the wood. “So you can fly freely

Where you need to,” said the Navajo dog,

And I’ve flown fast and free. Now, though, she

Wants a staff of her own, with no instructions,

No hints, no clues of what it should be. I figure

To pull out all the stops, and give her what she

Deserves.

After all, in a realm

Where all things mean death

And life

I’ll never be able to find what she needs.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘The Actor’s Wife’

by Larry Brody

NOTE FROM LB:

No Navajo Dog today, just good old-fashioned showbiz, circa 1990. The following soliloquy came from my head, but it’s made up of bits and pieces from all too many women I knew back in the day.

Actors’ wives! Not all that unlike doctors’ wives now that I think about it.

So it goes.


The Actor’s Wife

Happiness to me? A series for my husband,

A firm commitment, twenty-two on the air. I

Came from nothing, but now that we’re here

I’ve learned you’ve got to spend. Everything

Is appearances, which means a good house,

A good car, clothes to kill. That way, they

Think you’re successful, and they want you

In on the deal. My husband’s been acting

For fifteen years. He’s had the lead in two

Series and half a dozen feature films. A

Million dollars safely in the bank, although

That doesn’t give much interest. He wanted

To inspire kids the way the stars of his day

Inspired him. “See?” they seemed to say. “You

Can rise above your beginnings. You can be more

Than your parents and your neighbors believe.

Life can be good. It’s okay not to fit in.”

I didn’t fit in either, but I had no talent,

And no real looks before the surgery I’m

Not admitting I’ve had. So I had to latch onto

Someone who could take me away from

Restaurant hostessing, and executive fantasies.

Love? I love my husband, sure. When I see him

On the screen I get all wiggly inside. When the

Photographers close in on us at a premiere, and

I turn on my smile I can even pretend they’re

Interested in me. Some people really do like

Me too. For myself, I mean. There was that

Aging star at the benefit last night, couldn’t

Take his eyes off my breasts. And he’s seen a

Lot of them, believe me. I gave him that same

Photographers’ smile, and you should’ve seen

His grin. No, he didn’t talk to me. Didn’t need to.

We’d had all the communication we could

Without touching. All that was left was his hands

On me, mine on him, lips, tongues, and grinding.

And, to tell you the truth, that really isn’t my thing.

The men need it so much more than we, and

I’m content with the power the promise of it
Brings. If my husband was hornier,
We’d probably be doing much better,

Because he’d have to listen to me.

What did I want, when I was a kid? Not to be the

Consort, that’s for sure. Not to stand next to the

Star, and be cut out of the picture when it’s published.

I wanted to be famous. I wanted to show up at,

Say, a ballpark—Dodger Stadium, why not?

And have every eye turn to watch me. To hear my

Name whispered by fifty thousand lips, so they

Missed the batter’s home run.

My husband wanted to encourage, to give. Me,

I just wanted to get out. Sometimes I wonder why

We’re together. He gives me the house, and the

Fantasy that I’m no longer in real life. But what do

I give him? An illusion to sit beside? Or is it the

Way I mother, and make his failures all right?

If he had a series, I could respect him again,

But ’til then I’ve got my job. No, no, not one with a

Salary. I make friends with the wives

Of the power, so they’ll tell their husbands

What a good couple we are. Nobody buys an

Actor they—or their wives— don’t like.

Tonight’s Thanksgiving, and I’m real excited.

We’re going over to a producer’s house. Last

Year there was no reason to talk to him, but

Now he’s got a series on the air, and maybe

We can swing a guest shot.

It’ll be a nice family Thanksgiving, too bad we

Can’t bring the kids. Oh no, they’d mess up

everything. They’ve just plain gotten too wild.

I remember when I could be wild.

Do I ever wish I could be about something?

No, no, I don’t think so. Leave that for my husband.

Leave that for the fool with a dream.


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

Larry Brody’s Poetry: ‘The Navajo Dog Reflects On Being Free’

by Larry Brody

NOTE FROM LB:

An early night of freedom for the Navajo Dog and me after I left L.A. I had never understood the value of having a knowing, loving – albeit impatient as hell teacher – till then.


The Navajo Dog Reflects On Being Free

When Kid Hollywood made his escape from the

Glitz and the glam and the pain

He took the I-Forty and only looked

Back to see if anyone was gaining.

He drove like an Allison or a Petty,

And kept his hands and his heart on the wheel.

In the car with him were some clothes,

And his drums and his cymbals,

And the more precious of his books,

Also a few videotapes of shows he had

Written that he had always intended to see.

The I-Forty runs where Route Sixty-Six did,

But while it’s not as wild, every driver is

More free. By the time Kid Hollywood

Reached Kingman, he had a real feeling

That he’d left the Hollywood hawks behind.

Gliding over the Interstate, though, was

Another hawk, and as Kid Hollywood watched

It swooped down at a smaller bird, a nifty

Meal as is nature’s way.

But the bird escaped, and flew off, and the

Hawk circled, then looked for new prey.

Kid Hollywood, who was looking for portents

And visions anyway, now that he’d found

They were possible again, decided this was a

Sign. He felt like the smaller bird,

Like prey that had successfully escaped.

The next day, just outside Gallup, Kid

Hollywood saw the same thing happen

Once more. Again, a lone hawk swooped

For its supper, and, again, dinner managed

To fly away. Now Kid Hollywood whooped

With the laughter of the newly free,

Secure in this omen of his success.

Some nights later, sitting by a fire beside the

Pecos River with the Navajo Dog,

The two of them shivering

From the desert cold, Kid Hollywood told his friend

This story. The Navajo Dog laughed

A much different laugh than the

Kid had, then dashed away along the riverbank.

When she returned later, while the Kid was

Stirring the ashes of the fire, she carried

A dead hawk with a metal identification band

On its leg. Nothing had yet fed on the bird,

Not even the Navajo Dog, but beneath the feathers

It was only skin and bones.

“Here is the omen you need,”

She said, and Kid Hollywood realized

That the hawk had starved to death.

“One of the major drawbacks,” the Navajo Dog pointed out

As she crunched down on the bones,

“Of being truly free.”


Larry Brody is the head dood at TVWriter™. He is posting at least one poem a week here at TVWriter™ because, as the Navajo Dog herself once pointed out, “Art has to be free. If you create it for money, you lose your vision, and yourself.” She said it shorter, though, with just a snort.

LB reads ‘The Shape of Ideas’

by Larry Brody

Speaking of Grant Snider, as we did back on Tuesday, Grant the Greatest has a new book coming out April 18, 2017. I haven’t read it yet – as a book – but I know it’s going to be sensational because I have read or looked at – or whatever words you use when you’re perusing a collection of cartoons – just about everything the man has ever posted on the interwebs, and his entire body of work has been, in a word, wonderful.

The new book, The Shape of Ideas, An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity, is an amazingly beautiful and uncommonly perceptive look at creativity by one of the most creative cartoonists since Thomas Nast. Published by Abrams Books,  the hardcover edition in particular promises to be magical.

And that’s at the very least.

After all, how can it not be? Just as Mr. Snider is my numero uno cartoonist of all time, so is Abrams Books the publishing house I admire most when it comes to illustrated collections of just about any kind of art, but in particular magazine illos and comic strips.

The Shape of Ideas, An Illustrated Exploration of Creativity, will be in bookstores and, of course, on Amazon.Com in the middle of next month. Till then, previews are available at the just-mentioned Amazon link and at Abrams Books.

We’re talking definite Don’t-Miss here so harken unto the proudly partisan Brode and…don’t fucking miss it!

LB: At Last! The Real Differences Between Writing Film, TV & the Printed Word

by Larry Brody

One of my favorite blogs is ComicMix, which quite simply is the most more interesting and best written and edited sources of comics industry information on the net. (You may have noticed that TVWriter™ regularly features columns by two of Comic Mix’s glorious writers, John Ostrander and Dennis O’Neil.)

I admire the blog’s entire staff for its varied comic book work and its amazing insight into creativity as a whole. Today’s case in point is the most recent column by CM’s Marc Alan Fishman, one of the creator-partners at indie comics company Unshaven Comics and a force to be conjured with indeed.

“Game On, Comics Off,” the particular column in question is a look into the relationship between video games and their comic book spin-offs as Marc discusses why the comic book versions of hugely successful games like World of Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed et al so often end up tanking when it comes to sales.

It’s quite a perceptive analysis, but that’s not a subject that TVWriter™ has much to do with. What knocked me out, as we used to say back in the days of Frank Sinatra and the ratpack, was an absolutely spot on throwaway paragraph that positively screamed, “Epiphany! Epiphany!” and which I think all of us who write TV, film, and prose fiction of any kind should take to heart.

Here’s The Paragraph To Always Remember:

When a book becomes a movie, the movie must drop nuance and backstory for increases in action and visual exploration of settings. When a movie becomes a TV show, it drops the quality of the settings, and becomes stifled by commercial breaks interrupting story. When a TV show becomes a movie, it loses the ability to explore nuanced characterizations afforded to longer interactions across multiple episodes.

Got that? Read it again. And again. The bottom line here is that Marc has answered, clearly, succinctly, and incredibly accurately, the age old fan question: “But why isn’t the [film] [TV show] [book] more like the [book] [TV show] [movie]?” in a way that not only is easy to explain to fans but also clarifies the adaptation process for everyone involved in writing said adaptations.

In other words, if you let Marc’s words roll around in your head and become fully absorbed, the odds are very, very good that the next time you attack an adaptation project the writing is going to be not only better but easier because you’ll have a finer grasp on what it is you have to do.

And anything that makes the world’s most difficult creative endeavor (AKA writing) easier is to me as important and sacred as the most revered pronouncementfrom, yeah, God.

Thank you, Marc Alan Fishman, from the bottom of my creative soul.

And as long as we’re talking about it, why not check out the full column HERE ?

LB: ‘Moonlight’ Writer Shuts Down the Hollywood Bullshit

by Larry Brody

As I said on Twitter last week, my Oscar favorite for this year is Moonlight. I’m rooting for it for Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, you name it.

In other words, I’m absolutely recommending that everyone reading this post run out and see the film. But if you need further incentive (oh hell, even if you don’t), you should watch this interview with Tarell Alvin McCraney, the writer whose play of the same name is the basis for the film.

McCraney’s been there. He knows.