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November 02 2007

Pencils down means pencils down. In this ad for Daily Variety, 100 showrunners put their names. Marti Noxon is one of them. Best of luck to the writers, who will be striking.

What will the writers do to make a living during the strike? This YouTube video answers that question.

[ edited by ElectricSpaceGirl on 2007-11-02 19:48 ]

Also former Angel writers Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain.

ETA: Oh, and Shawn Ryan also wrote on Angel.

[ edited by jam2 on 2007-11-02 18:43 ]
Also Josh Friedman and the other writers for Summer Glau's show, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Matt Weiner, the showrunner for Mad Men with Christina Hendricks and Vincent Karthieser.

Best of luck to all the writers who are striking. I hope you get what you need to make a new contract!
If episodes don't get made as a result of writers striking, do the cast and crew of the show get paid regardless?
Just a quibble, no one is actually striking today. The start date of the strike has not yet been announced, though it looks like it could be Monday.
This story suggests crews may get paid for a short time, but not for long.

After a while, however, producers on the shows will have to start thinking of their non-writing staffs, many of whom make just a few hundred dollars per week. The longer the shows remain dark, the more likely layoffs will be--- which is why most insiders predict the latenight skeins will eventually find a way to return to the air.

With regards to cast and crew on shows, they will continue to work for as long as they have filmable material. With the show I'm working on, they have enough scripts to last them until episode 15 of the current season. If there's a prolonged strike, and we run out of scripts, the show will shut down, and viewers will only get 15 episodes, instead of the usual 22. Once all filmable material is exhausted, cast and crew will be laid off, and everyone will be looking for new jobs. So, while I understand some of the reasons the writers felt they had to strike, I fervently hope it's resolved quickly, so that I'm working until April, instead of January.
Thanks, Lady Brick. I edited my post.
That's a good ad. Gets to the point, serious tone, striking imagery. Correct grammar and spelling. It gets the job done. As I hope the strike does as well.
Sort it out! If I don't get a full season of House I'll be very put out.
Glad I work in a non-unionized business. Deep down in my heart of hearts and wallet of wallets, I know I don't have the capacity to translate my principles into action that way.

And best of it to the writers.
Zeppo - What show are you on?

So does this mean that the actors (leads for shows) get paid for the entire season? Or do they go out and find other jobs? How can get they get other jobs when they don't know when the strike will end? Or does everyone just take their hiatus early?

Sounds like it's the poor crew members that are really going to be be shafted by this if it is prolonged.

Can shows hire new writers? Or is that a big no-no? I think I read somewhere that soaps are going to hire new writers.
I hope this strike is resolved quickly, because shutting down production impacts so many people who work directly or indirectly in entertainment industry. Everyone from crews to post production facilities, even restaurants and other business around the studios could be eventually impacted if the strike goes on for months. Both sides need to talk out their differences and get this resolved.
I can not imagine the actors or anyone else for that matter
getting paid for episodes that they have not done their
work on.
And yet, both SAG and the Teamsters have publicly stated support for the WGA, even though the strike will likely hurt them in the short run.
One of the better, more in-depth explanations of the what the writers are looking to get: The United Hollywood blog by at least several WGA,West Contract Captains. This is written by folks that will be Strike Captains during a strike.
Good luck to all of the people that is striking, and lets hope they came to a fair deal.

P.S(excuse my limited English)
Good luck to the writers! I think we all hope this is resolved as soon as possible so we don't miss out on any of their wonderful work!
Este: It's far better than half the stuff on the internet that is written by native English speakers.
I just posted on a related thread about to drop off the bottom of the front page. A lot of blah blah blah, but in a nutshell:

"So it really, really sucks that those who suffered and slaved to help create my beloved DVDs, whether movies or TV, only received $0.04 (if that!) per my $7.99-$54.00 purchase."

Anyone too put out because they can't get their weekly dose of ________ can learn to deal. I haven't gotten my weekly dose since the last episode of Angel, so zero pity there. How many years is it now? BSG is only a near-substitute. Like ultra-lights when what you really desire are regular lights. Or caffiene-free Coke... So anyway, I liked that Ronald Moore's name was on that long, impressive list of taltented folks.

I really do feel for those who work with shows and could be negatively financially affected, but the strike is the right thing to do. Not a thing wrong with taking a stand once in awhile, is there? 'Specially when it's the right thing to do.
Out of sheer interest, how much does the average tv writer earn?
After reading the ad and the comments on the UH blog, I almost feel sorry for the WGA's opponents. In that they have to try to frame a public debate against a union of writers.
That pity doesn't affect my hope that the WGA are successful in their negotiations. Best of luck to them.
Simon, I'd like to know that as well. I'm a designer and I wonder if I'm a pauper by comparison.
Excellent find, ESG - thanks for posting.
Solidarity, baby!
Simon - I saw a post from JMS of Babylon 5 fame mentioning that a writer (freelance one assumes) who sold 3 scripts to television shows in a year would be lucky to make maybe $30,000 that year. Then also found this on the interwebs:

The Writers Guild of America sets the fees for scripts. On television networks, staff writers may earn between $2,000 and $5,000 per week. The script for a two-hour television program can fetch more than $50,000.

In the motion picture industry, salaries for scriptwriters vary widely. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of a scriptwriter is $44,350. Popular and successful writers can command extremely high salaries, often ranging between $100,000 and $600,000 per script. Screenplays for low-budget films bring in less money. Sometimes writers negotiate for a percentage of the movie profits (called a royalty).

This page at the Bureau of Labor Statistics was helpful as well. You can also go here as a good starting point to drill down into different categories.

[ edited by Damon (zeitgeist) on 2007-11-02 22:39 ]
Simon dunno about averages but Alex Epstein mentioned minimums on his blog a while back.

And here's a very interesting PDF from the WGA about earnings and employment levels in 2006. OK, i'm maybe being a bit loose with "very interesting" ;).

(the last table has info about the spread of earnings)

ETA: Or, y'know, listen to zeitgeist who's posted some of those "facts" that some folk put so much store in ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2007-11-02 22:39 ]
Quoter gal you gave me an idea. I used your pixel guy to make this 100x100 avatar. It would be cool for fans to show support for the writers by replacing their normal online avatars with WGA support avatars.

get your wga support avatars - link

[ edited by kerfuffle on 2007-11-02 23:03 ]
I remember the LAST time there was a strike, and many people who were members of other unions (camera, lights, directors, and actors) would NOT cross the picket line in sympathy for the union on strike. Unions are an important part of our country's work force and we shouldn't (IMO) look upon the inconvenience the strike causes, interrupting our television entertainment. I think we should support the striking writers and let the networks know by not watching mindless (and writer-less) 'reality' shows!
$10,000 per script? That sounds pretty sweet! Of course, actually selling scripts is probably a lot harder than it sounds.

I hope they get a fair deal and soon...I mean, it's not like a grocery store strike where you can hire anyone to take their place. I don't want to see fan-fic verions of House or BSG or something....
Although, ironically embers, it turns out that part of the strike action is over "reality" shows not paying or properly crediting their writers, some of whom aren't happy about their lowly status ;).

(seems like they have 'em, they're just credited as producers or similar - see, actual reality is apparently too unstructured to make good entertainment. We need our heroes and our villains, our ups and our downs or, in other words, narrative structure, even when we're supposed to be watching a slice of life ;)

ETA: Oops, tell a lie, the WGA backed down on reality TV so we will be deluged after all. Bugger.

[ edited by Saje on 2007-11-02 23:05 ]
Here, here, embers!!!
I support the idea that writers should be paid a more fair share of the profits from their creations, but I have a hard time sympathizing with those that supposedly make $2000-$5000 per WEEK for writing scripts. Even that poor freelance writer making $30,000 a year for 3 scripts sounds like he's getting a hell of a deal to me. Is this really worth so many people losing their jobs because of things they couldn't control?

On the other hand, why are the studios being so stubborn about this?

To sum up, Hollywood is weird and kind of mean.
RaisedByMongrels: $30,000 a year is not a lot to live on in Los Angeles. Especially if you factor in the fact that the writer can't guarantee he will sell 3 scripts in a year or that they will be worth $10,000 each. These writers aren't spending a few hours on a script and then selling to the highest bidder. It's months of work with no guarantee that a studio will want to buy their ideas.
$2000 per week on a show is only $44,000 -- don't forget shows don't run year round; even worse, the summer ones may only have 10 episodes a year. Plus, California is not the cheapest place in the world to live. If that poor freelance writer who sold 3 scripts doesn't sell another one, he's barely making enough to pay rent and car payments/insurance and buy food. He certainly can't afford to buy a house in the LA area.
MadeToLoveJoss is right, RaisedByMongrels.
(and I enjoyed typing that way too much)

Cost of living is a big factor. I live in Oklahoma where the cost of living is really low and make about $45,000. I don't have children and I'm definitely not living it up so to speak. I have trouble make ends meet sometimes. To even be able to maintain my lifestyle I'd have to make over $100,000 in CA. I know. I've thought of relocating and I've researched the cost of living difference. And it's a lot.

[ edited by kerfuffle on 2007-11-02 23:38 ]
kerfuffle, that little avi's poifect - as long as people know it was based on an idea by Tim Minear - and adapted for the screen by kerfuffle.

: >
It's not just cost of living, it's supply and demand. There's a huge demand for entertainment, there's a metric assload of money in television, and the supply of people who can do what writers do is pretty small. There's talent, and then there's the ability to turn out 50 or so pages of an entertaining script on time, in budget. It's difficult, and it's a rare talent who can produce under the pressures of television production.

Given the millions and millions and millions of dollars in revenue that comes in from television, why wouldn't writers make a good living?
For a regular writer on a TV show, you'd make a bit more than freelance. You have your base salary (which varies VERY widely), and get X amount of dollars for every episode you write.

But the thing is, you have ZERO job stability. Sure, one year you could make a cool 200 grand... but you were probably out of work for 6 years before that, and unless you were THE BEST writer on the show, in the showrunner's opinion, odds are you'll be out of a job again the next season. Really crazy turnover.

RaisedByMongrels, the strike has more to do with internet revenue and DVD sales... sure writers make decent money, but why on Earth would they settle for less than what they deserve?
I'm kinda with RaisedByMongrels...I'm all for people getting their fair share, generally very pro-union, and was totally with the writers on this one until I read the salary things. I still get what they're doing, but it's hard to feel sympathetic when the lower 25% earn way more than I do, and I live in a higher cost-of-living area than L.A. (and yes, I know there aren't many). Of course, that could just be me being jealous that if they walk out on their jobs, the whole world grieves, and if I walked out on mine, no one would notice. (;

But, damn! Seems like those guys making over $200K could afford to kick in some more union dues and help out the "little guys" making $30K. But there again, it's the non-profit employee naivete speaking. Capitalism just baffles me sometimes.

With hope for a speedy resolution so those of us with crappy-paying jobs can keep escaping into TV-land.
I wish designers had a union. No one would ever be allowed to use Comic Sans again.
We - my partner and I - belong to The Graphic Artist Guild (*sigh* *shut up*) - which at least gives us some resources and helps us with pricing guidelines. We usedta get their health insurance, but that proved a little problematic.

'Taint much, but it's sumpin'.

And I believe anyone using Hobo for anything but a 60's poster effect should be beaten with a stick until they agree to stop, and possibly longer just for the hell of it.
So basically the average screenwriter doesn't earn that much which given the nature of the beast that they work in is utterly pathetic and quite frankly is a scandal and fair play to them seeking more money.

However it is extremely hard to work up any sort of rousing "yay go you and your strike action" for those who earn considerably far more than me. Which leads me to the following question. Does the WGA provide some sort of hardship fund for the screen writers that will be financially ruined by long term strike action?
I might also point out that that high salary the writer gets on the rare occasion that they sell a script gets divided between their agent and the IRS. The IRS assumes you ALWAYS make that much and taxes accordingly (ie High tax bracket), they no longer to 'income averaging' which would take into account that you were below poverty level for the previous 6 years.
I think of it this way... I pay $35 or more for a season of a show I like. In my mind, I'm supporting the writers, among other people. I have, in fact, encouraged others to buy DVDs by suggesting it supports the writers. But with only pennies going to the writers, I find myself doubting I'd approve of where the other $34.50 is going.

From a purely selfish perspective, I'm pleased that this negotiation is resulting in a public airing of the money trail.

And, of course, go WGA!
However it is extremely hard to work up any sort of rousing "yay go you and your strike action" for those who earn considerably far more than me.

I don't feel that way. The highly successful writers of today will probably get more of the new residuals, if the strike works, than the less successful, because their work sells more in those media, on average. But I think increased residuals would mean a lot more to writers who don't work steadily, but whose old work still makes money for the studios. And the highly successful writers of today could be living on residuals one day.

ETA: I forgot to thank Kerfuffle for the avatar, which I put on my Dollverse.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2007-11-03 01:37 ]
What dreamlogic said, and also the essential unfairness of the current system - at whatever level - makes me support it. I can relate to how it must feel to have your tremendously important contribution to a creation be so proportionately out of whack to its compensation. And how frustrating it must be to watch the AMPTP try and convince you and the world that DVDs and emerging technologies just ain't making that much money, while protesting to iTunes and the rest that they are getting ripped off by gazillions for content -- oops, I mean "promotional" material.


Bullshit and unfairness piss me off at whatever level of management and labor they occur...
I can relate to how it must feel to have your tremendously important contribution to a creation be so proportionately out of whack to its compensation.

Exactly! Not to mention the fact that in the great entertainment beast, writers have the least power of literally everyone: producers, directors, actors, executives, etc. It's only by becoming a hyphenate (i.e. "writer-producer" or "writer-director") does a Hollywood writer, no matter how talented, get any creative control, money, etc. It's ridiculous.

And while the thought of the strike makes me sad, because possibly no new TV after January, it's a necessary thing. Also: it just means possibly no new TV after Jan. Not the end of the world. Hopefully, by the time the next TV season starts (with new Joss TV!!), things will have been settled.
If only they had us in the negotiation room, we could figure something out right quick;)
So - as an aside - what's the difference between the Writers Guild of America, West, and the Writers Guild of America, East? Aside from geographically, I mean.

Reason I asked, is while I don't have credits to qualify for WGA membership I was curious if they had any other types of programs available, partly because I'm thinking they're gonna need some cash in the coffers if this goes on a while.

Turns out they both have associate memberships -- which would be cool since I could contribute AND get some new resources out of the deal -- but the requirements are very, very different. The WGAw is much tougher about previous work than the WGAe, and even for an associate membership you have to have sold scripts. For the WGAe version you do not.

If you join the WGAe, does that not count if you move to LA? Or what?
Back in college, there was a TV writing professor who laid out the income of a freelance TV writer for us. I don't remember the specifics percentage of the script sale the writer actually got to keep after the agent/WGA/state/federal all took their cut, but it was surprisingly low... I'm thinking maybe 60%? Our professor basically advised us that if we embarked on the freelance path, we'd probably need a good accountant who could find as many tax write-offs as legally possible if we wanted to be able to support ourselves.
I think many of you really don't understand what a living wage in Los Angeles is. I could not support myself on $44,000 a year here. There would be no way. I would totally run home and move back in with my mother if I was forced to do that. I am having a hell of a time finding an affordable apartment within 20 miles (read 2 hour commute)of my job on twice that income.

[ edited by TamaraC on 2007-11-03 03:02 ]

[ edited by Sirk on 2017-08-22 19:06 ]
The bottom line (IMO, of course) is that the WGA has a point and they have my support. Yes, the upcoming television schedule will be bland for sure, but it'll still be interesting to watch how the studios will handle this matter. To date, not very well.
Hear you, sirk. During union negotiations and actions-like recent bus drivers' contract talks locally, I always hear people say that they can't work up sympathy for people who make more money than they do. And I never get that.

If it weren't for unions taking concerted actions at all levels, all of us who are not management, and many middle management folks, would be doing far worse than we are now. Everybody needs to stand up for a fair share, and if they hadn't been doing so, via union action for many years, not only would we be earning less, and working longer hours under worse conditions, but (American) employers of union and non union workers wouldn't feel they had to offer health care or other benefits to get employees on board.

It is certainly to the benefit of employers to get workers who earn less to resent folks who make a little more, rather than the big guys with the big bucks on top. But it wouldn't be very smart of us.

[ edited by toast on 2007-11-03 03:58 ]
To be honest, I haven't found an LA living wage to be quite that bad, TamaraC. I'm renting in an area that I love and eating actual human food. And I would easily be able to continue that on the average scriptwriter's salary. That said, I'm not supporting a family and know I have absolutely no chance of being able to purchase any property around here anytime soon.

Of course, as Sirk has already said, it's not the amount of money that's important here. It's receiving a share of the profits.
Lady Brick, I'm sure it is possible, but I'm guessing that you don't work in Century City/Westwood. Either that or all the affordable housing is only found through some top secret agency that I am not privy to.
C. A. Bridges - loved your snarky say on the matter :)
I work in Burbank and live in Hollywood. It is pricier out west, not to mention a pain to get to. I known people who managed to scrape by around there, though.

Actually, my route to work takes me by a few of the studios in Burbank... I'm wondering if I'll see picketers next week.
I will admit that I have pretty close to no clue how much it costs to live in L.A. Still, $10,000 is nothing to sneeze at no matter where you live. If people are actually getting paid that much for three months of writing at home, going on strike for more money just seems ridiculous to me. If they can't earn a comfortable living solely from freelance script writing, they need to get some sort of conventional job to make up the difference. I'm not saying script writing is easy, but from the point of view of someone who goes out and does actual physical work for minimum wage, it's just hard to really get behind this strike thing.

Anyway, my point was actually that the potential cost (Joe Cameraman losing his job) seems to be way out of proportion with the potential benefits (fair royalty pay for writers). I totally agree that $.04 per DVD sounds pretty low, and that the fact they apparently get nothing from online viewing is completely unfair. However, it all seems to be more about pride and stubbornness at this point, and a lot of random people could end up getting hurt in the crossfire.

I just hope they come to a relatively fair agreement before it comes to that.
I think those who think writers have enough money now are missing the point: this isn't so much about now, as the future. And not so much about the current generation of writers as the next ones. As more and more revenue for entertainment is generated through online media and DVDs, if todays writers don't try to entrench the same conditions in those areas, in the future writers will be much worse off. It can be crippling if the strike affects other crew - particularly those earning less than it takes to live comfortably. But if the strike does succeed - it will make it more likely for others to get better deals as well. I want to congratulate the writers for their courage in this, particularly those signing the statement and showing they are not afraid of future reprisals. And I hope they get what they want. (And surely people do live on less than that in LA - someone must be cleaning, and waiting and all that stuff... or is everyone ridiculously well paid?).
OK, to those thinking that writers already earn plenty it might be worth pointing out that the last table I mentioned on the linked PDF only reports earnings for working writers, table bottom of page 4 shows that in 2005 only 55% of writers in the WGA were employed so it's not like all writers earn at least $38,000 - that figure is an upper limit on what the lowest earning 25% of employed writers made in 2005.

I.e. nearly half of the WGA's membership didn't have any work at all and could, therefore, probably really have done with a nice fat residuals cheque (or not even fat, just well proportioned ;).

And all that aside, it's about fairness - they deserve a slice of the pie in proportion to their work. Got no problem with them striking (been meaning to watch 'The Wire', 'Weeds', 'The Sopranos', 'Six Feet Under' etc. - the list of quality entertainment made great in large part by these folks' words goes on and on - and it'll let me catch up on my reading).

(and yeah, nice one C A Bridges, cutting through the bullshit with your Shiny Scalpel of Sarcasm ;)
For once, I'm all smiles. Well, except for that......:)
These talented people give us something invaluable. As in any other business/industry in the U.S. these days, all the wealth is concentrated at the top, mainly the studios. Without the writers, there would be no TV shows, and no movies. The whole idea of residuals is to make it possible for the creative people to survive financially when no one is hiring them/buying their work.

We see the top 1% of "celebrities" on the news and in print media, and get the impression that everyone in the entertainment industry is rich, which couldn't be farther from the truth.

There will be some sort of mediation going on over the weekend. I'm hoping for a miracle.

And I've been saying from the beginning what embers and a couple of others have said, boycott the reality shows. The vast majority are just insulting your intelligence, anyhow.

Sources of revenus have shifted (mainly DVD sales) and will continue to shift as technology evolves. As always, those at the top are trying to keep as much of the wealth for themselves as possible, while shutting out those at the bottom, those with the talent to make the extremely lucrative TV/film business possible.

If we don't offer reasonable compensation to the most artistically creative members of our society, we aren't very civilized, IMO.
Or not boycott in my case so much as just carry on exactly as I am (not a big fan of reality TV ;). Seems strange to me that viewers would fill a scripted TV shaped hole in their schedule with reality shows anyway, they don't fulfill the same requirement at all IMO. Everybody's M will V though, as usual ;).

Also, another way of thinking about it: don't consider how much work we think the writers do compared to how much work we might do for the same money but instead ask yourself "How much value does the writer add to an average DVD ?". If you think it's more than the plastic box it comes in then surely they deserve to be paid more per DVD than the box costs - which by my reckoning currently, unbelievably to me, they aren't.
How much value does the writer add to an average DVD? If you think it's more than the plastic box it comes in ...."

And have you tried getting into those plastic boxes with anything less than a Swiss army knife and a dagger? So much more rewarding to get into the mind of a good writer ;)
Have to agree with Shey, embers and the rest who are suggesting a boycott of whatever dire reality garbage the networks try to fill their schedules with once the strike action really hits.

I'm in the UK which means that there is little (actually nothing) I can do to effect the ratings in the US where it really matters but those that can make a difference really should try to help the writers prove how important they really are. Watch all of your favourite drama/comedy series up to the last new episode then the first week that they no longer have anything worth your viewing time, switch off. Keep an eye on the schedules for reruns of the series you want back and make sure you tune in at the right time to show the networks that if they want regular loyal viewers they need to give the writers what they deserve.

This is the only way that justice will be done and that this dispute will end fairly and as quickly as possible, with all our shows having suffered as little disruption as possible and the guys that write them being able to get back to doing what they really want to do. Write. Can't imagine being in a situation where I had to stop doing the thing I loved just to make my voice heard. Must be pure agony for their creative natures.
Yep, also in the UK which makes it pretty easy for me to talk BUT I do promise not to watch any strike created reality TV when it's (inevitably) shipped over here ;).

(and i'll watch minus amounts of the homegrown variety i.e. upload the little bits of "Big Brother" in my head back to Channel 4. This may involve some fairly radical technological advances but i'm pretty optimistic, it's amazing what they can do these days)

Wonder if we'll see an upswing in UK TV production ? Channel 5 are gonna be screwed if the strike lasts and the US shows dry up.
Im guessing that if the strike lasts more than a month, when it finally ends you're going to see a lot of new novels...
Boycott reality shows? This'll be the easiest boycott ever!
Also, loved your article C.A. Bridges. Survivor: DMV? I think you're onto something.
Got my aside answered, sort of. If you live on the right side of the Mississippi, you join WGAe, but WAGAw handles more of the heavy duty legal stuff. Or something like that.
Isn't the issue of pay relative? I'm sure most screenwriters earn a lot more than someone stacking supermarket shelves but it's what is paid within the industry that matters. Studios are willing to be held to ransom by the agents of leading actors, paying them obscene amounts of money. Without the story, without the script, those actors would be nothing and yet the writers are paid a small fraction of what is paid to the acting talent.

I have an actor friend who gets a few thousand pounds for a few days work on a TV film, with residuals or a higher fee if the residuals are bought out. He isn't a name and he rarely gets even a leading support. He's just a jobbing actor. By comparison with what the acting talent get paid, the pay to screenwriters is an insult.

So even if I don't get a full series of House, CSI and Bones I'm with the writers all the way.
And the pain involved in boycotting the replacement reality shows should definitely be bearable.
They shouldn't get more, everybody else should get less. Greed has to have a limit.
Wait a minute, I thought greed was good ? Have all my movies lied to me ? Now i'm conflicted.
As I understand it, the writers don't expect, don't want to get paid what the actors get currently. They just want a more equitable division of the money. Probably the only way that top actors' pay will be pegged or reduced is if the production companies can no longer get away with paying peanuts to other film people. I think a few actors are sympathetic but unless all top actors commit to smaller fees no-one will because it means losing one's place in the pecking order. Status is important and in H'wood it's measured in money.
1. excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves
2. reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth (personified as one of the deadly sins)

If it has limits, it just ain't greed. (Unless it's that good, Saje-variety greed. That's a whole other thing. :)
NekoDono raised a good point in the Buffy #8 preview thread (which people might not be looking at cause of the spoilers).

One thing that's bothering me, though. Warren Ellis noted on his mailing list recently that the upcoming screen writer's guild strike will prohibit members from writing pretty much any other form of media for the duration of the strike, specifically including comic books.

Since I know Joss supports the strike, could this have an effect on BTVS?

Just responded to this in the other thread so may as well just copy my comment over here for the spoiler-phobic...

I'm fully behind the strike and the reasons it had to happen but it seems to me that stopping writing for absolutely all forms of media is a little pointless. I mean, what is being proven to the television and studio execs by holding up the production of comic books? Admittedly, writing is writing, no matter the end product, but this seems a little like stretching the point to me.

Hitting companies like Dark Horse or Marvel in the pocket isn't helping anyone in this matter. It's not as if they have a say in changing anything that this dispute is about.

Not often you get a reason to quote yourself. Falls just on the wrong side of arrogance, hehe. :)
Must confess, i've only skimmed the last few "Bad Signals" but I didn't see anything about this. Presumably it's the case because entertainment conglomerates and publishers/comics publishers all tend to be owned by the same people ?

i.e. Warner Bros owns DC, 20th Century Fox is part of News Corporation which owns e.g. HarperCollins as well as loads of newspapers and magazines and a big chunk of ITV and obviously SkyTV in the UK, Marvel Comics is owned by Marvel Entertainment which in turn owns Marvel Studios. So if the WGA puts the parent companies on the "struck list", many types of writing will be affected. Can they though ? And will they ?

Must say, i'm not sure they should but given the common ownership I can understand it from a "hit them in every pocket we can" perspective.

(and I agree it'll be a bit ineffective anyway because a) I doubt the limited numbers of WGA members that also write comics/novels will affect those companies' sales in a significant way and b) I suspect comics - and certainly novels - are written much further ahead than TV to give the artist a chance to produce the art so it may well be 6 months before any effects are seen)

ETA: OK, looked back through my emails and on October 11th he posted something about how the WGA strike rules cover writing for "animation or new media" - don't see comics or novels qualifying there, am I missing something ?

[ edited by Saje on 2007-11-03 19:12 ]
As far as I know, there's nothing to prohibit Guild members from working on comic books. I believe Warren Ellis was referring the strike rules governing animation.
Warren is working on several other projects that have nothing to do with comic books. He could be very well referring to those. He is working on at least one movie and one television show. Maybe more.
Here's a post from Colleen Doran's blog, which includes Warren's comments, and gives some extra insight.
Well that's what i'd assume TamaraC except the post Simon quotes above includes
any other form of media for the duration of the strike, specifically including comic books."
(emphasis added)

So either Ellis has mentioned something else or maybe that poster has misconstrued what he said slightly ?

ETAmend: snipped the full text of the email because Sirk's link above quotes all the relevant parts - i'd've linked to the "Bad Signal" archive but it needs a password. For those that get it and want to see the whole thing it's from October 11th and has the subject "Bantown". There's no mention of comics (or novels) in there, doesn't seem like that's a real worry.

[ edited by Saje on 2007-11-03 19:34 ]
From the WGA website:

New Media is an enormous and continually evolving area of entertainment that now rivals feature films in terms of profits and popularity. Today video games are the best known form of New Media entertainment but by no means its only form. New Media also includes all types of content created for other digital technologies including the Internet, CD-ROMs, DVDs, interactive TV, wireless devices, cell phones, virtual reality and other formats and platforms yet to be developed or even imagined.

Comics and novels don't contain "moving images" so they're not an area that the Guild, or its strike rules, would cover.

ETA: I think Ellis was specifically talking about an animated film he's been writing.

[ edited by Kristen R on 2007-11-03 20:11 ]
I'd like to see David Letterman do an episode of The Late Show without writing.

The show would start as normal, with the announcer trying to remember off the top of his head who is on the show tonight, then he'd say "Paul Schaeffer and a bunch of other guys with instruments. ..Oh, and here's Dave."

Dave walks out like normal smiling and waving to the crowd. They die down as the music finishes. And he just stands there for about ninety seconds vamping. "This is where I usually say witty things about current events. But there's a writers strike." He smiles. Looks at his watch. Points over at baldy, "and there's Paul. Make some noise Paul."

Dave should go through the motions of the entire show, but instead of any jokes, he and Paul just do small talk. Or there's awkward moments of silence with nervous laughter from the audience as they watch Dave's every move. The whole time he just smiles knowingly and improvises, pointing out he's trying very hard not to be funny, cuz he's a joke writer too.

The interviews could go like normal. Except there's no blue cards anywhere on Dave's desk. Maybe he throws other things at the fake window behind him to substitute for the cards. Dave just has to make up questions, but since he's a writer himself, he can't make up funny questions. He can only improvise. And of course the people he's interviewing would be writers and they'd talk about the strike.

I think if David did that for one night, the strike would be over.
A non-whedonesque-member - who'll be using the screen name "siwangmu" when she does join up - has asked me to post the link to this Teamster's letter posted at the blog. She thinks that it contains one of the better responses to those who can't see why "rich" screenwriters deserve our support and not condemnation for causing such hardship to the rest of hardworking Hollywood.

I've pulled out this longish quote from it:

"If the writers are denied fair payment for reuse, I do not believe the Directors, Actors and the rest of us will fare any better when our turn comes.

Yes, I said the 'rest of us.' While I don't receive individual residual payments for my work as a teamster, my pension and health fund does. As the distribution stream goes digital those residual payments will slow to a trickle, and the fund will suffer. When the time comes I plan on being old, sick, and in need of Health Care. And the WB doesn't want me to have it.

So no, I will not be crossing any picket line."

And just for the record, I'll also be skipping those "reality" shows - once referred to by Tim Minear as "Meet My Rich Phoney Sex Date or whatever unreality series they've got up their. Er. Sleeves." But then, I already was.

I'll be reading more and watching any DVDs I need to catch up on. I only need new TV if it's good TV, written by the writers that make it all worthwhile.
"They shouldn't get more, everybody else should get less. Greed has to have a limit.
Pumps | November 03, 15:44 CET

As I understand it, the writers don't expect, don't want to get paid what the actors get currently.
nemesis | November 03, 16:52 CET"

1. I don't understand how in the world this became a matter of what actors get paid vs. what writers get paid. They are both the extremely talented hired help who have a lot of the same issues in common with how much their bosses are making from their creativity.

2. It is the studios and large corporations making money off from the creations of writers, actors and creators for decades while the artists get nothing or next to nothing that is at issue. This happened when TV started. Residuals did not happen right away and when they did, it was for the first few showings. (The number 3 is in my head for some reason.) So the actors and writers from all those classic series got nothing after the first couple showings, though the studios or networks are still pulling in money decades later. DVD is a similar situation. Would you begrudge novelists fighting to get a decent share of their own book sales?

2. Artists in general rarely work all the time. When they get paid for something the money has got to last. It is easy to say they should just work another job, but it is a lot harder to get the creativity flowing if you are trying to do it in your "spare time." Especially if you have to keep that creativity in check in order to be taken seriously in that "regular job."

3. Keeping working people jealous of each other and fighting each other is and oldy but a goodie in the history of labor management relations. Saying, "How dare they strike when they already make more than I do?" is the same as saying that you believe that big business should be able to do anything they want to people and that they should quietly take it if they make more money than you do. So is that what you should do too, since you inevitably make more money than someone else? That would certainly mean that person who makes less money than you should also roll over and play dead as well, because there is always someone less fortunate than them. And somehow the only ones who win in that system are the ones setting the rules, i.e. big business.

4. There is an old saying that anywhere there is a union, there has been bad management. Some unions are crappy, but if it were not for unions in general, working people of all kinds would not be treated as well as they are. Because unions have made such gains, it has became a norm that companies have to meet for everyone. Having worked in corporate human resources for 13 years, I have seen it working over and over.

"Make sure the non-union plants have good enough benefits that they won't decide to go union."

"We can take away all the retirement benefits from the salaried people because there is no contract and no danger of them going union."

5. Everyone seems to think that what other people do is not as difficult as what they do and that artists are the worst because they don't really work. If it is such an easy life, I suggest trying it. If you think they are not valuable enough to be treated fairly by their employers, don't use their services. Turn off the TV. Don't read books. Don't go to movies, museums or galleries. Don't listen to music. See what your life is like and decide whether artists' work is valuable. Even if you do decide it is not valuable to you, recognize that their work makes a lot of money for someone. Why shouldn't one of the people making that money be the artist him or herself. Why is it somehow better for it to be a corporation making that money?

Wooh. This kind of thing really does get that Fairness Girl side of me going.
Boycott reality shows? This'll be the easiest boycott ever!

Amen to that, wouldn't affect my viewing habits in the least.

I'd like to see David Letterman do an episode of The Late Show without writing.

Leave it to Zachsmind to offer an excellent suggestion, why didn't we think of this? Actually, I think Dave does very well speaking off the cuff. The same can be said for Leno.
Fantastic post, newcj. Couldn't agree more.
Thank you newcj.

That was some damn good writing.
I believe that David Letterman is credited as a writer on his own show, therefore his show will have to go to reruns immediately, as will Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
Thanks, guys. I was a little worried about having gone on a bit. I get that way sometimes when my fairness button gets pushed. ;-)
You put everything I incoherently believe about unions into words. Thanks, newcj!
Well my buttons were getting pushed too: People who can't differentiate between greed and fairness.

The writers only want a fair percentage from the sales of products that wouldn't exist without their work. The life of any freelancer (writer/musician/artist) is stressful. It takes time to create something good, at least good enough to sell... and ususally the entire time it takes to create it, no money is coming in. Or maybe the money is supposed to be coming in from a previous job, but the client is taking their time paying. Having some income flow from a fair percentage of residuals may be the only thing carrying an artist through during a dry spell.

I'm not at the Serenity Starfury even this weekend, and it's taking place practically in my backyard. Why? Because it's an expenditure that's a bridge too far right now... combination of business expenses and slow paying clients.

Freelancers understand the life of the crew of Serenity.

Edited to clarify a sentence.

[ edited by 11thHour on 2007-11-04 03:08 ]
Good work, newcj.

Jon Stewart had something to say on The Daily Show last Thursday night. Now that the strike will likely go ahead Monday, his show won't be back for the forseeable future. Here's what he said:

"You may have noticed tonight that I was using a lot of words. It's because there may or may not be a writers' strike next week and so I was trying to get in as many words as I could before something like that happens. There's a little bit of a discrepancy - the writers would like to get paid on what's called new media, the internet and such, and the corporations are saying "But it's too new, we don't know if we make money or not, I don't know, we can't pay anything". As you can see, both sides have their point. So we won't be here, but while we're not here, you can check out all of our content on our new website - every Daily Show since I got here is on it - free. Except the advertising. So support our advertisers."

Trust The Daily Show to get to the heart of the issue.
No, you were spot on, newcj, good read.

Welcome back, 11thHour, we missed you!
Oh, I have a question. With all these scripts finished off and rushed into production, what happens if during the strike they want to rewrite a line or two? I assume they'd have to stop production? Or does it depend on type/amount/etc?
They can be rewritten, but it won't be the writers doing the honors. I hope they can resist that.
It won't be the showrunners rewriting either ... a lot of them have said it'll be pencils down for them too. I don't think you'll find anyone willing to break the strike. And rewriting a script would be doing just that.
Pencils down. That was a good lead there, sparks electricspacegirl.
BTW, Saje mentioned the possibility of an uptick in UK TV production to fill airtime over there. I wonder if US networks would buy some UK (or Canada) shows to air? I haven't heard that possibility mentioned.

ETA: whoah, DST wackiness. I actually posted after crossoverman.

[ edited by jam2 on 2007-11-04 07:24 ]
Well said, newcj.
And thanks for the Jon Stewart quote, crossoverman. I love that guy. Hadn't caught that one (online) yet.
I assume none of the show runners will be at work anyway. I doubt any of the ones who signed the "Pencils Down" ad for Variety will cross the picket lines.
What newcj said.
With all these scripts finished off and rushed into production, what happens if during the strike they want to rewrite a line or two?

The WGA rules allow for non writers to be able to make changes to scripts in certain cases like editing for time, editing to meet ratings (Taking out swearing or violence etc), changing dialogue from one character to another where a certain actor is unavailable and so on.
But in the case of TV where the showrunner is also the head writer I doub't the showrunner would agree to do this but in movies the director or producer could.
The Sunday Times weighs in on the strike from a British point of view but starts with Joss:
HALLOWEEN was a bittersweet festival in Los Angeles last week for fans of Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and other toothsome television delights.
As dusk settled and hordes of American children ventured abroad in search of trick or treat, Whedon, the godfather of the supernatural genre that dominates American television schedules, announced on his website that after a five-year break he was returning to television with Dollhouse, a thriller starring the lithesome Buffy sidekick Eliza Dushku.
And, at the same time, the usually cheery son and grandson of Hollywood writing royalty, the ultimate industry insider who cut his teeth spinning gags for Toy Story and Roseanne, a bellwether for the mood of the industry, announced that he was downing his pencils indefinitely.
The 43-year-old writer vowed that, despite already having outlined the first seven episodes of Dollhouse and, like the geek he is, designed the poster too, he would not put down another word until the looming conflict between Hollywood’s artists and executive “suits” was settled.

I think I'll ask the same questions here as I have on a few other forums. I cannot seem to find the answers I'm looking for.

Why can't the best writers like Jane Espenson individually negotiate for more cents per DVD? The WGA won't let them?

Obviously, the writers don't all get paid the same, right? Just like actors, can't they negotiate for more pay, more back end, etc on an individual basis?

I would think a noobie writer would have to settle for the 4 cents per DVD, but what's stopping the Joss Whedons, Drew Goddards and Jane Espensons in the industry from saying, "I'm the best, I charge 8 cents per DVD." ??

An "even amount for each writer" would make sense if all writers offered the same quality of writing. I assume they are striking over a minimum standard rate of pay?

If I wasn't allowed to personally negotiate my pay, even though I was a better writer than everyone else - I would be very pissed off at the union which forces me to receive the same pay as the crappy writers.

Is the WGA stopping individual writers from negotiating better deals?
Succatash - No the WGA is not stopping individual writers from negostiating better deals with studios, they are fighting to outline the foundation upon which those deals are struck in the first place. If you do not have a strong foundation that will support everyone, then no one will get a fair deal. So everyone starting out is given the same opportunity, from the good, the bad, and the one-hit talents will be weeded out or grow. The union is there to try to protect it's members from studios trying to take unfair advantage of their talent. You have to look at these writers, actors, directors, as well as others in this line of work as independant contractors. They get paid per episode or movie, they have no guarrentee of work, nor do they have any promises of future work. Not to mention that even though it sounds like a good chunk of change they make per script, they have people they have to pay as well, like agents, accounts, and even a lawyer or two. I do not think the WGA are stopping the writers from striking deals but they are asking for solidarity from all writers for the greater good. Twenty years ago Johnny Carson kept paying his people to come to work even though they did nothing. Eventually, he bypassed the studio and struck his own deal with the WGA and got his writers back to work and his show on the air. So it can be done but in today's television I don't think anyone has Carson's clout to buck the studio and get away with it.
Interesting. Thanks, RavenU.
embers, The Daily Show is indeed going into reruns. He talks about it on his show, here.
And it's not just about the DVD issue. Writers are paid nothing for episodes streamed online or bought through iTunes. If the market is moving away from syndicated repeats and into online viewing, writers are not getting fairly compensated. Where once a writer might have lived off the residuals from reruns, if the market for reruns is disappearing, then they need to be compensated for the way television is being distributed now.

The webisodes created for Battlestar Galactica prior to Season 3 brought this issue to a head. I think the writers had trouble getting paid even for the initial work of writing the webisodes, let alone be fairly compensated when they were downloaded. Actors and directors were paid scale for production and may have received compensation for the downloads, although I think that issue will come up when the DGA and SAG contracts come up for renewal in mid-2008. The writers got nothing; the studio claiming these webisodes were merely advertising for the regular series and nothing more. They may have eventually got something, but it should never have gotten to that point.

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