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November 19 2007

Battlestar Galactica wraps production. Ron D. Moore blogs about wrapping production of Battlestar Galactica (Jane Espenson is a co-producer) after 13 episodes of Season 4 and about the chances of the season being finished ...

... after the strike. Let's keep our fingers crossed!

Is Jane still attached to the show?
She was a co-executive producer for season 4 (still says so on her blog and I've never heard otherwise).
I added that info to the entry just in case people aren't sure about the connection.
Ron's other half says 'Send pencils'. Here's NBC Universal's termination letter of the core actors. Due to the way they've worked it -- currently under legal dispute, unsurprisingly -- the actors can only work on other shows if they terminate their agreement with NBC Universal, which takes them off BSG. (Which is the current situation with Alyson Hannigan and rest of the How I Met Your Mother cast).

[ edited by gossi on 2007-11-19 15:25 ]
Hmm, so this "force majeure" thing comes into operation sometime in November ? Is that true of other shows too ?

I guess what i'm asking is, will the studios use the threat of firing cast and crew as a big stick to beat the WGA with at the negotiating table on November 26th ?

(and you go Ron, gutsy move fella, no messing. Hope you all get to tell the end of your story - cos I really want to see it)
According to one of the BSG actors, Saje: "They say that since we have shot the minimum 13 episodes of this season, as per our contracts, that they are under no obligation to pay us or let us go. We are essentially on hiatus. To say yesterday was a tough day on set as this information was slowly presented to us would be a profound understatement."
Ah, so they're not fired, they're not employed, they're stuck in no-man's land.

This is where it starts to get really nasty then.

(according to this though the studios are meant to either pay them at least half rate or terminate their contract per union rules - the BSG guys seem to be neither one nor the other, strange because Michelle Ryan is apparently on half-rates and "Bionic Woman" is also Universal. Or is it the "13 episodes" part that's pertinent ? If BW hasn't made it to that many eps maybe they still have to pay the cast ?)

[ edited by Saje on 2007-11-19 16:07 ]
A lot of assistants and "below-the-line" people have already been laid off, or just plain fired. I'm going to this picket at Fox today with some pizza, and will try to get a better understanding of what's going on by chatting with them.

Y'know, it's also kind of a gutsy move on NBC's part, terminating well-known and respected actors like Edward James Olmos and Mary McDonnell the second the camera turns off on the set in mid-season. It's bound to further endear them to SAG (who have been out in force at every WGA picket I've been to).
Yeah, seems pretty short-sighted to piss off the very people they're entering negotiations with in a few months. Especially, as you say dreamlogic, people that are known and respected and therefore could be rallying points for action.

And as others have noted, if SAG go on strike, production stops immediately, you can't "stockpile" actors.

Which, frankly, makes me wonder what they've got planned, they can't be that daft, surely ?
Apparently they feel as tho they can live off of reality TV....
The lease on the studio where Galactica films doesn't run out until March. Basically what happened was, they locked up all the trucks and walked away. Nothing has been struck, so they can walk back in fairly easily (assuming they can get everyone back), and as it doesn't even start airing until April, and they have 13 episodes in the can, Galactica has a better shot at coming back than a lot of other shows :)
Oh dear.

Yeah, sometimes you have to roll the hard six. But I don't know what I'll do if this show doesn't finish--particularly because this show is so close to its end. Planned conclusions being messed up are the worst.
If you look at the SAG agreement (it's online), the studios current line of action (which includes both Sony and NBC Universal, unfortunately), they are specifically violating article 61. By doing this, it means actors aren't getting paid, but are exclusively tied to something, so they can't work without a studios go ahead. That's a legal question which somebody (SAG!) needs to address, and fast, as it's putting actors in an extremely bad situation. They literally can't work.

It also means the actors can say a studio has violated their contract (again, needs to be legally addressed) and walk away from the contract. And the studio. And the show.

The studios here are playing a very dicey game, and one which I think took a lot of people by surprise. I certainly didn't expect the studios to start a disagreement with SAG over the WGA dispute.

[ edited by gossi on 2007-11-19 16:57 ]
Battlestar Galactica is one of the two series that I am most worried about. I actually don't watch all that many current shows and of the ones I do watch most will be okay. 24 and Lost seem to be in a fairly safe place. Yeah, there will be delays but they are both pretty much guaranteed to return and not have their episodes cut in any way. Heroes may well end half a season early but it has the comfort of knowing that NBC wants it back (although this is probably the show that I could live with losing). Dexter is already in the can and is in no danger of not returning for a third season. Californication is equally safe.

BSG is, as Zeppo stated above, in a fairly sound position and it is likely that it will return but it is also one that could be considered cannon fodder by the suits, given the fact it was ending anyway. Completion of a story isn't exactly something they give a crap about if they aren't certain that it's going to make a profit. Will they really want to bother getting back the cast and crew for the sake of half a season? Let's hope they don't forget that filming those last few episodes and letting the story end will benefit them when it comes to the DVD sales of season 4.

Supernatural is my biggest worry, right now. It's in it's strongest season yet with a story arc involving Dean that requires a years worth of episodes. Not having those episodes will mean that the arc will have to conclude in season four, which would be bad enough. The fact that the show isn't guaranteed a fourth season in the first place makes things so much worse.

I'll be honest, if this strike does cause too many of my favourite shows to end before their time then there is a good chance that I'm giving up on television series altogether. I'm fully behind the writers and don't blame them for this situation at all but the same cannot be said for the network suits. They already axe quality television series far too quickly and if what is going on at the moment leads them to "cut their losses" with series that aren't in their interest to bring back, BSG and Supernatural being two possibilities, then I'm afraid I'm done. I'll watch the shows I already love for as long as they are on but I wont be bothering with anything new. Once they are done then I'll be finding better things to do with my time. Things where I can trust that my enjoyment won't be cut short by greedy, short sighted execs that don't give a shit about quality as long as they can see the cash flowing into their bank accounts.

Rant over ;)
Ominous. A botched BSG conclusion would be awful, but I understand why it needs to be risked.

And RDM has a website now? Sounds like another writer/showrunner I know who's been much more online since the strike. I guess when writers can't write, writers blog!
This hurts me in my heart as much as the day Firefly was canceled.
It also means the actors can say a studio has violated their contract (again, needs to be legally addressed) and walk away from the contract. And the studio. And the show.

I didn't know it was a contract violation. Curiouser and curiouser. Like I said, the view from the ground looks like the actors are in a strike-y mood already. If studios tank the contract, what is the object of that?
I think -- I don't have any real clue -- it's a case of not wanting to pay people, wanting to piss off the people making the show perhaps, and wanting to make sure the cast don't go elsewhere.

madmolly, I wouldn't worry that much. I think BSG will return. It's a good franchise for NBC Uni. I think the extent of the dicking about going on behind the scenes is starting to show, though - I would not want to be a showrunner in production right now.
Well, the letter makes a point (thrice) about the strike being a force majeure event. I haven't read the SAG agreement and I'm certainly not a law expert but I suspect that's the studio's justification that they're not breaking the contract.
Well rokkrage, didn't that happen last time? With the strike in 88, a good percentage of the audience never came back.

And I think with new media companies producing Sanctuary webisodes etc... if that trend starting continues, we may be entering an era where the studios won't be the only source of quality entertainment(writing, acting, special effects wise). Where a team of writers, actors, producers(not the studios), computer programmers can get financing from outside of Hollywood and be able to produce and distribute their stuff.

[ edited by kurya on 2007-11-19 18:25 ]
In the pencils-for-writers thread, I mentioned seeing Jamie Bamber at the Vancouver airport early Saturday morning...
I think BSG will be back with the final episodes. I have faith. And I want to see the end of the story, even if it is straight to DVD... I want RDM and Co. to end their tale their way.

And I think the studio will want to finish the story...as someone remarked this weekend, there is money in the syndication rights... and 4 seasons has more value than 3 1/2...

It is truly unfortunate that the writers had to resort to this to get their point across. I hope the sides are able to reconcile sooner, rather than later.

We, the fans, continue to help by not watching whatever "reality re runs" get put on the tube... and by letting the advertsers know, we are not watching..
The situation with the actors seems strange. I can understand "we're not obligated to pay you for episodes that didn't get filmed". It just seems like that ought to void the contract, rather than holding people in limbo. I guess the studios' logic is that the actors should not be making contractual commitments elsewhere (e.g. to a movie, or to a stage show if the Broadway strike gets resolved) that would prevent them from coming back to fill their obligations to the TV show if the strike is resolved in a timely fashion. There are probably provisions in actors' contracts keeping them on the job until the project is done, even if filming takes longer than it is supposed to or has to be suspended. That just becomes a much less palatable question if you do wind up talking about only half salary.

Of course, one lesson to take away from this is that a company is not under a legal obligation to inform you what your legal rights are, regardless of whether that includes the right to do things they'd rather you not do. Then again, what the studio CAN do to the actors the year before the SAG contract comes up is sometimes a separate question from what they SHOULD do.
I'm really hoping that BSG will conclude with the full season it deserves and that the show will be wrapped up satisfactorily. However I agree with what Moore is saying. It may be difficult for the writers to risk not being able to finish the show, just as it will potentially be upsetting for viewers not to see the show finish properly, but it must be done.

If the writers were to give in and not fight for the perfectly reasonable rights they should be entitled to, for the sake of giving BSG a good send off, then it would strike a heavy blow against the future of quality television drama. But I honestly hope that the networks will eventually realise that they need talented writers and that it's time to enter into fair negotiations rather than waiting for the strike to end because the writers give in.

[ edited by Razor on 2007-11-19 21:46 ]
The Alliance just picked a fight with SAG. That is really stupid.
An earlier piece by Ron Moore

When the studio approached Moore about the webisodes, they made it clear that they would not be willing to pay anyone involved in the production, as they were planning to use it as promotional material only.

You could coin the term "Studiothink" : The notion that others should invest vast quantities of time and effort into making huge revenues for the them without requiring to be paid.
Okay, that one line you pulled Osmium doesn't really give the full picture. It goes on to explain that the studio changed it's mind and said everyone would get paid. Then:

As they were nearing the end of production for the Battlestar Galactica webisodes, Moore and his team were hit with another devastating blow. They were told that none of the writers of the project was going to be credited.

“They weren't going to acknowledge anybody who wrote it,” Moore explained, adding that even as he “refused to deliver the webisodes… they came and took them anyway, which is their right since they own the show... but it really made me aware of these issues.”


But you're right about Studiothink.
One thing I am curious to know, and I am sure someone somewhere must have raised the point, that promotional material, is meant to advertise the show correct? I wonder, do the people who make advertisements of shows get paid? Like the ones that cut up the material and create the teaser and add the music. Or lets say print ads, do the people who design those get paid? Are they doing it for free? If they are not doing for free as I imagine they wouldn't, why should it be any different for "promotional" stuff?
I feel sorry for RDM (and everyone else involved of course). How hard it must be to make that bet, knowing that there's a chance your creation would never be completed. Also sad for us fans- BSG's end has saddened me enough, now to think there's a chance it wouldn't get the conclusion it deserves. :( I hope all of you optimists are right and the issues can be sorted out and the actors will return after the strike is resolved. I don't expect much from the studios but this action with the actors does surprise me, seems a bit like shooting yourself in the foot to me.
Yeah, sorry, you're right crossoverman - they relented - but it was the thought process that got to me. And why I quoted that line. That they would even contemplate asking folks to work for nothing while they made money on their efforts - as if it was an accepted practice! And then to follow up with the "no credit" thing - how petty minded can they get?!

Edit: changed "you" to "they" - otherwise it sounded like I was talking about crossoverman!

[ edited by Osmium on 2007-11-20 02:17 ]
Actually, as TamaraC said, not only has the AMPTP picked a fight with SAG, but also with the other actors' union, AFTRA. AFTRA has been on this for a few weeks now, since the first shows shut down were sitcoms filmed in front of live audiences that fell under AFTRA's jurisdiction (Till Death and New Adventures of Old Christine, IIRC).

Variety.com has several articles analyzing the options for actors' contracts under force majeure. From one of those articles: "As for actors, SAG is already providing guidance to the hundreds of "series regulars" regarding what to expect. Under force majeure provisions covering SAG actors, producers can either terminate an actor and lose exclusivity for the season or suspend thesps for five weeks and pay half salary with the performer still bound to the contract. At five weeks, the employer can terminate and lose exclusivity or restore full salary with exclusivity. If the series resumes and the actor has been terminated, they can be called back. But there's no more exclusivity.

SAG general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland said the actors guild wasn't aware yet of any force majeure actions hitting the guild's members [as of the date of the article, November 11]. SAG's current weekly minimum for TV performers is $2,634.

A manager who's active in booking actors into TV pilots said the situation is tough for thespsin that area because of the uncertainty of pilot season. She noted that those actors and those who are on suspended series won't be able to compete for parts in films starting in the spring; she also expects the competition for roles in these movies to be ferocious, because it might be the last time these actors work in awhile." /end Variety quote

On the plus side, it's come to light that several of the biggest agents in town, led by Bryan Lourd of CAA (Carrie Fisher's baby-daddy), have been the ones working behind the scenes to get both sides back into negotiations. In fact, Lourd was having meetings at his house with Patric Verrone and David Young, the WGA's president and chief negotiator, respectively, and also (I believe) with AMPTP big-shots (maybe even Counter). If agents don't know how to lead to negotiating a contract, I don't know who does. As much as I hate to sound grateful to agents...well, they did some good this time. :)

Kurya, you make a good point about promotional material. Under the contract that actors have with shows, they must do some promotional work (such as posing for TV Guide, doing interviews, appearing at network press conferences, etc.) -- all things that the actors do for publicity, not performing the role of their character on the show. But now the networks are calling the webisodes (which are written, performed in character and filmed expressly for the Internet) "promotional," and expecting actors AND writers to do them as part of their contracts at no extra pay. The networks are also calling the full-length episodes you can play on the networks' websites promotional, instead of calling them a form of rerun, the problem here being that (actors and) writers get fairly decent residuals for reruns, but get 1/3 of one-cent for the "temporary" downloads that play on the nets' websites and (if I'm not mistaken) not a god-damned thing for webisodes. Do the camera operators, makeup artists, lighting technicians, editors, etc. who work on webisodes get paid? Here's my guess: if the webisodes are done on a day when the actor and crew are on-set anyway, then maybe they don't get extra pay, IF the webisode is shot by the show's main crew. BUT, if a crew has to be called in to shoot the webisode, either because it's on a non-work day or because they are shooting with a separate crew (so as not to interfere with the main shoot? to handle the special material? etc.), then I'm sure Thomas Short, president of IATSE, would blow a gasket if that crew didn't get paid!

Lastly, and hilariously, the writers of The Daily Show and others (including HIMYM) have put together a new video for UnitedHollywood showing how they are spending their download residuals, which they pretty much say are pretty much imaginary. Enjoy, won't you? (Scroll down page to find video.)

ETA: Yeah, I see what I did wrong now. I was trying to cut down the length of this here animal, and accidentally cut out the sentence (or dependent clause or something) I had about "permanent downloads" being the 1/3 of one-cent, so it made the sentence lead right to the "temporary downloads" which was supposed to be part of the "not a god-damned thing" dependent clause. Sorry for the confusion, everyone, and thank you for catching my typo-ness. Heh.

[ edited by swanland on 2007-11-20 05:12 ]
Ron's wrap blog was genuinely sad. It made me more determined to help vindicate his gamble, but still - such waste and loss and pain for all involved - from the fired staff to the suspended cast to Ron, wondering if he'll see his creation come alive again.

*goes back over to fans4writers forum again to see what she can do.*

*comes back again to say:

Oh, yeah - meantersay this before - those BSG fans in the forum are something: smart, dedicated and hardworking - you gotta love 'em - though I think some of 'em might be Cylons.


ETA: swanland - the way I understand it is that writers get nothing for entire episodes streamed online at a network's website - those are among the deliveries considered promotional. I've been through this whole WGA Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) checking it out - to the best of my ability - and this is what I extracted and summarized:

The companies are refusing to pay anything for streaming that is free to the viewer - though it is ad-supported - and they are paying the .3% home video residual when the viewer pays. This dispute is the subject of outstanding claims filed by the WGA, DGA, and SAG against the companies.

If anyone has something more authoritative and/or clear, I would be interested to see it. The viewer-paid "temporary downloads" that the AMPTP keeps referring to, are, as I understand it, a viewing method that never really took off.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2007-11-20 02:46 ]
QuoterGal, your understanding of the residuals and non-residuals matches mine to a point. I think the alliance has "offered" the 0.3% for customer purchases (like iTunes), but the guild has not accepted it so most (if not all) of the studios are paying nothing for customer purchases and nothing for ad supported free streaming. That is a whole lot of nothing.
The volunteer I was working with at the Fox picket line today said that he read about a showrunner, I think from Lost, saying that he had actually received a check from iTunes downloads, though for a ridiculously small amount. Wish I had got the source.

I'm boycotting all filmed entertainment from iTunes. Songs are different. I know ASCAP has the songwriters covered. ASCAP are gangster.
Here is some of the history of iTunes residuals. It does seem some payments have been made, though at the low rate the writers don't want. I guess this is what the AMPTP refers to when they say writers have gotten paid from the internet. So, it's not zero exactly, just very close to it.
Just to be clear, viewer paid-for iTunes downloads are a different animal from what I was talking about above, which was Internet streaming free to the viewer - as TamaraC said, the companies are offering to pay for digital downloads - like an Itunes purchase - at the same low rate (roughly .3%) that writers receive for DVD purchases - which is the same reduced re-use rate that was negotiated in 1985 and never revisited. The guild and (other entertainment guilds) have disputed this rate even under the terms of the old contract.

The writers are asking for 2.5% - what they currently receive for TV re-runs and such.

From the Fans4writers Strike FAQ:

(They are asking for) an increase in the percentage they receive from the digital re-use - a rapidly expanding new market - of their TV show or feature film. They are asking for 2.5% of receipts for re-use on new media, including the Internet, cellular technology, and other new delivery systems. They currently receive only the .3% home video residual for digital re-use, though the WGA maintains that even under the expired contract, for either streamed or downloaded content, they are already entitled to 1.2% for feature films and TV shows when the viewer pays, and 2.0% for post-1984 TV product or 2.5% for pre-1984 TV product when it is free to the viewer.
Right, all, QuoterGal, TamaraC and Jam2. Like QuoterGal, I didn't mean to imply that the iTunes/Amazon, pay-for-download downloads and the free replays are the same thing. They're both problems, but just different problems.

WGA and AMPTP both made statements at the end of last week that some infintesimally small payments were indeed made for the iTunes/Amazon type of pay-for-download downloads at the 1/3 of one-cent the studios/networks are trying to offer as a permanent figure. I would guess the AMPTP want these payments to establish a precedent, and are using them now to be able to say that payments have been made, as Jam2 pointed out. Here is David Young, the WGA chief negotiator, talking about it in the LA Times, but I can't find the article (out of the thousands I've read in the last few days) where Verrone or Young or someone did acknowledge money was paid, even though it wasn't anything that had been agreed to contractually. So there is no universe in which .3% is OK as a payment, and I didn't mean to imply that, but just to be accurate, some "payments" were made, even though they were obviously insultingly low and not in accordance with a contract negotiated in good faith.

AND the free-plays on network websites, Myspace, etc., don't result in any money paid out whatsoever, as both sides have confirmed. So, yeah, that 100% sucks, as opposed to 99.7% sucks. ;)

Good news glimmers: United Hollywood is reporting today that the advertisers as a group are within a month of reducing their payment rates to the networks, or even asking for their money back, so, I think the advertisers ARE reacting to us, the audience, by doing so, and will NOT accept the lie that reality shows will pull in the same ratings as new, written drama/comedy episodes. Also, one of the network/studio CEOs is complaining that so many fans are calling his office to complain about the strike, he and his assistant are freaking out. While I hope that any fans that call are polite, it still shows that our voice is being heard.

Um, one more thing to an already too-long post (sorry, all): I see that UH is going to be putting up a direct link to the Union Solidarity Fund, so people can donate to this relief fund or to the Pencils2Moguls fund. And, they are also making mention of the Actors Fund over there. So, as we were all talking about on another thread, the United Hollywood/writer leadership are deeply aware of the suffering of people throughout the industry, and are trying to address the economic hardships. Well done, guys! :)
The writers are asking for 2.5% - what they currently receive for TV re-runs and such.

No, no, no. TV re-runs are much more lucrative than that. And the fact that re-runs on network television are disappearing and/or being replace by new media is part of the concern.

A TV writer gets 100% of their original fee for the first network re-run of an episode they have written. 50% for network re-runs two and three. And in decreases incrementally from there. 25% for fourth network re-run. Cable airings of shows are a different percentage of the original fee.

2.5% is what they originally wanted for VHS, so it's what they want for downloads now - understandably.
Right, Crossoverman, and it goes even further: the 2.5% of home video was originally supposed to be a temporary compromise or rollback, supposedly to rise to (if my math of what 80% would be is correct, and if my understanding of the original compromise is correct) 12.5% once home video "caught on," but the AMPTP never made good on that agreement. Not very honorable, to say the least.

Also, I notice that on another thread, hours and hours ago, Embers already pointed out just about everything I pointed out about the Actors Fund, the CEOs getting phone calls, etc. So, shutting up now. :)
Actually I think the 80% rollback was from 2.5% to 0.3% (approx.) It was supposed to go up to 2.5% once home video caught on, which is why this current situation is so appalling.
Ah, I just really need to shut up, or else get a law degree to try to figure all this out correctly (although I still believe there had been an agreement that the AMPTP said they would increase the home video residual once that market was "defined" or established or something). :)
Thanks, crossoverman - although one "no" probably would have been sufficient ; > - I'm adjusting the Strike FAQ accordingly - which doesn't really go into re-run residuals, but does refer to them incorrectly.

Understanding this info over the past few weeks has come via reading languages not my own - contract & legalese. I've been having one helluva time - there is so much partial info with so many vague explanations floating around, and the only other option has been reading the contracts themselves, so *sigh* I've made mistakes like this one.

But I think I almost have it - at least to the point where I know what they're asking for pretty well...
QuoterGal, imagine that I said "No, no, no" in a sort of sing-song-y way where it was more about the rhythm of saying it than thinking you actually needed to hear it three times :-)

Yes, contract and legalese is no fun. But I agree with you - at least I feel like I know what is being asked for and why. And the contracts themselves were the only place to see the reality of it - because both sides of an argument can be accused of fudging things for their own purposes. Whereas the contracts are clear about what is and is not covered, the negotiations come down to both sides disagreeing about what should and should not be covered and percentages. I forsee long negotiations. But at least they'll be back at the table next week to do that.

Re-run residuals are important to keep in mind, even though they aren't be argued for or against in these negotiations. (Except maybe the AMPTP really does want to get rid of them all?) But re-runs have for so long been part of a writer's income that if they disappear, they will need residuals from new media even more.
I hope this is as stupid a move on the part of the Senior Partners as it seems to be. Piss off the actors well in advance of a possible SAG strike, as well as one of the biggest, most savy fandoms this side of whedonites.
It breaks my heart for everyone associated with BSG, from Ron Moore on down. And I can't even contemplate the idea of not getting the final thirteen eposodes of BSG, that just makes me want to both cry and kick some suited ass.
Oh to be River for just a few moments. Or Darla and Dru, with a wine cellar full of studio excs.
My first reaction to the way the studios are handling the actors was that they are trying to soften up their finances before they have to decide to strike. If the actors are broke by the end of the WGA strike, they may be less likely to vote for a strike for themselves in the Spring. It also, of course, reminds them of who has the power etc. etc.
I personally don't think that NBC/Sci-Fi will have the guts to cancel Galactica before it reaches its ending. They're about to release a TV movie called Razor for God's sake. The inevitable post cancellation fan campaign would just be brutal!
The inevitable post cancellation fan campaign would just be brutal!


There could be Reavers. There should be Reavers. And Cylons .... the very bad ones.

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