WGA strike

I hope this of interest to people here. The Writers Guild of America are making a stand against unmitigated and short-sighted corporate greed. Cheers for the writers. I am profoundly grateful to every member of the WGA and everyone supporting them for taking the stand.

Hope they have comfy shoes.

United Hollywood

The Artful Writer
John August
Kung Fu Monkey
Joss Whedon

Greed is the cancer of the Human condition. Its debilitating effect on how we perceive and relate to others and our shared environment, is devastating; at best, intelectual myopia, at worst murderous indifference.

Most (not all, but most), of what ails this planet, can probably be traced back to, and laid at the door of some kind of pernicious, Corporate/Executive Greed

WGA is uniquely placed, amongst the World`s unions and guilds, to make at least a decent visual protest, inasmuch as, the eyes of the World seem to be locked on to the machination of Hollywood anyway.

Lets hope for and wish WGA a resounding victory in their fight against this monster, for all our sakes. Lets hope any positive effect the strike has, proves to be residual`.
Good Luck WGA
Nil illegitmo desperandom carborrundum!!

Joss Whedon’s article (linked above) is an essential read for any working (or aspiring) writer.

I got an email asking all members of the Australian Writers Guild no to do any work on American product and to offer as much support as possible.

I can afford one spaghetti dinner for one person. That’s it. I’m also a writer. I’ve got rights too.

They also threatened to sell my body to medical science if I didn’t cooperate.

You are on your own American producers. So there.

Three cheers guys. Whatever you manage to win will eventually trickle down to all of us.


This could get really bloody, and sadly the individual writer (and in the long more and more industry people) will be the one suffering the most. The people high up knows how to cover themselves economically and have probably prepared for this for several months.

Is this the cut in the side of the established TV- and Movie-networks that will only continue to bleed more and more of the audience to internet-distributed content made by smaller, more agile groups? Will the writers and other types of industry-renegades from Hollywood start banding together because of this, moving more high-quality productions out on the net?

The problem, as I understand it, is that product IS moving out onto the 'net, with the only people getting a cut is the corporate parent, making an end run around residual contracts which were signed before, in some cases long before, such an eventuality was possible.

I stand behind the WGA 100%. With the rampant unemployment in this industry, residuals in the only way the actual creative people can get some income in lean times.

As for corporate; they always find a way of taking care of themselves.

What I mean with the content moving to the net, leaving the studio system, is that with reorganizations and startups of new production companies targeting the net specifically (where the playing field is virtually leveled by now) more money can go directly to the creatives and less to the bureaucrats. (Look at Radiohead’s latest release, outside the studio system. Imagine if you could buy The Office from iTunes, released not by the Studios but by an independent company.)

I’m fully aware of the non-existent Internet-revenues for Writers in their current contract. It’s a shameful, sneaky business.

Just to make it clear to anyone who is confused (I may be preaching to the choir here): residuals are no more or less than payment in exchange for authorship of a work. American film and television writers don’t just sell stories that are used by producers to make films – they sell the actual copyright to the work.

The exceptions to this rule illustrate this larger point: imagine J.K. Rowling (back in the Philosopher’s Stone days) signing a movie contract that required her to hand over Harry Potter and friends to Warners – lock stock and barrel. If she wanted to write Chamber of Secrets, she’d need their permission, and would get their notes (“We love Hogwarts, but it’s so… British. What if, instead of a boarding school, it was more like a summer camp? Kids love camp!”) And if she said no, Warners would be free to hire someone else for the project (fill in your own horrifying alternate-universe Harry Potter title here).

The answer is, she wouldn’t make the deal – and she certainly wouldn’t make the deal for a one-time payment for her story and characters. She’d want a piece of the action. Now, while we’re imagining, let’s say she actually makes the deal and Warners decides that they want to distribute the Harry Potter movies online. Rowling gets… anyone? Anyone? Zero. Nothing. Nada. That seems fair.

This strike is about all of the writers who don’t have Ms. Rowling’s leverage – who make that sorry-ass deal every day, with no guarantee they’ll ever get a deal that good again.

The big picture answer is for writers to say “Great, fine, no residuals. But we’re the author of the movie, and we’ll sell you the right to make it one time, but we retain all other rights – just like novelists do.” But that’s never going to happen – that ship has sailed.

Residuals aren’t a bonus. They are moneys paid for a valuable commodity. Without them, there’s no reason to sell a script.


Sean Coffee, isn’t it up to both parties to decide what a valuable commodity is? Isn’t that were the negotiation process comes into play?

It takes two to make a contract, doesn’t it? Not one side making an offer and the other side forced into accepting? What am I missing?

You’re missing the huge power imbalance between writers and publishers. (Studios in this case, but the situation for fiction writers is much the same.) Unless a writer has a very substantial track record – like Rowling – the purchaser is unlikely to budge on terms such as these. Sure, the writer could then attempt to sell their work elsewhere, but the number of markets is limited, and most would probably offer the same terms.

Meanwhile, the supply of hopeful young writers is essentially unlimited, and enough of them will accept studio terms to reduce or eliminate the leverage of those who won’t.


So it would seem that both parties are getting what they want, no?

One is getting a product, the other is being paid to produce that product. They reach a compromise on payment for that product.

kewms: Good answer.

wmarcy: You’re right in a sense – it does take two to make a contract, and that’s the reason for this strike. This is the writers saying “This deal sucks. We say no.”

With DVD residuals off the table, this is basically about new media – fighting to get the same basic deal from future avenues of distribution that writers get from existing avenues.

Please keep in mind that the WGA is asking for a percentage of revenues from new media – which is to say, they’re asking to get paid from their work when producers get paid. If new media is indeed merely promotional (as the producers say) and they plan to never make money from internet distribution (which seems well south of likely), then writers will also make no money. If there’s no money to be made in new media, why would the producers jeopardize billions of dollars in revenue over this issue?

Anyway, you’re right, wmarcy. The negotiating process is designed to address these issues. This strike is that process.

Essentially true, but part of that compromise involves royalties, or ‘residuals’ as the studios like to call them because ‘royalties’ implies authorship. Artists in every other entertainment publishing field* receive royalties when their work is exploited beyond its original usage and/or very successful.

Screenwriters do, too, for things like TV showings and DVD sales. But not for the internet. And the DVD residual sucks. And so on.

The best description I’ve heard of residuals is that they’re “A deferred payment against the lifetime value of the work”.

A more comprehensive explanation from John August:
johnaugust.com/archives/2007/why … -residuals

*i.e. not fine artists.


And the DVD residual sucks.[/b].

And that’s basically ground zero for this strike. The DVD residual was negotiated when DVD was in its infancy – when the model for home video was VHS rentals, and the idea that the masses would shell out $15-$30 to own copies of films and television shows was not fully understood. That writers make $.003 on every DVD dollar is a crime (it’s something like 4 cents for every DVD sold – for the person who MADE THE DAMN THING UP!) The WGA doesn’t want to make the same mistake again.

Except in this particular case, they haven’t been able to reach a compromise. Hence the WGA strike.


Only problem i see is, writers write and produce a product, they then sell it to the highest bidder, in this case the studios. The studios then own the product and what they do with it is their business, not the writers.

It would be like auto factory workers deciding I couldn’t tune my radio to certain channels.

No, it really wouldn’t. Did you read the article I linked to?

Wait, I just realised - are you saying you don’t believe any writers should receive royalties?

(And on a forum full of writers?!)

I actually do some work on a work-for-hire basis. I charge triple what I get for my royalty-based work. I’m sure the WGA would be willing to reconsider their position on residuals if the studios would triple their standard advance. I’m equally sure that the studios aren’t willing to do any such thing.

The whole point of royalties is that the publisher and the writer share the risk: if the work succeeds, the writer gets more money. If it doesn’t, the publisher hasn’t paid as much up front. The exact balance between up front payment and royalties is often subject to contentious negotiations, but the underlying principle is pretty well-established and seems to work for both sides. Is there a reason why you seem to think it should be scrapped?


Well, I don’t believe that it is a shared risk.

The writer is risking his time which (s)he values at a certain rate. They produce their manuscript/screenplay for an agreed upon price. From the moment the product is handed over and paid for, it is no longer their property. the production company then assumes the risk.

Do I believe writers deserve a residual? If they can negotiate it I do. If they can’t, I don’t. We aren’t really talking art here people, this is plain, workman jobs.

I did read the article, I just disagree with major points in it. I never was a big fan of unions, nor of collective bargaining. YMMV.