Friday, November 16, 2007

About the Strike

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is striking against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The reasons for this strike are:

1) The writers want residuals for their material put out over the net (or in the parlance - new media).
2) The writers want an increase in the residuals they get from DVD sales.
3) The writers want payment for material written specifically for the net.

I'm putting this early in this entry because these demands seem to somehow get lost in the media reports. There have been articles in the news about the writer's strike, but somehow, the heart of the matter seems to get lost, mentioned at the tale end, or put into paragraph 7 after the jump.

This is known as "burying the lede" - hiding the important part of the news report under the sizzle of "Wacky Writers go on Strike!" and "Stars march on picket line with Wacky Writers".

I am not a member of WGA, but I'm a writer, so I get questions in the office from people who assume I know all about it (OK, I get questions about ANYTHING involving writing "So, Jeff, what do you know about this Gutenberg guy?"). So I do the research. And as demands go, I'll agree that it is important and worth going out on strike about.

The AMPTP has its counter offer - Shut up and go back to work. No, really. There has been a lot of nothing from the other side except a lot of walking away from the table (I think they have walked so far away from the table the negotiators are lost in Kansas right now). They are pretty sure that they are able to stick to this position, since writers are by their nature a quarrelsome and lonely lot, and have a basic need to write and entertain others. That's how the producers benefit from the situation in the first place.

Except things are a little different this time. The writers seem more unified. The other unions are backing them. The fans themselves are rallying behind their favorite shows, and holding and the producers responsible for them not getting their regular fix. There are other venues willing to hire writers. And the Internet, the bone of contention, has proved a very effective way of getting the message out to the wider world.

That last one is important. Remember what I said about burying the lede? The same major media that is being struck against is also controlling the traditional means of communicating about this strike, so the details sometimes get lost under the gloss.

So, for those interested, here are some links to help out:

United Hollywood is the strike HQ with reports on the picketing.
Nikki Finke has the LA WEEKLY report for word from both sides.
Ken Levine, who wrote for M*A*S*H, Cheers, and Frazier has a personal angle (along with other stuff).
Comic book legend Mark Evanier has more as well (along with other stuff).
Here's a very good video laying out "Why We Fight"
And here's a less-serious video laying out the AMPTP position, from the writers of the Colbert Report (Yes, they are still writing, just not putting it on the network - the killer phrase is "unendangered birthday tiger").

There's probably going to be more on this, but it will have to be later,