Monday, April 08, 2019

WGA vs ATA update

Here’s where we stand:


The good news is at the eleventh hour both the WGA and ATA agreed to extend the deadline from last Saturday night to this Friday.

No talks were scheduled before the Saturday deadline so it seemed pretty bleak that there would be any movement.

At least this is a sign that both sides would like to work something out and avoid the uncertainty that would arise should WGA members all fire their agents at the same time.

The issue – well, there are two really – are packaging deals that the agencies make which skims money off the license fee and goes directly into the agency’s pocket, and agencies becoming studios themselves, which would appear to be a conflict-of-interest if you’re negotiating on behalf of your client against your studio.

WGA members overwhelmingly, (over 95%) voted to support the Guild’s efforts in trying to work out an agreement. Such a show of strength sends a powerful message to the agencies that the WGA members sense the importance of these issues and are willing to sacrifice on their behalf.

On the other hand, it’s hard to believe agencies will give up two major sources of their income, especially in this age of consolidation and corporate greed.

So far negotiations have been little more than posturing and grandstanding. And that is typical of Hollywood labor disputes. There are formal talks and then there are back room talks with the major players and those are usually where things get resolved.  

How will it ultimately come out? I truly have no idea. I imagine both sides will have to make some concessions, but what they are and will they be enough for the 95% of pro-action WGA members is yet to be seen.

I have friends and people I respect on both sides of this issue. But I will say this, the president of the WGA, David Goodman, is really a mensch. I truly believe we are in great hands. As an introduction to David Goodman, if you don’t know him, he was a guest on my podcast. I invite you to listen to this episode.

And hold your breath. All of this in uncharted territory. How it will play out is anybody’s guess. And we don’t have the benefit of tuning to CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, hearing analysts and experts give their predictions and know they’re wrong and the exact opposite will occur.

Anyway, this extension is the first positive sign. Let’s see if we can have a happy ending – Hollywood is known for those too.

Thanks to Deadline Hollywood for the image. 


Mike said...

So what's happening with Brexit?

This reminds me of the end to Blazing Saddles, where the big fight spills onto another studio set.

blinky said...

I don't understand why studios are OK with agencies getting all that backend cash. Wouldn't the studios want to screw the agencies as well as screwing the writers?

Mike Bloodworth said...

Is this all still applicable to you since you're now writing mostly plays?

Frank Beans said...

I don't have a dog in this fight, as I'm not affiliated with either organization. I'm trying to look at this as objectively as possible.

From what I've read, my gut is telling me that unionized writers are on the right side of the dispute, so I'm going with the WGA. At some point, everyone involved will have to work it out.

Sigh, it's an endless saga.

Brian said...

What a dampener!!!

They should have fired them all and then only ATA will understand Writers mean business.

I have no faith that things will work in favor of Writers.

Brian said...

I believe too much pressure will be exerted on WGA by all and certainly by its own members. Finally some lame assurances will be given by ATA and it will all end with writers being shafted once again.

Ken, there are a lot of scums among the writers who are working to sabotage this.

Here read this:

Backdoor pressure will only mount as things go forward.

These scums have been cheating for decades and built their empire. You think by the end of this week they will allow it to be smashed to ground?

PolyWogg said...

There are good people on the ATA side of things? Do you mean there is the WGA side and it has good and bad people in that org, and the ATA side with good and bad people in that org? That would be an easy one...

Or do you mean there are good people arguing on behalf of the ATA position? I haven't seen much in the way of anything that explains the ATA position of why this is supposedly a good thing and thus hard-pressed to see a legitimate way to describe their position as good itself, and thus hard-pressed to see good people arguing in favour of it.

Do you know if there is a "best foot forward" argument for both sides, breaking it down for us non-experts?


Jeff Boice said...

Is it really uncharted territory? I'm thinking MCA/Universal.

E. Yarber said...

To put this in some perspective, I did a little math during the last strike. After looking up network advertising rates, I concluded that while there may be eighteen to twenty minutes of commercial within a prime time hour, the writers have been paid somewhere between the first ten and fifteen seconds of the opening spot, while all the creative participants have been covered before that break is over.

Movies and TV still generate an enormous amount of money, and while you naturally have to pay for production and distribution platforms, an overwhelming majority of profits go to the administrative side of the business, while the people who actually make the stories happen wind up with a drop in that bucket.

My figures may be off somewhat, but I doubt they're too far from reality. Still, when people fume at those overpriced Hollywood parasites, they're always looking at the visible players who pull in the viewers but are just getting their beaks wet by comparison to where the studios direct the cash.

E. Yarber said...

Actually, the writer may be paid within the first five or six seconds of a TV commercial break, even now.

Mike said...

The agencies make a whole lot of money from non-writing clients like producers, directors and mainly actors. They will package them all and make huge profits.

I think they wont care if writers fire them.

Bitter truth : Writers need agents not the other way around.

Peter said...

Can there be a resolution included in the negotiations that the writers of all three Big Momma's House movies never get hired again for anything except maybe late night infomercials selling male enhancement medications?

On a different note, I'm sad to read that character actor Seymour Cassel has died. He was a great actor. Even when he was in a lousy movie like Indecent Proposal, he was terrific. RIP.

Anonymous said...

What was the ATA's position on the writers getting screwed on payment for internet/streaming residuals during the last writers strike.
Seems to be a lesson in labor relations. First people recognize need for both parties.
Then management gets greedy and forces the workers to either strike or get crushed. Then labor shows flexibility in negoitations and give up something. The cycle repeats until the workers are nothing more then indentured slaves.
So if ATA supported writers over internet streaming rights negoitations with them can proceed with some mutual respect.
If they did not then the the WGA should treat them with the contempt and lack of trust that the ATA have worked so hard to earn.

E. Yarber said...

To clarify the streaming issue for those who come here to look but not touch, the established Guild minimum was something like $60K for the author of a one-hour TV episode, then a second payment of $20K when the program was rerun during the summer. By the time of the last strike, however, the networks were eliminating reruns in favor of reality shows and burning off unused scripted inventory, while some scripted episodes were available on the net the day after broadcast. That meant a salary cut of 25% percent for the writer, and the residuals on streaming and home video were set at the sort of change you might drop on the pavement and think twice before making the effort to bend down and pick it up.

I paid close attention during the strike because I had a script in pre-production at that time (didn't get made), but have not been following the contract changes since then. Maybe things are better, maybe worse. The last film job I was offered was from a guy who had already been pushing a property to the major studios but knew he had a dog on his hands unless someone totally revamped it in a hurry. I was offered a flat deal of five thousand dollars to completely rewrite a feature screenplay, no credit or rights, payment presumably delivered under a rock in small unmarked bills. All that bozo got from me was a demonstration of an entire level of vocabulary few people know I can resort to. Plenty of desperate writers might fall for that crap to "get through the door" though. That's why you need a union as a watchdog.

therealshell said...

Indecent Proposal is a riot. I laughed a lot when I saw it. It's impossible to take seriously.

David said...

Important change of topic:

Natalie Wood on "What's My Line" in 1966.

MikeN said...

E Yarber, are you saying a writer makes a million dollars for a season of TV, at a minimum?

E. Yarber said...

If I said writers are millionaires, I was certainly not speaking from experience. I may have seriously lowballed the amount of money charged for Prime Time commercials, but was remembering my own quick check of network prices nearly a decade ago. Perhaps the authors are covered in the first SECOND of a commercial break.

Minimum rates for television work are available from the WGA. Many writers are also on salary as staff (often credited as "Producers"). My point is that their payment is only a tiny tiny proportion of the cash rolling in on a successful project, so the common argument that they're overpaid or greedy during contract negotiations is misguided when people higher up the food chain ARE making millions for the same work.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Wait . . . another strike? Again? Why must they strike all the time? It's like that's all guilds do, is just go on strike!

Some Random Guy said...

Is it a possible solution that instead of scrapping packaging fees, the ATA brings the writers on board with the packaging fees? Give them a cut of all this money and, perhaps, also reduce their commission from ten percent? Why not become partners with the writers instead of merely "advocates?"

Edward said...

Hey Ken - Does the WGA have a fund to lobby the CA Legislature? Just wondering since a change in the law for Talent Agents might be an alternative path to take. Money Talks.

Also, It would be interesting if the Talent Agents were forced to provide a certified statement to the client detailing how much they actually made on the deal. From what I have read, it's disgusting that the agencies are raking in cash with gross participation agreements while the client, oblivious to the agency's deal has a mostly useless Net Profits participation, which can be used to line a birdcage.