Friday, November 30, 2007

A Tale of Two Contract Offers

Today, the AMPTP (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers -- the group that reps the studios and mini-majors) is giving itself a firm clap on the back for what it calls a "contract offer," so much so that they felt the need to send it via lot-wide e-mail so we could see how generous and giving companies like Fox and Paramount can be -- apparently forgetting for one wild, impetuous moment that we who work here have had our own contract negotiations with these companies, so we know exactly how they roll. The WGA has issued its own viewpoint of the offer, and precisely what it does and does not promise.

The AMPTP loves to talk about how, on average, screen and television writers are some of the highest wage earners in America. This is simply not true. Let me repeat that. Simply. Not. True. As in, false. As in a fucking bald-faced lie.

The truth about this industry is that, much like in SAG or the Directors' Guild, or the rest of the country, for that matter, the top 2% of the wage earners in the union earn about 95% of the money that's being made. That means that the remaining 5% or so is divided amongst the vast majority of the WGA membership. How much per writer do you thing that comes to? In short, less than 15% of writers make they're livings only as writers. Most have "day jobs" in order to pay the bills.

Furthermore, the AMPTP is on a desperate campaign to link internet residual sales to those of DVDs. Wanna know how much the average writer -- the person who wrote the screenplay for the movie that is being sold on DVD -- gets per every DVD copy sold? One third of of one percent. That's one third of one penny per every DVD copy sold. My dear friend Matt Greenberg has written several movies that have fared quite well in DVD sales, including "Reign of Fire," "Halloween H2O," and the just-released-on-DVD "1408." And yet he has seen very little money for these DVD releases, though they have been quite profitable for the studios.

The amount of money that the WGA is asking for has been made to sound like a fortune by the AMPTP. But it is, in reality, a pittance compared to the vast profits that these companies are raking in, both in DVD sales and over the internet. It is the expressed desire of these mega-corporations to "break the unions," so that they can return Hollywood to the days where actors, writers and directors were little more than slave labor. Writers from that era are overwhelming supportive of the current strike, though most of them are now retired. They know what a Hollywood without collective bargaining agreements is like.

This "offer" is no offer. It's a photo-op at best, no matter how the AMPTP chooses to paint it.

For more on the WGA stance on the strike, see these videos:
And Zoo Milk's take on what life (and television) will be like if the WGA strike goes on too long:

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