Related Articles

24 users responded in this post

Subscribe to this post comment rss or trackback url
mygif

Well, in a way I can see the idea of ‘if you’re producing a crap product, then you shouldn’t get paid for it, like in ANY business,’ but that’s not really the argument here. I do believe the phrase is apples and oranges. There’s a lot of crap products on the market that are hugely successful (read: Windows >_> {OH GOD PLATFORM FLAME WAR}) in spite of it. People should still get paid for the work they produced if it’s being consumed. That’s the important part.

ReplyReply
mygif

I haven’t made my mind up about the writer’s strike (on the one hand I’m some kind of writer, on the other I’m a viewer who wants his Dexter, but ultimately it’s Hollywood, and therefore it doesn’t involve real people). However, if the simple question is ‘should people who contribute to financial success profit from it’, then the answer is ‘not necessarily’. It depends on the level of risk, and who bears that risk.

ReplyReply
mygif

If it helps you to pick a side, Andrew, just think of it this way: the American writers are on strike to get marginal equivalents of the rights that their British counterparts already have.

ReplyReply
mygif

Firstly, that commentator is abhorrent or rediculous or rediculorrent. We could be talking about a pornographers strike and I’d find trying to relate the quality of the output with the deserving of a fair labour agreement to be in bad taste.

Secondly, thanks for the link – although the post over at my long-neglected site is realy just a refinement of the comments thread discussion here from yesterday.

Thirdly, While not a big fan of Keith Giffen’s Legion run – I will defend to the death the brilliance of his eight issue “Heckler” series (and possibly a good chunk of the “Bwah-ha-ha” era Justice League… and the 9 panel grid…)

Now on to them brass tacks:

The question is simple: do writers, having helped to produce a product that is financially successful, deserve a share of that financial success? Answer that question.

Again, I think this point makes for nice rhetoric but ignores pretty much every other industry out there. Cheezdanish points out a software parallel – should software programmers be paid fairly for their work regardless of the quality of the finished product (which quality, or lack thereof, may not have anything to do with their individual contribution)? Absolutely.

Should software programmers be legally guaranteed a royalty on every single instance of that program sold? Most aren’t. Most head-chefs aren’t guaranteed royalties on every dish sold that they create the recipie for. Most business executives aren’t guaranteed a royalty on every product the company produces. Again I don’t say this because I don’t think any writer is entitled to these things, but that in many cases it’s just not feasable to implement – and I don’t understand why one wouldn’t negotiate comprehensive compensation up front and then be happy if the company profits from it.

In any of the blockbuster economies (film, television, music, books) companies better be making huge profits on some of their product as the 80/20 rule would suggest that those few hits are subsidizing the other 80% of productions which will not make money. If companies weren’t making massive profit on those 20% of successes there’d be a lot less employed folk industry-wide.

If the WGA argument truly is that their writers are not being fairly compensated for work performed, then that is a defensible strike issue and I support them fully. But I’m not entirely sure that’s really what the issue here is.

ReplyReply
mygif

Should software programmers be legally guaranteed a royalty on every single instance of that program sold? Most aren’t.

…because most software programmers sign away their intellectual property rights in exchange for a regular salary and benefits and pension plan. This is a really bad example, unless you’re suggesting the return of longterm employment staff writing, which disappeared in the mid-40s and which the Big Seven don’t want back anyway so it’s not gonna happen, and which isn’t practical for independent producers like you to boot.

ReplyReply
mygif

Brad makes a lot more sense than most I’ve heard arguing against the strike. I disagree with him, but at least he’s sensible about it.

ReplyReply
mygif

FRANCES McDormand. Jesus H. Christ.

ReplyReply
mygif

Oh come on, I had Helen Mirren in my head at the same time, it’s a forgivable mistake!

ReplyReply
mygif

The obvious difference between writers and chefs, on the other hand, is that chefs make a one-time use only product, and the profit/loss is entirely made at the point of purchase. Even people who make durable goods, such as cars, cabinets, vases, and Jackie Chan action figures sell these things only once per item, and the profit that these things will make is finite and defined prior to the sale.

Whereas in media, the end product can be replicated for next to no cost, and resold again and again and again. The amount of profit an enduring, timeless movie can make is virtually unlimited (take, for example, ‘Singing in the Rain’, which continues to make profits for the people who own the rights to it over fifty years after its initial creation.) This has nothing to do with the medium–people wouldn’t pay the same amount of money for a blank DVD that they would for one with ‘Singing in the Rain’ on it. The intellectual property is continuing to generate profit long after the initial investment has paid off; therefore, a fair compensation (one that rewards all parties concerned commeasurate to their efforts) must involve royalty rights, because if the profit grows instead of staying finite per product, then a percentage is fairer than a flat fee.

ReplyReply
mygif

…because most software programmers sign away their intellectual property rights in exchange for a regular salary and benefits and pension plan.

That right there is the point that makes this simple for me. The studios essentially tell the writers, “We can’t pay you ahead of time for doing the writing, because we don’t know if it’s going to make a profit.” So the writer takes a huge gamble and waits to get paid. But then when it DOES make a profit, the studio says, “Oh, we didn’t mean THAT profit. No, we still don’t have to pay you.” And that is just dirty pool, in my book.

If the business agreement is, “The writer gets a residual whenever the thing they wrote is reaired,” then they should get a residual, even if the reairing takes place on a medium that wasn’t thought of when the agreement was created. And it’s not like the writers are saying, “Pay us enough residual to break the bank on the profits that you’re making.” They’re saying, “Instead of 2 cents of every dollar of PROFIT you are making, we’d like 4 cents of every dollar. And we’d like that same deal when those dollars come from airing the thing in its entirety on the internet.”

Is that REALLY so unreasonable? I don’t think so.

ReplyReply
mygif

[…] most software programmers sign away their intellectual property rights in exchange for a regular salary and benefits and pension plan. This is a really bad example, unless you’re suggesting the return of longterm employment staff writing.

The few programmers I personally know work on per-project contracts that are similar in length to developing a feature script, which is why I picked that particular thread… the dynamic is admittedly different in Television writing, but many television writers are on staff for entire seasons (or series), so I think the parallel stands.

Whereas in media, the end product can be replicated for next to no cost, and resold again and again and again. The amount of profit an enduring, timeless movie can make is virtually unlimited (take, for example, ‘Singing in the Rain’, which continues to make profits for the people who own the rights to it over fifty years after its initial creation.) This has nothing to do with the medium–people wouldn’t pay the same amount of money for a blank DVD that they would for one with ‘Singing in the Rain’ on it.

Absolutely true but decreasingly so. The marketable life of a product has been exponentially decreasing in this day and age. Even in the late 80s you could maintain a theatrical release for several years before moving to direct video and television exhibition markets – while in recent years the value of productions is a fraction within 48 months of a global theatrical release. That being said I have no issue whatsoever with performance bonus’ in writer agreements if they’re tied to net revenues (from ANY source). But mandatory royalties is poison to both the media and the end user.

That right there is the point that makes this simple for me. The studios essentially tell the writers, “We can’t pay you ahead of time for doing the writing, because we don’t know if it’s going to make a profit.” So the writer takes a huge gamble and waits to get paid. But then when it DOES make a profit, the studio says, “Oh, we didn’t mean THAT profit. No, we still don’t have to pay you.” And that is just dirty pool, in my book.

Not quite sure I get this. If I commission a writer under a union agreement to write so much as a grocery list they get paid. To write a treatment, a draft, a 2nd draft, a polish, all have (considerable) minimum fees. Fees that have to be paid mostly up front.

Then, if the project gets *made* you have to pay the writers again before it goes to camera and usually this “production fee” is calculated as a percentage of the total production budget (a figure which, increasingly, often factors in money a distributor thinks they’ll make on *all* sales, including DVD and new media).

And that is just dirty pool, in my book.

It would be, but that’s not how the current agreement works at all.

If the business agreement is, “The writer gets a residual whenever the thing they wrote is reaired,” then they should get a residual, even if the reairing takes place on a medium that wasn’t thought of when the agreement was created.

But that’s not the usual agreement.

Again, it could be, I don’t have a problem with that arrangement on a case-by-case basis. I don’t have a problem with royalties on whatever both parties feel is fair. But we’re talking about mandating a system for all productions – and not all productions can support that deal – which will just force people to work with non-union writers, which is in no ones best interests.

ReplyReply
mygif

I don’t have a problem with that arrangement on a case-by-case basis.

If a case-by-case basis was workable within the current system, don’t you think the writers would go for it? But it isn’t feasible, because case-by-case negotiations massively favor the more powerful party at the negotiating table, and in Hollywood, that means the studios. It would be a simple case of “take our paltry offer or we go to the next guy, and then the next guy if he doesn’t accept, and so on until we get somebody willing to take the paltry offer.”

In short, only the most powerful and proven writers would get residuals, if any did at all. And that’s just not good enough.

ReplyReply
mygif

Seems to me that if, as Mr. Fox suggests, the entire value that professional writing adds had to be accounted for pre-release of the product, that it would make the initial cost of investment that much greater. Whereas the residual system, fair or otherwise, allows corporations to take more chances because the creative talent is charging less upfront. And one of the most common complaints about Hollywood is how corporate it has become. If it takes more money to produce a show, the process will only become more corporate.

ReplyReply
mygif

Brad Fox said:

“The marketable life of a product has been exponentially decreasing in this day and age.”

Which is, of course, why I can now buy ‘Punky Brewster’ on DVD. :)

Seriously, you can’t expect me to believe that the shelf-life of entertainment is decreasing when everything points to a mass shift to an archived culture where any TV show or movie with any kind of following gets its own DVD release, which in turn breeds new fans which in turn breeds a larger following. Look at ‘Firefly’, a series that was cancelled after nine episodes but which is rumored to be getting a second (straight to DVD) movie. Look at ‘Family Guy’, or ‘Futurama’, both series revived from cancellation due to the popularity of the DVD sales.

Yes, theatrical releases are no longer the money-spinners they once were, but subsidiary markets have vastly extended the profitable life of a movie…and coincidentally, writers see a pittance off of DVD sales and much better shares of the box office returns. It’s almost as though major studios have conditioned people to wait for the DVDs. :>

ReplyReply
mygif

Or why they’re making a GI Joe Movie, another Transformers movie, a Robotech movie, a Thundercats movie, the list goes on and on…good IP is good IP regardless of whether it’s MASH or Punky Brewster…the trend toward an Ilife society where whatever I want can be downloaded at x dollars per episode necessitates that someone should get paid for the advertising or fee that goes into that download or stream or whatever…I just don’t think that should, should only include the producers and studios.

ReplyReply
mygif

“If it helps you to pick a side, Andrew, just think of it this way: the American writers are on strike to get marginal equivalents of the rights that their British counterparts already have.”

That argument honestly doesn’t make a difference either way, I’m afraid. I’m not a patriot; I’m an Englishman.

ReplyReply
mygif

The person who began this thread is not a very good fact checker.

1995 Mira Sorvino, for her role in Mighty Aphrodite. Best Actress in a Supporting Role.
She won.

1996 Elizabeth Shue, for her role in Leaving Las Vegas. Best Actress in a Leading
Role. She was nominated but did not win.

1997 Kim Basinger, for her role in L.A. Confidential. Best Actress in a Supporting
Role. She won.

2003 Charlize Theron, for her role in Monster. Best Actress in a Leading role. She won.

And these are just the ones that come readily to mind. There may be more.

ReplyReply
mygif

1.) You’ll note that I counted Theron.

2.) Elizabeth Shue being nominated and not winning is meaningless. If people who only got nominated count, then “prostitute” won’t even make top ten of most popular occupations for Academy-nominated roles.

3.) I’ll admit I wasn’t counting supporting actress roles, but again – adding supporting actress knocks the number of women who have won an Oscar for portraying a prostitute in the last twenty years to three. (You got ’em all.) “Cop” jumps to four. “Rich British aristocrat” to six. And Dutiful Wife skyrockets to around seven or eight.

ReplyReply
mygif

When I posted the original post, I had professional women in mind. As I did not specifically state this, this is definitely my mistake. I should have been more specific. A big mea-culpa.

I do not consider rich British aristocrat a profession. In any case, it is certainly not something that women can aspire to. And as much as I admire housewives and the work they do, I was not considering them in the sense of “outside the home professions.”

What four women have won four playing a Police Officer? If there were four as you have stated, then you are certainly correct, and I am incorrect, even in the sense I intended. Unlike the vast majority of web-posters, I have no problem admitting this.

However, don’t you find it even remotely strange that that prostitute is second?

As for the rest of my post I stand by it. I look at writers as no different from engineers or bio-chemists. If the former invents something nifty that sells well, the company that he or she is working for owns it. If the latter invents a new medicine, again, the company owns it. If they are writing for a studio, the studio should own the product. Don’t newspapers and magazines own the products of their writers? This is a true question. I do not know the answer.

By the way, this site has used my intellectual property without my express permission. Will I receive any royalties or residuals? Does this site make money?

ReplyReply
mygif

However, don’t you find it even remotely strange that that prostitute is second?

It isn’t. “Actress/performer.” Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway, Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago, Catherine Hudson in Dreamgirls, Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line, Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare In Love and Cate Blanchett in The Aviator.

And you have to remember that crime stories – or even just criminal characters – are a staple come Academy season, and prostitution is, like it or not, the most visible criminal profession for women. There have been five actors in the last twenty years given Oscars for portraying criminals (six if you count Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko in Wall Street).

Your base argument is “prostitution in the movies is too prevalent in terms of the awards it receives” and honestly, a simple look at the numbers shows that that just isn’t the case.

(And Monster is not a movie about a prostitute; it’s a movie about a serial killer who happens to be a prostitute, kind of. There’s a difference.)

As for the rest of my post I stand by it. I look at writers as no different from engineers or bio-chemists. If the former invents something nifty that sells well, the company that he or she is working for owns it. If the latter invents a new medicine, again, the company owns it.

Again: the vast majority of engineers and biochemists sign over their intellectual property ownership rights to whichever company employs them in exchange for “a salary” and “benefits.”

If they are writing for a studio, the studio should own the product.

Creative work doesn’t work like this, you understand. Whenever you write a screenplay (or a book, or a song for that matter), you’re recognized as the author of the work, which carries with it certain inalienable rights. It doesn’t matter if the studio paid you to write the screenplay or not; them’s the law.

If a studio decides they want your screenplay, great – but they need your authorship rights transferred to them to avoid multiple legal problems (like the ability to control derivative works, for example, or the fact that “the author” of a work has legal right to sue if they consider an adapation bad enough to reflect on their personal reputation).

That’s where residuals come in – studios have to buy the authorship rights from the writers, and the writers got together and said “fine, but as a union we’re saying you can’t have them without residuals.”

Don’t newspapers and magazines own the products of their writers?

Yes, but again – the newspapers and magazines either usually purchase the authorship rights outright in exchange for salary and benefits for the writer, or in rare circumstances a deal is negotiated to allow the paper/magazine to use the columns without having the authorship rights.

By the way, this site has used my intellectual property without my express permission.

The recitation of a fact – even incorrectly – isn’t intellectual property, and if you wanted to argue that your comment in toto was such, I linked back and attributed to you, which would satisfy the doctrine of fair use.

Really: you have to stop playing “gotcha” when you don’t know the rules.

ReplyReply
mygif

“That’s where residuals come in – studios have to buy the authorship rights from the writers, and the writers got together and said “fine, but as a union we’re saying you can’t have them without residuals.”

Focusing on the “we’re”, unless I have misunderstood this comment (and I may have misunderstood), or you care to withdraw, you are admitting that you are an affected writer. I have carefully re-read your original post. You did not mention this before. I wonder why you did not give full disclosure until now. Obviously, you are biased towards the writers. Sorry to play “gotcha.”

“It isn’t. “Actress/performer.” Dianne Wiest in Bullets Over Broadway, Catherine Zeta-Jones in Chicago, Catherine Hudson in Dreamgirls, Reese Witherspoon in Walk The Line, Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare In Love and Cate Blanchett in The Aviator.”

Obviously I do not get it. I am not as nuanced as you are. Again, I openly admit when I make a mistake or do not understand something. I have no idea what you meant by this line of argumentation.

“By the way, this site has used my intellectual property without my express permission.
The recitation of a fact – even incorrectly – isn’t intellectual property, and if you wanted to argue that your comment in toto was such, I linked back and attributed to you, which would satisfy the doctrine of fair use.”

This should have been obvious to a creative soul such as you. (This also is also meant with all seriousness. In general, I consider writers to be to be very creative souls. I am a Dostoyevsky fanatic.) In this case, however, it was sarcasm. Relax!

PS I listed the prostitutes. I am still waiting for the list of the four police officers.

ReplyReply
mygif

I’m not a member of the WGA nor have I ever been, and you suggesting that I’m trying to represent myself as one smacks of a total lack of reading comprehension on your part.

Obviously, you are biased towards the writers.

Yes, because they are in the right.

I have no idea what you meant by this line of argumentation.

Let me break it down for you, then. Your initial argument was that Hollywood writers were “obsessed” with prostitution, because more actresses had won an Oscar for portraying a prostitute than any other profession. Laying aside the fact that three awards out of a possible forty were given to actresses portraying prostitutes (a whopping seven point five percent), your claim was inaccurate, because there are several occupations (homemaker, performer, aristocrat, what have you) that get greater representation in award wins.

On its face, even before one points out that the argument itself is facile and stupid because the Academy Awards are not about quality but mostly about Hollywood politics, the argument is just plain crap.

In this case, however, it was sarcasm.

Good to know. You’re not very good at writing sarcastically, then. It sounded just as stiff and formal as everything you write.

As for the cops, I will mea culpa, having incorrectly remembered Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich as a police officer rather than lawyer, which was stupid.

ReplyReply
mygif

Just a random question, but is there a Canadian equivilant to the WGA, SAG, etc?

ReplyReply
mygif

Screenwriters in Canada belong to the WGC, the acronymic form of which I believe you can figure out. Directors belong to the DGC, and actors belong (usually) to ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) if they work primarily in English or the UDA (Union des artistes) if they work primarily in French (IE, Quebec).

ACTRA, the UDA and the WGC have all come out in support of the strike. The DGC, which unlike the American equivalent has a lot of non-directors in it, hasn’t issued a statement yet and general sentiment is that they won’t before the DGA does.

ReplyReply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please Note: Comment moderation may be active so there is no need to resubmit your comments