Monday, January 21, 2008

A talk with my parents

I spoke with my folks today about the WGA strike. It disturbs me that the outside world must surely share their view, as their opinions have been formed by mainstream media. Those opinions are:
- The DGA deal is a good one for writers, because it is a deal.
- Should the WGA negotiating committee not be able to hammer out a deal with the AMPTP now that negotiations seem to be back on the horizon, the WGA is on the verge of being busted because countless members are going to break off from it (go fi-core, though they don't know what it means).

In truth, the DGA deal may be a decent one for directors, I can't judge.

However, any real advances they made (specifically "distributor's gross") are because of the writers going on strike. In a universe where the writers hadn't gone on strike in November, the DGA does not make nearly this good a deal.

As for what the WGA gets now? Yes, the DGA deal will be a template used by the AMPTP in negotiations (which will hopefully be in good faith). At least they're talking however I've seen this effective union-busting technique before, and I'm not fooled by it. Am I cautiously optimistic that the WGA and AMPTP are talking? Hell yes. Am I at the same time worried that this is another feint by the AMPTP to send the WGA membership on a rollercoaster, giving a brief moment of "OMG, there's hope on the horizon" only to pull the rug out from under us by not negotiating in good faith (although with the exception of union-busting, there is no longer any financial reason for the studios to not bargain in good faith with the WGA... the overall deals have been severed, development slates are being cut down, some of 2009's features are starting to feel the burden).

Anyway, whatever the WGA gets now is primarily because we went on strike, and not because of the DGA deal.

Should there not be a deal made (in a timely manner), though? I don't see this ridiculous massive fi-core split. I don't know a single writer contemplating it. I don't know anyone who knows anyone. I don't know anyone who knows anyone who knows anyone. Somehow, John Ridley going fi-core has let the mass media spin it out that there's a schism or giant contingent in the WGA that will do the same, when the truth is simply that a lot of writers (specifically, and as reported in the trades and media, a group of showrunners) are voicing their concerns to the guild leadership that a deal be made. Because if it's not made in this coming negotiating session, then there's no chance of getting anything else out of this TV season and pilot season (as diminished as it is) will be forfeit. It's TV writers "pressuring" the guild and the reason should be self-evident.

But the guild can't fold and take the DGA deal. It doesn't work for writers. They can't take just any deal, especially not after a hard-fought eleven-week(-plus?) strike. The deal has to work for writers and it can't be a bad deal. The WGA made a bad deal in 1988. Once burned, twice shy. And in this New Media fight, the WGA (and its membership) should know that making a bad deal isn't going to help the industry because if the WGA makes a bad deal, come July SAG will be on strike. It's not like we're going back to work without a stoppage for the next 20 years provided just any deal gets made.

At this point, though, I'm not sure what a "great" deal for the WGA looks like... I don't even know what a "good" deal looks like. The question I really have is... what will settle the strike? What deal terms? I'm excited to see (because I want to get back to work).

Which my parents understand. After I explained it to them. But I worry that because of the perception the media has been putting out there (DGA deal should be taken by WGA, WGA strike had nothing to do with DGA getting a good deal, WGA may break if no deal is made), if the WGA does not make a deal... the massively pro-WGA public opinion, a war that the WGA actually has been winning, will start to wane.

No comments: