2007-12-02

Gready American Writers

Gready writers.
 
I don't usually publicly take sides in labour disputes, but since the writers on strike were so kind to explain the details (and do so quite well, they have a knack), I feel informed enough to do so.
 
First, writers make good money (an average of $200,000 per year!). If they lose the strike, it isn't as if they are going to start writing commercials or user manuals instead (although writing manuals also appears quite lucrative). They want revenue sharing over products sold, given away and rented via the Internet. Not profit sharing, revenue sharing.
 
They get paid to do the writing, then if is used, they get a share of the revenue every time the show is aired. But unlike actors, their faces aren't plastered all over TV, just their words. The logic for paying people for work they did 10 years ago escapes me.
 
I understand why the writers want this benefit, I just don't agree they should have it.
 
And they want you and me to pay higher cable bills to do so. Higher cable bills because if they want revenue from mediums not generating profit, like NBC's free tv over the Internet, then the money will have to come from somewhere. And that means higher cable and DVD prices.
 
Raise your hand if you get paid more than once for your work. I get money for writing this blog way after the fact, but the difference is I don't get a salary. The risk/investment is all mines.
 
Actors should receive compensation for being famous. So I agree that actors should receive residuals. But writers? No.
 
PS. Did you know that while on strike, the writers are still getting residuals? Name one industry where you get paid by your employer while on strike!
 
PPS. Check out this special "deal" being offered to Writers Guild members:
 
 Campanile Restaurant
624 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles
Reservations: 323-938-1447
www.campanilerestaurant.com
OFFER: The Writers Kitchen menu, available on Wednesday nights. Three-course meal including the option of either vegetarian or non-vegetarian soup; a choice of one of four entrees; and homemade ice cream. The fixed price is $18. Diners need to present one WGA card per table to be eligible.
 
When I was on strike, I barely had enough for store brand groceries. These guys and galls have enough money to dine out!?

1 comment:

ADHR said...

You're not serious. Are you?

The "average" writer's salary is as misleading as the average film actor's salary. It's distorted by multi-millionaires sitting at the top of the chain. The distribution of salaries is such that the median amount (what exactly half of all writers make less than, and half more than) is squarely in the middle-class range of ~$40-50K per year.

Second, the idea is not to pay people for work they did 10 years ago. First, the idea is to pay people for work they do now. Developing work that's exclusively distributed on the internet earns writers exactly $0. Second, the idea is to ensure that producers funnel some of the huge wodges of cash they make from DVD and internet revenue streams towards the people who actually created it. Right now, producers can repackage and resell the same intellectual property again and again without the creators getting one red cent. You can't do that in any other creative endeavour. Musicians get paid (not a lot, but they get paid) every time their songs are played; authors get paid every time a book is sold.

Third, if free TV over the internet makes no money, how on earth are networks justifying lawsuits against YouTube, in values in the billions? Of course networks believe that there is money to be made on the internet.

Higher cable bills is a completely seperate issue, as cable companies aren't producers. Producers pay writers. Cable companies do not. Producers sell product to networks, not cable companies. Cable companies then pay for access to networks. If networks try to foist off any extra costs on cable companies, and then cable companies on consumers, cable companies know that consumers will become angry and possibly reduce service. So, cable companies have an economic incentive to stop networks from raising fees. And that gives networks an incentive to stop producers from raising costs. And that gives producers an incentive to just pay the writers a little more. (Keeping in mind that most producers are hardly penniless.) For similar reasons, higher DVD prices are unlikely. Higher prices entails fewer sales entails less profit. If producers of DVDs are forced to pay writers more, then producers of DVDs will have an incentive to sell more, in order to cover the increased cost. Foisting it off on the consumer, again, is liable to bite them in the ass.

Fourth, the idea that you don't get paid more than once for your work is irrelevant. Writers are producing creative work, and the standards of creative work, for years, have been royalty payments for every sale. All TV/film writers are asking for is that DVD and internet sales get counted in with other sales. That's perfectly reasonable. If you're suggesting that royalties are a bad way to pay creative people, fine; but that's not the argument you're making. Comparing creative work to plumbing or whatever it is you have in mind is apples and oranges run amok.

Fifth, actors should receive compensation for being famous? Are you serious? Being famous is a benefit; actors should be paid less if they're famous! (As long as we compare actors to other industries, as you are trying to do with writers. After all, in most industries, getting some non-monetary benefit is used as a justification to lower salaries, not raise them.)

Sixth, writers are getting residuals because their creative works are still being sold. I'm confident that if ACTRA struck, actors would still get paid for sales of productions they were involved in. It's a function of the royalty system, which is, once more, universal in creative work.

Seventh, it's $18 for Pete's sake. And you have no evidence that writers are taking advantage of the deal. They may, as you did when you were on strike and I did when I was on strike (both times), be refraining from eating out; in which case this deal is an attempt to encourage writers to come back and make some money for the restaurant. Capitalism at work.

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