Thursday, November 08, 2007

Is the Writers Guild becoming a Whiners Guild?

My mind's been occupied with other things lately, so I haven't given much thought to the Writers Guild strike. But I found this video quite interesting:



While the video made a few good points, and I was beginning to think, yeah, these people have a good case, they really should be making more for the work they do, my sympathies were aroused not at all by this heavy-handed attempt to manipulate my emotions:

Because 48% of Writers Guild members are unemployed at any time, residuals are more than just extra cash. They're a life-saver, allowing writers in financial straits to keep from losing their house or losing their health insurance. This is why we need your support.


Excuse me? You need my support because you're sitting on your backsides half the time instead of working?

Here's my advice to WG members who can't make a living wage in the business: Get a job where you can. That's what the rest of the world has to do. My romance-novelist friends who can't live on their royalty checks work at other jobs to put bread on their tables and get health insurance and pension plans--while they continue to write novels. I respect those people. What I don't admire is whiners who think they deserve my support because they're employed only half the time.

If a writer can't make a living wage from his writing, there are only three explanations for that: he's not talented enough, he's not working hard enough, or there's just not a good market for what he's selling, brilliant and hardworking though he may be. If the Writers Guild wants to talk about broken promises or about having been taken advantage of, they might capture my interest and gain my support. But if they're going to yammer about the world owing them a living because they're artists, they'll get no sympathy from me.

If you have an opinion on the strike, how about leaving a comment?

7 comments:

stewart1962 said...

"Excuse me? You need my support because you're sitting on your backsides half the time instead of working?"

Well, your support is your business and the video doesn't ask for it, it simply explains the issues. During these periods where writers are technically "unemployed," they're often in the middle of writing something that hasn't been paid for up front, whether it's a script, a treatment or a pitch for a film or television show. They're working. They're just not being paid for it. You don't just walk into a studio and say, "May I please have a movie assignment?" You have to sell something. And the pitch you've been working on for weeks that the studio asked you to come in with will often be met with, "We decided not to go that way." Or, "Yeah, INSERT STAR HERE decided he wants a romantic comedy. What can you give us?" So for the sake of argument, let's assume you have talent if you're receiving residuals. Because of the unique nature of the entertainment industry, not selling an idea or project rarely has anything to do with not working hard enough or not knowing your market. And as for the suggestion that these people get a job, they do get jobs between gigs. All the time. But all this is well beside the point. The simple fact of the matter is that when a media conglomerate makes money from a creative work, the creator gets paid. Period. You dismiss the entire video because this payment, which these individuals deserve, helps support their family while they're creating new material and helps fund their health plan? Wow. Okay. But let me assure you of one thing: there is no working screen or television writer I've ever met who assumes anyone owes him or her a living.

Brenda Coulter said...

During these periods where writers are technically "unemployed," they're often in the middle of writing something that hasn't been paid for up front, whether it's a script, a treatment or a pitch for a film or television show. They're working. They're just not being paid for it. You don't just walk into a studio and say, "May I please have a movie assignment?

Believe me, I'm familiar with the process. It's the same for romance novelists. But I'm glad you spelled it out, because not everyone is aware of how these things work.

You dismiss the entire video because this payment, which these individuals deserve, helps support their family while they're creating new material and helps fund their health plan?

No, I'm afraid you've leaped to a wrong conclusion. As I said, I haven't given this strike a lot of thought. My post was about a single annoying "selling point" contained in the video. I haven't yet read anything from the other side--and until I do, I'll keep my seat here on the fence.

Pattie said...

From the reading I've done on the subject, it seems the writers want more payment for their work that is now being distributed eletronically, for which they receive quite little compensation, if any, now. It's been several years and it's time to renegotiate the contract in light of recent technology. That all makes sense to me. I'd say I'm on the side of the writers.

However, I feel badly for the makeup artists, hair people, and other crew members who are now unemployed while the strike is going on.

jeanjeanie said...

Any other type of writing I would agree, but from my understanding of how the screen writing industry works, creating material that will just get your foot in the door of a studio and get you considered for a job is a full-time job, and one they don't get paid for. It's not like you can just work on it before or after work or during your lunch hour with the prospect of selling it when it's finished; TV writers have to have up-to-date portfolios filled with everything from spec scripts of current hit shows to original pilots to short stories and plays--and that's just to get them considered for work. "Unemployed" in this industry is not nearly the same thing as "not working."

Anonymous said...

Wish there was a union of novel-writers who could band together and offer health insurance and other perqs to its members. Or is there such a thing???

Bobconan said...

Either way though he still makes a good point. You put all that time into something that doesent end up selling. Many businesses and individuals do that. If there isnt a good enough market for it then your in the wrong market. And exactly how much are we talking about getting paid here? 100,000 dollars? 50,000? Independant consultants face the same challenges. If you cant get more then a 50,000 dollar contract a year then its time to go back to the 9-5 because you failed. All boils down to too many bs(bull not bachelors) arts degrees and people thinking they deserve something more just because they wasted 4 years of time and money on something that has no real benefit to society. Get an engineering degree and build something tangable. College didnt make them artists, the 4 years of no responsibility did. Let me borrow 120,000 dollars and give me a 4 year vacation and i'll write the next great american novel.

Anonymous said...

@Bobconan:
I'm no writer so I won't even pretend that given the dollar amount and time in your example, I'd produce the Next Great American anything.

And you're saying that entertainment is of no real benefit to society? Is that why the human race has had music and art for as long as anyone can remember? I suppose you don't have a single TV, radio or music album, whether on vinyl, cassette, CD or in MP3 format, eh?

You are arrogant, aren't you?

As for the writers, I wish they'd decided to strike way back when reality TV started taking over the airwaves with all that fake-real scripted garbage.

For that matter, when will the Screen Actors Guild stage a walk-out for that same reason? Idiots walking in off the street (or pushing their kids in off the street) to do stupid things on camera because they want to be famous for 15 minutes. Andy Warhol (a con artist if ever there was one) gets the last laugh.