Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Writers Guild Is Losing Ground

The Writers Guild Is Losing Ground

As someone who aspires to be a WGA member at some point (as an extension of being a professional screenwriter), the strike has been of interest to me. This article seems to be a bit of a bombshell. The long and short of it is that, as part of its demands, the WGA wants to include reality show writers among its members. This is being interpreted as a power grab by the WGA and an overextension that could cost the writers negotiating leverage.

It may well be a power grab, but I can also see it from the Guild's perspective as a CYA measure. The whole upsurge in reality television over the last several years has been a threat to writers. It's like Peter Gallagher's character, Larry Levy, from The Player, who basically said you don't need writers to make a movie. Reality television is the studios' best defense/threat against the WGA.

"Hey, what do I need you for when I can get a woman to marry a horse and follow them around for a week and a half?"

And there is certainly an undeniable amount of storytelling that goes into reality television, although it comes more from the editors than anyone else. And they've got their own union to look out for them.

While I see the WGA's possible reasoning, the producers will never budge on this. I'm no negotiating expert by any stretch, but maybe the WGA can set this aside and make it look like they're making a meaningful concession.


Devon said...

Ugh. That article is some assy, assy journalism. The whole "reality show power grab" thing is an AMPTP ploy, and Business Week fell for it. Or is deliberately misrepresenting it because they're on the side of the suits -- I'm not sure which.

The reality-writer provision is not a "key demand" of the WGA. It's not a demand at all. It's just one provision in a proposal that contains who knows how many about every aspect of the WGA contract. Is it a provision that overreaches its grasp? Probably. But that's the whole point of proposals and counterproposals -- you start on one side and your opponent starts on the other, and you negotiate your way to the middle.

So at some point the WGA would probably have dropped it. But they would've done so in response to a concession from the other side; that's probably the reason it's in there in the first place. The AMPTP are the crazy, power-mad ones for insisting that the WGA drop it and a bunch of other provisions before negotiations even start. They're basically demanding that the writers throw away all the leverage they have -- the leverage that is going to help them make the super-important residuals deal -- simply because the suits tell them to.

JD said...

Each day the news get worse and worse. I think it was foolish to throw out the DVD residuals at the last minute too. It's a whole new landscape out there. Lew Wasserman is not around to help broker this and the public may lose interest-- the majority does not even care.
Nikki Finke is the big winner out of all this.

Noel O'Connell said...

The title of the article alone, "The Writers Guild Is Losing Ground," smacks of bias. So, in fact, they are making a mountain out of a molehill. A quick look at Wikipedia reveals that BW is owned by McGraw-Hill, which has a broadcasting division. That's enlightening.