Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WGA Strike - Day 38

Another freezing day on the line, literally! The temperature at day's start was a brisk 39 degrees and there was crunchy frost frost on the grass. Okay, so it isn't NYC nasty, but it was still cold!

Still, the "temperature" went up dramatically when our rag-tag picketers were confronted by a remarkably angry fellow who launched into a salvo about "residuals." As in (and this is paraphrased, but pretty close), "you writers, you all get residuals, right? So when the networks all go into reruns in 2008, you'll all make a ton of a money! Meaning you'll actually do better during the strike! You're not risking anything while you're putting everyone else out of work!" He ramped this up to a self-satisfied crescendo, like he had divined the subterfuge of the writers and figured out the DiVinci code all in the same moment.

This one's right up with the costume designer who complained on the radio that writers shouldn't bother striking because they all make "five million dollars a year." Which is kind of like suggesting all costume designers must be making millions, because Ralph Lauren is doing pretty well, right? I'm not sure the point can be made any clearer -- not all writers make millions. Not all writers make thousands. And anyone with any sort of career has experienced wild ups and downs regardless, so "doing well" one year can be followed by "nada" the next.

But I'm not pleading poverty here, and the members of the WGA are painfully aware of the damage wrought by a strike. More painfully aware, I might suggest, than the negotiators on the other side who have walked away from the table twice now in a manufactured huff over some issue or another. If you're going to be enraged, how about saving a drop of spittle for the other team?

As far as the residual issue goes, well, a few points. One, the networks aren't planning to flood the airwaves with drama/sitcom reruns in 2008, they're putting together a flotilla of really exciting reality shows. But to answer Mr. Really-Angry's question, yes, if a WGA covered show is rerun, then there are residuals paid to the writer who wrote that particular show. But "writers" are not some monolithic group who all get residuals all the time, so the vast majority of writers who haven't worked in television or aren't currently working on a show that's UP for a rerun won't see anything from this supposed boon. Same goes if you're a feature writer (unless your feature is run on television), haven't anything produced yet, etc., etc.

So if you want to talk about what strikers have put on the line, here's the deal. Staffers who had been working on television shows aren't getting paid. Guys who were in the middle of writing features aren't getting paid. Show-runners who were running shows aren't getting paid. Yes, some residuals may still trickle in, but to suggest they will make up for the shortfall from the other losses is specious to say the least.

I guess Mr. Furious will have to work up a new talking point for his next visit...

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