The good news here is that they did the survey and published the results.
The bad news is those results:
by Rachel Monpeller
A month after WGA East released the findings of a sexual harassment survey given to its members, its sister union, WGA West, has published the results of its own survey. Unfortunately, the West Coast’s women writers are navigating just as toxic a workplace as their East Coast counterparts. As Deadline reports, the WGA West survey concluded that 64 percent of female writers have been subjected to sexual harassment on the job, and “a significant amount of the harassment writers experience occurs in the writers’ room.”
The WGA West survey was conducted in February, but the results are only being made public now. More than 2,000 people, or about one-fifth of the union’s active membership, responded.
The survey found that 11 percent of male writers have encountered workplace sexual harassment and “many more writers have witnessed harassment” while at work.
Many of the survey’s participants cited the 2006 “Friends” sexual harassment verdict in their responses. The case saw a female writer on the series claim crude writers’ room jokes counted as sexual harassment. The California Supreme Court disagreed in a unanimous decision: State law “does not outlaw sexually coarse and vulgar language or conduct that merely offends.”
According to WGA West, the “Friends” case “is mistakenly used to justify inappropriate behavior in the workplace” in today’s writers’ rooms. The decision “acknowledges that the creative environment of a writers’ room may come with crude talk,” the guild clarified. “However, the decision does not permit such talk to be aimed at an individual in the room. Indeed, it acknowledges that objectionable talk may, in some circumstances, be enough to create a hostile work environment….”
Yes, it’s true. The writers (us) and our agents – specifically the TV series packaging agencies (them) are drawing a couple of lines in the sand. And – and this is an even bigger “yes” – at the moment those lines are way far apart.
by David Robb
The Association of Talent Agents has reached out to the WGA with an offer to sit down for informal talks in advance of negotiations for a new franchise agreement that governs how agencies represent writers. It’s the first conciliatory move by either side since April, when the WGA East and West gave the ATA a 12-month notice to terminate their existing agreement, known as the Artists’ Manager Basic Agreement.
In a letter to the heads of both unions, ATA executive director Karen Stuart said: “The ATA and its member agencies have been your partner in championing writers and their careers for more than 60 years. We are proud of the relationship we have enjoyed with the WGA and proud of our agencies’ record of success in representing their clients — your members. Every day, our agencies are on the front lines fighting for writers’ needs: opportunity, creative freedom and, of course, fair compensation.”
In its proposals for a new agreement, the WGA seeks to completely reshape the talent agency business, putting an end to packaging – which the guilds see as rife with conflicts of interest – ending commissions on scale and stopping the agencies’ nascent ventures into film and television production.
“Media consolidation and other seismic changes in the development, production and distribution ecosystem have significantly altered the landscape writers – both new and established – face every day,” Stuart said in her letter. “As the writer’s role is central and indispensable, we know that it is of utmost importance to the WGA that writers continue to be able to create freely, access the most advantageous opportunities and maximize their compensation; the agencies that represent writers, day in and day out, fully share those beliefs….
You might think this is all about the money, and that’s certainly a big factor. Cable TV bills, after the first year lock-in deals expire, can easily climb above $100 a month. Replacing a cable subscription with Netflix, which costs $14 a month at most, is a quick way to save a little money. And sure, part of that $100+ per month you’re still going to have to pay if you’re keeping your broadband internet. But, even with that, you can still save money cutting the cord.
But cord cutting isn’t just about the money. Depending on how many streaming services you pay for, cord cutting might even be more expensive than cable (especially since you still have to pay for internet access), but people are doing it anyway, because streaming services at this point are better than cable. Here are a few reasons why.
Streaming Services Offer Better User Interfaces
I haven’t had cable since college, back when woolly mammoths roamed the US and Slashdot’s traffic could take down web-servers. Things were straight forward then: you turned on your TV and changed the channel until you found something you wanted to watch.
Modern cable setups are not like this. For one thing, the advent of digital channels has made channel changing slower. Try to flip through channels these days, and you often have to wait a few seconds before each channel actually pops up on the screen.
And yes, modern cable set top boxes try to offer features like interactive guides and searches, but those are often more frustrating than they should be. The guides and other features can be slow to work with, and most show channels you don’t even have access to with no way to filter them out.
Take Verizon’s FIOS offering, for example. One of my coworkers with FIOS reports that it’s so slow that just about every button press takes seconds to respond. Fire up their On Demand interface, and it can take up to 30 seconds to load. And even then, the thumbnails for shows haven’t popped in….
Feeling a tad insecure these days, bunky? You aren’t alone. Stress has become the name of the game everywhere, and showbiz is no exception:
by Stephen Galloway
In mid-December, Adi Shankar boarded a plane at Los Angeles International Airport, ready to embark on the two-day journey to Bangalore, India. He was agitated and unable to sit still. An undefined sense of dread was consuming the 33-year-old producer, a feeling of fear and uncertainty that seemed to grow ever worse the better he did professionally. With credits such as 2012’s Dredd and the current Netflix series Castlevania, he’d become successful, but he couldn’t sleep, couldn’t think straight; in tip-top shape physically, thanks to a grueling exercise regimen and hyper-nutritious diet, he was functioning in a mental fog.
Shankar had been living with angst for years, at least since moving to L.A. in 2009, but over the past few months it had skyrocketed, fueled by the immense pressure on his time, the increased competition with others and his sense of working in an industry that feels more and more lacking in any core community. What had begun as moderate disquiet had blossomed into a full-blown emotional crisis, “like having a constant panic attack,” he says. “I was operating in fight-or-flight mode.” When he blew up over a minor location faux pas on a TV project, “I realized, I’m losing control of my emotions.”
And so, here he was, setting out for his homeland and the AyurvedaGram Heritage Wellness Centre, where he would bury himself in a boot camp run by yogis, sacrificing his freedom, his friends and even his smartphone, all in the hope of restoring some sort of balance. “I needed a mental shift,” he says. “And when my mind shifted, everything else took off.”
Call him lucky or call him deluded, Shankar was experiencing something thousands of Hollywood insiders are grappling with, to a greater or lesser degree. Speak to writers, producers, actors and executives — speak, in fact, to the whole chain of employees toiling across the film, television and music industries, as THR did — and you’ll have trouble finding people who won’t admit to heightened feelings of stress, anxiety and depression, three interlinked mental-health issues that have escalated over the past decade in the entertainment sector. “I’m always having anxiety,” says Oscar-winning producer Cathy Schulman (Crash), echoing dozens of others interviewed. “Stress seems to happen every day in Hollywood. There’s anxiety all around.”
At its most extreme, this can lead to despair and even suicide, which became tragically apparent in June with the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Suicide “has gone up roughly 25 percent over the last decade — it’s astonishing, it’s epidemic,” says Judith Weissman, an assistant professor of psychiatry at New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital. While no one would claim that Hollywood is dealing with bigger problems than the countless men and women facing mental-health challenges in the world at large, for the hundreds of thousands of employees who work in entertainment and digital media (365,000 in the L.A. area alone), the current industry turbulence has set alarm bells ringing louder than at any time since the Great Recession.
The business has been rocked by the arrival of deep-pocketed digital players such as Amazon, Apple and especially Netflix that threaten to transform not only the cozy old relationships of buyers and sellers but even the way viewers consume (and pay for) product. Historic studios that once represented the pinnacle of the culture business are being swallowed by vast corporations that think nothing of merging these long-discrete entities together. Movie companies that previously jostled for equality at the box office are living in the shadow of a modern-day Goliath, Disney, and all of them are battling a shrinking North American marketplace that has been dwarfed by international territories. Meanwhile, cord-cutting is accelerating and Netflix, which plans to spend $8 billion on content this year, is sounding a death-knell for the traditional “bundles” of channels that make up the TV business (while Netflix missed its growth target for the recent quarter, it still added 5.2 million users, bringing total membership to 130 million).
In each of the major studios and networks, a lack of clarity about long-term prospects has left top executives with no certain future, and that inevitably has a cascading effect on all the downstream employees. This isn’t just a matter of whether Disney and Fox will merge, or whether one executive will remain in place and another leave; it’s about tectonic shifts arguably unparalleled in the history of the content business.
Even the lucky few who’ve landed jobs with such leading change-makers as Netflix and Amazon are uneasy; these firms’ competitive salaries are matched by their speed in getting rid of underperforming hires and those who don’t fit in with the unrelenting culture. Similarly, a 20-something employee who landed a post at a top management company notes, “Even if you get promoted, if you don’t make money, they quickly let you go.”
The uncertainty she feels is affecting young and old, men and women, newcomers and veterans alike. “Anxiety is extraordinarily high because different things are valued than [were] valued before,” observes Tom Pollock, a former chairman of Universal Pictures and now an independent producer, who believes the content industry is seeing changes as great as any since “the advent of television disrupted the movie business….”