Some TVWriter™ visitors have not-so-casually mentioned that they think we’ve been one-sided in our recent reports about the current disagreement between writers and their agencies. And, upon reflection, we definitely see their point.
There is, of course, another side to the story. In fact, there are many of them, we’re sure. Here’s a cogent review of the situation, written by a WGA member who wants to remain anonymous at this time:
THE THINGS WE THINK BUT DO NOT SAY (OR HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE NEGOTIATING COMMITTEE)
I’ve been a member of the WGA for twenty years. For the last ten, I’ve been fortunate to work consistently and successfully in both features and television.
In 2007, I found myself staffed for the first time since 2003. At the time, I was represented by a boutique agency and a very nice man who had no ability whatsoever to advance my career or find me jobs. I couldn’t argue with his responsiveness, the quality of his notes or his reputation around town; little of this redounded to my financial benefit.
Long story short… I was back after four years in the wilderness. I’d been taking out loans from my parents and other family members to make ends meet and stay in this business. I’d sold my house to live off the profits (long since exhausted), done a little consulting work in a completely different field, was blessed with the opportunity to write a freelance or two of a show I’d formerly staffed on, and sold a script at a bargain price. It never got made.
Do not cry for me.
When the new show came along, it was a life-changing event – a chance to rebuild my career. My financial house wasn’t in order, but by god there was hope. Getting staffed saved my ass. I got a brand new agent out of the deal, too. One phone call later, I went from boutique to WME.
Everything was looking GREAT.
Now, go back and look at the date. (Go ahead, I’ll wait). Do you see what it says? 2007. The strike. On the ballot, I didn’t vote “no.” I circled “no” and then wrote the word “fuck” as many times as I could fit on the paper around “no” with little arrows pointing from each expletive to my vote so there would be no ambiguity in the parsing of it.
You all know what happened next.
Overnight, untold millions upon millions of dollars of writer wealth were destroyed. Bye bye, overalls. Bye bye, shows that employed writers. Bye bye, two-step deals in features. Bye bye a LOT of things. But by god, at least when it was all over we brought the studios to heel and forced them to pay us enough money from digital streaming that some of us could afford a cup of coffee roughly every three months. High five everybody.
Although I hurt… my job survived. I got a full second season, then a full season on my next gig. Since the strike, I’ve written movies you’ve heard of and worked on a bunch more. I’ve consulted on great shows and met great people, made some friends for life and taken care of my family. (2007: no children, two dogs. 2009: one child, two dogs. 2015: 3 children, one dog. Write that down… there’s a test later.)
In no small part, this is thanks to my agents.
My bona fides: In the last year, I took a showrunner gig on an animated series. I insisted the show operate under WGA jurisdiction and lo and behold… it’s WGA, not IATSE. The guild now has two new members who enjoy the protections of the MBA. They also get the sweet membership card, the screeners, and all the free coffee they can drink at guild functions.
I’ve served on roughly fifteen (probably more) feature credit arbitration committees. The stat keeps coming back to me because they know I’m a sucker for a free Kit Kat bar and I have no sales resistance. Every year, I participate in the WGF Veterans weekend. I hired one of those vets as an assistant and helped him find representation. Once in a while, I pay my dues on time. Hell, I think I might have finally figured out how to use the web portal.
I’m telling you all of this because I need you to understand where I’m coming from when I make the following statement about the current unpleasantness between the WGA and ATA:
What. The. Actual. Fuck….