Friday, December 07, 2007

Why Not? Why?

Robert Elisberg has a very thought-provoking piece up at the Huffington Post where he wonders: Why is it the AMPTP who is negotiating with the Writers Guild of America?
In fact, why is the AMPTP negotiating with anyone? The Screen Actors Guild, the Directors Guild, any of the 80 industry-wide collective bargaining agreements it handles.

The issue is not that these AMPTP companies are part of multinational's that they are competitors with one another.

Before anyone tries to answer the question, hold off a moment as this is put into a larger perspective.

Imagine the auto industry for a moment.

The AMPTP is like if General Motors, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, Toyota, Honda and Nissan all got together, decided the terms they would offer employees, and then negotiated as a single body against one isolated division of U.S. auto workers at a time. Divide and conquer. Take it or leave it.

It's not that it would be massively illegal. It's that it would be unconscionable. No one in the aghast free world would stand for it. Even Luddites who wished it wasn't illegal understand why it's unacceptable.

Competitors are not allowed to negotiate together, to even confer together. It's called collusion. When baseball owners merely created an "information bank" for offers being made to free agent players, they were fined $280 million. Two competitors cannot talk with one another if there's just a hint of agreement. Imagine ALL competitors in an industry getting together to set ALL wages and ALL labor conditions.

It doesn't happen. Anywhere. Not "anywhere in the U.S." Anywhere in the free world.

Except Hollywood.

Now perhaps there's a very simple explanation for this situation, but if not, why hasn't anyone asked the question before...and then challenged the arrangement?

Over on the other coast, Variety reports CBS is looking at taking shelved feature scripts and cutting and pasting them into potential TV series pilots.
With the strike squeezing off the pilot script pipeline, CBS is turning to feature film scripts in a bid to find potential material for new series.

Eye entertainment prexy Nina Tassler has been personally calling a number of film producers and asking them to dust off any unproduced scripts that could be turned into TV series, according to two people familiar with the situation. These projects are already fully written but have either been put into turnaround or simply never got off the ground.

Because most movies tend to run around two hours in length, Tassler isn't looking to produce the full scripts. Instead, she's asking producers to identify key scenes or passages that could be filmed and cobbled together into a pilot or shorter pilot

Tassler isn't calling any WGA members, since scribes are prohibited from pitching ideas or negotiating with struck companies.

This is just kooky, and stinks of either network desperation or Variety's on-going efforts to spin nearly every strike story into 'the writers are in the wrong' or 'writers are not really needed'.

Why would anyone think something decent could come out of this?

I suppose their response would be: Why not?


jimhenshaw said...

Since it's Variety, I think the spin here is two-fold.

First, its thrust is intended to demoralize writers -- "See, we can create pilots without you and since we're re-purposing feature guys, the material will be even better than what we're used to getting as pilots" .

And it's not a new concept. They do it all the time and not often with success. Okay, POP Quiz -- outside of a feature script written by a famous writer like Michael Crighton -- name one successful TV series that came from an unproduced feature script....

The second half of this, is encouragement to the AMPTP. "See, our business model is not broken! We can follow the same inadequate process with everybody shooting pilots on the same time schedule that has already pumped pilot costs into the stratosphere."

The implication to advertisers is that there will be lots of choice programming for the upfronts -- ignoring the reality that they then need writers to continue them.

And if they "Force Majeur" SAG members in the next few weeks to save money, as they've threatened to do repeatedly in the last weeks , there's a good chance they won't have actors to perform in these scripts.

Oh -- and -- who's going to cut the material from 2 hours to one?

Bill Cunningham said...

This is a desperate act by desperate companies who are conspiring together...excuse me, colluding. Sounds to me like there should be a class action lawsuit in the works.

To the WGA I say, "Keep hitting them until something breaks. Make this the most costly negotiation they have EVER gone through, and make sure that organizations like the AMPTP don't exist - ever."

We now return you to a kinder, gentler blog...

Diane Kristine said...

In BC at least, health care employers band together in labour negotiations, and competition is fierce for health care employees. I guess I just assumed that's the way things were done in other industries, too. If you think it's unconscionable for writers, talk to a nurse and see how much sympathy she has.

Bill Cunningham said...

Now that I think about it - isn't this negotiation about minimums paid instead of caps?

They don't restrict having a better deal being negotiated - just the minimum.

But the pilot business is all about desperation and spin.