Saturday, November 17, 2007

Must see not-TV

This, for my money, is the funniest video to come out of the strike so far.

But, then again, I'm on strike and not earning any money.

It's the median, stupid.

Despite the fact that the public overwhelmingly supports the WGA in our strike, there's a piece of misinformation -- actually make that disinformation -- that the AMPTP has successfully foisted upon a soundbite-hungry public. 

If you look at their statement you can roughly decipher that they're saying the average working writer makes over $200,000 a year.  But that "working writer" part is cleverly obscured in their phrasing, giving the impression that an average writer takes in a healthy six figures annually.

And that, of course, is what's been published, repeated, and swallowed whole.  Look here and you'll see it reported as fact by ABC:  Average. Writer. $200K.

And that's why it's so important that you read this.  It's a brief but brilliant distillation of what a total snowjob this is, why even the word "average" is inaccurate.  What we need to be talking about, if we want the real picture here, is the median income because, as the piece cites:

 "if Bill Gates walked into a homeless shelter, the 'average' income would skyrocket, but it wouldn't change the fact that everyone else is poor."

So what is the median income for a WGA member?  Go read the article -- but first you might want to get something soft to cushion your jaw when it drops.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Here's where I get angry.

For a first post, this probably isn't the best reflection of what this blog will eventually be. Ultimately, it's gonna be a hodgepodge of what interests me, which -- unless you're interested in exactly the same things -- may mean it seems a little unfocused.

But, when I read the following, from Henry Blodget on the Huffington Post in his "why no one has sympathy..." piece:

* Employed TV writers and producers already make decent money.

* Those who choose to go into the writing and producing business are usually intelligent, well-educated folks who could have chosen (and still could choose) to go into a better paid business. ( i.e., this isn't a case of oppressive owners exploiting people who have no other options).

Well, I kind of went apoplectic, and so now instead of a light interest piece, an angry response is my first blog entry.

Why so angry? Because Blodgett fails to recognize exactly what this strike is about.

With regard to the first point, that TV writers already make decent money -- yes, that can be true. But how often does a writer make decent money?

Answer: over half of the WGA's members don't earn any annual income as writers.

I've been lucky enough to work pretty consistently, but I have friends who've worked occasionally, intermittently, and sometimes not at all.

What this strike is about is establishing minimums.

When writer isn't bringing in any personal income -- yet a work they helped create continues to bring in revenue over and over over again to a studio or network, it's those minimums that allow a writer to stay afloat.

So let's make something clear: this strike isn't about writers like Jim Brooks or Cameron Crowe or Paul Haggis -- because they don't work for minimums (and yet they've all been out on the picket line) -- this strike is about protecting the little guys, the ones whose names you don't know, because maybe they haven't caught a break yet -- and maybe they never will.

Now, as to the second point, that we're intelligent, well-educated folk who could've chosen other, better paying professions, and are therefore not being exploited...

I take issue with the conclusion. If a studio is profiting from a writer's words over and over without paying a minimal residual (or, in the case of digital distribution any residual), then I say that is exploitation.

I also take issue with Blodget's premise that one's choice (writing) legitimizes one's predicament (little DVD payment, no digital payment). 

If a mine shaft collapses, we don't tell the miners, "well, what'd you expect, choosing that job?" We demand safer mines.  If a woman is raped, we don't say, "well, what'd you expect, choosing to walk down that street?" We demand justice -- and more secure streets.

Yes, circumstances can explain why a situation exists -- but it does not follow that those circumstances justify that situation. Were that so, our reaction to the practice of sweatshops employing children could quite reasonably be, "well where do they expect to work?"

Besides, Blodget, is that really the world you want to live in? One in which intelligent, well-educated folk ignore their abilities, shun their passions, and deny themselves just to enter "a better-paid business"?

I don't.