Saturday, January 19, 2008

Here's a good summary of the AMPTP's offer to the DGA

Excerpts From Robert J. Elisberg of the Huffington Post:

WGA Strike Primer: The DGA Settlement Begins...

Some things must be put on hold, and this is one of them. On the surface, some issues look extremely good, some look extremely bad. But what they really look like in the light of day waits to be seen.

Two issues are clear immediately, however.

The first is that the AMPTP would never have offered any of the steps forward to the directors if the WGA hadn't been on strike for 2-1/2 months, catching networks by surprise and stopping production of television, forcing movies to be put on hold, putting pilot season in jeopardy, putting the next television season in jeopardy, putting the Oscar telecast and its $100 million payday and promotional bonanza for movies in jeopardy, putting the Grammy's in jeopardy, jettisoning the Golden Globes, creating the potential of advertising "give-backs" into the billions of dollars, and creating deep dissension within the AMPTP itself, with independent deals already made with United Artists, Spyglass Entertainment, Worldwide Pants, The Weinstein Company and many more on the verge, as up to 25 requests come into the Writers Guild office a day, every day. Not to mention significant Internet deals with Yahoo, MRC (funded by AT&T and Goldman, Sachs), Jackson Bites, and many more notable deals on the verge.....

Way to go WGA. Hey, who needs Hollywood?

The second issue that's clear is this:

Whether this deal is good or bad for writers: these terms could have been offered a month ago.

It's a mark of shame to the AMPTP corporations that it wasn't. The Writers Guild has been trying to negotiate such areas, and the AMPTP response was not to negotiate in good faith, but to walk away. Shameful.

The excuse by the AMPTP corporations about Guild leadership has always been a canard. The excuse about the "six issues" that had to be removed from the table has always been a canard.

(For linguistic purposes here, "canard" is being used in place of the more confrontational "big fat lie, so big and so fat you would choke on it, if you could even get it to leave your gut.")

And the two canards are provable.


Damned. The AMPTP lied to us? Say it ain't so. I for one am shocked at this behavior. Grown men behaving like little children.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Writers Strike: Who you gonna believe? Internet Aliased Trolls or Real People on Video?

Since the beginning of this strike, a lot of sentiment has been played out on internet blogs and message boards. Some of them public, some private for WGA members. is a public blog run by WGA writers. Every time they make a good case for the WGA the AMPTP trolls reply with all kinds of anti-writers comments. They seek to split union members, cause infighting, and push the AMPTP ideals - like slavery.

The problem is that writers generally don't want to get into these politics, and they don't want to make a bad name for themselves with future employers. So they tend to keep their statements simple, usually to a few words that make nice chants on the picket lines. Things like 'fair deal', 'piece of the pie', 'as long as it takes'. And it is really very simple. It's the AMPTP who make it more complicated than it is. It's simply about getting the 2.5% residual rate they want on new media. That's the main issue that the AMPTP will not even consider, will not even sit down to discuss.


Two Sides to Every Story: The Truth...and Everything Else

As the strike continues and things heat up around the DGA negotiations, apparently the multi-national media mega-corps and their $100K a month crisis management flaks are ramping up their online psy-ops and misinformation campaigns. Deadline Hollywood Daily, in a post detailing a range of less than savory actions taken by AMPTP members against WGA supporters, reported that "AMPTP staffers, consultants and members (especially corporate publicity departments) are busily posting comments on WGA-friendly websites and blogs that Hollywood visits regularly and filling them with hate-filled rants against the WGA leadership, the A-list actors, and the companies who've made WGA side deals. The goal is to turn off readers and drive traffic away and in the process spread pro-AMPTP propaganda and make it look as if the strike is breaking apart." Well, we at can certainly confirm the hate-filled rants. How bad has it gotten? Well, what are the most vile things you can imagine? Did you include references to Hitler, comparisons to the 9/11 terrorists, the "C-word" and every conceivable variation of the F-bomb? Okay, now imagine someone posting that, oh... 40 or 50 times a day, sometimes 10 times in the span of 10 minutes. In fact, it's that kind of stuff - not the obvious trolls - that caused us to turn on comment moderation. And now we can add a new tactic: pretending to be WGA members in online comment sections.

and then we have the writers speaking out for themselves on video where we can verify who thaey are:


For the past month we've been filming interviews with writers, directors, actors, futurists, DPs, and people on the picket line, asking them to talk about the strike. Oliver Stone looked back at his years in the business, remembering how it used to be before the corporations' greed overwhelmed the movie business. Maria Maggenti told us about the importance of residuals to her career. Tony Gilroy talked about fairness. Adam Brooks about fighting for the future. The picketers outside Fox just before the holidays, called for "Action!" We've heard these ideas before, but, for us, the interviews personalized the issues of the strike. Voices4Action is also a place where we'll be talking about the future of story-telling in the new digital marketplaces. The congloms say they don't know how the internet will work, if there is, in fact, any money to be made on-line. Putting aside their disingenuousness, there is an honest fact that can't be denied. The internet is evolving and changing in ways difficult to predict.

So who you gonna believe?

If you want to do something simple and easy to help the writers get this strike over sooner, go out and post your support for the writers and what you believe to be real. If you do I would hope you'd have the guts to use your real name instead of hiding behind a non-credible alias. Writers do it, actors do it, you can do it.

And complaining about WGA tactics ain't gonna do it, especially if you're not in the WGA. That's not your concern anymore than your family bank account is the WGA's concern.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Who Needs Hollywood?

Update: Liman forms new media company.

From; 1/17/2007:

New York and Los Angeles – Director and producer Doug Liman announced today the formation of a new media company, “Jackson Bites,” which will create television-style programming for alternative distribution. He will serve as co-owner of the venture with the support of a wide range of new media and business investors. Liman also announced that the new company has entered into an agreement with the Writers Guild of America (WGA), effective immediately.

As I write this, the writer's strike is in it's third month. A DGA deal is apparently in the works with the AMPTP. but the AMPTP has yet to come back to the table with the WGA for 34 days. The AMPTP will not consider the writer's demands for a 2.5% residual on internet media until the writers remove their other requests which include the sympathy strike, animation, and reality. The AMPTP has no problem letting the strike continue despite the loss of over half a billion dollars to the industry so far. The reason appears to be that AMPTP companies stand to make so much money on internet media that they don't mind a billion or so lost now. What they hope to gain is to not have to pay writers for material streamed over the net. What the think they have is all the cards. They think the writers need them. They are, after all, the big Hollywood studio owners, General Electric, AOL/Time Warner, Sony, NewsCorp, CBS, and Viacom. But what they can't bring themselves to admit, apparently, is that the writers don't need them. The writers have already closed deal with independent studios, World Wide Pants, Weinstein, and United Artists (actually a subsidiary of an AMPTP company). On top of that we are seeing new deals come through almost daily.

Meanwhile WGA writers are forming new media enterprises on their own. A favorite of mine is this one: United Hollywood Live This show is awesome, at least for now, It only airs three times a week. I hope it will grow into something cool after the strike too.


Tune in for another edition of the only show in Hollywood that actually hopes every broadcast is its last, United Hollywood Live (12 pm Pacific/3 pm Eastern).

Tune in by CLICKING HERE (or by using the widget located along the right hand side of The show, which airs Monday, Wednesday and Friday, is also available as a podcast immediately after each broadcast via the widget and on iTunes (search: United Hollywood).

From Strike TV:

Strike TV is an Internet fundraiser. It's an online "channel" featuring original video shows created by working professionals in the TV and Film Industry. These shows are self-funded and owned by their creators. Funds raised by ad revenue will go toward the Writers Guild Foundation Industry Support Fund, assisting non-WGA members, including IATSE and Teamsters affected by the strike. Strike TV videos will not be about the strike. This is a chance for writers to do what they do best - be original and tell stories.

From WGA Makes Interim Deal with MRC

MRC is a new kind of company for a new age in content creation. We'll have more on this deal, and MRC, very soon -- stay tuned.

LOS ANGELES – The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and MRC, the independent film, television, and digital studio, have reached a comprehensive interim agreement that forges a new alliance between writers, producers, and financiers in the production of feature films, television shows, and digital programs.

"This is an exciting agreement that will open up opportunities for writers, especially in New Media," said Patric M. Verrone, president of the Writers Guild of America, West, and Michael Winship, president of the Writers Guild of America, East. "We know that Guild members will be eager to be a part of the MRC creative team."

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The Unconstitutionality of the Internet Movie Download Scenario

The expectation is that DVDs will soon become obsolete, as will cable TV. We will be getting our entertainment through the internet which will be upgraded to have much better quality streaming and support for the large media files. But what happens when we don't buy DVDs anymore? Do we subscribe to a service that downloads them to a hard drive, something like TVO? Do we stream them over the net from a server maintained by a movie distributor?

If so, what do we then own when we buy a movie? Is it only a license to authorize the streaming? Must we transfer the license to each new system we buy? If we have multiple systems in the house, can we copy the license to each one? Is there a charge for that? Will the license be maintained on a server and all we need is a password? Isn't that insecure since pirates could steal a password just like identity thieves steal bank accounts?

In this world we don't own a physical copy of the movie. We just own a right to view it? What if there's a terrorist threat and we can't access the servers to download films? What if the government shuts down the servers? Must we wait for the war to end? or if there's a power outage at the server location? Now we have to worry about that on top of the possibility of similar problems on our end.

What if the distributor has a claim against us? Let's say we're behind on a bill for some other service. Can they hold us hostage by shutting down our movie account until we pay up?

We already have a serious problem with banks having total access to our money in bank accounts. If a creditor takes you to court and gets a levy on your assets the bank can give them all your money. A bank can take any fees it wants from your account. If you have an overdraft the bank takes the money first. They don't ask questions later, they just take the money. If they raise the fees, they just take them. They don't tell you later. Money is all they care about. Who's to say movie distributors won't behave the same?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The AMPTP: What's Wrong with these People? posted a letter, "As Long as it Takes", from Jay Kogen to the WGA and supporters explaining why the AMPTP is so screwed up. Here are some excerpts:
Could the internet be even more valuable than even we think? What if the studios know it’s going to be worth so very much so very soon that shelving a TV season is nothing compared to the money they’ll make in the future if they can get us to take a bad deal? What if every tenth of a point they give up is worth billions of dollars in the next 10 to 20 years? If all you cared about is making money, you’d wait and hope the WGA either falls apart or weakens enough to take less of “your” pie.
The AMPTP has made a grave miscalculation. We know we are fighting for the very ability to make a living in the future. We know we are losing money now we won’t get back – but it is for the greater good and for the least powerful among us. We get that. We’re good with that. The corporate mind can’t fathom it.

Check out this video: As Long as it Takes

Gotta Love Those Indie Studios

United Artists, lead by Paula Wagner, (who made the deal according to Nikki Finke) negotiated a separate deal with the WGA. leaving them the pick of all WGA screenwriters with no competition from all the other struck studios. Yeah, all of them.


Just saw this. Awesome film. I would have overlooked it since it's a teeny PG13 but it's up for the Indie Spirits. This film is a great example of every character being deep. Some of them have only a few scenes, like the father and mother, but they really bring them out. The plot is cool too. Ellen Page is great. But I think the real genius is Diablo Cody's script. She has the greatest witty dialog.

The great thing about her is how she can hit gen x, still be relevant to other markets, and do a quality job of it without the typical gen x trashy gratuitous action, sex, and farcical comedy.

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