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David Poland

By David Poland

Remember The WGAlamo

You know… I hate the idea of rubbing a soft success in the WGA’s face,
I think that the Strike Committee did what they sincerely felt they HAD to do. I think that most of them continue to believe that the deal they got wouldn’t have happened without a strike.
I disagree.
The minor improvements on the DGA contract and the additional WGA-centric elements that WGA got were, I believe, available to the union through negotiating without a strike.
I don’t agree with anyone who says that strike was “self-destructive.” It certainly wasn’t taken on lightly or without serious intent. However, I would agree that the strike cost a lot of WGA members real money and didn’t come close to making up the difference with improvements to the ultimate deal. The timing was completely wrong-headed, in my opinion.
But the greatest cost of the WGA Strike is being paid by SAG, which has no chance to convert its issues – more serious than any other union – into a contract that isn’t, unlike the WGA contract, significantly destructive to the union’s future.
Was it WGA’s responsibility to look out for SAG? No. Did going out on strike when WGA did and, ultimately, settling when they did, doom SAG in its pursuit of a deal that more seriously addressed the death of re-runs? Yes.
The great unanswerable question of The WGA Strike of

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4 Responses to “Remember The WGAlamo”

  1. JacksOrBetter says:

    “WGA did okay

  2. Working AD says:

    Nikki Finke is having a field day with the “Wasn’t it great” nostalgia posts about the WGA Strike. It’s clear that she really wishes that SAG had gone out as well, and that she’s really hoping someone else will go out by 2011 if not before then.
    Of course, none of these flowery descriptions about how great the strike was include any of the sobering realities.
    People talk about the sense of solidarity on the lines, and there was some of that, to be sure. But a lot of that was also from non-WGA people who joined the picket lines so they could feel like they were part of the moment or so they could get face time with writers of their favorite shows.
    There is no mention of the health coverage mess that prompted the WGA membership to vote to end the strike when it did. And there is no mention of the waning ability of the strike to influence the AMPTP after talks broke down the 2nd time. After that point, the only memorable action taken was the shutdown of the Golden Globes, which I personally thought was a laudable act just on general principle. In between, we heard about all the nastiness around the late night hosts going back to work, as well as the ridiculous attempt to get the city of LA to stop issuing filming permits.
    Nobody wants to remember the email hoax that punked not only its intended target but also Nikki Finke after the target leaked it to her. (David, I am grateful to you for clearing the air on that story at the time.)
    I agree with David that the strike was unnecessary, and I would go farther to say that it was demonstrably destructive to the careers of many people in the business, including higher level WGA members, as has been shown in the last few weeks. The statistics about this don’t lie.
    David Young in particular should know better than to congratulate himself publicly for this strike. His humiliation at the collapse of the talks in December, and his subsequent inability to get the AMPTP to talk to him were not things he should be trying to relive. The reality for him is that after the DGA negotiated the pattern that ended the strike, the AMPTP backchanneled without Young – choosing instead to go through John Bowman and WGA counsel. (As I understand it, Bowman was told “You need a real negotiator – an attorney.”) Once the backchannel talks were done, the discussions with Counter were a formality, and were ended very quickly with a new contract and the end of the strike. And all of this was in spite of Nikki Finke’s desperate attempts to keep the writers on the picket lines.
    History will likely regard the 07/08 WGA Strike as a case of egos run wild, at the expense of the real goals that should have been front and center. It’s more than clear that everyone, including the AMPTP, expected the WGA to wait for SAG so both could go out together in July 2008. When the WGA jumped the gun and went out in November, it killed any chance SAG had for getting its strike authorization. The AMPTP would not have locked out the writers if they had waited. On the contrary, the AMPTP was COUNTING on the writers to wait. They were stockpiling scripts and would likely have banked several episodes of existing series for the fall TV seasons just to make sure they were covered for a while. If WGA and SAG had gone out together in July 2008, I’m not sure how long it would have lasted. Probably about the same amount of time – up to September or October, before both guilds found a way to save face. For SAG, this would likely have been in the form of the SAG elections, which would have played out in the same way that we saw – with more moderate voices taking over. And I agree with David that the resulting contract would effectively be the same one on the table before the walkout – just as the current contract presented to SAG is roughly the same one that AFTRA and everyone else got.
    We’ll have to see how things develop for 2011. It is my hope that WGA will work with DGA this time around rather than ignoring their research or playing brinksmanship games. The SAG situation is more dire now. I don’t believe they can simply wait for 2 more years and hope for a better contract then. They may not have much to cover by that time. Every pilot I am aware of this year is being done with AFTRA. And since there is no existing SAG contract, I am now starting to hear about high def movies being made with AFTRA as well. If SAG doesn’t do something quickly, we could be looking at a massive repeat of the 2000 Commercials Strike disaster, where SAG lost a tremendous amount of work for its members. (The upside is they could say “We never caved.” The downside is that their conditions are rarely met since the work winds up being outsourced to non-SAG performers.)

  3. hendhogan says:

    Working AD:
    I would like to hear what features you say are going AFTRA. I know the “Smoking Aces” sequel was listed as AFTRA, but a call into the union put a stop to that. I’ve been monitoring that pretty closely to make sure AFTRA lives up to its promise of not wanting to be in the feature film business.

  4. Working AD says:

    I don’t have a name on the feature. I was told this by the director I am currently working with, from his discussions with his contacts at Fox. I know for a fact that films have been made as “movies for television” when the intent all along was to put them out in theaters and on DVD. This usually applies to documentaries like “The Who’s Amazing Journey” but it has also been used to allow bigger budget producers to essentially underpay their crews and casts.
    I do know that Nikki Finke just posted a bizarre story where she used older data to try to debunk the fact that almost all the pilots being done this year are AFTRA. She uses an older list (from February 19th) to make her point that somehow there aren’t THAT many pilots going AFTRA. As usual, her source doesn’t have all the information and she’s posting incorrect information. The reality is that every single pilot I am aware of this season is being done with AFTRA, including the one that most of my crew is about to jump on in two weeks. When I spoke with the SAG rep who visits our stages, she confirmed for me that of all the pilots she has been aware of or has visited, only ONE was being done with SAG. All the others were AFTRA.
    The sad part of this is that Nikki’s behavior here only furthers the marginalization of SAG in television. Either she doesn’t understand this, or she doesn’t care, but the impact on SAG of losing a full pilot season is nothing short of disastrous. And letting the guild lose jurisdiction over television just to be able to say “We never caved!” is a pretty graphic example of cutting off your nose to spite your face.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon