Why A WGA Strike Cannot Be Supported

Film Production

Film Production

Howard Rodman, a WGA board member during the last strike, and now the elected president of the WGA West, is recorded in Deadline Hollywood as saying, “This is an era where the companies are doing astonishingly well – the companies’ profits have doubled in the last decade, now approaching $50 billion a year. So much of that profit originates with our work. The companies forget that.”

WGA HALF-TRUTH RHETORIC

Not true. The half-truth rhetoric from the WGA is equivalent to the Trump administration saying that there isn’t any need to address climate change. It’s a regressive attitude of a small self-interest group at the expense of the 423,000 people who are affected by a WGA strike (see the May 2016 Bureau of Statistics reference in my last blog).

“COMPANIES” ARE THE ENEMY FOR BORROWING BILLIONS

This WGA rhetoric attempts to make “companies” the enemy. Those are the same companies who are taking great risks, borrowing, and paying out billions, to create content and employ more television writers, actors and crew than have ever been employed before in the history of the industry!

Let’s take Netflix, for example. It is now in debt to the tune of $3Billion in order to create content. And that debt makes it possible to hire a record number of television writers who would otherwise be unemployed. Now before you say, “Yeah, but what about all their profits!” let’s follow the money, i.e. the cash money.

ARE THOSE SAME COMPANIES ACHIEVING CASH FLOW PROFITS?

Market Watch has this really cool chart which shows that Netflix has had a negative free cash flow for the last three years – Netflix is spending more cash than it’s getting in, in spite of huge borrowings! The mystery of accounting techniques is that, yes, it can appear that there are profits when the cash flow sucks, big time.

Let’s hope that Netflix, and the other “companies” targeted by the WGA, do reach the point of making cash profits – lots and lots of profits, so that we can all work in this great industry.

THE WGA PENSION PLANS

The final bit of rhetoric that makes my teeth grind is the complaint about the WGA’s pension plan. Apparently it will be depleted in another 3 years. When I asked a director friend of mine if the DGA suffered the same malady, he scoffed. The DGA pension is very strong! Why, I asked, would the DGA pension be strong and the WGA pension broke, when they each get an equivalent amount of funding from the producers? The only answer we could come up with is Bad Management. The WGA misused their pension funds, now want to strike for more. For those of you with children, does that sound familiar?

LEST WE FORGET – THE DIRGE OF 2007

During the 2007 strike the Milken Institute said, “The 2007 Hollywood writers’ strike dealt a blow to California’s already struggling economy and is expected to result in a loss of 37,700 jobs and $2.1 billion in lost output through the end of 2008”.

In summary,

  • The WGA writers are not the Davey Crockett’s at the Alamo. More television writers are working now than ever in the history of television.
  • The WGA records show that in 2015 TV writers earned an average annual income of $194,478. That, apparently, is not enough.
  • A WGA strike will cause significant harm to the industry.
  • The least we can do is protest.

 

Please sign the petition and pass it on to any group, or any person, that you know:

 

PETITION: I do not support a 2017 WGA strike.

 

Cheers / John

 

See my web site for current workshops on Film Accounting 101 and Film Payroll , CPE qualified http://www.filmaccounting.com

 

Advertisements

Why Another Writer’s Strike Is Unsupportable

How did one of the richest and best paid guilds come to the brink of a strike? Deadline Hollywood has an excellent summary of the WGA leader’s rhetoric, starting with Sept 21/15 right through to April 10.17. It’s my purpose to present some of their rhetoric and to refute it with real facts and figures.

99.2% OF THOSE WORKING IN THE INDUSTRY WOULD BE HIT

First of all, let’s look to see how many writers are involved, and compare that to the number of other people will be affected by a WGA strike. In May of 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics published that 422,560 people were employed within the “Motion Picture and Video Industries”. Out of the 422,560 people, only 3,460 people are classified as “Writers and Authors”. To make a point, that is only 0.8% of the total number of people employed within the industry were Writers at the time of that survey, leaving 99.2% of the industry severely impacted. Hmmmm. Without getting into anything else, I think that those numbers tell you something, especially when compared to a writer’s average annual salaries – see further below.

RHETORIC – AVERAGE WRITER’S INCOME HAS GONE DOWN

The rhetoric raised by the WGA to support a strike bid leaves me scratching my head. Per Deadline Hollywood, the WGA Reps are saying, “During this ‘peak TV’ era, when more television is being produced than ever, and when everyone who works in television is finding a sellers’ market for their skills, why is the average TV writer seeing their income go down?” This seems astonishing! How could the average salaries go down?

COMPARING 23 EPISODES WITH 13 EPISODES

Well, in the “old days” the TV writers were working generally, on 22 or 23 episodes a season – not always, mind you, but generally speaking. These days the trend is toward producing 13 episodes a season – this is the new formula supported by streaming services and the various Cable television programs. So, yes, a writer who worked on 23 episodes would make more than someone who worked on 13 episodes – Duh! The elephant in the room is: How many more writers are actually making a living now as compared to them good ‘ol days? Well, the answer is a lot more.

COMPARING 2009 WITH 2015

To give you an idea of how very few active television writers there were in 2009, here is what Charles B. Slocum (Asst Exec Dir of WGA West) said in Aug/Sept 2009, “In 24 hours, NBC has just three hours of dramas and comedies. And, on some nights those make way for Dateline or Deal No Deal.” So, it’s a fair conclusion that very few writers indeed were working in those good ‘ol days.

Here is a comparative statistic from Deadline Hollywood going back to 2015 when the streaming companies (HBO, Netflix, Starz, Amazon) just started to hit their stride: “The guild’s records also show that in 2015, TV writers earned $803 million under the WGA West’s basic contract, for an average annual income of $194,478, which was $48,936 more than they made in 2006.” Are we to support the writers because “the average tv writer has seen their average income go down?”

DO YOU DISAGREE WITH A WGA STRIKE?

I have more tables to support the writers fees, including their residuals, all based on their WGA 2014-2017 Theatrical and Television Agreement. However, I think you get the point – another writer’s strike is unsupportable. You can have a look at their “Schedule of Minimums” published on their web site.

Should I start a petition? If it won’t stop a strike, at least the WGA will know how the majority feels. Let me know how you feel.

 

Cheers / John

 

See my web site for current workshops on Film Accounting 101 and Film Payroll , CPE qualified http://www.filmaccounting.com

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: