Hollywood Working Class

by dday

I work in TV, normally in the "obscure show on the digital cable channel you probably don't get" genre. So I've been following the Writer's Guild strike with interest. The WGA went out at least in part over allowing me and other storytellers who work in "unscripted" TV the ability to join their union. Everything I've ever worked on has had a script, so I don't get the "unscripted" moniker. And whether you wrote the script before or after the taping, whoever generated it ought to get the same kind of benefits.

That's why I'm excited that David Letterman's show struck a deal with their writers, outside the cartel of studios, to bring them back to work.

David Letterman has secured a deal with the striking Writers Guild of America that will allow him to resume his late-night show on CBS next Wednesday with his team of writers on board, executives of several late-night shows said today.

Most of television’s late-night shows are scheduled to return to the air that night after being off for two months due to the strike, but it is likely that only Mr. Letterman, and the show that follows him on CBS hosted by Craig Ferguson, will be supported by material from writers.

The reason is that Mr. Letterman’s company World Wide Pants, owns both those shows. The company announced two weeks ago that it was seeking a separate deal with the guild that would permit the two World Wide Pants show to return to the air. The talks seemed to be at an impasse until today when the deal was completed.

There's a solidarity in Hollywood that I've rarely seen since I've been here, which is to say, there's solidarity in Hollywood. Other unions like the DGA and SAG are talking about putting up a united front. The writers are on the verge of chasing the Golden Globes off the air, and their new media strategy is paying off in public opinion. Now they're creating cracks in the cartel that wants to take this as far as they can go and bust the union.

I have learned: that the CEOs are deeply entrenched in their desire to punish the WGA for daring to defy them by striking and to bully the writers into submission on every issue, and that the moguls consider the writers are sadly misguided to believe they have any leverage left. I'm told the CEOs are determined to write off not just the rest of this TV season (including the Back 9 of scripted series), but also pilot season and the 2008/2009 schedule as well. Indeed, network orders for reality TV shows are pouring into the agencies right now. The studios and networks also are intent on changing the way they do TV development so they can stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars in order to see just a few new shows succeed. As for advertising, the CEOs seem determined to do away with the upfront business and instead make their money from the scatter market.

They want to make it impossible to work your way up as a writer. They'd rather use these nonunion shows, shit like American Gladiators (it's back!), and tell the writers to piss off, thinking that they'll crack. They should hear from the fans. FDL has a great tool you can use to write the studio heads and tell them to stop being so damn greedy. They can make it on $119 billion in profit a year instead of $120, while the people they owe those billions to are fairly compensated. If a small company like Letterman's can reach a deal, the AMPTP cartel can. Tell them to get back to the negotiating table so your favorite shows can get back on the air.