Wednesday

ordeal of the union

The Oscar nominees were announced last Tuesday. Normally, you would expect to find here a list of all the nominees plus indications of what I've already seen and what's already won something else and what not.

That is not the case this year.

As I've mentioned previously, I'm boycotting the Oscars this year. Two of you out there wonder why.

Well, the story begins back in November when the WGA (Writers Guild of America) decided to interrupt my life with their money grubbing. This ballooned into a situation where the SAG (Screen Actors Guild) decided to support said strike by ruining the Golden Globes. Because they must show solidarity. And they've said that they'll ruin the Oscars as well.

Here's the deal. The Oscars are an occasion where the pompous jackasses of Hollywood like to pat themselves on the back and tell the rest of us how grand they are. I really couldn't care less about how grand they are. However. I do enjoy watching the prettiness on the red carpet and the self-aggrandizing posturing. And I have a good party with my friends.

But if they're not going to give me my party of absurdity, then I'm not going to give them my money leading up to it. It's quite simple. And it's all because of the WGA.

Now. I know some people are sympathetic to the plight of those poor, ill-treated writers. I can't say that I am.

If a writer sells a script for a pilot,

under the WGA Agreement (which governs most television projects, as all of the major networks are guild signatories), union minimum (or 'scale') for such services is approximately $30,000 for a half hour script and $43,000 for a sixty-minute script. . . . Usually, the writer/creator will receive more than scale and pilot writing fees can range from $50,000 (for a relatively inexperienced writer) to $250,000 or higher for an A-level television writer (i.e., one who has already created at least one successful series).
Furthermore,
the WGA Agreement requires that the writer or writers accorded 'created by' credit on a series receive a royalty (or payment) for each episode of the series that is produced beyond the pilot. The current WGA required royalty for network prime-time programming is approximately $1,000 per episode. Subject to this minimum, the actual amount of the royalty payable to the series creator is negotiable and may be as high as $6,000 per episode for top guns. (information as per The Ins and Outs of TV Series Writer Deals)

And that's just for the pilot, regardless of whether or not it actually airs. A Salon article from 1997 throws out other figures.
The starting salary for a staff writer—an entry-level writing position—is generally $2,500 a week for 13 episodes. (Most episodes take two weeks to produce.) From staff writer, you move to story editor (still a junior position), then to assistant producer. . . .

Once writers make it to the level of producer, salaries tend to increase exponentially; they get paid a salary for each credit they earn on a show. Jerry Seinfeld, who is the executive producer (often the executive producer is the creator, or in this case, the co-creator, of the show), writer and star of "Seinfeld," gets paid essentially three salaries. Add to that the purchasing price of a single script (WGA minimum of $17,000) plus residuals for each repeat airing (usually 100 percent of purchasing price).
So excuse me if I don't shed too many tears over their plight.

And I have a hard time accepting some actor's solidarity for the plight of the writer considering that in 1997, most prime-time actors made between $7,500 and $25,000 per episode. I'm just not convinced that anyone deserves that much money for twenty minutes of work. (I know there's more time than that involved, but the end result . . .)

If the writers are so hard-pressed for cash and the actors feel their pain, perhaps they should consider throwing some of their wad the writers' way.

And that is why I am boycotting the Oscars this year.


(All that said, I'm not saying that the writers don't deserve appropriate compensation for their work, especially as far as new media are concerned. Just don't go on strike and expect me to feel sorry for you and your poverty.)

3 comments:

Th. said...

.

I don't see it as an issue of the amount they make versus me, but the amount they make versus the suits.

So I'm on the WGA's side.

Edgy said...

While I understand that, I would also counter that it's the suits who are taking the financial risk. If the writers would like to pony up more of their cash, perhaps they would have an argument.

Th. said...

.

You're a true capitalist.