Saturday, December 01, 2007


More insightful emails passed on by my Shield buddy. This time from Stan Chervin and Kit Boss.


Dear Strike Team Members:

Since there was a lot of overlap of information given at the Captain's Meeting today and the Screenwriters' Meeting last night - not to mention the wealth of information sent to you by the WGA or available at - I'll summarize the main points of what I feel you may not be aware of.


Many of us consult Nikki Finke's website for any news or the latest updates. Clearly, the Companies know that. So for the first three days of negotiations last week they systematically and with great pre-meditation "leaked" to her news about their "revolutionary" new proposal and how it should resolve the strike quickly. She posted the information, we all read it, and when the Companies proposal turned out to be nothing more than the same cuts, rollbacks and unfair compensation they've been offering since July all of our hopes, dreams and expectations of a happy resolution to the strike were dashed.

THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT THE COMPANIES WANT!! They want to raise our expectations, then dash them, then hope we'll be so demoralized we'll accept whatever low ball offer they put on the table. Because that's what they've always done.

It's not going to work this time.

The Companies have always worked with (and succeeded) using one principle tactic: Divide and Conquer. Raise their hopes, crash them down - divide and conquer. Lower their expectations, throw them a bone - divide and conquer. Drive them down to their absolute bottom line, offer them a mere pittance above it, hope enough writers are desperate enough to accept it - divide and conquer. Tell membership their leaders are crazy or strike-happy - divide and conquer. Spread lies and rumors about "other" writers going back to work - divide and conquer. Use "pattern negotiation" to reach an agreement with another guild first - divide and conquer. Divide and Conquer is all they know.

If we never let them divide us, they will never conquer us again.

And I can tell you, from personal experience, Nikki Finke often gets stuff wrong. So, do not believe anything you hear - a rumor, a report on a web site, a tip from a knowledgeable friend, anything! - until you hear it from Patric Verone.


Patric Verone, John Bowman, David Young and everyone on the Negotiating Committee, the Board of Directors and the WGA staff know the importance of this contract. They are not going to accept a bad deal. They will stay at the table and negotiate for as long as it takes to get one. The first step, however, is for the Companies to make a serious and fair proposal. They are still waiting for that. One way to get that is to respond to their latest proposal with a strong show of unity on our part, renewed numbers on the picket line, a continued show of force by the showrunners, and further withholding of services.

There's a lot of gamesmanship to negotiating. Sometimes that means walking away from the table for a few days.

Have faith in the Negotiating Committee. They know that the Internet is the future, not just for the WGA, but for all unions in this town. They will never accept a bad deal.


We all know what it means to "win": a fair deal, a just contract, and, above all, we all go back to work. Because the end goal is so concrete and specific, we often lose sight of the fact that we are currently winning!

Here's what the strike has done so far:

- We have effectively shut down television production. Out of 180 television shows, only 12 are still in production

- Despite false rumors and lies spread by the Companies, the showrunners continue to deny services. At most, only ten have gone back to work. And, for every show runner who went back, four have fallen out. The show runners are not going back to work because there's nothing to go back to. We have effectively halted this season

- If the Companies do not reach a deal soon, they will lose NEXT season. They know that. The pressure is on them to make a deal.

[As a side note, no one can quite figure out why they haven't made a deal yet. Their continued refusal to make a realistic offer lacks any rationale or logic. Consider this: if CBS gave us EVERYTHING we asked for, it would cost them only $4.1 million for all of next year. Right now, they are losing $2 million a week. Go figure.]

- The advertisers are asking the networks for rebates, buy backs, discounts and CASH BACK! The strike has hurt the companies where they feel it the most - in their pocketbook. Even though they knew a strike was coming, the networks foolishly sold ad time at inflated rates. Now, they are paying the price. This is a direct result of the strike.

- Of the 150 features due to start filming in the next two quarters, upwards of 75 - almost half of them - are in danger of falling apart because of the strike. Major movies, like Angels and Demons, Pinkville, Nine, and State of Play have already fallen apart. Since many of these movies were in pre-production THE STRIKE COSTS THE COMPANIES MONEY TO SHUT THEM DOWN.

- Finally, and appropriately, the WGA denied the Academy Awards broadcast a waiver. This broadcast earns millions of dollars for ABC. Money that will be lost because the show cannot be written.


You hear a lot of talk on the line that if the AMPTP cannot make a deal with the WGA they will begin negotiating with the DGA, get them to take a lousy deal, then come back and force the WGA and SAG to take the same crappy deal.

It doesn't work that way.

First, the DGA isn't stupid. They see our strike is working. They know that whatever deal we get, they will get. They are willing to wait for us to make a good deal which they can then exploit. The same is true of SAG and the IA. These unions WANT us to get a good deal.

Second, if the DGA is stupid and makes a lousy deal, that same deal will not stick with the WGA or SAG. We will hold out for a fair and just contract.

Finally, 1,400 WGA members are also members of the DGA. That's more than 10% of their total membership, including some of their most prominent feature directors. These dual-members are binding together and speaking up to tell DGA leadership NOT to negotiate before we have a deal, and NOT accept a lesser deal.


Every day the Guild counts how many picketers are on the line. SO DO THE COMPANIES! If they see the numbers go down, they will believe it is a weakening of our resolve or a show of disunity.

The Negotiating Committee cannot bring the Companies to the table. They cannot get the Companies to make a fair offer. They cannot the get the Companies to bargain in good faith.

Only the members can do that. We are the backbone of the strike. We are the strength the Negotiating Committee needs to get the contract we deserve.

For them to do that, we need to continue to show up in big numbers. WE cannot fall victim to the Companies use of disinformation, of divide-and-conquer tactics, to lull us into the belief the strike is almost over so we can stay at home. We need to be on the line every day. As another member put it: "This is a strike, not a vacation."

Make sure you're out there, on the line, or working at the Guild headquarters. More importantly, if you know a writer who IS NOT picketing, make sure they are out there with you. Numbers count.


Over the last 20 years, the AMPTP has negotiated over a 100 contracts with the various unions that represent film and television talent. They have used the same techniques - raising hopes then dashing them, lowering expectations, divide and conquer - to win each of those negotiations.

IT IS NOT WORKING THIS TIME. It's not working because of all of you and all the hard work, commitment and unity you've demonstrated. As a result, they do not know what to do.

One reason for our strength and unity is communication. Because of the Strike Captain structure, an articulate leadership, professional staff, and the internet, WGA membership is extremely well-informed about the issues, about what's at stake, and just how bad the Companies' proposals have been. As long as we communicate and remain well-informed, we will win. We will only lose if we lose our unity and that will only happen if they keep us from talking to each other.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you on the picket line on Monday.

- Stan


Hey, Team Carpool:

Today's Captain's meeting -- where we heard from David Young, Patrick Verone and John Bowman -- was both inspiring and bracing, like a sharp slap on my taut, bare bottom from Marsh's cold hand.

I share with you these highlights, with liberal borrowing from the re-caps of other Captains who've done a lot of typing so I don't have to:

In a nutshell, this week's "negotiations" confirm that the studios are engaged in a giant MINDFUCK... their plan is to raise our expectation of a quick settlement (through press leaks, e.g., Nicki Finke), only to dash those hopes with wholly unacceptable proposals. It's an effort to make us despair and make us believe that our only hope for resolution is to quickly drop down to OUR BOTTOM LINE, of which they're only willing to give us a tiny fraction. Their hope is that we'll cave and accept a shitty deal. Apparently, it's a tried-and-true technique of the AMPTP over the last thirty years (and is corroborated by an internal AMPTP memo that the WGA has gotten hold of and hopes soon to publish). The message from our leadership: don't let their plan work, stay strong, and keep pounding the pavement.

I know some of you have started to doubt the efficacy of picketing for hours on end. I posed this question to David Young, who made it clear that pickets are still (for better or worse) the barometer by which the studios (and the world at large) judges our resolve. He is absolutely convinced that our show of force on the lots and locations is what drove them back to the negotiating table -- and that they are still watching us. Now, especially, for signs that our resolve is weakening and our unity may be ready to crumble.

Young's assessment: Our negotiation leverage is only as strong as our presence on the picket lines.

I know that the value of picketing isn't easily quantifiable or observable as cause-and-effect; and it requires a leap of faith to take David Young's word for something none of us can actually see with our own eyes.

But another captain, Alfredo Barrios, who has done both lot and location picketing over the last four weeks attests: "I believe that our show of force really plays on the executives' minds. Psychologically, I think it makes them uncomfortable and the idea that we will not back down starts to build in their minds... and trust me, they're afraid of a lengthy strike. They have a lot to lose -- the rest of this TV season, pilot season, and many, many features in various stages of development and pre-production."

Alfredo continues:

"Lately, studios have been deploying executives to location shoots to try to back us down from our picketing -- which has been reaping havoc on their productions. I have seen the look in the executives' eyes: they are fucking afraid and weary. And when we don't back down, they go back to their offices and tell their bosses. And we make it clear that we're gonna keep coming at them. Now, they're trying to defend against our location pickets by taking out fake permits, hiring extra security, locking off bigger sections of locations, etc. It is costing them money and lots of effort. And yet, we still find a way to get to them... And they keep wondering, when are they gonna stop fucking with us? That's pressure. That shows resolve. That translates into negotiation power. So... keep showing up. It matters. That's what will ultimately settle this thing for us... on our terms."

Next week, we'll maintain the same picket schedule that we followed this week, and avoid any changes that might cause confusion. The goal: Show the studios that we're as strong as ever, and we're not going to sit still while they try to bone us.

For those who want to read more about exactly how bad an ass-rape the studio's latest offer would amount to, and why we're taking a two-day break from bargaining, I encourage you to check out for the posting: Some Answers: Real Numbers, and what Really Happened in the Negotiations

Rest assured, Guild leadership is busy considering what should happen next, picket-wise. Strike co-ordinators will meet next Thursday to discuss (among other things) options such as consolidating our forces at fewer locations. Here at Universal, we'll be offering people a chance to take a break from the line for a few hours next week and get trained on location picketing, which figures to become much more important in the weeks to come.

Meanwhile, let's help each other try to even out the highs and lows of the emotional roller coaster the AMPTP is trying to make us ride. Don't believe the rumors (like the one that droves of showrunners are going back to work, when in fact the number amounts to only 10 out of more than 100 -- not enough to get the networks out of the pickle they're in). Try to keep a sense of humor. (The Captains have: After hearing about the 10 showrunners, someone shouted: "Who are they?” And then, when Verone and Bowman wouldn't name names: "C'mon. We just want to talk to them.") But also, stay pissed at the studios -- it makes those three hours of daily picketing FLY.

Also, I'm happy to report you can expect a few Christmas gifts to arrive early:

--Visits to every picket line at every studio on Monday from members of the negotiating committee or WGA board. A great chance to get your questions answered by the people who spent last week at the negotiating table.

--More t-shirts (including spiffy new styles available only at special events, such as a run of 2,000 for next Friday's Freemantle rally in Burbank, noon-2pm. You'll not only have a chance to get a new t-shirt, but strike a blow against the reality dreck that the networks will have to rely on to plug the gaps left by the shows we're shutting down, and exploits the people who write it.)

--More economic damage to the networks. Ad Age reports that they'll have to GIVE CASH BACK to their advertisers because the ratings for all that reality and re-runs will be so shitty, and they won't have enough inventory for make-goods.

--Direct pressure on advertisers from a group of more than 100,000 consumer activists that we can access through the data base of our sister unions and a scary piece of technology called "Robo-Call."

--No more news blackouts. WGA Prez Patric Verone promised. "Never again will we leave our members in the dark."

--No WGA waiver for writers to work on the Oscars telecast.

--A firecracker up Carson Daly's ass. And possibly a diseased partridge in a dry and brittle pear tree, too.

Until Monday,

- Kit

Friday, November 30, 2007


This email was sent to me from a Shield buddy. The author of it is Hank Steinberg. He closes the email by encouraging it to be passed on so I'm guessing it's cool to post it here for all to see. I think it's an accurate evaluation of what is going down in the negotiations. It's frustrating, but there's still the real possibility that a deal will be struck by early 2008. Hank writes:

To my fellow writers, I'm sure tonight's email from the Writer's Guild was a tad disheartening, particularly after expectations were raised this week that we would be close to making a deal and that the studios were prepared to make substantial concessions. I spoke to a member of the Negotiating Committee tonight to get more enlightened myself as to what the hell happened: what was the disconnect between the rumors and expectations and the dismal results of this week? The answer, apparently, is that this is precisely the studios' strategy: raise expectations through disinformation in the media and elsewhere, get us feeling comfortable, get us psychologically used to the idea that the strike will end, and then dash those hopes. This is essentially what they did on november 4th and they are trying to do it again. That is why they leaked the news to nicky fink on monday that the deal was essentially done. If we go soft and get comfortable, the thinking goes, we'll end up accepting a shitty deal. Apparently, this strategy has worked for them in the past but we can't let it work now. As long as we understand what they are doing and why they are doing it, we should not be disheartened. The studios' real mandate is to close this deal by mid to late december to get the tv season back on track in january and to save their pilot season. They have no urgency right at this moment to resolve this. Their coming back to the table now was part of a p.r. mislead and was actually meant to raise our hopes, then thwart them as a means of psychological warfare. To wear us down. They will, in fact, probably not negotiate for real until closer to their mid-december deadline and in the meantime will try to work on our collective resolve. So although the idea of picketing for a couple of more weeks doesn't sound particularly glamorous to any of us, we're still in good shape to make a fair deal and we shouldn't allow their tactics to dampen our spirits or forget what it is we're striking over in the first place. They need to make a deal, they will make a deal, they just want to gauge us as much as they can. I thought it enormously helpful to understand where they are coming from and hope it will help you too. The leadership understands that an informed constituency is a motivated constituency and members of the leadership and negotiating committee will be out on the picket lines on monday to elucidate some of this and to answer questions, but no reason to churn and stew all weekend til then. So rest up this weekend and don't despair. And by all means, feel free to forward this email to any of our brethren. We're all in this together! Hank

_________________________________________ All I can say is that it worked, Hank. I had family and personal obligations this week and was not on a picket line. The truth is, I just wasn't inclined to throw on the red shirt and grab the sign. I was feeling relieved for the first time in over a month. I sipped the drugged martini. I was roofied by the hype and now my ass is sore and my lips are chapped. The problem is that although this philosophy has worked in the past, the WGA's resolve is dangerously strong. Look at some of my previous blogs. This action is just gonna frustrate the members. I believe it will have the opposite effect that Big Media had hoped for. I foresee more rallies, You Tube videos, clever chants and long emails from PV. Please god, no more rappin' writers... Hank is right, we need a strong show of support on Monday. I'll be back on the line. Pissed off, red shirt, sign, sober.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Acronym Anagram Analogy = Alliteration

AMPTP 1. amp 2. apt 3. map 4. mat 5. pap 6. pat 7. tam 8. tamp 9. tap WGA 1. wag 9 to 1 sounds about right. At the table, the D vs. G struggle continues. Clearly, I am really fucking bored.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Last week at the Shield Wrap Party, someone who read some of my blogs was quite surprised by my opinions. She said that she never would have thought of me as a "moderate". At first, I thought she was fucking with me, then I realized she was serious. I laughed nervously, nodded my head at an imaginary person-of-interest and slipped into the crowd. When I cleared her, I looked around to make sure no one else had heard her. Moderate? This kind of blaspheme could ruin my reputation. I’m the guy who slams doors louder than anyone in Hollywood. I’m the guy who terrifies assistants by hurling improperly dressed salads at the wall. I’m the guy who ... I'm fucking Margos, goddammit -- I am nothing, if not an extremist. I can see how one could categorize my strike opines as being centrist -- calling for both sides to put down the sword and pick up the pen. But my intent was not to incite moderation, it was and is, to incite action. When we are blinded by the extreme, our view gets very limited. In this case, the extreme being the WGA's cry for Big Media's head on a stake. We can't hear the voice of reason over the saber rattling (a moderate would never use this many war clich├ęs). As much as I relish the idea of a shoot-first-ask-questions-never reputation, the irony is that I'm a guy who seeks and craves moderation. As much as I want to be loved, honored and adored, I’m a guy who seeks and needs humility. I know I’m wired for extreme reactions. I see things a little brighter, hear things a little louder, feel things a little deeper. Not bragging, those are just the facts. I have a Belushi-esque appetite for most things -- spiritual and carnal. As my wife says, "My big energy can fill up a room." I've spent the last 14 years curbing that bigness and searching for moderation. It’s a daily challenge. Some days I’m the Buddha, some days I’m the bear. Perhaps I should be grateful that some of my moderation is bleeding through and actually having an impact. Hell, before long, people may actually want to have lunch with me.