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TV and film writers looking for a fair deal

by Bob Sassone, posted Aug 9th 2007 1:21PM

typewriter keysWriting is one of the oddest professions. A lot of people just don't get what we do, why we do it, how we do it, or what we get paid. I've encountered countless numbers of people who think that I'm rich because I'm a writer and "that lady J.K. Rowling is a writer and she's rich!" or they think I shouldn't get paid that much because "writing is easy and fun" or some other sort of logic.

Brookes Barnes doesn't get it either. He has an op-ed piece in the New York Times this week about the latest negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP. TV and film writers want a piece of the DVD sales pie. Barnes seems to think that they're asking for too much because...well, I'll let Barnes explain it himself, in his opening paragraph:

Jasper Johns isn't paid based on the number of years his flag paintings remain popular attractions at museums. Rem Koolhaas doesn't cash a check every time an architecture fan takes a trip to Seattle to see his space-age public library. So why should the writers, directors and actors responsible for box-office bombs like "Gigli" be able to pocket some cash every time somebody buys the DVD?

Is that one of the stupidest bits of twisted logic you've ever read? And the craziness doesn't stop there, but it would take a very long post to dissect the editorial point by point. Luckily, Craig Mazin does an excellent job of it at the Artful Writer site. Among the points he makes is that there's a difference between looking and purchasing, why residuals aren't compensation for labor, and why Barnes is just wrong when he says that most writers on major films make a million dollars (and that's not the only fact that Barnes gets wrong - it's as if he did no research at all).

It's well worth reading. And read the comments after the piece. Some good points brought up there too.

[via Lee Goldberg]

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Bash

Se BStu that's where you are wrong. NOBODY will lower their share. The end-customer will have to pay the additional costs. I am sorry for telling you to "read a book about it" but honestly that's what I learned in school - with a book.

@whawha: :-))

August 10 2007 at 6:34 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

"A lot of people just don't get what we do, why we do it, how we do it, or what we get paid."

To me Bob what you so is a piss poor job of coving the TV news. You really should quit your dayjob.

August 09 2007 at 9:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chester

Bash,
Why not tell the writers how you really feel!

August 09 2007 at 5:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
whawha

Sheesh...what a ranting loser. Or "tosser" if you're reading this in Euros...

August 09 2007 at 3:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brian.stuart

Actually, no, that's not economics. You assume that the amount of profit made is unmovable and thus any increase in expense will get passed onto the consumer. It doesn't work that way. The consumer may not pay the increased price, after all. Purchasing a product is not a given. To keep an attractive price-point, the distributor may well reduce their profit to address an added cost. In this case, that's probably what would happen. Yeah, consumers still get screwed, but at least writers are getting their fair share of the money earned from that screwing.

August 09 2007 at 3:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bash

They just passed a law in germany that makes PC sellers pay 15 Euro in royalties for the whole machine because the PC is "made to pirate" copyrighted material. We also already pay for every CD-R/RW/DVD-R/RW medium as well as the drive itself. We pay for Floppy Discs. We pay royalties for scanners since they can Xerox. All that money goes to certain groups distributing the money according to the book sales, music sales, movie attendance et cetera.

As long as my government suspects that I am pirating it is kind of hard on the other hand to pay for material you could easily copy.

I think these negotiations are totally moronic just as the royalties we have to pay are. People want to benefit from EVERY USE of material depending on how often the whole world is using said material.

As long as we don't live in a 1984 big brother world, this is impossible. At the moment you argue about DVDs. Next time you argue about mobile phones because they will be able to display the movies via iTunes. After that you argue about direct-brain-uplink and after that you will argue that you need to get money every time somebody THINKS about your material according to his brain-pattern.

I don't have a good solution either. But posts like these piss me off.

Nobody expects you be goddamn rich because JK Rowling is. I expect you to be rich because the non-written screenplay for every friggin "Halo"-type movie is worth 500k, because we see writers on "Entourage" who get 300k just for looking over a script over, because michael bay gets a shitload of money for his movies and because WE have to pay through our noses for movies nowadays.


I (!) watched "Notting Hill" in the local cinema. I had to pay for it on DVD. I will have to pay extra for the Blu-Ray. I have to pay extra for the UMD to watch it on my PSP. I am by law forbidden to just convert it and then copy it on a MemoryStick and watch it from there on my PSP. I will have to pay extra to watch it on iTunes instead of being able to copy it to my iPhone and watch it from there. I am not allowed to DivX it and stream it to my iPhone. I AM allowed to stream it to my TV via appleTV from my Computer's iTunes.
(only an example. I own "Notting Hill" and already put it on my PSP, TAKE THAT AUTHOR OF NOTTING HILL!).

I want to be able to have to pay only for the surplus. I want to be able to only pay for the DVD-medium, shipping, packaging and not for the whole thing again. The disc is maybe worth 50 cents in production but instead I had to pay 25 Euro (roughly 30 US$). The UMD woudl cost me another 20 Euro, the Blu-Ray most likely around 40 Euro and on iTunes I guess I'd have to pay at least another 8 Euro while I ALREADY SAW THE F***ING THING BEFORE.

If you, the writers, need to get money for every DVD sale, then by the law of economics I (!) will have to pay for that because NOTHING gets cheaper during production it is ALWAYS the customer who will have to pay the bill in the end.

So either you, Bob, and all your writer colleagues make it possible for US, the consumers, to only pay for the "added value" or I won't ever be in favor for you or the artist or the production company to get more money or a "share". Because there's never a "share" of 100%. If a DVD is currently sold for 20 Euro and you want a "share" of a half percent then in the future that DVD will cost me 20,10 Euro. Plain and simple. That's economics. That's the hard truth. Deal with it.

August 09 2007 at 3:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Chester

Pay more money up front in exchange for a no other money exchanges hands policy.

August 09 2007 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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