Sunday, November 11, 2007

Writers vs. below the line employees

The LA Times set off a debate by publishing an e-mail from recently laid-off "The Office" key grip, Dale Alexander. Clarification: The photo to the right is not of Dale nor of anyone in his crew. Apologies for any confusion.

Here are some highlights from Dale's e-mail:
Our show was shut down and we were all laid off this week. I've been watching the news since the WGA strike was announced and I have yet to see any coverage dedicated to the effect that this strike will have on the below the line employees.

I respect the WGA's position. They probably do deserve a larger percentage of profit participation, but a lengthy strike will affect more than just the writers and studios. On my show we had 14 writers... All 102 of us are now out of work.

During the 1988 WGA strike many of my friends lost their homes, cars and even spouses.

Everyone should be paid their fair share, but does it have to be at the expense of the other 90% of the crewmembers. Nobody ever recoups from a strike, lost wages are just that, lost.
A commenter going by "Fireboy" responds:

What do grips do, anyway? Can't anybody do that? What's the big deal?

I'm certain that those words spoken in Mr. Alexander's presence would draw a fierce reaction. And yet, that's the attitude he is asking writers to take from the multinational corporations that are behind this trouble. He should check this weeks comments by Bob Iger, Sumner Redstone and Peter Chernin. They insist that they are all in a terrific position to weather this strike, because, really - what writers do isn't that important to our business. This attitude will make its way to Mr. Alexander sooner rather than later. This is about union busting Mr. Alexander and for all the damage you are worried about now, it will be nothing compared to what you will suffer when these men come to you and ask that your health benefits be rolled back. It's interesting that Mr. Alexander, who depends on the talents of writers and actors to provide him with employment would be asking them to lay down and just be quiet. We are on the front line fighting for you, Mr. Alexander, whether you want to deal with that or not.

Commenter "Editdroid" responds:
As an Editor on an hour long drama who is about to be laid off, I take great exception to the tenor of Fireboy's posting. None of us below-the-liners are begrudging the writer's their due. We are however a bit peeved about the writer's attitudes towards those of us who stand to lose the most while gaining nothing in return. I've heard the writers like Fireboy say that they are on the front line fighting for us, but the truth of the matter is only writers,actors and directors benefit from residuals, the main contention of the strike. It's very easy for Fireboy to say that the studios are going to come after our benefits next, but the truth of the matter is that after this strike is settled what the studios are going to do is to try to take money away from those below the line to pay for the costs of the strike and for whatever gains the writers get. What I've not heard from any of the writers or showrunners is a simple " We're sorry you crew members are going to have to suffer during this strike, it's something that 's really important for us, and we'll have your backs when this is settled." So Fireboy it may make your feel good to say the writer's are fightiing for all of us but really it's just a cop out to assuage your guilt over the true hardships you are causing the many crewmembers who work hard to make your words come to life.

Photo by amishjim

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

GUILD stands for Giving Unemployment In Large Doses.

Anonymous said...

i don't know what editroid is watching, but virtually EVERY interview with a showrunner that i see includes a "we're sorry" component. we are sorry. and we'll all be a hell of a lot more sorry if we don't take a stand now.

VP81955 said...

As an Editor on an hour long drama who is about to be laid off, I take great exception to the tenor of Fireboy's posting. None of us below-the-liners are begrudging the writer's their due. We are however a bit peeved about the writer's attitudes towards those of us who stand to lose the most while gaining nothing in return.

As a newspaper copy editor myself, I'm fully on the editors' side in this case, but editroid's writing ("writer's"?) does, alas, make one stop and pause.

phf said...

Bottom line the writers are below the line. If any of the writers were a Hemmingway,Twain,Plath,or Poe the need to "strike" for creative due wouldn't be necessary. It would be understood. A crew of 100 people could write a script but could a crew of 100 writers cater lunch, make beautiful bruised, turn an empty field into the land of oz, light the day to night and night to day , drive-park- and haul an entire productions- poop-personal items & props , all while wearing escada that is on loan from the neimans your shooting in for 15 hours?
TO WRITE OR NOT TO RIGHT THAT IS THE QUESTION?

deuddersun said...

I'm btl and I support the Writer's completely. Why? Come to deuddersun says... and see. Sorry to be a blog-whore but I have dam good reasons for supporting the strike and I can't sum them up in a comment.

d.

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