The Writers Guild is attacking a systemic problem in Hollywood: why should intermediaries who help sell content earn more money than the talent that creates the content?
On Friday, I called my crying agent to let him know that I had signed the Writers Guild letter ending CAA's right to represent me in matters related to my writing career.
I have been with my agent for almost twenty years now. I like it a lot. I trust him completely. He did his job well, guided and supported my career and reported much more than I would have won without him. It should also be mentioned that he is a brave guy and really good. I know that once, when I was in a staff that was abused by a sociologist, one of my peers called his agent and said, "You can not stop smoking. You can not break your contract. You will never work again. When I called my agent, he said, "Get out now. Go home. Do you need me to pick you up?
It was difficult to separate from him when the deadline for talks between the guild and the agencies had expired. I say "halfway" because I did not fire my agent. Instead, I quoted Lin-Manuel Miranda: "We see each other on the other side of the war."
In response, my agent did what the agents do: he tried to sell me. He tried to sell me telling me that it was my guild that was unreasonable here. He tried to sell me the idea that this action of my guild was damaging and irresponsible for lower and middle level writers. He hit me with the phrase: "Your guild did not even contradict our offer."
The agencies are made up of lawyers, MBAs and salespeople whose job is to make us believe that our union leadership is crazy, unfair and unreasonable. I am very much in favor of the union, and I have a member of the bargaining committee in my writers' room and another who is the mother of my daughter's school. I am aware of the issues and the negotiations. I believe we are fighting a fair fight. And yet, my excellent sales agent / lawyer shook my confidence when I spoke to him. He put me on the ropes. Like Rocky, I needed a cheering discussion to get back into the ring. Here is the speech of encouragement that I gave myself:
What the Writers Guild is trying to do here is audacious, that is certain. It's David and Goliath. It's Norma Rae. My guild is attacking a huge systemic problem in Hollywood. A problem so rooted that despite months of conversations, the ATA has not yet moved on the real issues on the table.
Why should intermediaries who help sell content earn more money than the talent that creates the content?
Why do my friends in the entertainment industry have endless stories about agents asking them to "take the lead" in aggressive negotiations of writers because agents are afraid to anger their leaders? # 39; agency?
My agent tells me that "producers are making fun of us". But my friends who are big producers say, "We've known for years that this conflict of interest is huge. We see it's disgusting. We just never thought it could change.
Just because a Hollywood system is rooted does not mean it works. (See: Harvey Weinstein.)
When I came to The anatomy of Gray As a screenwriter producer of season 1 – fifteen years ago, I earned more money per episode than scriptwriters producing The anatomy of Gray do now. And I'm told that GreyWriters' quotes are actually higher than most.
Our income as a guild has dropped dramatically, while Hollywood profits have increased dramatically. The ATA claims that it is because the issue orders have been reduced. But The anatomy of GrayThe order has not been reduced; we produced 25 episodes this year. So, why is the only thing that has grown for TV writers, in the 19 years since I became one, did the guild negotiate minimums?
If you look at what a leader was earning 15 years ago compared to what he is doing, there has been a significant increase. If you look at what an agent earned 15 years ago compared to what he is doing, there has been a significant increase. And the agencies that are supposed to represent us are now worth billions. Meanwhile, writers are held flat. Overall, talent has been maintained or has seen a drastically reduced income for a long time. (A related example: In my debut on TV, actors regularly cite their series for a guest spot on television, but for a decade, "top of show" has become the norm.Top of show is the code of the show. Industry for "minimum SAG" "You can not make a living if you earn the minimum It is not normal for MBAs to get rich on the back of talents while they have to wait to be able to pay their rent.)
I understand that there are problems on many levels with companies, CEOs and rich people who are enriching and systemically diluting unions not only in Hollywood but across the country. I also understand that my contract is concluded, that I am in a privileged position and that this action does not hurt me in the short term, because I currently have a lucrative job. My agent tells me that we are doing this to the detriment of our guild members as we head into the manning season. "You will not be hurt. They will do it. He says it as a fact. But it is not obliged.
The same number of jobs will be filled during this recruitment season, with or without agents. The risk here is who gets access. We must therefore use direct submission systems, work together as a union to read writers we do not know, and promote good readers to our friends. This is already happening on all the social media and in the inboxes of all the showrunners I know. And if we are able to build whole worlds from our imagination, we are able to cut men and women in the middle of the recruiting season and help other guild members find work. This will require additional efforts on our part. But dismantling and rebuilding failed systems often requires extra effort – and huge gains.
I believe that the fact that our agencies are in conflict when we represent is a big part of the problems we face as a collective. I believe that the deeply broken system has very real, long-term and detrimental effects on the lower and middle level members of our guild, and that this action, as painful as it is, is feeling at the moment, is not the problem, but the beginning of the Solution. I do not believe that this action of the guild is on the backs of young writers, I think it is in the service of them and all future writers.
Finally, the Writers Guild has managed to counter. We objected to any question for which the ATA gave reasonable answers. But last week, ATA came to the table and offered less than a penny on every dollar of our back-end won. They said that they would devote it to an effort of inclusion / diversity still undetermined and not considered. Their great offer was aimed at a real problem – but not the problem that is on the table in this particular negotiation. It's a classic sales movement, designed to both distract us and make us look like morons.
I hope that the ATA does what is right and leaves the inclusion fund money on the table – because it is necessary. And I hope that they will add a concrete proposal on the packaging, the production, the very real conflicts of interests that my guild confronts with audacity and righteousness.
Krista Vernoff is the showrunner on ABC The anatomy of Gray.