Some thoughts on the AMPTP’s latest (disingenuous) offer…

Since the news dropped that the recent talks have broken down I’ve seen and heard various ill-informed comment posts and chatter about why the Writers should cave.

To sum it up; the devil’s in the details and once you examine this package, you realize there are so many loopholes in this offer as to make it largely meaningless.

The AMPTP have asked for a media blackout and repeatedly broken it, releasing the latest offer in a press release – a cynical bid to divide WGA members and pit us against our sister unions.

I was on the Negotiating Committee in 2017 and I’m telling you; take every “statement” – sorry, leak — made by the AMPTP on Tuesday with a massive grain of salt.

For starters, the AMPTP were very selective and neglected to disclose the full details of their offer – which, in many cases, were more restrictive than what people read.

And while it’s true that some progress was made, at lot of this was the usual smoke and mirrors.

The AMPTP’s “compromise” on A.I. is nightmarish. Yes, an A.I. generated script or outline can’t be considered “assigned material” – but make no mistake, the intention is for the studios to produce an A.I. script beforehand that can then be copyrighted once a human being has polished it. Imagine a world where most projects are fed through A.I. first – whether it be Oppenheimer or Foundation or Heartbreaker – and then given to a writer to “humanize”. Imagine a world where directors are handed A.I. generated shot-lists and are forced to shoot what the algorithm deems appropriate. Imagine a world where animation voice actors are replaced by A.I. generated “actors”. Or where live-action actors’ voices are simulated for looping and used without their permission.

Think this is unrealistic? Much of this has already happened.

Now consider the fact that those AIs were all trained using materials generated by humans. Fed scripts generated by humans. Fed voice samples generated by humans. Fed action sequences generated by humans – all without those humans being compensated.

This issue alone justifies the continuation of the strikes.

Or how about their offer that showrunners can assign two writers for 20 weeks of production? That’s great, except – who defines what a showrunner is? Can a showrunner be a non-writing hack the studios install that decides he/she/they don’t need any writers for the production? I’m guessing yes.

Just remember. A company’s obligation to its shareholders is to jack up its stock price. Regardless of morality or a human being’s welfare. A company will never do the right thing because of a moral imperative. The only way a company does the right thing is when it is forced to through labor action.

Every gain in America that we now consider sacrosanct – the 40 hour work week, pension plans, maternity leave – was won through labor action. And in the case of Amazon, the same company pushing for A.I. generated scripts is also the same company squashing workers in hellish fulfillment centers attempting to organize and fight for humane conditions.

This truly is a generational fight. Previous WGA strikes have yielded massive, life-improving changes. And this one will as well.

In the early 50s, actors and writers struck and forced the studios to pay TV residuals. In 1960 it was movie residuals and an independent insurance and pension plan.

In 1973 it was residuals for pay television (anticipating future seismic distribution changes).

In 1985 the WGA struck (and capitulated too soon, IMHO), winning a paltry 0.3% of the distributors gross for home video. A third of 1%!

In 2007/8 we won jurisdiction over new media – i.e. streaming, which has become the dominant means of distribution!

I’m lucky. I’ve been in the business a long time and enjoyed a fair amount of success. I’m not striking for myself. I’m striking for my staff writers and story editors. And for my script coordinators and writers’ assistants who hope to become staff writers and story editors.  

Last week, I was picketing at Paramount with friends. And while the vast majority of cars driviing past were supportive and honking enthusiastically, a man in a truck drove down Van Ness at one point and screamed at us “Get back to work you fucking faggots!”

Good times.



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