The following is my two-minute expaination of the WGA strike. Two minutes is all I am asking you for. Please read.
1) The DVD Situation
Back in 1985 the writers reluctantly settled for being paid a truly paltry residual of just four pennies per unit out of the sale of every $20.00 VHS and DVD because back then the whole industry of VHS and DVD was still so new and the tehcnology still so expensive that the studios insisted that they needed at least ten years to try and nurture the VHS/DVD industry. So the studios convinced the writers to cut the studios a break and be willing to get paid just four pennies per unit for a few years (just a few years, mind you!) while the fledgling industry was trying to establish itself, then the VHS/DVD industry might stand a financial chance to grow and actually become something. Back then the cost of manufacturing, packaging, and shipping a $20.00 VHS/DVD was about $10.00 per unit. But today, that price has dropped to roughly fifty cents per unit (including shipping it to market). So the writers feel they have waited long enough (22 years to be precise) and would now like to DOUBLE that four pennies per unit up to eight pennies per unit. But the studios won't hear of it. They absolutely insist that it's an unreasonable demand and will not budge on it. Mediators in the struggle have suggested to the studios that maybe six pennies per unit might be a fair tradeoff, but the studios won't even settle for that either.
2) The Internet
The music industry has shown that the whole future of music sales rests almost exclusively in the realm of the internet. Therefore, it is not unreasonable to surmize that the future of movie sales also will be found almost exclusively on the internet. So if writers are currently getting residuals of four pennies per sale of each VHS/DVD unit, then it stands to reason that writers should also get residuals of NO LESS THAN four pennies per download on the internet. But the studios want to exclude all internet downloads from residuals. They want to pay NOTHING AT ALL in residuals for ANY internet downloads FOREVER. (They are insisting that internet downloads should be regarded as "promotional downloads" and therefore should not be subject to residuals. Ever.)
3) Future Technology
No one knows what the future holds for technology as far as how people will pay for the privilege of seeing a story told in a visual medium. But the writers want to prevent a shell game or any sleight of hand on the part of the studios to finagle a way to get free stories out of writers. And therefore ANY consumption of a story, regardless of the technology, means the writers need to get paid. Period.
And THAT was my two-minute encapsulation of the strike's origins.
Reality TV writers get paid slave wages (part of the reason why reality TV is so huge right now) no benefits, no residuals, no overtime, and very easilly fired with no protection and no recourse. The studios want to break the union and reduce ALL writers to the same desolate state that reality TV writers are in right now. This is a serious fight. This is one of the most evil (and I do not toss around the word "evil" lightly) battles Hollywood has seen since the McCarthy era of blacklistings. And it won't stop with the writers. The DGA and the SAG will be next on the hit list. The studios wish to eliminate ALL of those pesky unions from the Hollywood landscape. The writers MUST win this fight.
I am not a resident of California, but I am writing to Governor Schwarzenegger all the same, and I urge you to do so as well.
Here's his official web page:
Here's his contact page with phone numbers and snail mail addresses.
And here's his e-mail page --and make sure you flip the radio button to say "NEED HELP!":
Tell him you want him to step into this fight. He's been pretty busy with the wild fires, but still, this is a matter that he will surely want to get involved in. And don't worry that he might be intimidated by the money that the movie industry generates--the true bread and butter for California is the agricultural industry, not the movies.
E-mail him and specify "NEED HELP!" and choose the option called "Labor and Workforce Developemntent Agency."