Posted by: hmillic | November 13, 2007

Hollywood on strike. WGA vs. Ellen, and more….

I’m sure we’ve all heard about the Writers Guild strike that has brought the entertainment industry to a screeching halt. Here is a video that explains why the Writers Guild is striking and what they are asking for, in case, like me, you found yourself confused :

Also, this article from BBC News, is a basic overview of of what caused the strike and its ramifications.

Thousands of writers have been gathering at demonstrations and forming picket lines. Numerous productions have ceased. Stars are coming out in droves to support the writers. Writers are encouraging everyone to support the strike, and have already lashed out at Ellen DeGeneres for continuing to tape new shows.

On November 10th, the Writers Guild of America released this statement criticizing Ellen for crossing the picket line:

Ellen DeGeneres went back on the air this week after honoring only one day of the writers strike. In anticipation of her plans to tape shows in New York City on November 19th and 20th, the Writers Guild of America, East is extremely disappointed to see that Ellen has chosen not to stand with writers during the strike. Ellen’s peers who host comedy/variety shows have chosen to support the writers and help them get a fair contract, Ellen has not. On her first show back, Ellen said she loves and supports her writers, but her actions prove otherwise.

Ellen has also been performing comedy on her show. Even if Ellen is writing those segments herself, since those segments would normally be written by the writers on strike, she’s performing “struck work”. Ellen is violating the strike rules that were clearly explained to all of the comedy/variety shows.

We certainly intend to let Ellen know our dissatisfaction in person if she decides to proceed with the shows she has scheduled in New York on November 19th and 20th. We will also make our voices heard the preceding week if she tries to pre-tape comedy segments on location.

We find it sad that Ellen spent an entire week crying and fighting for a dog that she gave away, yet she couldn’t even stand by writers for more than one day – writers who have helped make her extremely successful.

Every show and film set has a production staff and crew that is beloved by their writers. Ellen’s staff is no more important than the rest of the industry. When shows refuse to stand with us they create huge revenue streams for the companies and that prolongs the strike for the thousands of staff and crew members who are noble enough to honor our picket lines. We find this situation hurtful to those people and extremely unfortunate.

The writers did not cause this strike. The companies’ greed caused this strike and it could end tomorrow if they were finally willing to negotiate a fair deal. We ask Ellen to cease doing shows immediately. She should stand by all writers and help us bring this strike to a quick conclusion. We owe that to the thousands of people who are caught in the middle.”

In response to the WGA, DeGeneres’ publicist released the following statement :

“Ellen has not done anything in violation of the Writer’s Guild of America agreement, or the WGA’s internal ‘Strike Rules.’

Telepictures Productions, through its distributor Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution, has contractual obligations to continue to deliver original programming to the 220 stations that carry the program.

We have asked Ellen to come back to work to fulfill her contractual Obligation, as host of the show, because without original programs the stations can move the show out of its time periods or ultimately hold the company in breach of contract. The company, in turn, expects Ellen not to breach her contract to host the show. We also wish to preserve the 135 jobs of the staff and the crew whose livelihoods depend on the show continuing. We regret the Writer’s Guild has chosen to strike and we wish for a quick resolution.

It is unfair and incorrect to compare The Ellen DeGeneres Show to late night shows such as Leno, Letterman and Conan, all of which are late night network owned and controlled programming. Ellen is a daytime talk show carried on a syndicated basis across individual television stations, no different than, and in direct competition with, Oprah, Rachel Ray, Phil, Live with Regis and Kelly, Martha, Tyra, Jerry, Maury, and Montel, all of which are in first run daytime syndication and are continuing in production.”

I’m definitely on Ellen’s side on this one. Ellen skipped a day of taping, and the following show she opened with a statement of support for the strike and said she would not be performing monologues.   The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists late Friday criticized the Writer’s Guild’s attack on Ellen, and said that “AFTRA members such as Ms. DeGeneres who are working under the AFTRA Network TV Code are legally required by the no-strike clause of that contract to report to work and perform their AFTRA-covered responsibilities.”

I think that the WGA’s letter was threatening and below the belt, especially when they referenced the scandal over giving away her dog. She was upset because she gave it to her hairdresser, one of her employees, and went to bat for her after they dog was taken away. She clearly cares a great deal about the people that work for her.

I think that she’s trying to protect the jobs of the entire staff of her show, and I respect that. She is torn between two unions, since she is a member of both, and chose to honor the one she is currently working for. Even though I think that writers should be given their fair share of the profits, I don’t think that should come at the expense of other people.

NBS has already laid off the entire 102-person non-writing staff of “The Office.” Dale Alexander, a key grip from the show, emailed the LA Times on Monday and explained the predicament crew members of the shows that have been shut down are in:

“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. There were also 2 cameramen, 2 camera assistants, 4 hair stylists, 4 makeup artists, 7 wardrobe people, 4 grips, 4 electricians, 2 craft service, 4 props people, 6 construction, 1 medic, 3 art department, 5 set dressers, 3 sound men, 3 stand-ins, 2 set PAs, 4 assistant directors, 1 DGA trainee, 1 unit manager, 6 production office personnel, 3 casting people, 4 writers assistants, 1 script supervisor, 2 editors, 2 editors assistants, 3 post production personnel, 1 facilities manager, 8 drivers, 2 location managers, 3 accountants, 4 caterers and a producer who’s not a writer. All 102 of us are now out of work.

I have been in the motion picture business for 33 years and have survived three major strikes. None of which have been by any of the below the line unions. During the 1988 WGA strike many of my friends lost their homes, cars and even spouses. Many actors are publicly backing the writers, some have even said that they would find a way to help pay bills for the striking writers. When the networks run out of new shows and they air repeats the writers will be paid residuals. The lowest paid writer in television makes roughly twice the salary than the below the line crewmember makes. 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.

We all know that the strike will be resolved. Eventually both sides will return to the bargaining table and make a deal. The only uncertainty is how many of our houses, livelihoods, college educations and retirement funds will pay for it.”

Once I hear the Writer’s Guild propose a plan to compensate the employees of the entertainment industry that will lose their jobs over this strike, then I’ll actively support you getting a bigger slice of the pie. That’s probably not going to happen, so I feel sorry for all the people that this is going to adversely affect. Either way, I wish them all luck, and hopefully this will be over sooner rather than later! I hope the writers get what they want, I want good TV on!!!

For all the latest on the strike, go to UnitedHollywood , a blog started by a group of strike captains.


  1. I appreciate your nuanced and balanced take.

    From my perspective, this really comes down to defining the future of the entertainment industry. The producers have specifically carved out ad-supported streaming media as “promotional” — even if they show programs in their entirety and and even if those platforms make windfall profits.

    Once that becomes acceptable to any major union, the concept of residuals is in the dustbin of history. The internet will be the future, and the major studios and networks (all controlled by the same handful of CEOs) want that future to be one in which they alone profit.

    As proof, the WGA removed almost all other negotiating points — even the DVD residuals — in exchange for a hope that the AMPTP would negotiate a fair new media deal. The AMPTP walked out on the talks, precipitating the strike.

    Check out:

    We created a site to publicize a letter writing campaign that will really target the offending CEOs.

    It contains all the addresses of the CEOs who REALLY call the shots, has a sample letter and breaks down WHICH CEO is responsible for almost every show, so you can make the letters specific to your favorite shows.

    Please spread the word!

  2. […] hmillic added an interesting post today on Hollywood on strike. WGA vs. Ellen, and moreâ¦..Here’s a small reading:I’m sure we’ve all heard about the Writers Guild strike that has brought the entertainment industry to a screeching halt. Here is a video that explains why the Writers Guild is striking and what they are asking for, in case, like me, … […]

  3. That video really explains a lot. And it led me to find a bunch more about the celebs and writers speaking out.

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