It has been interesting viewing the strike from across the Atlantic. For the last week, I have been keeping up on things from Munich by reading the International Herald-Tribune, USA Today, and whatever British newspapers I’ve stumbled across. The contrast between how the British press is covering the walk-out and our U.S. news media is, well, striking.
The British press, which has no pretense of objectivity, appears to be solidly behind the writers. More than one article portrayed our demands as reasonable and the AMPTP’s reaction as greedy and bewildering.
But the U.S. press, which does pride itself on objectivity, seems to be siding with the networks and studios. Virtually article mentions how highly paid some screenwriters are, or makes some snide aside about strikers arriving in their BMWs and Mercedes or going from the picket lines to their Malibu beach homes. An article in the Herald Tribune even portrayed striking writers as espresso-sipping dandies wearing "arty sunglasses" and colorful scarves. It’s obvious that more than a few print journalists suffer from an inferiority complex and are jealous of screenwriters.
On top of that, trade publications like Variety and newspapers like the Los Angeles Times depend heavily on studio and network advertising revenue, so it’s hardly a surprise that screenwriters aren’t getting a fair shake. L.A. is an industry town, and it isn’t screenwriters who are keeping the lights on at the Hollywood Reporter.
I did get a kick out of the article in Variety a week or so back, where their editors whined that the WGA refused to be baited by each and every negative comment from the AMPTP. They warned that we were going to be "swift-boated" if we didn’t respond whenever one of their so-called reporters, who don’t know how to write without being spoon-fed a press release, asked for a statement from the Guild. I’m proud that our leaders are, for the most part, taking the high road when it comes to responding to the baiting or in characterizing the state of negotiations.
What has also been interesting to me is the feedback I have been getting from German writers, producers, studio execs and network execs regarding the strike. Much to my surprise, they all seemed to be solidly behind the writers. Why was I surprised? Because writers there don’t have a guild or a union and don’t enjoy the protections, creative writers, standard pay, and other benefits that come from having a strictly-enforced, Minimum Basic Agreement. They also don’t have the financial benefit of residuals (unless they work for the state-owned networks, where they do get some rerun money). I kind of expected them to resent us. But even more surprising to me was the supportive comments I heard from studio execs, most of whom provide shows to the networks on a work-for-hire basis and don’t share in any of the revenues. Considering how immensely popular U.S. shows are in Europe, the execs were shocked that writers are only getting a barely measureable percentage of the windfall profits.
I got home last night. I will be walking the picket line tomorrow.