L.A. rallies for Writer’s guild

Denys Nazarov

Thousands of protesters shut down Hollywood Boulevard on the afternoon of Nov. 20 as they marched seven blocks from Ivar Avenue near the Pantages Theater to the front of Mann’s Chinese Theater during the Solidarity with Writers rally in an attempt to sway the outcome of the renewed negations on Nov. 26 in their favor.

Teamsters’ semitrucks and a substantial number of police on motorcycles and on foot led the procession of protesters, dressed in red and white, through the city, shutting down traffic on adjacent streets along the way.

The show of strength was in response to the stalemate in the ongoing negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The outcome of the negations on Nov. 26 hasn’t been announced to the press for fear of turning the strike into an all-out public relations war.

The two parties are fighting about the amount of royalty fees screenwriters receive, in addition to their salaries, from profits the studios generate through the sale of shows and movies on the Internet on iTunes, Amazon and similar content providers.

“Today is basically a show of solidarity among all the unions not just in Hollywood, but in L.A., to say we’re all in this together and we don’t want to get kicked in the head by these big corporations,” said Danny Warren, who is a WGA member and writer for Disney’s show “Cory in the House.”

In the bargaining process, AMPTP represents prominent studious like Sony, Universal and Warner Brothers among many others. The studios have refused to accept the WGA request for higher royalties for Internet downloads.

The proposal submitted by AMPTP to the WGA on Oct. 25 states that writers are allotted 1.2 percent “of Company’s receipts from licensing such rights” for television motion pictures broadcast via terrestrial waves or the satellites. However the proposal indicates that writers wouldn’t receive any residuals for the content streamed over the Internet.

“They’re talking with their shareholders about how the Internet is a gold mine, and how no matter what they’re gonna make money,” Warren said. “At the same time they are telling us, ‘no there is no money here.’ They are saying that they are putting out so much money that they will never see a penny of it back.”

The statement titled “Producers’ Response To the WGA Proposal,” from Carol Lombardi, the executive vice president for AMPTP’s legal affairs, dated July 18, 2007, indicates that the studious are reluctant to set a specific royalty rate for writers because they are uncertain about the potential of the Internet to generate revenue.

Since the strike began about three weeks ago, some shows like “The Office” have gone off the air, but the writers are willing to return to work as soon as a favorable decision is reached.

“We want nothing more than to go back to work,” Warren said. “We want to please our corporate master, but we want to do it at a fair rate.”

Crafts and musicians unions, along with the local Teamsters union, came to the WGA strike to show support for the writers. Many professionals in the television and movie industries have been put out of work since the strike started.

Garen Tolkin, a make-up artist attending the rally, said, “It’s important that for any of these deal points to be met that everybody who has any connection with the industry participates and shows strength and unity with the writers in this strike.”

“The more support the writers have, the stronger all of the unions are,” Tolkin said.

Jerry Guerrero, a junior cinema and television arts major studying screenwriting at CSUN, said the strike is especially important for beginning writers because they’re not prominent enough to have their voices heard.

“There has been some criticism of the people who are striking,” Guerrero said. “A lot of the strikers are head writers or people you see on TV, so they are not hurting as much as the struggling writers who are just breaking in. Strike is an important way to get a point across when the talks fall apart.”

Although AMPTP and WGA have agreed to renew negations in order to reach a new agreement, many believe the strike will only end after the studios offer writers a fair share of the Internet profits.

“The companies are saying they don’t know how much they’re going to make, but they hire people to plan out what is the potential,” Guerrero said. “If a company is going to sell stuff online they are already planning on how much money they will make.”