Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The WGA Strike -- What's it all about?

You may have heard a bit about this impending disaster known as the WGA strike that could shut down the town and put a lot of working writers out of work. The strike threat has already taken its toll on the fall spec season (nothing is selling). Not a lot of happiness from writers, managers and agents right about now.

If you're in the dark as to what's going on, this recent "Los Angeles Times" article gives you a quick overview:
Residual resentment slows Hollywood talks

Studios want to revamp pay for reruns. Writers and actors want more.

By Richard Verrier

As a young writer, Marc Cherry found early success on NBC's hit show "The Golden Girls," then toiled in obscurity for the next 12 years.

Two shows he created for Fox and CBS were canceled. None of the TV pilots he developed clicked. In debt $30,000, he sold his Hancock Park home, moved into a small condo in Studio City and even borrowed money from his mother.

What sustained him in the fallow years, before his desperation inspired ABC's 2004 hit "Desperate Housewives," were the little green envelopes that showed up in his mailbox. Reruns of "The Golden Girls," which got a second life on the Lifetime cable channel, brought residual checks that one year totaled $75,000.

Residual fees are at the center of labor talks underway between the Hollywood studios and the union that represents movie and TV writers. The major studios want to revamp the decades-old system, citing soaring production costs and fragmented audiences amid today's digital revolution.

But the writers say these payments help them weather Hollywood's feast-and-famine work cycles. Without residuals, Cherry said, he might have been forced to "get a real job."

TV viewers might never have had "Desperate Housewives," the darkly comic tale of suburbia that helped lift ABC out of the doldrums.

"These residuals allowed me to survive long enough to create a show that is a huge profit center for the network," said Cherry, 45, a Long Beach native and member of the Writers Guild of America negotiating committee. "That's what kept me afloat."

The major studios and the Writers Guild are far apart in negotiations on a three-year contract that would replace the one that expires Oct. 31. The writers are scheduled to vote this week on whether to give the board the authority to call a strike if no deal can be reached. Studios are preparing for a strike as early as Nov. 1, which would be the first writers' walkout in nearly 20 years.

A major sticking point in the talks is the residual fees that actors, writers and directors receive when their movies or TV shows are rerun on television or sold for release on home video and in foreign markets. The writers' West Coast guild collected $264 million in residuals in 2006.

But the writers want more money. They are pushing to double the payment they receive for TV shows or films that are released on home video. Currently, they receive about 4 cents for every DVD sold under a pay formula agreed to in the 1980s, when manufacturing home videocassettes was expensive. They also seek higher pay for movies and TV shows sold over the Internet and residuals for shows created for the Web and other new media.

Studio executives, however, have resisted paying more for digital downloads and contend that it's premature to set pay formulas for online shows when the medium is experimental.

They propose overhauling the system, paying TV and film residuals only after the studios have recouped their costs. They contend that residuals were developed at a time when studios more than offset their film costs at the box office, which hasn't been the case for nearly three decades. TV networks say they have been squeezed by a shrinking syndication market and a migration of younger audiences to the Internet.

"It is simply no longer tenable to be paying residuals on losses as we have for three decades," said Nick Counter, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. "We must adapt to the realities of the marketplace, the new demands from our audiences and new technologies, or suffer the fate of those who deny change or don't adapt fast enough..."
To read the rest of the article, click HERE.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Win 5 grand this month. Yes, you!

For the sixth straight year, Coverage Ink is official contest judge of the CS Open Live Writing tournament at the Screenwriting Expo. Many of you reading this have done the Open before (hi, guys!) but for those who haven’t, consider doing so this year!

In a nutshell, you’re given 90 minutes to write an original scene based on parameters we give you. Your scene is then evaluated by the Coverage, Ink team. The top three scenes are then performed live on stage by actors at the Expo’s closing ceremony on Sunday 10/28. The winner gets 5 grand.

In other words, you could be 5 grand richer for writing a couple of scenes the weekend of 10/27. Plus there’s cash prizes for the top 3 and other prizes for the top ten. So what are you waiting for? Could you best 800-1,000 other writers? Can you write under pressure? I find it’s when I do my best work (especially when there’s money on the line.) So if you’re going to the Expo and haven’t yet enrolled in the CS Open, do try your hand. 90 minutes of your time could net you some big $$$.

For more on the CS Open, and to enroll online click HERE.

And while you’re at the Expo, do drop by and introduce yourself to the Coverage Ink team!

Free Scripts! Read Now!

Just a reminder that there are TONS of free scripts out there on the web. One of my faves is UCLA Extension's site, which is well stocked with great movie scripts. It's easy to forget that one of the best ways to learn is to read scripts. So download a few of your favorites and then read them for the story and scrutinize the craft carefully.

Click HERE to visit the UCLA Extension screenplay database.

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Here's a 1-minute short guaranteed to brighten your day. Click HERE to watch SCRIPT COPS.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Warner Bros: No More Female Leads

No, we're not making this up. Apparently due to the underperformance of female-driven films THE INVASION (Nicole Kidman) and THE BRAVE ONE (Jodie Foster) at the box office, Warners' Jeff Robinov has issued a moratorium on films with a female star.

Wow. Who would've thunk it? Er, then again, the only female Looney Tunes characters were Granny and... er... hm...

For the staggeringly Neanderthal rest of the story, click HERE.