The above quote is from George Takei, who protrayed Sulu in Star Trek and currently plays Hiro’s father in Heores, in support of the writers against the producers. I quote it becuase it stuck in my mind that its at the heart of the current struggle. If you buy that the content wouldn’t exist without the writers and that they make it happen then you must support their desire to have more of the “profits” from their work.
If reading that makes you pause, as it does me, and wonder where all those stories would be without the money the producers are putting up to finance these projects then you must consider the possibilty that the writers are playing on our sympathies and ignoring some dirty little financial truths about the business.
The fact is that a producer doesn’t make money on every project. They risk their capital on various projects on the assumption that some of them will really take off and others will fail. Overall unless they are really bad at judging these things they should make a good return on their money.
A Writer who writes a script for hire is paid in advance for his time and his efforts. I support, as a matter of course, the process where writers can negioiate for higher salaries for their time and their efforts. When we get in to residuals though we are talking about profits on the successes without any loss on endeavers which are not successful.
I’m not proposing there be no profit sharing in the entertainment industry. I’m suggesting that calling the producers greedy because they don’t want to give up their profits without giving up their losses is ignoring financial reality. Do producers make more of the profits? Yes they do. Should they? Well if you risk millions of dollars you should get more than a few bucks back in exchange for that risk. If you’ve already been paid for a job you aren’t risking anything if that project doesn’t turn a profit or even never gets off the ground.
I think the writers should stop painting this picture that they are being mistreated in the process and I think both sides should come to some sort of agreement that allows for writers to take risk for the reward of the profits. To me that means if you want more of the profits you take less of a paycheck up front. I don’t take financial risk in my job. I get paid a salary for my work and the risk is that if the company doesn’t do well I don’t have a job tomorrow. If they do well they generally share a little with me but that isn’t a right I’ve earned..its an incentive for me to do more for the company. Demanding that the investors in my company give me a share of the return on their investment after I’ve already been paid doesn’t make THEM greedy.