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Can the writers hold the line?

December 26, 2007

Re "Curtains for the guilds," Opinion, Dec. 20

Kevin Morris and Glenn C. Altschuler describe a plausible but wholly unlikely scenario of Hollywood unions failing because of a prolonged strike. Their argument is based in the false premise that successful writers and actors will abandon their unions if the strike drags on, leaving only the least well-off in a skeleton guild with no power.

But the Writers Guild of America, the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild of America have been made up of members of vastly different incomes from the very beginning. It is a fact of any Hollywood career that there are great ups and downs, and a successful member today might not work tomorrow. The unions exist to protect all of their members throughout their working lives, and every member knows that. This is why the union system has survived in Hollywood for so many decades, and why today our internal solidarity is greater than ever.

Ari B. Rubin


The writer is a member of the WGA.

Morris and Altschuler make a valid argument pointing out that members of the Hollywood guilds have different interests and agendas. But the authors overlook one powerful interest that the unions have in common: If they don't get paid when their work is distributed over the Internet, very soon they won't get paid at all. In the face of one overwhelming mutual goal, I suspect their differences will seem insignificant.

Kristin Palombo

Los Angeles

Morris and Altschuler, and those for whom they write, fail to understand that the guild is not divided; that screen and television writers, rich and struggling alike, have the same interests in this strike -- interests the article utterly ignores in an attempt to create a false model. Here's reality: All filmed and taped content will be delivered through the Internet within the next few years. This fact concerns every writer, actor or director.

If there is no guild jurisdiction over Internet content, such abuses as entire shows and films being labeled "promotions," even with advertiser support, no payment for reuse of original material and no fair accounting of earned income through the use of original material will become standard practice.

Once that happens, the bankrupting of health and welfare benefits for all is inevitable. If there weren't so much potential profit in keeping the Internet unregulated, the through-the-looking glass approach the companies have taken would be simply embarrassing. What's a little embarrassment, though, when there's so much money to be made? The well-educated membership of the WGA and SAG know what's going on. And we know the DGA isn't our enemy. If they negotiate a good deal, everyone will be thrilled.

Marjorie David


The writer is co-executive producer of the TV show "Life."

I have an alternative prophecy. I call it vertical disintegration. Tired of being a pawn in the media conglomerates' global chess game, Hollywood's most successful creatives offer to buy back the networks and studios. (Think George Lucas, Oprah Winfrey, David Geffen, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Tom Cruise, etc.) The multinationals, seeing their entertainment operations hemorrhage red ink as the strike drags on for months, agree to cut their losses and sell. For the first time in decades, people who actually care about movies and television are making them. And, because their profits now actually depend on the quality of their product, they make them better. Entertainment enters a new golden age, and the audience lives happily ever after.

Fade to black.

Ethlie Ann Vare

Beverly Hills

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