WGA Strike Primer: The Secret Letter

You've probably heard that the strike is over. It isn't. No, really, it isn't. The truth is, no one speaking publicly knows what the deal actually is.
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Dear Hollywood,

How've you been? Boy, it's been a rough three months, hunh? Believe me, I know. I know. Trust me.

You've probably heard that the strike is over.

It isn't.

No, really, it isn't. Oh, sure, Michael Eisner said the strike was over. But...well, Michael Eisner doesn't run a studio these days. It was in all the papers. So, everything he says is hearsay. Besides, he's Michael Eisner, the Man Who Made $50 Million during the last WGA strike while the entire industry and city suffered for 5-1/2 months. This is not the Writers Best Friend, y'know what I'm saying?

And yeah, the other Michael - Cieply of the New York Times - he says it's over, too. But then he also ridiculed writers for wearing scarves in the cold, and having nice glasses, and has gone out of his way at every opportunity to ridicule the Writers Guild, so there you go. (I'm not saying he's bitter at writers because he's a failed producer from Sony Studios, because honestly he was ridiculing writers even before he failed, when he wrote for the L.A. Times)

See, neither of them know what the deal actually is. The truth is, no one speaking publicly knows what the deal actually is. Guess what? The deal isn't even finalized. No, really. And anyone with an ounce of honesty knows that the devil is in the details, that all contracts change at the very last minute, sometimes critically. Tiny details matter. Completely matter. The difference between "butter" and "butterfly" is only three letters. But you don't want to spread, "I Can't Believe It's Not Butterfly" on your toast. You want to trust me on this. And ultimately, it's for the membership of the Writers Guild to digest the contract offer, discuss it seriously, and decide themselves what they think.

Absolutely, writers dearly hope the deal is good and worth settling. Boy, howdy, do they ever. These people hate being outdoors. But remember, they've been on strike and picketing for over three months. They're doing that for a reason, believe it or not. The reason was not to get a sucky deal. (And yes, that's the official term.) They will decide for themselves.

Writers are an ornery lot. You might have noticed that. And they get pissed off at being screwed by studios really easily. They're used to it. And wary. Okay, in fairness, you'd be get pissed off too if you'd spent six months of your life pouring out your soul, only to have some CPA say, "Does Don Corleone have to be in the Mafia? Can't he be more likeable? What if he was a skier in the Olymics?!"

Yes, writers expect the strike to be over. Because they SO want it to be over. And they're excited because they hear people spreading rumors about how great the deal is, from people who haven't seen the deal, especially because there isn't yet an official deal..

Maybe the deal will be great. (It won't be. MBA deals just aren't. It's the law.) Maybe it'll be okay with some good things and some disappointing things. Maybe it will be sucky. We don't know. We hope. We hope the AMPTP corporations made some good accommodations for the benefit of not just the writers, but all of the entertainment industry and the entire city of Los Angeles.

If they did, if the deal is fair and reasonable, then writers will happily accept it. Because they want to go back to work. And they want you, Hollywood, to go back to work. They like you, and you need the work. But if the deal is sucky, they will be more red-zone pissed off than you can imagine. And so should you be.

The strike is not over. Really. No matter how hopeful or enthusiastic people are about getting things settled. If writers wanted to settle for a sucky contract, they'd have signed that really sucky one the AMPTP mega-corporations offered three months ago.

I hope you get to watch your Oscars. I know how much you like that TV show, though every year you say how terrible it is and that you wasted five hours of your life. It's fun to see people get awards and thank people. I know you go to the bathroom during the big, overblown dancing and the awards you don't care about and the honorary speeches and commercials, but that's okay. After all, the TV show is really long, so you're covered. It's vaudeville, it's tradition, it's boring, it's glamorous, it's silly. It's lots of things. There's only one thing it's not -- it's not a reason to accept a sucky contract. Here's an idea for you, though: if there's still a strike and few people want to cross the picket line to thank their family and agents, they can always put on a TV show after the strike is actually settled, and let all the winners come in and give their thanks then! And they can even have some dancing numbers so you can have time to go to the bathroom.

But here's hoping. Just don't confuse hope with an end to the strike. Because the strike is not over.

Really. The strike is not over. When it is, you'll know. Trust me on this.

Your friend.
Bob "Bob" Elisberg

Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.

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