Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Reactions to my FSR post "An Aggregated Oral History of 2009 Films Ruined By the Last WGA Strike"

With two weeks to go on the WGA's contract with the AMPTP, I've got an already hot new post on Film School Rejects taking a look back at the consequences of the last Writers Guild strike:

Hollywood is facing the threat of another Writers’ Guild Strike, one which would immediately stop all writing and rewriting on guild signatory productions — essentially everything from the major studios. So far, negotiations have been contentious, with the WGA arguing that though the business has seen record profits, the average writer’s income has declined in this boom period. And yet, at the bargaining table, the AMPTP — who represent the producers — came offering not gains, but rollbacks. They basically asked the writers to accept less than their current contracts.

The total cost of what the writers are asking for is not particularly excessive. For instance, the cost to Disney would be $21.2 million a year — barely more than half of Disney Chairman and CEO Bob Iger’s $43.9 million salary last year. I don’t want to get too far into the weeds on this, but if you’re interested in the particulars, this post from TV writer Ken Levine lays it all out pretty well.

So if the writers demands aren’t that excessive, is it wise for the AMPTP to force a strike by playing hardball? A long strike would have the result of impairing production in television and film. In TV, the fall season would be delayed and on the feature side, the major tentpoles set for 2019 might have to begin production without complete scripts. And under Guild rules, no writing or rewriting can be done on those scripts for the duration of a strike. This would include Marvel’s Captain Marvel and the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War, the ninth Fast and the Furious film, the next Spider-Man film, Transformers 6, and at least one or two yet-to-be announced Warner/DC films.

In looking back at the old strike, I aggregated an "oral history" of sorts, compiling the quotes of what writers, actors and directors had to say about how the strike affected the production of several 2009 releases: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Star Trek, and Quantum of Solace. Just about all of those were critically panned (save for Star Trek, which I actually think is a fantastic film) and the strike was frequently cited as a factor in their quality.

There was a little blowback on Twitter about the title of the article, "An Aggregated Oral History of 2009 Films Ruined By the Last WGA Strike." It was accused of being anti-writer propaganda, which I strongly dispute. The writers don't WANT to have to strike, but they are left with no choice if the AMPTP won't make a fair offer rather than instead coming to the table with rollbacks. So if you as viewers don't want your anticipated tentpoles of the next two years to be terrible, support the writers so that they can get a fair deal from the AMPTP.

I also faced some snark on Twitter from people saying "these movies were going to suck anyway." Frankly, I think that sentiment is far more anti-writer than what my headline was accused of being. As noted, Star Trek actually turned out pretty good, Wolverine had two sequels that were very good, The Bond films immediately before and after Quantum were also great, and even Transformers was considered pretty decent until the sequel. It's not impossible that more of these films could have been good.

Let's not forget how much we scoffed at sure-fired duds like 21 Jump Street and The Lego Movie before we saw them. Ergo, saying these films were going to "suck anyway" is assuming facts not in evidence.

Anyway, take a look at how things went down on those films in the post here.


  1. For what it's worth, I read that entire original FSR post yesterday and didn't get the impression that it was anti-writer at all. If anything, it was pro-writer saying that a bit more consistency and re-writes would have helped these films!

    It's clear that there are bad blockbuster films, then this particular crop, which are just all over the place and notable for having worse scripts than necessarily production or direction decisions.

  2. I have to agree with them, the title sounds anti-writer, or at least anti-strike. If enough people are saying it, maybe adjusting it would help, unless it's more for click-bait, then I say have at it.