Teach their own praises: David Simon is the frail newspaperman turned TV author/producer and show creator whose TV work entails Homicide: Life On The Avenue, The Wire, Treme and The Deuce. He wrote a submit on his personal blog The Audacity Of Despair that grasps the warfare of passion charges leveled by writers against companies in a private and succinct manner that’s unlike the relaxation we’ve viewed sooner than on the topic. The show he wrote on Twitter introducing his submit supplies you a style for what’s to come benefit.
In regard to the present strive against over packaging now finallyerupting in the film industry, I’d fancy to induce cohesion amongst my brothers and sisters in #WGA and a Biblical plague of fulminant, venereal boils on the #ATA: https://t.co/LD8h3mIk4R
— David Simon (@AoDespair) March 18, 2019
Closing date is re-posting Simon’s submit, which is being widely handed around amongst writers this morning, in its entirety. Buckle up.
Real over a quarter century ago, after I used to be a young scribbler traipsing around the metro desk of the Baltimore Solar, I had an early alternative to be taught a lesson about cash, about ethics, about capitalism and, in explicit, in regards to the American leisure industry. And Dorothy Simon, she raised no fools. I most attention-grabbing predominant to be taught it once.
I realized about one thing called “packaging.”
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And now, at final, my apostasy from newspapering having delivered me from Baltimore realities to film-situation receive-factor in, I am shocked and pleased that many of the fellow scribblers with whom I fragment a labor union admire finally purchased the identical interesting, gruesome lesson:
Packaging is a lie. It is miles theft. It is miles fraud. Within the hands of the succesful U.S. Lawyer, it may per chance most likely most likely even be prima facie evidence of decades of racketeering. It’s that fucking gruesome.
For those of you now not in the film and television world, there may per chance be now not any disgrace in tuning out exact now on fable of at its core, the argument over packaging now ongoing between film and television writers and their agents is effectively an argument over a humiliation of riches. The American leisure industry is seemingly recession-proof and television writing, particularly, is this kind of boost industry for the time being that even exact kind and astronomical novelists admire to be ordered benefit to their prose manuscripts by book editors for whom the time frame “showrunner” has turn into an affront. A kind of of us are making exact kind cash writing television drama. And so, this contemporary argument is ready who is making extra of that cash, and above all, the set aside essentially the most attention-grabbing advantages accrue. If you happen to can also just have not any pores and skin in the game, I mediate it inexpensive, even prudent, to convey a no-fucks-to-give exhale and proceed in varied places.
If, on the loads of hand, it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also very effectively be my fellow brother or sister in the Writers Guild of The US — East or West, it matters now not when we stand in cohesion — or conversely, if it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also very effectively be a greedy, fuckfailing greedhead with the Affiliation of Expertise Agents, then that it’s possible you’ll wanna lallygag around for this:
Right here is the fable of how as a beginner to this industry, I used to be grifted by my agents and how I realized all the pieces I ever predominant to be taught about packaging. And right here is why I am a receive sure-vote on the relaxation my union puts sooner than me that attacks the glorious ethical affront of this paradigm. Packaging is a racket. It’s incorrect. It is miles with none foundation in both integrity or honor. This itsy-bitsy story will receive that sure. And on fable of I aloof admire a reportorial soul and a journalistic God resides in the details, I will name a name wherever I can.
To originate, I wrote a book. It used to be a non-fiction fable of a yr I spent with a shift of cancel detectives in Baltimore, a city ripe with violence and miscalculation. Printed in 1991, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets used to be repped by my literary agent at the time, an self sufficient lawyer who I stumbled on on fable of his varied clients incorporated some varied ink-stained newspaper reporters. Tiresome in 1987, the Baltimore Police Division agreed to let me into its cancel unit for a yr starting that January, so I predominant to hasty set aside an agent to sell the project to a publishing condo and receive an come on which to reside while I took a streak away-of-absence from my newspaper. This agent — and damn, I desire I can also name the goniff, but I later signed a cash settlement that said I wouldn’t — used to be the first name that came to me. I did now not store around; I used to be in a toddle. My uncouth.
Three years later, with the book ready to submit, this shyster quick to me that he used to be entirely kindly of going to Hollywood with it for a sale of the dramatic rights. And me, radiant less than a win of taters about Hollywood, used to be ready to agree till my book editor, the dependable John Profitable, then helming the Houghton Mifflin publishing condo, told me in no unsure terms that this used to be a mistake.
It used to be extinct, John explained, for even the succesful literary agents to pair with a colleague at idea to be one of many greater leisure companies and break up the commission. My literary agent would quit half of his 15 percent to the loads of company, but he would manufacture the abilities of a company with the connections to pass the property around and discover the succesful eyeballs in the film and television industry. So I called my agent benefit and insisted.
With some preliminary reluctance, he sooner or later chose to pass with Creative Artists Company — idea to be one of many Extensive Four, as they call essentially the most attention-grabbing leisure entities repping abilities, and an agent in CAA’s literary division by the name of Matt Snyder. After making the contend with CAA, my literary agent called me benefit and said it used to be extinct for me to offer up a greater proportion commission as I now had two agents engaged on my behalf. How powerful extra? He quick that he can admire to aloof attend his 15 percent and I can admire to aloof pay CAA an extra 10 percent. So a quarter of the earnings from the sale of book would now be siphoned to company commissions.
I called benefit John Profitable and asked: Is that this exact?
John practically dropped the phone. No, that’s now not how it in actuality works. But once more, he explained that my literary agent used to be supposed to break up the present 15 percent commission on the book with CAA. The literary agent used to be supposed to preserve 7.5 percent and provides the loads of half to CAA, which in no manner used to be entitled to any cash above and beyond that break up.
I called my agent benefit. No, you break up the present 15 aspects, I told him. He threw a few chunks of pouty guilt at me, but I shrugged him off. This first strive at a grift can admire to aloof admire warned me, but hey, I used to be young.
Come the fable a pair months later:
CAA has sent the book to about a dozen A-list film directors, the set aside it lays of their offices fancy a frail bagel, unloved and unsold. No one can prefer out straightforward techniques on how to transform a yr in the dependable lives of a half dozen Baltimore demise investigators into a design film. Matt Snyder is bereft of a next notion. He does admire one itsy-bitsy-chance offer from a itsy-bitsy indy company. I receive on the phone with a producer there and inquire of for his credit and it’s gorgeous sure, even to me, that it’s short cash for a project that doubtlessly goes nowhere.
I call Snyder benefit.
Whats up, I ponder aloud, how about Barry Levinson? He’s from Baltimore. He makes motion photographs. Seemingly he’ll fancy it. Did I mention he’s from Baltimore? Beget you ever viewed Diner? Tin Males? I sure pause worship me some Diner.
Right here’s the sum of my contribution to the preliminary sale of Homicide to Levinson and NBC, but let’s now not less than show that it’s the succesful salient drag that may per chance most likely most likely matter, on fable of when CAA sent the book to Levinson, it turned out he used to be in negotiations with NBC to convey a television sequence. Gail Mutrux in his set aside of job read the book and put it in front of her boss; Homicide: Life on the Avenue used to be born.
Then the contract comes admire Baltimore Images and while it’s all stumbled on cash for a police reporter and rewrite man who’s working for union scale at The Solar, I refer to some varied authors who admire sold stuff to Hollywood they normally all acknowledge it’s on the low-quit of the set aside such supplies normally reside. Dazzling for the selection cash, rather light on the contingent pilot, take-up and episodic funds and, for sure, farce on the definition of fetch earnings. So I call Matt Snyder benefit and bellow so: This appears to be like rather light and it’s a first offer. Let’s return to Levinson with a counter.
And Matt Snyder of CAA acts as if his client, me, has compatible thrown a useless, rancid dog on the table. Right here’s my first book sale to Hollywood and Barry Levinson is an A-lister; I must always be contented about this offer and timid that if I nickel-and-dime, Levinson can also just produce one thing else for his first television sequence. Reluctantly, as if he is being asked to traverse a vale of hazard and uncertainty, Snyder sooner or later agrees to return and seek if he can’t receive, per chance, a bump in the per-episode royalty, per chance $250 an hour. He’ll strive against for me. He’ll seek what supplies. And sure sufficient, the per-episode price goes up by 10 percent after Snyder, relentless carnivore that he is, returns to his client with pride and some pocket change.
And now, right here’s the set aside the right relaxing starts:
We push forward a decade to 2002 after I in actuality admire sold my have dramatic television sequence to HBO. The Wire pilot turned out effectively sufficient that the project is situation to receive a first-season checklist from HBO and my television agent, Jeff Jacobs of CAA, suggests to me that this element may per chance most likely most likely in actuality admire legs.
“We desire to equipment you,” he supplies.
“Yeah, we’ll spend a equipment on this project and you receive your ten-percent commission benefit. Esteem with Homicide?
Hanh? “Jake, what the fuck are you speaking about.”
“Homicide used to be packaged and we’ll pause the identical element with The Wire.”
“Jake, slack down, what the hell does ‘packaged’ mean?”
And for the first time, Jacobs explains it to me: In checklist that my agents — the of us who held an absolute fiduciary duty to negotiate in exact kind faith on my behalf and on behalf of my book — will be gamers in the appearance of the TV project from that book, in checklist that they may be able to also have a chunk of the project itself and earnings by millions of greenbacks from the work I had asked them to sell, they admire been prepared to return my 7.5 percent commission and the commissions of any varied abilities they represented, packaging all of us collectively in a happy bundle for the community. Yes, incredibly, to steer clear of essentially the most overt and untenable warfare-of-passion, they admire been prepared to heroically give benefit to me a few thousand dollars in commerce for millions of greenbacks in aspects on a fragment of NBC’s Homicide: Life on the Avenue which ran for seven years.
“Jake, no one told me. No one said the relaxation to me. Ever.”
There used to be a restful on the phone. Till I asked a second quiz: “What varied abilities did you equipment with me?”
At which point, there used to be no extra restful.
“Jake, pause you mean to claim that you just represented me, a pissant police reporter from Baltimore in a head-on negotiation with idea to be one of Hollywood’s A-list directors and you additionally represented the director? You represented each and every facets in the sale of my book and when the low-ball offer came to me, Matt fucking Snyder acted fancy it used to be the succesful offer I’d ever receive? Is that what you motherfuckers did?”
“I presumed you knew.”
“I did now not know.”
“Didn’t Matt checklist you?”
He did now not. No longer in any of our conversations.
“Did your book agent convey you?”
“He did now not.”
Then I asked one other quiz: “Jake, pause it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also just admire any written consent from me on file whereby I authorize you to safe each and every facets of the sale of my book? I will solution that for you: You pause now not. I never authorized this. No longer to CAA. No longer to my book agent. I never gave informed consent. I couldn’t. Because I used to be never informed.”
Had CAA, if truth be told, returned the 7.5 percent of my commission?
They’d — to my book agent, who pocketed it. Quietly. I straight wrote a letter to that greedy bastard: Dear thief, you will remit all of that 7.5 percent to me by week’s quit or I will write up what came about right here and admire it posted on every Newspaper Guild bulletin board in every newsroom on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard and that it’s possible you’ll be identified for what it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also very effectively be. Further, I’d additionally contact a U.S. Lawyer about a failure of fiduciary duty so fundamental that it effectively constitutes the sharing of a bribe in commerce for an agreement to decrease the sale ticket of my book. Suffice to claim, a compare to me for the pudgy 7.5 percent arrived interior days.
Then I turned to CAA, a Extensive Four company that used to be once absolutely verbalize to screw me over after I used to be a stumblefuck newspaper reporter who to their pondering can also most attention-grabbing present them with a book or two for sale. Years later, I used to be now a shopper about to turn into a showrunner on a premiere cable community. I had rather extra leverage.
“Jake, I’m firing you and I’m taking The Wire and all the pieces else with me.”
“Behold,” he pleaded, “I know you’re infected. I don’t blame you. But personally, I didn’t pause any of this. I’ve been straight up with you. I wasn’t your agent then. I wasn’t piquant with packaging your book.”
No, I explained, but your company used to be. And the earnings from that are fungible. You’ve been exact kind, Jake. You’ve been honest. But on a lie of omission, CAA — your company — made millions and millions of greenbacks and did so by undercutting my negotiation with Levinson and failing to checklist me of an absolute warfare of passion. I gotta streak.
“What’s going to we pause to receive this exact?”
I presumed of that on fable of unlike the fucksquib in CAA’s literary department who can admire to aloof die of venereal boils, I in actuality loved my TV agent. He had, if truth be told, been forthright and honest in all of my subsequent years in television. So I explained that the company had made millions off the warfare of passion and that for a inexpensive “style of their style” of Homicide, without reference to that used to be, I’d live as his client.
He ran that benefit up the ladder and came benefit a few days later: “We can’t pause that. If we comply with come up with a proportion of our packaging fees, it may per chance most likely most likely situation a uncouth precedent for all of our varied functions.”
“Motherfucker, you’re speaking about uncouth precedents? CAA repped each and every facets of a negotiation without informing me so as that your style of the earnings would dwarf mine, your client. How powerful cash did CAA in actuality receive on Homicide?”
Jake wasn’t allowed to claim. Transparency used to be now not an chance. As a alternative, he quick one other direction:
“What about a one-time lump sum payment that isn’t formally tied to our equipment?”
Indirectly, frustrated but prepared to compromise to preserve Jake as my agent, I agreed to enable CAA to jot down a compare for the identical “penalty” that I had exacted from my literary agent. One other 7.5 percent of my normal commission came benefit and sure, Jeff Jacobs has remained my agent to this second. Oh, I additionally asked Jake to receive his CAA colleague receive on the phone. I had some things to claim.
I said them, and incredibly, the fiduciary pratfall and ethical void identified as Matt Snyder stayed on the loads of quit of that resolution insisting — after admitting he had no file in anyway of me being informed of the warfare-of-passion between myself and the purchaser of my book, or any claimed recollection of having informed me of such in all of our conversations — that he had finished nothing sinful, that my literary agent can admire to aloof admire explained all of it to me.
“Matt, absent any evidence of informed consent by me, that you just and CAA proceeded to negotiate with Barry Levinson, whom you additionally represented, is a prima facie warfare-of-passion and a breach of fiduciary duty. If you happen to admire been a realtor secretly representing each and every facets of a condo sale, your license can be torn up. If you happen to admire been a lawyer, you’d be disbarred.”
There used to be most attention-grabbing a itsy-bitsy terminate sooner than he explained himself:
“But I’m now not a lawyer. I’m an agent.”
Yes it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also very effectively be. Yes you fucking are.
So powerful of television and film is packaged by the Extensive Four companies — CAA, ICM, WME and UTA — that it’s now said to be the lion’s fragment of their earnings, so powerful if truth be told that they are working to Wall Avenue for fairness investment of their producerial design. Fuck repping actors or directors or writers to produce a living. What rube would settle for 10 percent of the relaxation even because it’s possible you will most definitely most likely play for 100 percent of your greater stake in a movie or a movie?
But for sure, the amazing warfare-of-passion that underlies the corruption of packaging doesn’t merely quit with the real fact that agents no longer admire any incentive to neatly provider the smaller and fewer advantaged client after they’re repping each and every facets of a negotiation. Never thoughts the relentless obscenity of telling a seller that it’s possible you will most definitely most likely additionally safe the purchaser and claim to aloof strive against for high buck.
The greater offense is that packaging has now artificially diminished the salaries of all screenwriters over decades, so powerful so as that entry-level salaries for staffwriters and fable editors in television, as an illustration, are exactly the set aside they admire been a decade ago attach for the rate-of-living will enhance that the author’s union finished by itself. For junior producers, it’s even worse: The salaries for co-govt producers are about 16 percent less than the set aside they admire been two contracts ago.
The companies themselves fancy to claim that right here’s on fable of reveals now checklist fewer episodes and shorter broadcast seasons than in the previous and that this structural change has extra to pause with the stagnation than packaging. But for sure, that additionally begs the quiz: The set aside the fuck admire the agents been to argue on behalf of their clients for a sure pay construction, one which acknowledges the altering fact of fewer episodes and extra work in the production of every episode?
I’ll convey you the set aside they’ve been. They’ve been in one other room, counting cash. But once more, the scenario with packaging is now not merely that clients are poorly repped in negotiations with varied clients. No, it’s greater than that. The scenario is that the company incentive to equipment reveals and present greater funds to themselves has obliterated any severe idea to be aggressively negotiating on behalf of any author, or actor, or director, natty or itsy-bitsy.
Why bother to strive against for 10 percent of some dollars extra for this fable editor or that co-govt producer when to NOT pause so methodology less freight on the operating budgets of the initiatives that you just your self hope to earnings from? Why abet your clients as representatives with a fiduciary duty and receive the final imaginable buck for them, even as you stand to earnings by splitting the proceeds of a production now not with labor, but with management — the studios who are chopping you in on the benefit quit? Why put your client’s passion in exclaim opposition to your have?
No reason at all.
Seemingly the ugliest convey in the present negotiations between the WGA and the companies is the glorious, self-oblivious claim by the ATA that writers are naive to mediate that any of the astronomical packaging fees, if denied to abilities companies by studios, would ever discover their manner into the pockets of the writers themselves. No, they convey, the studios will compatible pocket that cash and writers themselves will be no at an advantage.
You grifting, soulless fuckbonnets. You are so divorced out of your fundamental ethos that it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also just admire in actuality compatible made this argument: You as agents are kindly of reaching millions in advantages FOR YOURSELVES; it’s possible you will most definitely most likely leverage these earnings FOR YOURSELVES if it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also very effectively be accredited to pause so. Then again, it’s possible you will most definitely most likely also very effectively be claiming in the subsequent lying, mendacious breath that you just couldn’t imaginable pause any such consequence if you had to pause it merely on behalf of YOUR CLIENTS.
Within the face of that glorious self-have, I can most attention-grabbing reply with a unique quiz that I’d inquire of of any downhearted parasite: If you happen to can most attention-grabbing leverage earnings to your self, but now not for me, what the fuck pause I’d like you for? Why are you on this scramble at all? On the point that he can most attention-grabbing pause benefit for himself and now not for his client, what the fuck exact kind is an agent?
Years ago, after I first realized about packaging, I asked Jeff Jacobs that very same quiz. He had no exact kind reply then. He has none now. He is aloof my agent on fable of his company wrote me a compare for some of the distress finished in secret and on fable of he promised in no unsure terms that I’d never be packaged again. Nor would my initiatives be packaged. That has been the case for the practically two decades now. On the quit of every enterprise yr, I write a compare for 10 percent to CAA and with this client now not less than, Jake has no incentive to pause the relaxation but move the final buck for every and every of us. That’s what an true agent does. That is ALL an true agent does.
Has it helped the writers on my reveals to never be packaged? No longer as powerful because it ought. Why now not? Because, somewhat clearly, the total universe of screenwriters has had salaries and work-quotes downhearted for decades by agents who admire failed to pause their fundamental duty and negotiate for better. I know this on fable of I seek the comparable quotes that come into HBO enterprise affairs and how carefully they hew to WGA minimums; as a showrunner, it’s now not imaginable to seek data from that a community spend extra of its cash to hire writers above their quotes and the quotes of colleagues. Packaging has, over decades, crippled and circumvented the marketplace for leisure writers. And each negotiation by every author with every studio or production entity begins with that fundamental fact. Simplest the quit of packaging will restore a market whereby writers are paid competitively for writing. And most attention-grabbing an agent whose priority is having his client paid competitively is a methodology to reaching that result.
That this corruption has been allowed to pass on this long is testomony to the greed of the companies themselves, to the inertia of the abilities unions up to now, and to the anecdotal claims of some self sufficient moviemakers that sure film initiatives most attention-grabbing receive made thanks to packaging by abilities companies. But hey, I’m calling bullshit on that, too. For one element, this merely constitutes a failure to factor in an international that never had a chance to come benefit to be, an international whereby agents work aggressively for a movie project now not on fable of they’ve a greater decrease of the product, but on fable of the 10 percent commissions on every sold project is the succesful compatible currency on which they may be able to count. And secondly, it’s honest to imply that as many motion photographs failed to receive made on fable of the packaging shrimp the negotiation most attention-grabbing to writers, directors and actors at a given company. That’s exact: Why receive the succesful abilities for the succesful imaginable iteration of a fable when it doesn’t maximize earnings for the company piquant? The tail is wagging the fuck out of the total dog, normally to the astronomical detriment of the work itself.
All in all, I’m pleased that the WGA has at final caught as much as this malignant thievery and if certainly, the membership of my union is overwhelmingly convinced of the must lift this strive against forward, then I am undoubtedly a exact kind vote for such. I’ve been a exact kind vote for such since any individual stricken to show this terror show to me, on the opposite hand belatedly.
I’m for implementing a brand contemporary code of conduct that requires any company to desert packaging sooner than it’ll even be accredited to negotiate with signatories to the WGA contract. And if that methodology I’ll must streak a long way from CAA and Jeff Jacobs, then that’s what it methodology. Bless you, Jake, but exact is exact and incorrect is incorrect.
Hell, I’m for greater than that. In my conception, I’m for submitting a civil suit against the ATA and the Extensive Four for an overt and arranged breach of fiduciary duty whereby they’ve effectively pretended to portray clients while taking bribes from studios to preserve those clients’ salaries and advantages lowered all around the board. Taking a peep now not merely at civil legislation, but at the federal statutes against extortion and bribery, a outlandish and plucky U.S. Lawyer may per chance most likely most likely admire a deeper dive into the realm of racketeering, on fable of for the lifestyles of me, I can’t seek a distinction between packaging and any prosecutable case of convey-rigging or bribery I ever coated as a reporter in federal or pronounce courts.
For that matter, I’m for riding around Bel Air and Westwood and Santa Monica in a condo automobile, working up in the driveways of those grifting motherfuckers and slashing tires. I’ve got that powerful contempt for this level of organized theft and for the tone-deaf protection of it by the ATA. But that’s me as an ex-reporter and a showrunner and a normally pissed-off author speaking. That man is all in. As a WGAE council member, I’ll eschew the vandalism and listen to the participants and make stronger the want of the union as a entire. I compatible hope, despite all the pieces these years of being robbed, that my colleagues are as united and as angry as they must always be.