Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Big Darn Writer's Strike

Nikke Finke's sources say that if this dispute isn't settled by December, there could be six more months of strike-filled fun. Find out the latest at Deadline Hollywood Daily.

A friend of mine is an editor at Universal. His union local (I.A.T.S.E. or the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts [It goes on.]) has a no-strike clause in their contract. That means they can't walk out in sympathy. Nevertheless, he honks his horn and patiently endures the strikers' "slow walk" in front of his car as he leaves work.

Oddly enough, I also belong to I.A.T.S.E. and would hazard a guess that animation writing falls under the heading of "allied crafts." Long ago, they represented animation artists when artists and directors worked out the action on storyboards. There were a few "gag writers" such as Michael Maltese who came up with story ideas, but for a 6-minute theatrical short, you didn't need a script.

By the time I started full-time at Warner Bros. (1992), there were 65 half-hours to produce and the clock was ticking. Writers wrote scripts that were story boarded, inked, painted and animated. But we remained in I.A.T.S.E. In the mid-90s there was a push by the Writer's Guild to represent us. But our I.A.T.S.E. local must first release us from their jurisdiction. At a meeting I attended, a local official stated the national union wasn't interested in letting us join WGA. Furthermore, the local would side with the studios if that were necessary to block our transfer.

Some union. But they had pretty good health coverage that my wife and I dearly miss. Health coverage is based on the amount of hours you work on union jobs in a six month period. Alas, I haven't worked many. Over the last few years I've burned through my COBRA and now pay a hefty fee for mediocre coverage.

In any case, I don't know what happened between WGA and I.A.T.S.E., but, as I mentioned earlier, it's nice to be remembered.

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