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Why the Writers Strike was Doomed to Failure (And How We Can Win Next Time)

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

The talks between the producers and the writers have broken off indefinitely. The smart money says the AMPTP is simply going to bypass the writers' guild and make a boilerplate deal with DGA. A deal they'd press on the WGA. Probably there'd be some "new media" monies. It's doubtful there would be any expansion of guild jurisdiction into internet content or reality programming.

So, then, the strike has failed. Failure, of course, was the only outcome for this strike.

It is not the result of lack of will or even rightness on the side of the writers, or the earnestness of the negotiating committee. I know several of the members. They are longtime friends, and some were at my wedding. I do not believe with any part of me they did not want what they believed was best for the greater membership: a fair share of the profit from that which we help create. And anyone who believes I'm somehow against the idea of getting all of us -- me included -- two cents or ten cents or a buck more a DVD or digital download either overestimates my ideology, or underestimates the level of my greed.

In fact, I would say it is my greed -- my desire to have all rather than some -- that leads me to declare the strike a failure.

Think about it. Think about why "we" strike. The rallying cry we hear ad nauseam is that "we won't let what happened twenty years ago happen again." That is to say; the strike "we" engaged in, the deals we made re: home video were failed ventures. That is the collective reckoning, though I doubt many even know what the bone of contention in the '88 strike was -- foreign residuals for one hour programming -- or how the creative provisions the WGA tried to force on the producers alienated the DGA.

And, so, twenty years later "we" are back on the picket lines. And every three years "we" go back to the table to collectively bargain. And that right there; that phrase speaks to why this strike and every writers' strike will fail: the guild uses collectivism to seek a bargain. Why should we get a bargain when we can buy the store?

In 2006 the total earnings of the working membership of the guild was $905 million dollars. Our residual income alone was $264.3 million dollars. Currently every working member of the guild is compelled to cede 1.5 percent of their gross, pre-tax income to the uild. While in the last year the guild has done a better job of handling money, it should be noted that in fiscal year 2006 the guild managed to turn that revenue into a $202,611 deficit.

There is more and better to be done with our money.

Let's say the guild was to hit up its membership for an additional 1 percent of its gross income. Let's say the guild were to put that money into a fund to produce films. The guild would then own, or would have co-ownership of the negative with the film's author. And since "we" could make this film without interference from the studios, the film would of course be great. The guild, then, could take this great film and cut whatever distribution deal it pleased with whatever distributor -- old media or new -- with which it chose. And the deal would be made on our terms. And the film would remain ours. And project by project the revenue stream would continue to grow, and more films would be made and "we" would own them and eventually "we" would control the vast majority of content produced.

Or, studios would be forced to enter into similar authorship sharing agreements if they wanted to work with the best and brightest writers. They would have no choice because, as we all love to say, it all begins with the words on the page.

Of course, we would have to work out some kind of profit participation with all the other artisans in Hollywood because -- unlike the multi-nationals and conglomerates -- we would be beneficent with our wealth.

This is no fantasy, no act of a wild imagination (and yes, I borrow that line). Film festivals are sick with indies being made by individuals without a sliver of the experience, connections or access to cash "we" have.

And, what; five weeks into this strike? Factor in the lost wages, the wasted man-hours, we could be wrapping our first film by now.

Our film.

There is no substitute for ownership. Beyond my love of the craft, it is why I choose to ply my trade mostly in books, on the internet and in graphic novels: I own my shit.

And I will happily be the first to divert my guild dues to a film fund to own some of that, too. See if I'm kidding. One phone call from the "leadership" of the guild, and I'll put the check in escrow. Now.

I doubt the call will come.

Instead, "we" face down holidays and property taxes due and another three, four or more months without income.
For what?

For the opportunity to stand up and beg for the best bargain "we" can get? For the opportunity to remain as we were: sharecroppers on the media plantation? "We" can continue with this evolutionary change -- gathering together every three years to get our bargain. Or, we can make revolutionary change. In the wake of this failed strike there can be victory. Permanent victory, if the leadership has the meat to quit whipping up rallies and start marshaling manpower. Now, in this moment, is the time to make the choice that will truly secure the future for our heirs and us.

Ownership, or servitude? Which will it be?

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