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Peter's Column

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By Peter Caranicas
As we go to press the writers� strike has entered its third week, with no end in sight. Positions have not changed; if anything, they�ve hardened.
Feelings that started out as uneasiness have morphed into anxiety. The next step up the emotional ladder is fear. Fear over the loss of jobs, income and security.
Can loathing be far behind?
What began as a job action that had only limited support from other guilds is turning into a movement that risks being condemned by the hundreds of thousands of workers whose livelihood is threatened. �Over 50 shows have been shut down. More will come. Thousands are losing their jobs,� shouts the recent letter IATSE�s Tom Short sent to WGA�s Patric Verrone.
How telling is it that the most visible support for the writers has come from actors�especially celebrities, whose momentary appearance on picket lines generates publicity that benefits their careers. This only serves to underline a basic, often controversial element in above-the-line agreements: Residuals.
Residuals are the bedrock issue in this strike. Writers who already get residuals from traditional media want to extend such payments to revenues the studios receive in new media. This was the crux of the aborted negotiations. That stand makes sense because the entire system of paying writers has developed with residuals as part of the structure.
But residuals are arbitrarily distributed within the film and television community. Writers, composers and actors generally receive them. Cinematographers, editors, grips, costume designers and other artisans do not. Is this fair? Is it even about fairness? Should everyone who contributed to creating the product be entitled to residuals? Should no one? Why, and why not?
When we�re on a late deadline at Below the Line, we order dinner (usually Mexican). Last night we debated this issue over enchiladas, comparing all points of view and, not surprisingly, reaching no consensus.
Eventually this strike will end but the issue of residuals will unfortunately remain a point of contention between the below-the-line and the above-the-line communities.

Written by Peter Caranicas

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