|HOLLYWOOD GUILDS - by Brian Walton, at WVRC on May 15th
We led off with PP HOWIE HENKES showing us the way with the Pledge.
The established duo of those two PP's, STEVE DAY and JIM DOWNIE, then
took us through You're a Grand Old Flag... PP JIM finished on his
keyboard with a flourish, which was roundly applauded - which effort was
further rewarded when Prexy TED gave Jim a tip - a One Yuan bill, fresh
from China! LILLIAN KLIEWER rose to give the Invocation, first defining
what that catch-all phrase really includes. The one I liked best was the
definition of a friend - one who walks in when others are walking out.
Good job, LILLIAN.
BRIAN BUMPUS came up with a Visiting Rotarian, Francey Burke, from the
Mid Jersey Cape Club - and that's in New Jersey, of course. Francey is
the President Elect of her club, and exchanged banners with us. PP RON
LYSTER brought along his (and PP STEVE SCHERER'S) Special Guest, Chris
Bradford. Chris is the current President of the Beverly Hills Bar
Association, and thus a fellow-attorney. JAYNE SPENCER had as her guest
Josiah Wray, one of three candidates for our Ambassadorial Scholar
Program. Josiah is a junior at UCLA, a Poly Sic major, and she nicely
thanked us for being considered for this significant scholarship. SLOSS
VIAU introduced his eldest son, Skip, who hails from Seattle. Jon Pastor
accompanied our speaker, Brian Walton.
In a Changing of the Guard, PP HOWIE HENKES is stepping down as the
long-time person who has carried out the orientation of new and
prospective members. RAY ZICKFELD is taking over this major
responsibility, and in order to show how pervasive HOWIE'S tenure has
been, asked those who were oriented by HOWIE to stand. At least half the
Club stood up! RAY, thanks for your help, and we know the yearlings will
be well prepared to enjoy WVRC and its many activities. In that regard,
Prexy TED also thanked HARLAN LEWIS who has headed the New Member
Hospitality program, plus hosting an evening at his home to welcome
newcomers. In a major initiative, Senior PP JIM COLLINS has agreed to
become Membership Chair, and is seeking help. I told him PP STEVE
SCHERER and I would be on his Committee, and more members who will help
are welcome. JIM, when and where do you want to have our first meeting?
In his first public appearance as the Orientation Chair, RAY announced
that we have two new members, and asked their sponsors to introduce
them. SHARON RHODES-WICKETT brought WAVERLY JOHNSON II aboard, and she
noted that he is the West Regional Director of PATH (People Assisting
the Homeless). Waverly was with the Boy Scouts in the Sacramento Area,
but hails from Southern California, so this is a welcome homecoming for
him. STEW GILMAN sponsored STEVE LORE, and when RAY invited him to "Come
up and bring your friend with you", some clown in the audience wanted to
know, " Stew has a Friend?". Ignoring these cowardly and thus anonymous
remarks, STEW pointed out that STEVE and he have worked together, as
Contractor and Architect, and that STEVE is also a former member of
Wilshire Rotary. Our congratulations to both WAVERLY and STEVE - and
STEVE, we won't hold against you that STEW was your sponsor!
PDG ANDY ANDERSON came forward to report on a most successful new
housing program sponsored by the Salvation Army. This is in a new
building on Sunset Blvd, known as Alegria, and it houses families with
AIDS. They are up and running and ANDY wanted us to know that they need
any used computers which we may have. These will be used in training the
residents - and ANDY will even pick them up! On a personal note, I have
visited this facility, and it is really excellent. But they NEED our
PDG BILL GOODWYN spoke briefly about his seventh visit as the
Representative of an R.I. President to a District Conference. He and
Judi flew to Vancouver, British Columbia, and then were driven north to
Harrison Hot Springs, site of the Conference. It was located n a lovely
lake, and claimed credit for bringing the first day of sunshine they had
had in the last SIXTY SEVEN days! His responsibility was to deliver
three speeches - welcoming everyone, outlining the 'State of Rotary',
and the major address of the meeting. As BILL pointed out, this was a
total of an hour and forty minutes of speech by him - not a task taken
on lightly. Afterward, he prepared a detailed written report assessing
the Conference and its leadership - so while the trip was 'free' there
was a lot of work involved.
I had spoken to Sunny earlier that day, and thus gave a status report on
LENNY FRIEDMAN. He has had a problem with insufficient blood being
pumped to his heart, so went into the hospital to have his pacemaker
replaced. This is usually a four-hour operation, and he was in surgery
for eight hours. The extra time was spent in trying, unsuccessfully, to
thread a third wire from his pacemaker. The doctors finally decided not
to try further at this time, and so LENNY came home. He is light-headed,
and has poor balance, so must stick close to home. However, Sunny
reports that his attitude and appetite are excellent, as usual. Give him
a ring - he'd love to hear from you.
SEAN McMILLAN, one of our co-program chairs for this quarter, came
forward to introduce our Speaker, Brian Walton. SEAN and Brian go back a
long ways, having both started in the same law firm, more of less at the
same time. Brian took his Law at the University of Utah, and eventually
decided he didn't want to practice law anymore.
So he became the Executive Director of the Writer's Guild - and the
title of his talk today was "The Paradoxical World of Hollywood Guilds.
(Lest I forget, a Guild is just another name for a Union, but Guild
sounds better, so Hollywood uses that term…)
Brian began by recalling the longest strike in the history of the
Hollywood entertainment industry. As a token of appreciation for his
helping to end that strike, one of his mentors gave him a marble slab,
on which is engraved, "Nothing is written in Stone". As an example of
one of the many paradoxes, we were reminded that Ronald Reagan was the
only President of the United States who also had been President of a
Union - the Screen Actors Guild. Yet one of his first acts as U.S.
President was to break the Air Traffic Controllers Union! Brian also
noted that when he was growing up in London, he learned to hate unions
-but, here he is, directing one - another paradox.
Union membership has declined, big time. After WWII, almost 50% of
industrial workers belonged - the figure today is 15%. And the Hollywood
Guilds form the strongest block in that remaining 15%. The entertainment
industry is one of the leading producers of favorable balance of
payments in our entire economy - it is hugely profitable (most of the
time), and the Guilds almost entirely control production.
Historically, unions were formed when workers found they weren't getting
paid enough, plus realizing that they, as a block, had great bargaining
power. Looking way back, unions were not even ALLOWED in the 17th and
18th centuries, but jumping way ahead, the major growth of unions here
in the U.S. was during the 1930's. The basic law by which their role is
defined is the Wagner Act, passed in 1935. In Hollywood, one of the
major early questions was, "Are we employees or independent
contractors?" This was a significant decision, since if they are
independent, they own the copy write on what is produced. Yet they must
be employees in order to form a union - another paradox.
The studios argued that the Guilds would be better off if they didn't
own the copy write, and that was finally settled.
After the 1988 strike, a major studio head remarked that if Guilds
hadn't existed before, they would have had to be invented. Brian showed
us several books - the first one, about 2 ˝ inches thick, and others not
quite as thick - noting that each book contained the agreed-upon rules
for writers, directors, actors, etc. One of the major things they
outline is Scale - that is, what the various categories in each Guild
should be paid. However, note that the Scale for a screenwriter is $75K,
whereas they are usually paid between one and four MILLION dollars to
write a screen play -another paradox, of course. And a major cost
included in the Guild agreements are health benefits - fixed at 6 ˝%,
and thus quite high in comparison to other industries.
All sorts of working conditions are specified in the Guild agreements. A
big question was who gets screen credit for what? After much
tribulation, it was finally settled that the studios would make this
decision, period. The areas that are covered include conflict and
collaboration, and are basically influenced by the three factors of
supply & demand, plus price. Brian pointed out that if you want a tough
problem, just try getting eight thousand screen writers to agree on
Brian, lots of good information, and we're sorry there wasn't time for
YOE, Ernie Wolfe