JMSNews
The J. Michael Straczynski Message Archive

 

JMSNews provides an archive of messages posted
by J. Michael Straczynski (JMS).

  Home      Community Forums      Contest      Links      FAQ      About JMS     

RSS Feed  

 Search all Messages

   Sort by: 

This field searches the text of all messages in the archive.

 Message
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com
 Subject: Re: JMS: Re: Babylon 5 Universe Novels?
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 10/19/2005 12:00:59 AM  

Message 1 in thread 

View this message only
 



Jan wrote:

> More recently, over at B5TV.com, a Tony Lee posted that he's going to be doing
> the first of the novels and that (unnamed) DC had prevented the previously
> announced comics so his novel would be based on one of proposed comic outlines.
> The thread he posted to is here
> http://www.b5tv.com/showflat.php/Cat/0/Number/303831/page/0/fpart/8/vc/1
>
> JMS, if you're reading, any chance you could comment?
>

Mongoose asked me to consult with them, since they are doing just a
couple of books and as I understand it ONLY for release in the
UK...asked if I could help come up with some stories for them, or
provide material from myh notes, proofread the manuscripts, make
corrections, maybe write an intro, and do lots of other stuff...and I
said okay, great, what are you going to pay for my work?

At first, silence. As if they were stunned that I would actually ask
to be paid for my time and work. Then finally, they came back
with...five hundred bucks per book.

To which I responded, "You have GOT to be kidding me."

I have, subsequently, washed my hands of the Mongoose books. I haven't
seen anything, don't know what they're doing, so sure as hell it ain't
canonical.

This is getting annoyingly commonplace. I got an email from the Warner
Bros. division handling the German DVD superbox, for instance, wherein
they said, very happily, that they were figuring on getting maybe six
to ten million bucks for this new edition, and would I help them to
make sure everything was right, to consult with them on the design, the
packaging, the text, the artwork, the docs, a bunch of stuff. So I
said, again not unreasonably, "And what is WB's standard fee for this
consultation?"

To which WB responded that they don't pay people for the honor to be
involved in these DVDs. But he's getting paid, the guy who did the
artwork is getting paid, the only person who's not getting paid is the
guy who made it. So I declined. They replied with ominous words
suggesting that it would be bad if I let the fans down...but I don't
bow down for emotional blackmail.

Writing is a job no less than being a carpenter. All a writer has, at
the end of the day, is time, energy and visceral material. And right
now, there's an awful lot going on career wise, and my free time is at
a premium. You pay for someone's time if you have them consult, or
write, or research for you, or if you otherwise engage their
professional services. That is pro forma for every profession on the
planet...except, it seems, for writing, where they think you're so glad
to be asked to the ball that you'll go along with being treated
unprofessionally.

Pass.

jms
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com
 Subject: Re: JMS: Re: Babylon 5 Universe Novels?
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 10/19/2005 4:10:13 PM  

Message 2 in thread 

View this message only
 



Andrew Swallow wrote:

>
> As a scriptwriter and/or producer are you getting residues for each DVD
> sold?
>
> Getting paid 3 times for the same piece of work is rare. Some times you
> just have to get a bigger second payment.
>

As a scriptwriter, my residuals is tied to the WGA's formula for
residuals off DVDs and VHS tapes...which were thrown away a long time
ago, before the market broke...meaning that I get zero off the sales of
the DVDs as a writer.

As a producer, my revenue from the DVDs is tied to the overall profit
of the show, which is still showing $50 million in the red (thanks to
creative accounting), so I get zero off the sales of the DVDs as a
producer.

As a small potted plant, I get even less.

So to answer your question...no, I get nothing off the DVDs. At all.

Even if I were, to engage someone's services to perform a job of work
for you is what it is, and you're doing a different job. You don't say
to a carpenter, "Listen, I paid you to make this chair for me, and now
I want you to make a cabinet for me, for free, since I paid you for the
chair."

But in any event...it's a moot point. I've never received a dime off
the DVDs and likely never will.

jms
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com
 Subject: Re: JMS: Re: Babylon 5 Universe Novels?
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 10/19/2005 9:00:00 PM  

Message 3 in thread 

View this message only
 



kruegerb76@hotmail.com wrote:
> Andrew Swallow wrote:
> > jmsatb5@aol.com wrote:
> > [snip]
> > >
> > > But in any event...it's a moot point. I've never received a dime off
> > > the DVDs and likely never will.
> > >
>
> I sincerely hope he never regrets doing B5. Such a monumental effort.
> Such a disappointing business reward.

No, not at all. I went into this situation with my eyes open...I knew
that I would never see a dime off B5. Doesn't mean I can't tweak them
about it, because it's emblematic of the problem faced by lots of
people in Da Biz, but I regret nothing.

Well, maybe that evening with the two sailors and the taffeta
outfit....

jms
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com
 Subject: Re: JMS: Re: Babylon 5 Universe Novels?
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 10/19/2005 9:05:43 PM  

Message 4 in thread 

View this message only
 



Carl wrote:
> <jmsatb5@aol.com> wrote in message
> news:1129763371.988536.28150@g43g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
> >
> > As a producer, my revenue from the DVDs is tied to the overall profit
> > of the show, which is still showing $50 million in the red (thanks to
> > creative accounting), so I get zero off the sales of the DVDs as a
> > producer.
> >
> > As a small potted plant, I get even less.
>
> So the accountants (who are apparently fiction writers in their own right)
> make
> money on the DVDs and you don't.
>
> After so many years of this I would have thought that the various guilds and
> unions would have found away to make the process more honest.
>
> I'm not a big fan of unions, but this makes a case for some.
>

The history of this is...back in the 80s, the WGA had the chance to go
after a percentage of VHS sales, or push for something else (a handful
of magic beans, as I recall)...and they basically gave away the VHS
stuff on the theory that it would never be much of a market.

In the years since then, the video market has exploded, but the formula
has stayed the same, and the studios insisted that they also apply to
DVDs. The Guild should have struck over this a long time ago, but the
last fifteen years or so in particular the Guild leadership has been
remarkably cowardly, and has not done what's necessary to correct this.
(Won't change the B5 situation, because it wouldn't be retroactive.)
Now, I think there's a somewhat bolder bunch of guys who just got in,
and we'll see what they can do with it.

jms
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com
 Subject: Re: JMS: Re: Babylon 5 Universe Novels?
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 10/19/2005 9:07:41 PM  

Message 5 in thread 

View this message only
 



Jan wrote:
>
> Hopefully if any of this contradicts what JMS has seen on his statements, he'll
> let us know. At any rate, this concludes the 'more than anybody *ever* wanted
> to know about Accounting' portion of tonight's entertainment. ;-)
>

Your analysis is essentially correct. WB can take 30% of all B5 income
right off the top as "overhead," and subject the remaining 70% to their
net formula, which is constructed such that if a set on a small movie
burns down in Botswana, they can bill the costs against B5...so that
the series will never, ever show a profit.

I ain't the first in this position, and sadly, I won't be the last.

jms
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com
 Subject: Re: JMS: Re: Babylon 5 Universe Novels?
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 10/19/2005 9:27:59 PM  

Message 6 in thread 

View this message only
 


And by the by...just to keep some measure of perspective on all
this...for as much as I may grump about the profit situation, and the
DVDs, the ones who *really* get screwed the most on this are the
actors. Their reoyalty formula is even worse than the WGAs, and when
it comes to making the DVDs...

Back when they were doing the first season or so, WB called me in for a
meeting. Very important, they said. So I go in and sit with them.

"We have a problem," they said. "Andreas and Peter won't do
commentaries or interviews, and Walter doesn't want to let us use his
footage from the documentary."

"Why not?" said I.

"They want to get paid."

"Then pay them," said I.

"That's not our policy," said they.

"Then change it."

You would think I turned to the Pope and said, "Who farted?"

"We can't change our policy, it's our policy."

"Of course you can," I said. "It's not as if Your Policy exists
outside the natural realm, like some kind of Greek perfect ideal. You
made the policy, and you can change it."

"If we pay THEM, then EVERYONE is going to want to get paid."

"And that's bad how?" I asked. "You're putting actors on camera or
behind a mike. Asking them to perform. They should be paid for that."

"Well, we want you to talk to them, tell them it's important to you
that they do this."

"Nope."

"Why not?"

"Because they're right and you're wrong."

"Doug has said he'll talk to them."

"That's not my problem. I won't do it."

"We're asking you as a personal favor. Talk to them."

So I talked to them. I called the actors in question, who said, in
general, "They won't pay me."

"I know. So don't do it."

"You're okay with that?"

"Absolutely."

"So...why are you calling?"

"I promised I'd call, so this is my call, to say good for you."

"Oh."

And that, as they say, was that.

Which is also, incidentally, why Harlan wouldn't do the DVDs.

jms
    From: jmsatb5@aol.com
 Subject: Re: JMS: Re: Babylon 5 Universe Novels?
      To: rec.arts.sf.tv.babylon5.moderated  
    Date: 10/20/2005 5:01:15 PM  

Message 7 in thread 

View this message only
 



KoshN wrote:
> > No, not at all. I went into this situation with my eyes open...I knew
> > that I would never see a dime off B5.
> [....]
> > jms
>
> Was that also true of Crusade (the episodes that were made)? Does that
> apply to any future B5 universe TV show, or say a continuation of
> Crusade (if anyone of are ever lucky enough to win the Powerball or
> MegaMillions, and back it)?
>

Crusade was made as an extension of the B5 deal, so the answer is yes.
(In fact, because it was a first year/new show, there was an actual
*cut* in fees.) By contrast, the first show I did after B5 paid over
three times what I earned on B5.

jms

Site © 2015 Midnight Design Productions  -  Message content © 2015 by Synthetic Worlds  -  Privacy Statement