Monday, 9 November 2009

Hollywood Babble On & On #392: A Brief Note About Death & Words

Welcome to the show folks...


The Writer's Guild of America released a statement about the passing away of AMPTP honcho Nick Counter.
"The Writers Guilds of America, West and East mark the passing of Nick Counter, longtime president of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and convey their deepest sympathy to his family."
Now you'd think a guild full of writers would have come up with something with a little more zing, a little more pizazz, a little more wow, because that offering was as tepid as Hollywood's recent box office stats.


In case you don't remember Nick Counter was the labour lawyer contracted to run AMPTP which handles negotiating the general contracts with all the unions and guilds in Hollywood. Counter was also a shrewd tactician and tough negotiator who perfected the "
sit & wait/divide & conquer" strategic combo that fostered and festered internal divisions within and between the unions, strained their resources, and drove them more or less bug-shit until the AMPTP pretty much got what they wanted.

No matter what you think of the man, or his methods, they were effective and he proved to everyone that he was very good at his job, which just happened to be driving the unions bug-shit. You can hate what he did, but you can still respect a worthy adversary who did his job as well as he did, and wish that your own leadership was as sharp as he was.

However the vibe I get from the bare-bones statement is that all the Writer's Guild leadership could bring themselves to say without slipping into four letter words.

Now I know the Writer's Strike was nasty and unpleasant, tensions were high, tempers were short, and livelihoods threatened, however, letting such emotions dictate union policy was what put the WGA in their precarious position in the first place. You have to handle labour negotiations with the sort of professional, even possibly ruthless, detachment that Counter possessed in spades.

Here's what they should have said:
"We offer our sympathies to his family and loved ones, we can't share their pain, because our relationship with him, was very different. Nick Counter was our adversary during the Writer's Strike. That's a fact. However, he was an adversary in the best way, because even someone you don't agree with can still teach you something. Nick Counter taught us in the union leadership that we must be better organized, and prepared for future negotiations, and we will be. We will miss Nick Counter, as a man, an adversary, and as a teacher, and regret that we didn't have him on our side."
Of course that might be saying too much, and maybe the unions want to have a few surprises in store for Counter's successor during the next contract negotiations.

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