November 16, 2007 Jill

Just a few last thoughts about the International Affiliation of Writers Guilds meetings and then back to regularly scheduled programming.

I haven’t mentioned the French guild — Union-Guilde des scénaristes (UGS).. They were represented by Treasurer Bernard Besserglik and Co-President Olivier Lorelle, the award winning screenwriter of Indigènes, Don Quichotte ou Les mésaventures d’un homme en colère and Faro, la reine des eaux. This is one passionate guy. He went on a rant about how France doesn’t have any idea that there’s a script and someone’s written it. He has a mission to get screenwriters mentioned on movie posters. He was thrilled about the US strike because screenwriters were making the news. He said they are absolutely never mentioned in newspapers until the ones in the US hit the streets. He said you can’t imagine how good this is for French writers.

Another of the attendees was Sveinbjorn I Baldivinsson, a screenwriter from Iceland representing the Federation of Scriptwriters in Europe (FSE). Not much writing work to be had in Iceland. Luckily he’s trilingual — at least he can write in three languages — English, Danish and Icelandic. Lately he’s written series television for a broadcaster in Denmark.

Johannes Studinger talked to us about his work with Union Network International (UNI-MEI) organizing cultural workers all over the world. UNI-MEI helps workers in cultural industries all over the world organize. What they do doesn’t overlap with the work of guilds and unions so much as reflect, compliment and support it. They do lots of stuff to get regulations passed in Europe but what I found really interest is what they do in some of the territories I know very little about.

In Latin American UNI-MEI helps writers and directors to meet and organize with the goal of getting them to turn their associations into labour organizations. They do things like provide information and find funding sources.

He told us that any form of collective organization is highly suspicious east of Berlin which is a big challenge for the labour movement. They have been meeting with individuals and associations offering their experience. They twin up Eastern European associations of writers with other groups in Europe to go through collective agreements and how they work. But even if the writers and directors want to improve their working and economic conditions, who are they going to negotiate with? There aren’t any TV producers associations of in Eastern Europe.

In Asia, the idea of unions and guilds hasn’t even dawned on writers. There the idea is simply to sit film and television writers from the Philippines, Malasia and Taiwan down with people in similar jobs in other countries so that they can see that their problems and experiences are the same. Eventually the goal will be to get them to try to set terms and conditions collectively.

Johannes said that once they directors and writers get organized, they push the below the line workers to organize as well.

Here’s a promo reel from Olivier Lorelle’s film Indigènes that I found on YouTube.