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 help, OK?

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 ANYTHING!

Brian, lots of good information, and we're sorry there wasn't time for Q&A.

YOE, Ernie Wolfe