Saturday, November 10, 2007

Give a Writer a Break!

Well, I almost feel silly writing about this event, simply because any one of you can just turn on your TVs and BAM, you'll figure it out pretty quick. If you change the channel to the major networks during prime-time (or you watch soaps), you'll notice only re-runs during mainstream Fall viewing. If you switch over to the news, you'll notice that there is a nation-wide writers strike going on. If you watch only sports, well that's what I'm here for.

First of all, the strike has been ordered by the Writers Guide of America (WGA), which is the union that every writer in Hollywood belongs to. The strike began on November 5th and abruptly stopped all writing, meeting about writing, and in some cases (like with writer/producers) production as well. While there was some lead-time on this strike and the studios had the ability to prepare a few more scripts than normal, many shows that are written daily, such as soaps and daytime TV, have already become vast marathons of re-runs.

I'm sure that those of you who are just hearing about this are asking yourselves a few questions...are MY favorite shows affected? this strike thing really universal (are all writers really striking)?...won't this be over soon so I can get back to watching my favorite shows? The answers are pretty much yes, yes, and who knows. Pretty much any show that needs people to write up a script for is will soon be out of new content, if it hasn't already. The union is very large and over 4000 writers showed up in front of FOX networks when it was their turn to get a taste of the picket. Really, I personally haven't seen any indications of major strike-breaking or scabbing and I think that you will come to understand why as I lay out the
WGA's argument for the strike.

First of all, I'm sure you have already figured out that it's about the money. Writers have a very odd way of making a living. They get paid for what they write and then they get paid for any time that work is broadcast (including reruns) and for copies of that work sold on DVD. Writers actually had to strike before just to get paid for reruns. Anyway, this residual system is very important for writers, because most writers are out of work most of the time. Writers work for the TV stations and even a very successful show is canceled at some point. Residuals help keep writers afloat while they find a new project to join up with.

Now, more and more content is being put up on the internet. This realm of "new media" has ads and viewers, just like broadcast television, but the writers are receiving NOTHING for this form of broadcast. Also, writers are still trying to regain a part of the cut they are supposed to be getting for DVD purchases. In the past, writers gave up 80% of their cut in order to grow the VHS market (this was when home video was just beginning as a technology) with the understanding that that cut would be given back once the market was healthy. Now, that cut has been extended to DVDs and will probably happen to online purchases like those from iTunes. In short, the writers are simply trying to get back the residuals that were promised to them and to ensure that in the future, as more and more TV goes online, that they will be able to reap the bounty of their shows.

There are some great sites that are following the strike, but the best source is coming from, which is kind of the heartbeat of the strike's internet presence. Also, I HIGHLY suggest you watch this YouTube video that describes the strike's historic implications in a clear and concise way.

Personally, I'm a bit sad that the strike had to happen now. I have been getting into a lot of great shows this season and I'm upset that they may be cut short because of the strike. Heroes may be cut from 23 to 11 episodes this season and the gap-filler series, Heroes: Origins, may have been tossed out entirely. Also, The Office, Desperate Housewives, Lost, 24, and many others will be suffering from the strike. From what I understand, if the strike goes beyond two weeks, every network's seasons will be completely screwed up for quite a while.

That being said, I really support the writers, because without them, there would be no great shows at all. This isn't just some political/corporate showdown between the union and the studios, the writers clearly feel very strongly about this and even those who may lose their jobs because of it are standing strong at the picket line.

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1 comment:

  1. This is a very good writeup of the nuances of the strike in layman's terms. Nice.


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