Sunday, January 13, 2008

Writers: An underclass?

I've been hearing an awful lot about the effects of the current Hollywood writers' strike, but next to nothing about the status of the strike. I'm not a Hollywood insider by a long shot, but I like to think of myself as a writer, so I guess that my opinions are a little biased (guess which side I support?) Having said that, I have to say that
  1. Hollywood experimented with movies that had no plot or scripted dialogue back in the 1930s. The results were something like a cross between a demo reel for technical folk (costumers, lighting, stage construction, etc) and a multi-million dollar party to which the viewers were invited to observe but not truly join. Audiences, as the saying goes, stayed away in droves. To Hollywood's credit, they aren't trying to replicate the experiment.
  2. Writers have been around a lot longer than Hollywood or television, and did just fine. Hollywood would do very well to remember that.
  3. Writers, regardless of their preferred medium (short story, t.v. series scripts... blogs... etc.) expect some kind of compensation for their work, and fair value for it. Nothing different than any other trade.
  4. The One-and-Twenty has opened many new venues for entertainment; e.g.: Internet and the proliferation of high-bandwidth connections, "live role-playing games" utilizing GPS functions in cell phones, and so on. There may be all kinds of ways to get a message or story to the audience, but the message itself still requires someone to write it.

In the end, the writers are still the ones who are responsible for at least starting pretty much everything Hollywood has produced. And if they feel the need for a share of the profits from Internet downloads, they deserve to have it.

Hollywood and network television executives take note: You will run out of reruns eventually. You will NOT break the power of the Writer's Guild(s?) Give up a smaller piece of the pie now, and you can go back to business as usual. The math just works out better for everyone involved: you'll get a smaller piece of each particular project... but more writers will be willing to let you work with their projects, which translates to more projects for you to work with.

I mean, come on, do you REALLY want American writers getting it into their heads that Canada's (or the U.K.'s, or anywhere else's) movie-industry offers a better deal for them than you do? Yes, you might miss out on the next Beavis & Butt-Head Do America, but you might also miss out on the next Titanic...

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