Saturday, November 10, 2007

WGA Strike

I haven't really posted in the past few days because I've been following the strike by the Writer's Guild of America. If you haven't heard, which isn't surprising since the mainstream press has given it next to no coverage, the WGA walked out and went on strike last week after failing to come to an agreement with the media companies on the terms of a new contract. The WGA is a guild for screenwriters, the people who create and put the words in the mouths of the stars in our TV shows and movies. So they're basically the creators of a lot of the content we see on the screen, and as long as this strike happens, it won't be too long before we see a TV wasteland of reruns and crappy reality shows.

Which is a big shame. I'm a huge TV guy. I don't spend ridculous hours in front of the set, but I do have a lengthy list of shows I try to watch. By next month, all these shows should be in reruns, and due to the strike, it'll stay that way until it's settled. For an example of how bad this is, "24", my favorite show ever, has been postponed indefinitely. It's become a tradition to roll 24 out every January, with a 2-night, four hour premiere, and have it run for the rest of the season without a break. So, as I've read someone post elsewhere, this is like moving Christmas.

I support the writers 100 percent. The sticking points in why they've walked out and are picketing at studios every day are the issue of residuals for DVD sales and "new media" (meaning the Internet and IPods). A writer makes less than a penny on the dollar for every DVD of a TV show that's sold. And they receive no money at all when someone watches one of the shows they've written over the Internet. The producers (studios) claim that there's no money in the Internet. Or that it'll take them years before they figure out whether it can make a profit. I can tell you that that's bullshit. When I miss a show, I catch it on the Internet (which is very handy, I do have to admit that I love it). But there is advertising during the shows on the net as well. This ad time is being paid for, just like it is when you watch commercials on television. So the networks have to be making money on "new media." And they don't want to share any of that with the writers.

The tragic thing is, I don't see this ending well for the writers. They are going up against the mega-corporations that own the media and churn out the content that these people write. And the companies have bottomless pockets. Contrary to what you'd think, most screenwriters and television writers aren't millionaires, but simple middle-class people who are trying to pay their mortgage and raise their families. And writing isn't a constant, regular job. One of the reasons they're fighting for residuals is because writers go awhile in between gigs, and while they're finding that next job writing an episode, they live on the residuals they make.

This is a great link to a letter sent out by Shawn Ryan. Ryan is the creator of "The Shield", one of my favorite shows ever. It's entering its final season, and as Ryan wrote this letter, filming was about to begin on the final episode of the series. And Ryan won't be on the set because he's in solidarity with the writers. It really shows what's at stake in the strike.

I just hope I'm able to see the final season of "The Shield", and the new season of "24". But that all depends on if there's a limit to the studio's greed, which I'm not counting on. It might be just as well, I'm starting school next month and this'll give me more time to study. But give me new episodes of "24", "The Shield", and the 10 other shows I watch every week.

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