Jane Espenson, one of my writing heroes, has been keeping a nice diary about the strike over at her blog. It makes for good color.
I haven't written anything substantive about the strike, mostly because I've been contemplating a giant, super-geeky Heroes post. But it seems to me that we should be pulling for the writers, for several reasons:
* Unions aren't always the greatest things in the world and often they're quite destructive and the source of tons of inefficiency. That said, they can be the provider of important protections and shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.
* In this particular fight, the Writer's Guild has a pretty reasonable position: There is an emerging delivery system for content in the form of digital downloads. Under current terms, the studios classify revenues from downloads not as money derived from the airing of creative content (which would mean that it would have to be shared with the creators), but as ancillary income from the promotion of content. In other words, they classify the downloaded content as a commercial for the broadcast content, just to get around paying royalties.
We saw the ur example of this last summer when Battlestar Galactica filmed mini "webisodes" of original content to be aired on the Sci-Fi Channel's website. Sci-Fi contended that these webisodes weren't "content," per se, but were simply long, extended commercials. That had actors. And scripts. And special effects. And plot continuity that tied into the series.
* The WGA wants to reserve a portion of that revenue stream for when/if digital delivery becomes profitable. The studios insist that it isn't profitable now, and probably won't be in the future. But if they really believed that, they'd give the WGA what they want, since 5% of nothing is nothing.
* So the studios are being less than fair and honest on at least two points. From a moral perspective, then, the writers are on the side of the angels.
* But who cares about them! For us, the consumers, our selfish interest in having better entertainment also lines up with the writers.
* There are three pillars to filmed entertainment: writers, directors, and actors. The writers have always been the least respected of the troika, but in recent years, that disrespect (seen in terms of salary) has actually increased. Writers make a lot less money in comparison to directors and actors than they used to. And the less money you make on a project, the less control you can exert over the creative process.
* And I think it's safe to argue that, in general, the more control writers have on a project, the better it generally turns out. (By better, I mean both commercially and artistically.)
* The importance of writers in TV is, I think, self-evident. They trump everyone else (except the showrunner, but on good shows, the showrunner is normally a writer, too) in terms of their contributions to the success or failure of the finished product.
* But the same is true for film, too. With the exception of franchises, I would argue that good writing contributes at least as much as the acting to the success of the movie.
* Essentially, I'd make the following analogy: Actors are quarterbacks, directors are running backs, and writers are offensive linemen. That's about how they contribute to the product, and how they're paid. And just like it was a welcome change when left tackles finally started being compensated more closely to their value a few years back, I think we should be happy to see writers moved a tiny bit closer to their real value.
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