Monday, November 5, 2007

So it seems everywhere you go online it's all about The Strike. Some folks are even calling it Black Monday. But what does the strike mean to us, the people who just enjoy watching good tv or going to the movies and sit in a dark theater while eating popcorn and enjoying a nice film?

First off it means no new Late night shows. Dave, Jay, Conan, Craig, et al. are officially in repeats starting tonight. Why? Because there are no writers to keep the material flowing. Last time this happened Letterman returned with such fun stuff as "Network Fill Time" when he just let a crew member ramble for several minutes. Apparently people think Letterman will be back within a couple of weeks in order to keep the rest of his crews' jobs safe. And once Letterman returns it's thought that the others will follow suit, but how entertaining will they be without writers? I guess we'll have to wait and see.

Second it means no new SNL. Having seen a bit of this past week's episode starring host Brian Williams, I can say it might actually be a loss for the first time in years as the show seems to be getting funnier as the season goes on.

Next up will be the fall of network TV. Since "pencils are down" this means the networks can only produce those scripts which are already in the can. These means that depending on how many episodes have been filmed and how many have been written shows may have as many as 10 more episodes to air, or in the case of 24, possible no new season at all, since it wouldn't allow them to wrap the show in 24 episodes.
Writers are not allowed to do any writing during the strike (although that doesn't mean they can't "think" really hard), if you wonder what all this means here's a rundown taken from Javier Grillo-Marxuach's blog:
a) cutting for time
(b) bridging material necessitated by cutting for time
(c) changes in technical or stage directions
(d) assignment of lines to other existing characters occasioned by cast changes
(e) changes necessary to obtain continuity acceptance or legal clearance
(f) casual minor adjustments in dialogue or narration made prior to or during the period of principal photography
(g) such changes in the course of production as are made necessary by unforeseen contingencies (e.g., the elements, accidents to performers, etc.)
(h) instructions, directions, or suggestions, whether oral or written, made to a writer regarding story or screenplay

Some shows like Scrubs may forever be hurt by the strike as this is their last season. If the strike isn't cleared up the show will only air 12 episodes this season, meaning they will loss the last 6 episodes to wrap up the series.

Steve Carrel, reportedly, did not shown up to film The Office this morning. 30 Rocks' Tina Fey was on the picket line although she apparently said she's still an actor, implying she'd be in the few episodes they have left.
Show runner Shawn Ryan of The Unit, The Shield, and the forthcoming Oaks will not set foot on a set until the strike is cleared up. This means he'll miss the Series Finale of his breakthrough show The Shield, and the pilot of The Oaks.

But the people most affected will be the little guys. The middle-class crew members and writers who make a living like most of us, working day to day. If the strike goes on too long, these guys will be out of work, which could mean they no longer can support their families, pay rent, bills, etc. These are the people who the strike hurts the most.

But the strike needs to go on until the Studios budge. You see while the studios are blaming the revenue from DVD as the sticking point, it's apparently a lie. The Studios are trying to say that the Writers won't budge on the fact that they want to make more than 2 to 4 cents per DVD (yes writers get 2 to 4 cents on a dvd which retails for $20, why the studios think this will make them look better I will never know, it makes them look like greedy jerks)
But last night during the final negotiations the WGA, begrudgingly took DVD revenues off the table, leaving the only issue to be determined, New Media.
New Media means things like selling episodes of TV shows or movies on iTunes, and streaming episodes with commercials online. The studios currently pay Writers, Directors, and Actors nothing for this.
That means that everytime you or one of the other hundreds of thousands of people who pay $1.99 to download a show from iTunes, the studio keeps all the money and doesn't share it with anyone who worked on the show. The studios want to keep things this way, the problem is, that it would appear that New Media is the future of tv.
This season as TV ratings drop, more and more people are downloading via iTunes or another pay service or watching streaming episodes online. And it seems that as time goes by more and more people may be watching TV this way. Yet if the Writers don't get some revenue from this now, they may never get it.
In one interview I read a writer put it this way, I'm paraphrasing, the future is New Media and it's estimated that in the future 80% of revenue will come from New Media. So imagine if your boss asked you to take an 80% decrease in pay to do the same job.

To put it frankly, it sucks and being as without Writers there is no TV Shows, no Movies, no anything, shouldn't we pay them that way? Why do Directors, Producers, and Actors get all the glory and all the pay, while Writers, the people who pour their hearts out to create the Scripts, get next to nothing and almost no recognition?


Shea said...

Here's a great photo essay:

Also...not all the actors get the pay. (only those A-listers are getting the unheard of...everyone else... not so much). We (SAG) currently have no contracts on new media either. So with the writer's taking this stance they are paving the road (when our acting contracts are up June 2008) for all of us to hopefully get a share profit from internet use.

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