Monday, November 05, 2007

STRIKE!!!

This weekend, I asked actor, WGA member, and all-around funny guy Danny R. McBride if the Writers' Strike was in fact happening. Here is what he said:

We're striking like mother fuckers. Reruns here we come.

You have to appreciate his humor at a time like this. However, the fact remains that writers are now on strike. In the short-term, this is bad news for TV - a writer's medium if there ever was one - because they typically write, film, and edit their shows a month ahead of the air date. Also, most scripted programs are controlled by 'show-runners' (i.e., writers) rather than producers. Daily comedy shows like Leno, Letterman, and Conan, which are typically produced the day of, will be effected immediately.

As for film, we got about a year before we as viewers feel the effects of the strike. To compensate for the lack of writing taking place during the strike, studios began to greenlight a whole lot of would-be blockbusters in recent weeks as part of an effort to keep their volume up. Many of these films would not have been greenlit, if studios were not placed in a state of desperation by the strike. But on top of that, I am sure there will be a lot of writer-driven (read: good) films that won't get made in time for next fall - this could take quite a toll come next year's Oscar season.

Some of you might be wondering, 'What caused the strike?' The answer is money**. As new revenue streams from DVD's and digital downloading have opened up, writers want a piece of the green; and in my opinion, they deserve it.

Whenever a movie succeeds at the box-office, that can be attributed to a number of random factors: actors, celebrity gossip, directors, marketing, Happy Meal toys, a good release date, etc. On the other hand, whenever a movie does well on video, especially in the case of re-issues and 'special editions,' most of that success has to do with having a good screenplay. Sure, a new DVD from a crap film might do well because it is new, and coasting off of the vapors of whatever made it a box-office success in the first place. But the DVD's that last, and manage to sell consistently do so because a writer did his or her job, and made a film worth re-watching again and again.

That said, here's my own personal solution to the residual issues: Effective immedeately, studios should gradually increase the percentage a writer makes off of DVD's and digital downloads every year after their release. Maybe put a cap of 10-15% of profits, but after the first year of release, let them make 3%, then 4% the year after that and so on. For the most part, this would punish writers who sell-out and write crap scripts, while rewarding those who endure whatever industry-related blows it takes to get something worth watching onto the screen. By doing something like this, studios would essentially create the greatest incentive for writers to create quality work.

(**Another reason for the strike has to do with the TV side of the equation. Basically, a lot of producers who make unscripted - or reality - TV series do not allow their, um, scriptwriters to have the same protection as union writers. This means many of them crank out scripts like sweatshop workers for minimal pay.)

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