November 10, 2007

"To begin... To begin... How to start? I'm hungry. I should get coffee. Coffee would help me think. Maybe I should write something first, then reward myself with coffee. Coffee and a muffin. So I need to establish the themes. Maybe a banana nut. That's a good muffin."

And that, courtesy of Nicolas Cage's neurotic writer in Adaptation, is the answer to the eternal question of "Why don't you publish something?"

In support of writers everywhere - those on strike with the WGA and those around the rest of the world who, like me, procrastinate in written format for a "living".

November 6, 2007

How Does the Writer's Strike Affect Me?

*blank stares*

Oookay... let's back up a bit, shall we?

Did You Know There's A Writer's Strike On?

Well there is. A Hollywood writer's strike. The WGA, or Writer's Guild of America (comprised of WGA West Board and WGA East Council), has gone on strike as of yesterday, November 5th. Technically for you North American readers that's today. If you were previously unaware of the strike, now you know. And, as G.I. Joe famously said, "knowing is half the battle". Though I have to point out that he couldn't have said that without a writer which brings us back to...

How Does the Writer's Strike Affect Me?

Do you watch Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, The Tonight Show, or The Late Show? Then it's already affected you. Those shows - and other shows like them that depend on daily scriptwriting to function - have all been immediately put into reruns. If you don't watch any of those TV shows but are fond of, say, 30 Rock, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, The Office, or Heroes (to name just a few), the strike will take a few weeks or longer to affect you. Studios have known about the possibility of a writer's strike for quite some time now and have been stockpiling scripts the way squirrels stockpile nuts for winter. So pre-filmed shows will potentially have the ability to last for months before running out of material to film. Of course the quality of the material they've stockpiled might be questionable but if you regularly watch Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives you won't notice quality from a kick in the head anyway so you're fine. (Just opinion, folks: everybody is entitled.) Eventually scripts will dry up and shows will one by one be forced into reruns. Well everything except reality TV, that is. So that's the good news, I suppose, from a certain standpoint. If you like reality TV there will be a whole lot more of it being made in the coming months. If you're like me and consider reality TV to be a particularly vicious ring of hell, we're heading towards a TV apocalypse.

How Will It Affect Me If I Only Watch Movies?

If you don't watch TV, the strike will take a lot longer to affect you. But rest assured, in time you too will be affected. The first sign that things aren't quite right in filmdom will come during the holiday movie push when, without shows like The Tonight Show and The Late Show on air for promotional purposes, the push will be lost and some films may find their release dates altered. Ditto for the Oscars and attendant Oscar buzz. Slowly film productions will start to be affected as projects that had been planned but not written will have to be bumped and fewer films are greenlit pending the outcome of the strike. Then, come June when the existing SAG contract expires, if things with the WGA are not resolved, the SAG (Screen Actor's Guild) may strike in solidarity with the writers. If the SAG strikes, the whole world will know because actors can't do anything that isn't highly publicized and also you can't really film much without actors. But what you need to know right now is that the WGA strike is the first step. Because you can't film anything without a script and there are only so many nuts stashed away in studio storehouses, if you know what I mean.

Who Is Opposite the WGA in Negotiations?

The AMPTP, or the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers. The studios, networks, producers... you know, "Big Hollywood".

Can You Sum the Issues Up in A Brief Entertaining Soundbyte?

Sort of. It's got a lot to do with the issue of new media. "It's too new!" Revenue from and residuals for internet and cell phone content, to be exact. There's currently no deal in place to allow writers to profit from their work when it appears online. Also, DVD residuals. But that's summation without the entertainment side of things. So instead let Jon Stewart explain it to you thusly.

You may not care about a writer's strike. Fair enough. I'm just giving you the heads-up. I consider you all, pretty mortals, to be on a need-to-know basis. You are, after all, the ultimate point of all TV and movie production because you are the ones who watch and/or purchase the end result of all production in Hollywood. Without you there wouldn't be a Hollywood. As consumers, you have the power to make shows and films hits or misses. If this strike lasts long enough, you also have the power to tell Hollywood that you won't come back once it's resolved because your time is too precious to be wasted. Pretty impressive, eh? Never forget that all things ultimately rest on the shoulders of us little people.