Striking Writers as Guy Fawkes

Maybe I’m reading into things a bit too much, but I find it really odd and quite striking (pun intended that today’s strike by the WGA coincides with Guy Fawkes Day.

I’m not one to capitulate to my keyboard’s incessant urge to type hyperbole (not too often, anyway), but I will say that I think the writers have been getting a raw deal on DVD sales/rentals for a while, so now is the perfect time to figure out broadband (if it can be figured out), before they get screwed again. I don’t quite think the Hollywood establishment as parliament and the WGA as Guy Fawkes analogy is one-to-one, but it’s good enough for a blog post.

The gunpowder here is the internet and both sides are arguing about how best to blow up TV and Film. And really, the writers’ position is a little bit more logical and their status going forward more known, since the internet is taking power away from aggregators (networks) and putting it into the hands of creatives, like writers, producers and actors. Don’t believe the likes of poor, lowly, entertainment industry-employed me? Listen to Cory Doctorow.

Honestly, it’s people like Oprah who are already seeing the greatest gain. A proven success in the syndicated TV world (and world at large) she’s taken the leap to YouTube hoping that syndication on the internet (embeds, many sites instead of a portal) equals the same kind of success if not more than her current arrangement. Anybody want to bet against Oprah?

It’s not just “creatives” wanting to free their expression, how about Barack Obama going against the wishes of NBCU and putting his SNL appearance on YouTube? Think consumers will mind watching the smaller screen, especially if the content (and really, isn’t calling it “content” a joke?) is great or the talent (see previous “content” parenthetical) is great.

And what about if your creative output already has a commercial component, say through marketing or advertising? Well, you too can put yourselves out there, it’s only a click away.

So are the striking writers like Guy Fawkes, looking to destroy the establishment for the greater freedoms of all? No. The establishment is already crumbling and they need to look to the source of that destruction, the internet, rather than squabbling over money to support the current paradigm.

Of course, writers have to eat too, so I hope they get their just desserts. But I hope more folks embrace the new, like the people behind The Guild. The audience is there, the networks can’t reach them but the “talent” can.

Sure, you could go to other blogs to get reporting and opinion about the strike or Guy Fawkes, but here’s my fresh take (and maybe it is being said, only not loudly enough): entertainment is broken and the internet offers the quickest fix, which is going direct to your audience.

Happy Monday!

UPDATE: To be even clearer, I don’t think the writers are religious fanatics and I don’t think that the rest of Hollywood is as oppressive as a government, but I’m convinced the internet is the explosive ready to blow up both camps, so I can’t figure out why they’re fighting over a sinking ship (if I can mix my metaphors to ruin my point).

Didn’t we already go through this in the music industry? Haven’t we learned any lessons?

UPDATE II: Of course, the WGA should get theirs, even if they are attached to an outmoded business/revenue model. Good on ya.

UPDATE III: The title of this post has been reversed. It didn’t make any sense the other way around. I blame TV. ;-)

6 thoughts on “Striking Writers as Guy Fawkes

  1. I’m not sure what sinking ship you’re talking about. The writers want a share of the money the studios are making “promoting” their shows on iTunes and web-delivery sites like thedailyshow.com, which isn’t exactly an outmoded business structure. The problem isn’t that they’re ignoring the Internet, it’s that the guys who wrote the shows being delivered through the Internet aren’t getting a share of the money it makes the studios. The guys who write “webisodes” of shows like THE SHIELD and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA are not getting paid their Guild-negotiated rates or residiuals on those segments because they’re not “television” or something.

    The WGA is calling bullshit on that, and trying to correct a mistake (regarding DVDs) that it made 19 years ago.

  2. Will, I guess I’m talking about the sinking ship that is middlemen and “networks” aggregating content.

    I’ll agree that writers should be compensated fairly for their works, but I think the real sticking point in negotiations will be what is considered “promotional” and what is considered “episodic”.

    And what about writers’ blogs like those for Grey’s Anatomy? I’d kill to have some of the talented writers for our TBS & TNT original series blogging for us and I think we’d happily (and perhaps handsomely) pay them.

    Where the trouble all started, in my mind, is with The Office and their webisodes. Since half that cast are also writers, I’m sure they spurned one union or another to help their show, choosing to forego digital money for (hopeful) linear success, which is cool if you’re BJ Novak, less so if you write, as you mention, for The Daily Show.

    You’re right on the DVD front, bully for WGA.

    But I still think the biggest opportunity here is for WGA writers (whom I’m sure are employed at roughly the same ratio as SAG/AFTRA actors, which is to say mostly unemployed) to do creative works and go directly to consumers. My example of The Guild (no pun intended) is really key here. Funny people with a good idea don’t need a network.

    There’s a link to a speech by Larry Lessig making the rounds that’s important here (http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/187). What we have now is Read Only TV and we’re moving to Read/Write TV, so the WGA should pursue broader rights and compensation collectively and more expressive, niche products individually.

    My two cents.

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