But I don’t not support it, either.
I am getting pretty sick of hearing about the strike, though; About how everyone thinks the writers are millionaires, the studios are evil, and the ulterior motives lying just beneath the surface on either side.
If I have your attention now, there’s more to be read after the jump…
I’m a below the line kind of guy. When I was a freelance cinematographer/gaffer/grip, I got paid for the work I did and that was that. Some of my movies went to DVD, some didn’t. It didn’t matter to me because by the time the last piece of crap I shot hit the shelves at Blockbuster, I was already on a new job. If I wasn’t on a movie or TV show, I was teaching kids at NYFA, or freelancing at a major cable news network, or writing for magazines. It’s not exactly what I wanted to do, but if i didn’t go out and look for the work, it was my fault when I didn’t get paid. It was (and still is, for some people) a sucky existence. I sure could’ve used a union then.
Having said that, I’m a little apathetic when I hear about how difficult it is for a WGA writer to support his/her family on a writer’s salary. Vis a vis minimum salary requirements and benefits, the concept of a residual is like the icing on cake. From what I know about WGA membership (and that’s very little, so correct me if I’m wrong), once you’re in… You’re in. It’s not like the Motion Picture Editor’s Guild, where you have to clock a certain number of hours per year to retain your benefits. That makes sense to me. Why shouldn’t writers have a minimum amount of words or pages that need to be sold in order to recieve their residuals? From what I’ve heard, there are a lot of current WGA members who haven’t sold a story in years.
Again, I wonder… If these people need money so bad, why don’t they just go out and find more work? I can see myself having an opinion either way if this were a matter of addressing a basic need, but no one’s being waterboarded or stripped of their benefits. People tell me that the writers want to be treated fairly. To that, I say that if this were really a fair universe would the Suite Life of Zack and Cody still be on the air while I’m stuck watching the same 12 episodes of Freaks and Geeks over and over? The point is that everyone’s idea of what’s fair is going to be different. That much should be obvious. The producers think they’re giving the writers a fair cut of the profits, and the writers disagree.
More power to the both of them, because no matter what, it’s the viewers that ultimately win. When the dust settles, what we’ll be left with are the first rays of the new dawn of entertainment distribution – TV 2.0, if you will.
Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof wrote the most tempered and perceptive editorial on the whole process in a recent NYT article. He talks about the death of television and the eventual obsolecense of “air” as we know it, aided by the proliferation of digital recording devices in the home, and the Internet*. Even Michael Eisner has suggested that the picket lines be moved to the Apple Campus in Cupertino. In a few years, the primary market for content delivery probably won’t be television – it’ll be iTunes.
*Edit: After all, isn’t that was this is all about? I can see how it could be hard to quantify your viewership. Digital distribution over the Web seems to be the most ambiguous of mediums, unless you’re using a registered service (i.e. iTunes). On that note, would it be considered a conflict of interest if the WGA just struck a deal with Steve Jobs?