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Writer’s Guild Strike – What’s a Geek to Do?

8

Nov

Posted by Steve

Heroes has been retooled to close out in December.

 Smallville’s season finale is now set for February.

 Lost, Chuck, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, Grey’s Anatomy.  All up in the air.

Superman sequel?  Nothing.  Marvel just released it’s slate of upcoming films, and one can only assume that some in the search  for wirter’s have to be put on hold.

Then there’s that pesky live action Star Wars television show that we hear about intermittingly.  Yep.  All of us Star Wars geeks are gonna have to wait a bit.

And what about the Trekkies who are greatly anticipating J.J. Abrams Star Trek prequel/reboot?  Don’t hold your breath.

The WGA is on strike, and at the time of this posting has been for four days.   The last time something like this happened was in the 80′s when the strike lasted for 22 weeks.  That’s almost six months of no new scripted television coming from the networks.

Why is the Writer’s Guild striking?  The internet…and DVD’s.  That’s the simple version.

Basically, studios are refusing to pay residuals on the money made from DVD sales and shows that are watched or downloaded on the internet.  

Let’s define some terms before moving on:

Residuals -payments made to the creator of performance art (or the performer in the work) for subsequent showings or screenings of the (usually filmed) work.

Writers – People who write.

Writers Guild of America (WGA) – The name for the two orginazitions WGA- East and WGA- West, The Guild acts as the collective bargaining agency for the two factions.  It’s kind of like a Union.

Studio Executives – I really can’t define this term without being a bit derogatory right now.

Basically, what has happened in Hollywood is the realization that the digital age is here to stay for a long time.  Many people are watching their favorite television shows by downloading them at their convenience via the internet, or waiting to buy entire seasons of shows on DVD.  Studios make their money in two main ways from the television shows they air and the movies they release.  One way, the traditional way, is advertising.  Hence, commercials and corporate sponsorship, and the reason that you’ll see a Pepsi can in a movie every now and then. (Or some other product.)  The other way, and more recently (when it comes to television shows), is the selling of films or TV shows on DVD (or VHS as used to be the case.)  Enter the internet.  Many networks are offering the option of downloading television shows for a fee on the internet or streaming the episodes mere hours after their release on TV.  The writers for these shows have seen no money from the use of this technology.

Honestly, it’s only fair that they should. 

The problem?  The studios don’t want to come off of that money.  At this point, the WGA is probably asking for some type of retroactive compensation.  That may be the sticking point, because honestly we’re talking pennies.  Seriously, residuals amount to pennies on the dollar earned going back into the pocket of the writer.  The problem is that if you look at just the numbers, the studios will probably see hundreds of thousands if not millions , in the instance of some television shows and movies, being paid out.  However, the percentages aren’t that big at all.

The saddest part of this situation is that it’s not the fan who suffers the most.  It’s not the viewer who is invested in these shows that is hurt.  It’s the little guy whose name you’ll never see in the credits who works paycheck to paycheck because he’s trying to break into the the business or because he just loves to be around it.    However, if you ask the little guy, he says, “Go writers.”  Becuase he knows what it means to him and everyone else that these people are treated fairly.

I saw a video on YouTube that will not give the dignity of posting here or even linking to that asks the writers to end the strike because of all the shows that are being hurt.  Obviously the individual who made the video isn’t well informed.   This isn’t about greed on the part of the writers, it’s about being treated fairly, and it’s about those whose feet are seldom held to the fire being pressured to do what’s right.

So hang in there, break out your old DVD’s and get ready for a barrage of sports you don’t care about and reality television.  Because if this thing isn’t resolved soon, then that’s what we have to look forward to.

How can you help?  Go to www.unitedhollywood.com and check out the latest on the strike, sign the petition to make your voice heard, and then go sit down and write a letter to a studio exec or two to let them know what you think. Just google it, you’ll find a way.

Remember, for the regular guy, it’s just entertainment. For the people of the picket line it’s a living.

Think I’m a bit crazy?  Check this out….