Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Strike Day 45

Another day, another loss of many dollars!

In a good cause, needless to say.

I had hoped to make it downtown to LA City Hall very early this morning, in order to be present when the City Council debated the issue of the economic impact the WGA strike is having on the local economy. Unfortunately I didn't make it. My hope was that considering how many members turned up yesterday in the rain for OUTDOOR strike activity, a high number would show up this morning for indoor action, despite how early they needed to be there. Just because I happened to crap out doesn't mean everyone else did! I still haven't heard from anyone who was present so the truth is I don't know how things turned out down there.

Meanwhile there is a plan afoot for what I think will be a somewhat entertaining "StrikeTV" piece that might get done by myself and a fellow dad from my children's school who is also a WGA member. This would utilize our many children, hopefully not in a way which could be derided by the other side as "exploitative" -- but considering how they're communications team has been spinning events, the other dad and myself may well find ourselves being accused of pedophilia by the time the AMPTP finishes its review.

I read their most recent press release -- or "open letter" as I think they called it -- and had to laugh several times. The best part was when they derided the negotiating efforts of the WGA and pointed out that even now, 7 weeks into this strike, working writers find themselves no closer to a fair deal on profits from new media than they were before -- or words to that effect.


And I must beg to differ with the AMPTP on one fine sticking point in that section of their "open letter," namely: we working writers do indeed find ourselves CLOSER to getting a fair deal on profits from new media -- SEVEN WEEKS CLOSER TO JULY 1st, THE DAY WHEN SAG WILL JOIN US BY GOING OUT ON STRIKE -- unless the AMPTP decides to make an offer that includes something approaching a fair deal on downloaded and streamed residuals before then.

Every long march begins with one step... and then another... and another... and another.

And in the grand scheme of modern history, waiting from November 5th until July 1st -- or some time soon thereafter -- in order to get a fair deal for your contractual future is not the biggest challenge anyone has ever faced. True, it may be the biggest challenge some, even many, of us WGA members have ever faced -- and I'm sure that factors into the AMPTP's decision-making process. Still, I believe we can wait until July if we have to. Don't get me wrong -- I don't want to and I hope to hell we don't have to -- but if we have to wait... then we wait. At least I do. And I can't believe all the hundreds and thousands of my fellow WGA members would leave me here waiting all alone.

It would be nice to leave it at that -- kind of an inspiring "Hollywood" ending for today's entry... but the other shoe is the question of what the Hollywood, especially the TV, landscape will look like when we come out from the other side of this strike. That is the only thing I talked about before the strike began, back before the AMPTP revealed itself to have no interest in coming to a reasonable, negotiated settlement which could avert a strike or settle it before it dragged on for too long -- my belief that a strike would lead to another big shift in the way TV works, similar to the shift that resulted form the 1988 WGA strike, which pretty much opened the floodgates for what we now refer to as "Reality TV," when FOX plucked COPS and AMERICA'S MOST WANTED off local affiliate schedules, put them on their national broadcast schedule and started showing them to the whole country. There is no way for anyone to know what the impact of this strike will be on the television audience -- how many viewers will be lost, how many will stay lost for good, never to return to prime-time dramas and comedies, even after the strike reaches its inevitable end at some point down the line. I don't know if those results will be good or bad for me personally or for the WGA membership as a whole -- but my guess is that they will be bad for traditional television as we know it. Whether that's good or bad for the country is another question altogether.

Still, this is the situation we find ourselves in. So even though the strike may well be contributing in the long run to the demise of scripted network shows, I don't feel one iota of compulsion to head back to work on the two pilots my partner and I had sold this season. It would be like choosing to take a life preserver for yourself instead of helping to bale out a sinking ship filled with hundreds and thousands of your fellow passengers. Not to mention this ship didn't just hit an iceberg or sail into a hurricane -- it was torpedoed by a pack of submarines whose names all read: "AMPTP."

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