Culture

by Timothy Lee


Filed Under:
writer's strike



Titanic Crew Strikes Over Deck Chair Arrangement

from the one-size-fits-all? dept

As a professional writer who mostly writes for Internet publications, the news of the Writer's Guild strike is a bit of a culture shock. There's no bloggers' guild negotiating a standard set of wages and residuals for bloggers. It's hard to imagine the blogosphere going on strike. And frankly, that's better for all of us, writers and publishers alike. The web is such a diverse and fast-changing medium that it's hard to imagine a contract that could address the diverse needs of all its writers right now, to say nothing of anticipating the future evolution of the industry.

A one-size-fits-all writers' contract made a certain amount of sense for Hollywood in the mid-20th century when it was relatively homogenous and dominated by a few large firms. But it's looking increasingly anachronistic today. Thanks to the Internet, Hollywood is on the brink of a difficult transition towards a more competitive marketplace in which a lot more people have the opportunity to get in on the action. The studios will need imagination and flexibility for the old studios to maintain their dominant position. They'll need to experiment with new technologies and business models. Given how quickly the marketplace is likely to change over the next decade, it's a little silly to expect a single industry-wide contract to fairly determine how writers will be compensated for the next few years. We don't even know, for example, if the dominant business strategy for Internet video will be paid downloads, ad-supported free downloads, or some other business model nobody's even thought of. The best compensation structure for writers will be different depending on which of these business models wins out in the end. Also, as the long tail of video content fattens, it's not obvious that it will be either possible or desirable to pay folks way down the tail using the same pay scale as the folks at the head.

If there ends up being a lengthy writers' strike (and especially if the actors and directors join the strike next year) it's only going to create a content vacuum that will be filled by small independent producers who understand how to use digital technologies to produce and distribute content on a tight budget. Something similar happened during the last strike, in 1988, when networks reacted to the shortage of writers by launching unscripted shows like "Cops" and "America's Funniest Home Videos," giving birth to the reality TV format that remains popular to this day. With products like Joost, YouTube, and Apple TV offering alternative distribution mechanisms for independent producers, a writer's strike could have even more dramatic consequences this time around.


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  1. identicon
    Matthew, 5 Nov 2007 @ 8:06am

    Re:

    I agree that blog-writing is not the same as Hollywood writing (on the whole), but asking the producers to be more flexible is akin with trying to squeeze blood from stones.

    They have been doing their thing for 60+ years and have become so complacent in their ways that they simply do not know how to be flexible, let alone creative. So, along with the reality show binge, we get nothing but (usually bad) remakes of 50 year old movies or 30-yo TV shows made into big screen debacles. And if they're not copying older material they're ripping each other off as noted in the disaster movie eras, and then the surfer movements as far back as the early 90s and again not 5 years ago.

    Sequels suck. So let the writers strike out on their own.

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