Hollywood Writers Eye Startup Life

from the risky-business dept

The LA Times reports on ongoing negotiations between writers and venture capitalists to create Hollywood startups. Apparently "dozens" of Hollywood writers are looking to launch companies that would allow them to produce video content that would be distributed directly to fans on the web. We've noted that there are already a number of companies pursuing this strategy, and with thousands of talented writers sitting idle, this is an ideal time to start more of them. In the long run, these kinds of startups will ensure writers get compensated fairly because it will give writers who feel they're under-compensated an exit option. On the other hand, the LA Times makes clear that writers jumping into alternative business models may find that the reality of Hollywood startups to be a culture shock. A lot of successful online content outfits tend to be shoestring operations, and it's likely to take a few more years before the bulk of viewers make the switch to Internet-based sources of information. Writers used to the relatively large budgets and large audiences of Hollywood studios may find it difficult to adjust to being at a web startup that no one has (yet) heard of. This may explain why in a town with ten thousand writers, only "dozens" are looking at the startup option. On the other hand, those writers with an appetite for risk or a thirst for creative control may thrive in an environment where they call the shots and reap a much larger share of the rewards if they succeed.
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Filed Under: hollywood, startups, writers, writers' strike

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  1. identicon
    Seth Finkelstein, 18 Dec 2007 @ 4:07am

    Re: The Lottery Fallacy

    This statement "we don't need to unionize because our options are plentiful" is an absurdly propagandistic fluffery - on a level (not exactly like, but comparable to, sigh) "We don't have unions here because the workers are so happy with management". In the US in general, unions are extremely disfavored by both the legal system and a lack of supportive civic structure, both of which have profound effects. The point is as a simple matter of mathematics, start-ups and similar cannot have a large impact because overall they cannot be of the level to match collective bargaining. To wit:

    This has a chance of working:

    Writers: "Producers, if you do not pay us all royalties, we will all go on strike"

    This is laughable:

    Writer: "Producer, if you do not pay me royalties, I will go join an Internet start-up".

    Now, across the entire industry, there may be a few people for whom that last option does work - or who tell that story that way. But that's what I mean by the lottery winners. It's roughtly about as effective as saying "I'll try to win the lottery". Every day, that happens for someone. But it's statistically very rare, and the effect is very low on the whole.

    There are "hot" writers, just like there are "hot" programmers. But looking at these tiny slices and proclaiming them representative is highly misleading, what I mean by my "convention of lottery winners" point. All the people who aren't in demand, who aren't being courted with generous offers, don't get hype articles in the trade press.
    Something like a _The Onion_ story "Area programmers offered more unpaid overtime, cold market conditions cited"

    Again, this shouldn't be a difficult concept.

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