Join 3,442 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Hollywood Kabuki
November 2, 2007 6:30 AM   Subscribe

A Hollywood writer's strike now looks all but certain. With late night TV due to go dark immediately and your favorite network series drying up around Christmas, maybe you'd like to get your popcorn out and follow the fireworks between the writers and the producers. Meanwhile, the trade dailies provide coverage which reflects their dependence on the studio advertising dollar. Me? I'll be writing my novel.
posted by unSane (202 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Frankly, I think it's a great opportunity for scabs, aspiring playwrights, and the great mob of untapped talent that is so far confined to the web. Out with the old. In with the new. If you guys don't like your jobs, there are plenty of people out there with fresh ideas who will be happy to take them.
posted by Faze at 6:38 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Faze is right on. Maybe it's time to move to LA and get famous, so that I can eventually suffer the same indignities as the current writers.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 6:45 AM on November 2, 2007 [4 favorites]


As an aspiring screenwriter who wants to make a career out of it... the last thing I would ever want to do is break the strike. They aren't just doing this for themselves, but for future writers as well... no matter how successful you might be in the short run. Because that's all it will be. A short run. And then you're through.
posted by tittergrrl at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


How will this affect YouTube? Oh.
posted by Pastabagel at 6:48 AM on November 2, 2007


We need Indians for a Norman Steele Western.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:53 AM on November 2, 2007


... the great mob of untapped talent ...

If only that were true. Unfortunately, as anyone who has had to read vast piles of unsolicited spec scripts will tell you, it isn't.

Reading spec scripts in the hope of discovering amazing new writers is a bit like marriage, a triumph of hope over experience.

Obviously there are untapped writers out there, but they do generally get discovered. At least the ones I know who are any good all have so far.
posted by unSane at 7:00 AM on November 2, 2007 [8 favorites]


The funny part is that reality shows would be affected by this. If it's a "reality" show why would you need writers? Strange that.
posted by MikeMc at 7:00 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Funny thing is, I realized the other day that the only way the strike will affect my current viewing habits at all is that it'll free up my Monday nights, currently occupied by watching "Heroes." Which, really, has been more mediocre than not this season. (I presume that the current season of "Dexter" is already finished shooting, and the last season of the returning-in-January "Battlestar Galactica" really should be written by now -- they've had almost a year to do it, for God's sake...) Don't get me wrong -- it does sound like the writers have been getting a raw deal re: royalties for DVDs and downloads, and they certainly deserve a better one. But if TV becomes a wasteland of reality shows and reruns for the next several months, will anyone even notice?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:01 AM on November 2, 2007


TV mostly sucks anyway. The last strike killed TV (for me), since this is when all the non-scripted, cheaply made reality shows came on the scene. I'd thought we were at the lowest common denominator before this. I dread to see when things go from here.

I got rid of cable and even Netflix two years ago. I still consume quite a bit of media, but mostly on DVD (no commercials, and I don't have to worry about a show I like being cancelled).

I support the writers on this one, but think this may end up hurting the whole industry.

I'll just rewatch Rome.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:01 AM on November 2, 2007


TV sucks. We're mostly better off without it.

Here's to a perpetual strike.
posted by Avenger at 7:04 AM on November 2, 2007


Didn't the last strike fan the flames of reality television? Does this mean we're in for something worse than reality television?
posted by drezdn at 7:07 AM on November 2, 2007


TV > you.
posted by Stynxno at 7:08 AM on November 2, 2007


A lot of projects (on the movie end, at least) have been wrapped up (in terms of script development) prior to the strike.. My producer kid has been almost unavailable the past month as they've scrambled to finish scripts for upcoming projects..

TV... meh.. I agree with cjorgensen, the last strike pretty much did away with quality.. I have a very difficult time finding anything worth watching now.. There might be two or three hours a week of good stuff now...
posted by HuronBob at 7:08 AM on November 2, 2007


Faze, the doors in Hollywood are never closed for new talent. The bottom line is, if you've got talent, you'll get work. Agents are constantly trying to find new ways of earning their 10 percent so this strike isn't really going to help someone new suddenly get discovered.
posted by cazoo at 7:09 AM on November 2, 2007


cjorgensen is onto something.
everyone should rewatch Rome.

when you hear new things in a show you've watched attentively 3 times previously, you've got good writing. It shows up most other programming as lickspittle.

I have hopes for BSG, but the last 10 eps left the taste of cack in my mouth. Otherwise, I'm sorry to hear Colbert's crew is going to get interrupted (though I don't have cable). It seemed like they were 'in the zone' and he was doing some great stuff.

It is a little fun to watch my friends in production scramble and gamble and watch closely as this strike comes into being. Union vs. non-union PA deathmatch.
posted by Busithoth at 7:12 AM on November 2, 2007


I'm gonna wait for the TV Watcher's strike.
No more shows about doctors, cops and lawyers!
No more gameshows!
No more self referential LA dramas!
We want shows about ROBOTS!
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:12 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Does this mean we're in for something worse than reality television?

LOLcats Live.
posted by mullacc at 7:16 AM on November 2, 2007 [7 favorites]


The last strike had far little to do with the surge of reality television as most people think. They actually have plenty of writers on all the reality shows. My friend used to write for Survivor and it was her task of creating the different competitive scenarios for the contestants. It wasn't dramatic writing but it was still writing nonetheless.
posted by cazoo at 7:17 AM on November 2, 2007


There was a Star Trek: TNG episode where three folks from our time were thawed from chryostasis and introduced to the 24th Century. One of the characters stood in front of the replicator asking how to turn the TV on. One crew member asked what TV was and another answered that it was a fad of the 20th to early 21st Centuries. I want to cry now thinking about it because I can't imagine the stupid machine ever going away. Maybe this, maybe this.

Irony? I don't know the meaning of the word.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 7:17 AM on November 2, 2007


The bottom line is, if you've got talent, you'll get work.

Uh...don't you also have to live in LA? Because that's kind of a dealbreaker for a lot of people. I know it would be for me. Otherwise, hell, I'd be all for it!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:18 AM on November 2, 2007


Really, how hard could this be?

CHASE: House, we need to cure this patient. He is very sick.
HOUSE: Did you try the medicine drug?
CHASE: I did try the medicine drug.
HOUSE: Only stupid people try the medicine drug. You are stupid.
PATIENT: I would rather not be sick.
HOUSE: You are stupid too. Did you take stupid drug?
FOREMAN: I gave patient stupid drug.
HOUSE: You are a black man.
FOREMAN: This vexes me.
PATIENT: I have blood from my nose that is dripping.
CAMERON: That's bad!
PATIENT: Also I was bitten by mice due to my poor hygiene.
CUTTY: You need hygiene drug. Also, I have not spoken in awhile.
HOUSE: No! Hygiene drug will kill Patient! He needs mouse bites to live!
CHASE: [Shocked]
CAMERON: [Shocked]
FOREMAN: [Vexed]
HOUSE: More mouse bites!
CUTTY: I forbid this.
HOUSE: Don't care.
CHASE: [Gets mice]
HOUSE: [Makes mouse bite serum]
PATIENT: I feel better. No more nose blood! Thank you doctor!
HOUSE: I am very smart.
WILSON: I, too, am in this episode.
FOREMAN: This vexes me.

~FIN~

Seriously, Hollywood? My phone number's in the book. Give me a call.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:24 AM on November 2, 2007 [550 favorites]


As a working screenwriter, we need the strike, and aspiring scabs might want to really look at why this strike is getting ready to happen before they offer their services.

If you write an episode of Metafilter Towers, you get paid according to scale for the script; you get paid according to scale for residuals when the show goes into reruns. You always wrote the script, the show is still making money, consequently, you're entitled to some of that. That's the current contract.

But TV isn't just first run and reruns anymore. People can also watch episodes online- free to watch, courtesy of ad revenue. The actors get a sliver of the ad revenue for online display; the producers get a sliver of the ad revenue for online display. The writers currently don't get any of that ad revenue.

Because television is going for the value-added model, Metafilter Towers also has a website that features along with the usual forum, gallery, and fantoys, mini-episodes which complement the aired episodes. The actors get paid scale for appearing in these mini-sodes; the writers may or may not get paid for writing these mini-sodes because there's no established scale for them.

And fans are collectors, so they like to buy the episodes from iTunes. The actors get a percentage of that purchase, the producers get a percentage of that purchase and the writers probably get nothing, because there's no established scale for that.

At the end of the season, Metafilter Towers will be on an exclusive 7 DVD set with outtakes and behind the scenes documentaries, whee! The actors get a percentage of all sales, the producers get a percentage of all sales. The writers get a one time license fee.

Since Metafilter Towers is a hit, it's going to sell four million copies this year- the actors get X% of four million copies' worth; the producers get X% of four million copies' worth. And next year, it sells another couple of million, so the actors continue to get paid for their work, the producers continue to get paid for their work, but the writers got a one time licensing fee.

This isn't a strike over champagne in the writers' room and caviar for lunch every day. It's a strike for basic rights- the producers alone aren't entitled to ALL the profits from online distribution and DVD sales, and they're not entitled to additional writing for free.

A writer's contract is specific- she will get scale or X amount for Y number of episodes, including all rewrites and polishes on that number of scripts. If you write one episode of Metafilter Towers, you should get paid for writing one. If you write fifteen mini-sodes for the website, you should get paid for writing fifteen mini-sodes for the website.

Nobody likes a strike, but we need this one to establish basic guidelines for digital media, and to amend the home video clause now that television shows are available on home media. Producers claim they have no idea how much money they're making on online display (which is untrue, they publish their stats to brag about them,) and they claim that DVD sales only recoup the expenses of making the show in the first place which again, is generally untrue.

Shows profited long before DVDs, on first run ad revenue, and worldwide and syndication rights, which they still earn now. (And it's even easier to make that money now because you no longer need 100 episodes to syndicate; cable partnerships and short syndication deals are the norm now. Profit starts almost immediately now.)

So, yes, aspiring scabs, it would be a great time to get started in screenwriting if you don't mind working for free, and watching other people profit from your work long after your one-time licensing fee is gone. But don't forget- everybody else (even the producers we're negotiating with right now) are unionized, too. They may love your scabby scripts today, but when the strike is over, you may find your career in the industry over completely.
posted by headspace at 7:25 AM on November 2, 2007 [161 favorites]


Metafilter: You are stupid too. Did you take stupid drug?
posted by Avenger at 7:29 AM on November 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


sequential ♥'s robocop is bleeding.
posted by sequential at 7:36 AM on November 2, 2007


HELL NO, WE WON'T POST

METAFILTER COMMENT POSTERS LOCAL #634 SYMPATHY STRIKE
posted by ALongDecember at 7:42 AM on November 2, 2007 [11 favorites]


It's an opportunity to import some great British shows rather than remaking them into disasters.
posted by juiceCake at 7:47 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


METAFILTER COMMENT FLAGGERS LOCAL #7134 IN SOLIDARITY. WE'RE NOT MOVING ON ANYWHERE.
posted by anthill at 7:52 AM on November 2, 2007 [14 favorites]


Crap. Now I'll have to pay robocop is bleeding every time I read that. Does this include if I print it out?
posted by cairnish at 7:57 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


It is semi-ironic that one of the responses many viewers are voicing about the strike is that they'll just catch up on shows on DVD... when that is exactly one of the contentious issues as illustrated by headspace.

Maybe viewers should come together and stop buying DVDs to help bring the issue home.
posted by tittergrrl at 8:01 AM on November 2, 2007


It's an opportunity to import some great British shows rather than remaking them into disasters.

Or better yet, vice versa. Everybody Loves the Great Fire of London has some awesome buzz around it.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:04 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Is Metafilter Towers on Fox? Because it sounds pretty good and I don't want it to get canceled.
posted by Terminal Verbosity at 8:05 AM on November 2, 2007


Is Metafilter Towers on Fox? Because it sounds pretty good and I don't want it to get canceled.

They keep showing the episodes out of order, and it looks like it won't make it past the mid-season. But if you buy the DVD set and sign this petition...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:07 AM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


Hollywood's been screwing over and minimizing the contributions of writers since it started, and will continue screwing over and minimizing the contributions of writers as long as it exists. It's just who Hollywood is - it can't honor the folks who write the scripts too much, because that takes away precious adulation from the pretty faces and big money. Seriously. It's always been like that.

Every once in a while, the writers fight back.

Go, writers.
posted by mediareport at 8:08 AM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


Kittens for Breakfast: Battlestar Galactica's season 4 has been pushed back to April 2008.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news
posted by Danaid at 8:10 AM on November 2, 2007


btw, headspace, the "fireworks" link in the post claims that writers do get a small percentage of ongoing DVD sales, rather than a one-time fee:

What are the other issues? DVDs: Currently we get .3% per dvd, we're asking for .6%. Translation: now we get 4 cents per dvd. We are asking for 8 cents per dvd. Since most DVD's cost at least 10 bucks, that doesn't exactly seem like a bank-breaker. Whatever.

This seems to be the key, though:

since they're not moving on "digital delivery", and since pretty much all content is going to be digitally delivered in the coming years, well... we'll lose those residuals as soon as that happens. So without internet coverage, it doesn't mean much.''
posted by mediareport at 8:15 AM on November 2, 2007


He needs mouse bites to live!

Bwaahhahahaha!

You're hired son, pack your swim trunks!
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:17 AM on November 2, 2007


Kittens for Breakfast: Battlestar Galactica's season 4 has been pushed back to April 2008.

Laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:20 AM on November 2, 2007


headspace for sidbar!
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:23 AM on November 2, 2007


Metafilter: More mouse bites!
posted by fleetmouse at 8:25 AM on November 2, 2007


mediareport- the next part of that paragraph is paramount:
There are lots of shows, like game shows, documentaries and talk shows, where writing is supposed to be covered under our contract. The companies sometimes just ignore the contract.
We get an up front licensing fee, and we're supposed to get .3% on sales, but supposed to and actually do are different things. We're represented by agents, and most agents do a pretty good job of negotiating us up over scale for per-episode fees, but they don't do a great job of negotiating DVD sales because- well, in a perfect world, we'd get everything, but you have to give up something.

Production companies will still cough up contracts that try to end your residuals after a certain point of time, or limit your back-end profit to X amount, and even though we're supposed to get that specific percentage for DVDs, we often don't. If your agent is going to fight for something, it's gonna be the amount you get paid per episode, up front, because there's no way to hide that money.

Production companies can hide how many DVDs they sell (oh, we don't count the 5000 we pressed for, uh, reviewers, yeah, and uh, critics! Yeah!) and they do that a lot more now that the home video market isn't simply films. There's always a licensing fee- my contracts usually look like "Headspace will be paid 50 cents on delivery of completed script, and will be paid 5 cents for transfer to video. She is also entitled to 1% of the wholesale profit pool after production costs..." etc., etc., etc..

Agents push for up front money, because producers can always find another writer and let's face it, the agent needs to get paid, too. So in the end, we get the up front money, we don't often see the back end money, and when we do see it, it's probably not as much as we actually earned. Raising it by .3% isn't going to cure anybody of fudging the contracts, but it will ensure that when we do see back end profit, it's a little more inline with our contribution.
posted by headspace at 8:40 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Battlestar Galactica's season 4 has been pushed back to April 2008.

I support the strike, but mourn for this and for the loss of Colbert/Stewart in the evenings.

At least the last season of The Wire is written, shot, etc. and so the strike shouldn't affect it starting up in January.

I hope.

Please.
posted by sparkletone at 8:51 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Writers need to work harder to be recognized. If they did that, they'd be in a stronger position when it came to negotiations like this. Audiences will go to a movie because it has a certain actor, or a particular director, or even certain producers. But when have you ever heard someone say, "hey, X wrote the screenplay for a new movie... let's see that"? Just try to name a writer, any writer, in Hollywood who is famous as a writer, and not as a writer/director, writer/producer, or the like. There's just no name recognition for writers like there are for the other big components of a movie or TV series, and until that changes writers just won't have the leverage they need to make worthwhile demands.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:03 AM on November 2, 2007


Just try to name a writer, any writer, in Hollywood who is famous as a writer, and not as a writer/director, writer/producer, or the like.

Charlie Kaufman
posted by billysumday at 9:06 AM on November 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


Kittens for Breakfast: Battlestar Galactica's season 4 has been pushed back to April 2008.

frackity frack.

Good luck, headspace and colleagues.
posted by rtha at 9:11 AM on November 2, 2007


robocop is bleeding stole my thunder.

Writers should be paid less, because they are all so fucking lazy nowadays.

If there is a prolonged strike, guaranteed no one will notice a difference in the "quality" of prime time network TV, it is all such re-hashed drivel anyway.
posted by wfc123 at 9:18 AM on November 2, 2007


robocop is bleeding is God. Meanwhile, I'll give a shiny new dime to the first person who does a Mad Lib version of Law and Order.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:26 AM on November 2, 2007


Charlie Kaufman

You mean the writer/producer of "Being John Malkovich", the writer/producer of "Human Nature", the writer/producer of "Adaptation", the writer/producer of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", and the writer/producer/director of "Synecdoche, New York"? That Charlie Kaufman, you mean? Thanks for reinforcing my point.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:28 AM on November 2, 2007


It gets worse. Season 4 of BSG might also be split into two halves, the second of which wouldn't air until 2009.
posted by designbot at 9:30 AM on November 2, 2007


You mean the writer/producer of "Being John Malkovich", the writer/producer of "Human Nature", the writer/producer of "Adaptation", the writer/producer of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", and the writer/producer/director of "Synecdoche, New York"? That Charlie Kaufman, you mean? Thanks for reinforcing my point.

Your point wasn't that Charlie Kaufman is or is not a writer/producer. Your point was, and I quote: Just try to name a writer, any writer, in Hollywood who is famous as a writer, and not as a writer/director, writer/producer, or the like. Charlie Kaufman is famous as a writer. The kids who are in the film program at the school where I work don't say, "I want to be a writer/producer, just like Charlie Kaufman!" They say the want to be a writer, and then invoke the name of Charlie Kaufman. Besides, any popular or sought-after writer will demand to be credited as a producer, even if their only contribution is as a writer.
posted by billysumday at 9:37 AM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


who does a Mad Lib version of Law and Order.

I could do a basic outline of one, I'll go with SVU because that's what I know

A body is found somewhere in NYC, probably Central Park, maybe by a little girl. The detectives show up. They have a hunch about who is responsible. It's the boyfriend. They show up at his apartment, and bring him back to the box. They think he did it.

He didn't, instead, the murder is somehow related to some vague new thing one of the writers heard about third hand. This time, the killer was following the victim online via their twitter feed. We can't call it twitter though, so we'll call it chirper.

Then the detectives will discover this technology and accuse anyone who uses it of being a pervert. They'll use technology that doesn't actually exist, or isn't nearly as good as they make it out to be and find the killer, but wait, there's a catch.

The police will either break some constitutional protection or be stymied by a judge who actually follows the constitution.

A moral dilemma will be created, with a seeming "air" of ambiguity, but really it's obvious which side the show falls on.

In the end, the lawyers will either be successful or fail and then joke about the slippery slope they've gone down.
posted by drezdn at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Also, in response to But when have you ever heard someone say, "hey, X wrote the screenplay for a new movie... let's see that"? the answer is: many times.
posted by billysumday at 9:40 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


the second of which wouldn't air until 2009.

Doctor Who fans share your pain.
posted by drezdn at 9:42 AM on November 2, 2007


Charlie Kaufman

You mean the writer/producer of "Being John Malkovich", the writer/producer of "Human Nature", the writer/producer of "Adaptation", the writer/producer of "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind", and the writer/producer/director of "Synecdoche, New York"? That Charlie Kaufman, you mean? Thanks for reinforcing my point.


So what is your point? That you have to be a producer to get recognized in Hollywood? Well, DUH! That's how Hollywood works! Even when you use the term "writer/director", you are almost ALWAYS referring to a "writer/director/PRODUCER".
posted by ChestnutMonkey at 9:42 AM on November 2, 2007


Also what billysumday said.
posted by ChestnutMonkey at 9:43 AM on November 2, 2007


In the end, the lawyers will either be successful or fail and then joke about the slippery slope they've gone down.

And don't forget that in this season, Detective Stereotype will say something about how hard it is to be a stereotype.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:46 AM on November 2, 2007


Get ready for "Ow! My Balls!"
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:47 AM on November 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


But when have you ever heard someone say, "hey, X wrote the screenplay for a new movie... let's see that"?

I've actually said that--for Charlie Kaufman, as mentioned above, but also Robert Towne, Melissa Matheson, Paul Schrader, Ed Neumeier, and Steven Zaillian, among others. (Of course, there are a couple of screenwriters whose work I won't pay money to see no matter who the director is, but we won't go into that here.)
posted by Prospero at 9:52 AM on November 2, 2007


Battlestar Galactica's season 4 has been pushed back to April 2008.

WHAT.

Fuck this shit. Fuck the strike, fuck production delays, this has gone too far. I am rounding up everyone involved with the show into a warehouse, and then I'm going to pop down to the nearest pharmaceutical company and start injecting myself with shit until I've grown enough arms to hold guns to the head of every person on the production team until they've finished that show.
posted by schroedinger at 9:53 AM on November 2, 2007


drezdn beat me to it...this just seems like a recipe for more reality dreck. Gee thanks a lot writers guild.
posted by nomisxid at 9:58 AM on November 2, 2007


The kids who are in the film program at the school where I work...

And we know how well they represent the average filmgoer, don't we?

So what is your point? That you have to be a producer to get recognized in Hollywood?

The reverse is actually closer to my point. You need the recognition first, and then you'll get the power. Everyone else in Hollywood seems to get that it's a commodity business, one that requires constant self-promotion and public attention. The writers appear to be the only ones still deluded enough to stay in the shadows and think they'll get a sun tan.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:11 AM on November 2, 2007


i'd do the mad lib for L+O, but i don't know how to spell finn tutuolla's name. plus, with jerry orbach being dead and all, it's, like, useless anyway.

unless, of course, we get to see a full frontal shot of elliot.

or of teh hott medical examiner: i don't need a bag of chips for her!

blah blah blah Criminal Intent blah blah blah
posted by CitizenD at 10:11 AM on November 2, 2007


The reverse is actually closer to my point. You need the recognition first, and then you'll get the power. Everyone else in Hollywood seems to get that it's a commodity business, one that requires constant self-promotion and public attention. The writers appear to be the only ones still deluded enough to stay in the shadows and think they'll get a sun tan.

Hey, don't forget the DPs, visual effects supervisors, and the gaffers. You really don't have a clue about Hollywood, do you? Television writers not into self-promotion and attention? Jesus H on a C-stand.
posted by billysumday at 10:16 AM on November 2, 2007


Dear Television Writers,

Hi! I know it's been a long time since we caught up, but hey, I've been busy.

You know why I've been so busy? Because I don't watch fucking TV. It turns out there's a ton of interesting stuff to do, when you don't have that great big dead eye staring into you every day.

I heard on the radio that you're striking. Bravo! I'm all for solidarity of labor. But in this case, I'd like to encourage you to take it a step further.

While you're hanging out, not writing stuff, take a few minutes to look at what you've become. You're writers. You're angry because your medium treats your work like shit. The solution to this is not to ask for more money to be treated like shit. It's to not work in a medium that is fundamentally hostile to what you do.

I don't want to be all negative on you, though, really. Many of you do good work, despite it being routinely pissed on by the assholes who run your industry. I bet many more of you could do good work if you valued your profession more highly. So I want to suggest that all of you take this strike as an opportunity to write something that is not for TV. Write a novel. Write a short story. Write a damn magazine article, if you really need to detox slowly.

But write something that is meant to be read.

Think of this as a convenient chance for an intervention. I know, we've all got to make a buck. But if you're a writer in Hollywood and you're not constantly doing your best to be a writer for real instead, you need a little wake up call.

You probably think I'm an asshole too, now. Sorry. I couldn't really say much of this without sounding like one. But that's ok. Just really, really try to write something for publication while you're on strike here. C'mon. It'll be fun. And maybe you won't even want to go back...

Please?

Sincerely, rusty
posted by rusty at 10:17 AM on November 2, 2007 [7 favorites]


Metafilter Towers jumped the shark when they killed off ParisParasmus.
posted by Scoo at 10:20 AM on November 2, 2007 [9 favorites]


Um, rusty.... they're called screenwriters for a reason. They don't write something that is meant to be read so much as they write stuff that's meant to be performed on a screen.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:27 AM on November 2, 2007


Here in Burbank, the studios are gearing up for the strike by designating separate entrances to the studio parking lots for those it is acceptable for the WGA to picket against (i.e. the producers and scabs and other people who will literally be crossing the picket lines to go to work on scripted shows) and those who are uninvolved with the strike but who need to work on the lot anyway. From yesterday's mass e-mail:

"Individuals working in Burbank who are employed by NBC Network News, Bravo, KNBC, KWHY, KVEA, Telemundo and Access Hollywood are working for employers not involved in contract negotiations with the WGA. In order to shield these employers from potential picketing, we have designated the following gates as the “Reserved Gates” for their employees to enter and exit...[text snipped]

Employees of NBC, NBC West, NBC Studios, Universal, Days of Our Lives or The Ellen Show may not use the Reserved Gate to enter or exit the lot during this time."
(i.e. they're fair game for the protests)


In a serendipitous bit of timing, today is my last day of work, as I'm starting maternity leave. But I bet I'll be back here next week anyway -- not to work, but to support my union husband, father-in-law, husband's uncle, husband's cousins, our friends... Luckily, I'm leaving one of the few networks not directly affected by the strike, since we have no scripted shows, so I won't have to chant at and petition former co-workers.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:29 AM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


"hey, X wrote the screenplay for a new movie... let's see that"?

Isn't a lot of the writing done by secret second-re-writers (what's the industry term?) who work anonymously?
posted by salvia at 10:32 AM on November 2, 2007


Just to play devil's advocate for a moment ... While I'm very sympathetic about the writers, what about everybody else? How about editors, for example? Editors re-write the script and make the actors look like they know what they're doing. In documentary, often times they essentially *are* the writers.

Editors get *no* residuals at all. And now, with the writers wanting more money, the work stops because WGA writers want a bigger piece of the back-end.

This strike is going to economically hurt a lot of people who work very hard and contribute an awful lot of time and creativity to movies (who currently get *way* less money than the writers).

There is, it seems to me, something selfish about this whole strike.
posted by MythMaker at 10:32 AM on November 2, 2007


Dear Shakespeare,

I want to suggest that you take an opportunity to write something that is not for the stage. Write a novel. Write a short story.

But write something that is meant to be read.

Because clearly, any writing that's not published in a book is by definition a waste of time. So certainly television playwrites should not expect to be rewarded equitably for their contributions.

Cheers
Reto
posted by Reto at 10:35 AM on November 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


Well billysumday, if the writers are all about the self-promotion, they're doing a shit poor job of it, considering their level of name recognition with the general public. The public knows that a Tom Cruise movie will have a certain quality to it. They know a Martin Scorsese picture will have a certain quality to it. And while it can be said there's a certain quality to a William Goldman film or a Frank Darabont film or a Steven Zaillian film, *they* don't know it.

And once a gaffer has as much of an effect on a film's quality as a writer does, then maybe we can talk about them.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 10:37 AM on November 2, 2007


Headspace has done an excellent job of summarizing the issues in this strike.

Just to give some additional context, it might be helpful to know a bit about the economic situation of your average screenwriter. Fortunately, the Writers' Guild of America releases an annual report every year chock full o' statistics about what its members earn.

Generally speaking, the average income for a Guild member tends to work out to about $55,000 a year. (Or, more precisely--writers have a 55% chance of earning a median $100,000 per year, and a 45% chance of earning NOTHING. It's very much a feast or famine business. But when you average it out, it works out to about $55k per year.)

This s not a bad income, but it's definitely a middle-class income, rather than a Crazy Rich Hollywood Fantasy income. (Especially if you live in New York or LA, the first- and second-most expensive cities in the US.)

The guys who make the million-dollar screenplay sales get the headlines, but they are very much outliers. The WGA is a middle-class union, negotiating with multinational conglomerates.

(DISCLAIMER: I'm a WGA member so I've got an obvious bias, but I've tried to stick to objective, verifiable facts.)
posted by yankeefog at 10:38 AM on November 2, 2007 [10 favorites]


MythMaker: That the writers shouldn't strike because others have it worse of than them feels like a strawman. The issue is that writers aren't being appropriaely compensated for their work. If this is also the case for others in the industry then we should expect similar action from the unions representing them (assuming such unions exist which is another issue...).
posted by Reto at 10:39 AM on November 2, 2007


Although it looks to me like the writers have been getting fucked, and therefore their strike seems quite sound to me, MythMaker does make a point -- WGA (I presume) has the writers' backs, but will the unions of those affected in a collateral damage sort of way similarly compensate them if production ends up coming to a stop?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:41 AM on November 2, 2007


So… How's this gonna affect my Simpsons reruns?

(Actually, go writers. I'll go down to the pickets in Culver with some soup or something.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:43 AM on November 2, 2007


I was just going to echo Reto's point: no one's stopping the editors from going on strike to demand their fair compensation too! And since the unions in Hollywood tend to be very supportive of one another, I think having a more powerful WGA / SAG / DGA would actually benefit the editors, long term.

(Swap in any other creative and underappreciated Hollywood job title for "editor" in the sentence above, too.)
posted by Asparagirl at 10:43 AM on November 2, 2007


There is, it seems to me, something selfish about this whole strike.

And when steelworkers strike, it hurts automakers. Back in the day, when people were more conscious of the fundamental, unresolvable conflict between owner/boss and worker, there were concepts like the sympathy strike and even the general strike. There was a recognition that while sure, a strike could affect other workers as well, if it was the only effective weapon for a group of workers to get what they wanted, so be it. There was a consciousness that by not striking and therefore letting the bosses have what they want, you helped set the precedent that the bosses get whatever they want and the workers get screwed.

Is there fallout from striking? Of course. There was fallout from the Civil Rights movement and from the suffrage movements, and from every other movement that aimed at getting a class of people who were being fucked over the treatment they deserve. But claiming that the existence of that fallout makes the strikers "selfish" is nothing more than an argument against every strike and against every attempt for fucked-over people to get what they deserve.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:44 AM on November 2, 2007 [12 favorites]


Here's an article from Variety about how post-production facilities are getting ready for the strike and how it will affect them.

One quote:
A writers strike may benefit one tiny slice of the post-production community. Picture editors with writing experience are more in demand when reality TV and documentaries are hot. Freelance editor Stephanie Hubbard told Daily Variety that because of reality programming, "there's a slight advantage for editors who can write. It will put that gray area of editors who also write more in the spotlight."

In the end, though, it's not this strike that really puts fear in the hearts of the post community.

"The big one is going to happen when SAG strikes," said James Hardy, CEO of HTV Illuminate. "That's going to be the real blow to everybody, not just us. The dry cleaners, the restaurants. ... This is just a small little tremor before the big one."
posted by tittergrrl at 10:47 AM on November 2, 2007


Union? Yes! In a just world, scab writers will be blacklisted and sent back to work in the restaurants and bars where they belong.
posted by three blind mice at 10:47 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


It gets worse. Season 4 of BSG might also be split into two halves, the second of which wouldn't air until 2009.

Sweet fracking christ.

Why? Is it a production thing? Or when networks do this, does it gain them something (money?)? Or what? Why split a season like this (after pushing the damn thing back four months)?
posted by rtha at 10:54 AM on November 2, 2007


Reto: TV puts us all alone, in our own houses, generally watching a lot of shit because it's easy.

Plays force us to go and be in a place with a lot of other people, enjoying the same experience. Movies at least have a defined running time. There's not that many people who would sit and drool in front of movies for 9 or 10 hours a day without really meaning to. Also, they would be marketed at significantly less even if they did do that.

I knew someone was going to read that extra-broadly as "I hate all filmed entertainment." I do not. I do hate what the current format of television and the current television industry does to both the shows it does produce and our tv-soaked society in general.

TV, as we have it now, is bad for us. Sure, there are a number of shows I think are really good. There will probably be more. But even of those, there are extremely few that I don't think would have been better if they could have been produced outside the venal shitpile that is the tv industry.

If it makes you feel better, please add "write something that is meant to be performed live on a stage" or "write a movie" to my letter above. Either one would be loads better than writing for TV (and really, probably better than a magazine article too). Oh, or "write a radio drama." Add that too. Not nearly enough of that being done these days.

I'm just saying, try doing something that isn't quite so bad for all of us.
posted by rusty at 10:56 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Why? Is it a production thing? Or when networks do this, does it gain them something (money?)? Or what? Why split a season like this (after pushing the damn thing back four months)?

According to the article, the split would be because -- somehow! -- the scripting for the season has not been finished, and presumably won't be until the strike ends. Why the already-written episodes won't begin until April...no idea.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:56 AM on November 2, 2007


I'm just saying, try doing something that isn't quite so bad for all of us.

This is unfair. You can't single out a medium as particularly pernicious. Yes, many of us watch too much TV. Yes, most of television is total garbage. But you know, there are only a few shows I watch regularly, and when they're over? I turn off my television. It's easy.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:00 AM on November 2, 2007


GhostintheMachine, that is definitely true of movies, but actually I think TV writers/creators are way more recognized (especially among fans) than TV directors.

(Also, whoever said reality shows have no writers is kidding themselves! The America's Next Top Model writers all went on strike last year and then got fired. (I think their actual title was like "Story producer" or something, but they weren't represented by the PGA.) Also, watch The Hills and tell me that shit's not scripted.)
posted by SoftRain at 11:00 AM on November 2, 2007


rusty (and others), we're not just talking about TV writers here. It's movie and TV writers. Just thought that should be made clear.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:02 AM on November 2, 2007


Oh, and just in response to the "Who cares if screenwriters suck? They're all hacks" thing that sometimes gets thrown around...

I highly recommend reading Crap Plus One, an essay by screenwriter Terry Rossio, which talks about the many ways a perfectly good script can get massively screwed up after it leaves the writer's hands.

The fact is that, when a movie is great, you can assume everybody involved did a great job. When it's crappy, you can't tell who screwed it up, no matter how obvious it seems. If an actor gives a crappy performance, it might be the fault of the director--or even of the editor, who might have chosen the worst take from various scenes. And if the script seems bad, it might be because the star insisted on improvising, or the director blew all his budget on a pretty but unimportant scene and couldn't afford to shoot the one scene that would have made the whole film make sense.
posted by yankeefog at 11:07 AM on November 2, 2007 [12 favorites]


SoftRain, that is a good point. And some of those TV writers/creators I'm sure are using that recognition as leverage in any negotiations on feature films. More still needs to be done, and they need to be more aggressive about it overall, I think. Still, the days of the average movie viewer choosing a film because of its writer aren't here yet, and that's a shame.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:08 AM on November 2, 2007


This is unfair. You can't single out a medium as particularly pernicious. Yes, many of us watch too much TV. Yes, most of television is total garbage. But you know, there are only a few shows I watch regularly, and when they're over? I turn off my television. It's easy.

Seconding this. There's nothing inherent to the TV form that makes it bad- hell, watching TV is a pretty social event for me. See, I only watch a few shows- but they're all on the same channel right after another (NBC's Thursday night lineup, basically- The Office, My Name is Earl, and Scrubs). Every Thursday I go over to a friend's house, we cook dinner with his mom, and the three of us watch the shows we like. The problem isn't really that it's alienating, or that TV is uniformly crap. It's that a lot of TV is crap, and it's easy to use it in an alienating way.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on November 2, 2007


Rusty:

"TV puts us all alone, in our own houses, generally watching a lot of shit because it's easy."

...as opposed to books which put us out in public interacting with our neighbors right? I'm a fan of good writing, I could care less what medium it's presented in.

As to the rest -- telling writers to stop writing TV because "TV, as we have it now, is bad for us" us going to achieve what? TV without good writers certainly isn't going to get any better.

I'm no fan of the TV industry, but it seems to me that compensating writers better is a step in the right direction.

There's heaps of good stuff on TV, not nearly enough, but it's there nonetheless. Suggesting that writing for TV is doing something that's "bad for all of us" is ridiculous, I want to see *more* good writers in the TV industry not less. Less good writing is not the way to improve television.
posted by Reto at 11:11 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Oh, and just in response to the "Who cares if screenwriters suck? They're all hacks" thing..
Damn it. That should be, "...if screenwriters strike."

You know, when you're a writer, talking about the writers' strike, being unable to spell the word "strike" is just a little bit embarrassing.

Sorry about that.
posted by yankeefog at 11:12 AM on November 2, 2007


TV puts us all alone, in our own houses, generally watching a lot of shit because it's easy.

Because reading tends to be done in a communal environment, and rarely do people talk about what they are watching when it is on the television if they happen to be in groups of more than one. It is, as you put it.. just a lot of drooling.

Dear God, I hate this elitist attitude when it comes to television vs. other media. Especially books. I would wager to bet that there are as many easy, formulaic crap books as there are television shows. If not more. I know this because I walk into bookstores and see their wares.

It's not like no television is not gonna drive people to the works of Dickens and Proust, they'll just start reading the same sort of thing... just in book form.
posted by tittergrrl at 11:12 AM on November 2, 2007 [9 favorites]


Damn you Reto!
posted by tittergrrl at 11:12 AM on November 2, 2007


Argh.. wager to bet. Nice. Blah. Me need book read good fun sometimes now.
posted by tittergrrl at 11:14 AM on November 2, 2007


And if the script seems bad, it might be because the star insisted on improvising, or the director blew all his budget on a pretty but unimportant scene and couldn't afford to shoot the one scene that would have made the whole film make sense.

This is a really important issue and a reason why it's in the best interest of writers to not, as GhostintheMachine is advocating, constantly be publicizing themselves. There are a lot of projects that I'm sure a writer - even a great writer - would want to wash their hands of after it is butchered by producers and directors. That's part of the deal with writers. They write the screenplay/teleplay, are paid well when their services are needed, and then they let their little creation go. If they wish to exert more control, they can attempt to become a producer or director and fight for their ideas. Many writers are too busy working on their next script, though. The answer isn't to publicize themselves more (though I'm sure most are pretty good at publicizing themselves to agents/producers/etc. in Hollywood) but rather to work hard and turn out good material. The strike is in essence saying, we'll keep on doing our part here, but you got to give us our due.
posted by billysumday at 11:15 AM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm in the Editor's Guild, and they actually sent out an email saying that we had to cross the picket lines to go to work, that we could be replaced if we didn't.

(And, by the way, I'd love to get residuals. My wife's an actress, and it's fun to get checks in the mail with free money in them.)

Here's the letter:

OPEN LETTER TO ALL IATSE MEMBERS AND LOCALS
ENGAGED IN MOTION PICTURE AND TELEVISION PRODUCTION.

FROM THOMAS C. SHORT, INTERNATIONAL PRESIDENT

As you are aware, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is currently in negotiations for a successor contract to the current agreement that expires on October 31, 2007. While the IATSE remains hopeful that a new agreement can be reached between the WGA and the Employers, there is a potential for a work stoppage.

The IATSE has over 50,000 members in two countries engaged in motion picture and television production. Any work stoppage may have a profound and long-lasting impact on you and your families.

The IATSE contracts contain provisions that require us to continue to honor our contracts. These "no strike" provisions require the IATSE to notify our members of their obligation to honor these contracts and continue working. Any individual member who chooses to honor any picket line is subject to permanent replacement.

It is important for each IATSE member to be aware of their contractual obligation as well as the potential impact on them personally if they choose to not cross and are replaced. Contact your local union with any questions regarding this potential labor dispute.



So, while the writers are going to be striking, the rest of us have to go to work or lose our jobs.
posted by MythMaker at 11:18 AM on November 2, 2007


Metafilter Towers jumped the shark when they killed off ParisParasmus.

I thought it was when they brought in the lovable but precocious tkchrist to replace the puberty pushingRobo-cop is Bleeding after he finally got his boobies?

BTW. Writers. I support you 100%.

STICK IT TO THE MAN!
posted by tkchrist at 11:25 AM on November 2, 2007


Amen to Reto and tittergirl. Have you seen most of the plays and one-man shows that are out there? Have you looked at most of the books or movies? 90% of everything is crap. TV's no worse than anything else, and in some cases, it's really great.

Yeah, some people leave any old crap on just to have noise in the house. So what? Their loss. You think they'd be out becoming Rhodes scholars or something otherwise?
posted by designbot at 11:28 AM on November 2, 2007


I can't find the fascinating interview I read with the with the America's Next Top Model recapper for television without pity-turned ANTM employee-turned striker, but here is an article about their strike (and reality tv vs. writers).

As television seems to be moving towards producing/selling content for so many new mediums, the time to strike is definitely now. I just hope the fancy-pants writers visibly support the strike next week (I'm looking at you, Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey).

Good luck, WGA.
posted by armacy at 11:39 AM on November 2, 2007


One added wrinkle to this is that most screenwriters (like me) are used to feast or famine. We know in any given year we could earn anything between $0 and $1 million. (Just for the record, I've never earned either of those numbers). So we tend to have at least a year's worth of money squirrelled away in case of a dry spell. We are not terrified of the prospect of not working for a year because we live with that prospect anyway.

Furthermore while we are 'striking' we are actually creating value in terms of writing specs and novels, or turning our hands to other crafts or working for other territories or media. I have actually felt an enormous sense of liberation in the last week as I realized I can now write some serious stuff without a fucking producer breathing down my neck trying to get me to *cough* improve *cough* it.
posted by unSane at 11:40 AM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


I thought it was when they brought in the lovable but precocious tkchrist to replace the puberty pushingRobo-cop is Bleeding after he finally got his boobies?

You're just jealous that I got my own spin-off.

And a Maxim spread.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:45 AM on November 2, 2007


There are a lot of projects that I'm sure a writer - even a great writer - would want to wash their hands of...

Are you serious? That's your justification? There are a lot of projects that I'm sure an actor or a director or a producer - even great ones - would want to wash their hands of as well. But they don't (yeah, Alan Smithee, blah blah blah). And why is that? Because there's a value in getting your name out there even when it's on crap, and the blowback from crap is quickly forgiven when the next rose is produced. But obscurity lasts forever.

What you're advocating is the complete opposite of what you're suggesting, when you think about it. If writers are merely handing over a script to the producers, they damned well better not expect anything other than a one-time buyout, the same way the lighting guys, the makeup artists and costumers and other elements are compensated. If they deserve to be continually compensated in the same way as the directors, actors, and producers, then they have to have the same stake in the finished product as those people have.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2007


I have actually felt an enormous sense of liberation in the last week as I realized I can now write some serious stuff without a fucking producer breathing down my neck trying to get me to *cough* improve *cough* it.

Eighteen months later:

Wetly, She Stalks the Night
(A Novel of Vamperotic Tension)

posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:54 AM on November 2, 2007 [6 favorites]


Armacy - they weren't really writers. They were "story editors."

I discussed it here in the old thread about Top Model.

And the issue was more complicated than this article made it out to be. Top Model is actually a union show. The editors are Editor's Guild, the director is DGA, etc.

The issue is that these people weren't "writing" the show, they were doing paper cuts. The Editor's Guild claims that they are editors without avids, and that *they* should have jurisdiction.

So, part of what happened was a jurisdictional issue.

Now, it's the editors who picked up the slack and are doing the work that the former story editors were doing.

By the way, their job title was never "writer," and they weren't actually writing anything. They were deciding on the order that pre-existing pieces of footage should go - which is what editors do.

This is part of the difficulty of the whole situation.
posted by MythMaker at 11:56 AM on November 2, 2007


Ari Emanuel on the strike. Also, I have a friend who is a strike captain. So.. VIVA LA REVOLUCION!!
posted by phaedon at 12:03 PM on November 2, 2007


Reading all the press about this -- it seems that many people do not realize how bad this strike could/will be beyond the borders of Los Angeles and will reach far beyond writers and studios. So many jobs/industries will be affected.

Why be glib when this country's top export industry grinds to a halt?
posted by jca at 12:06 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Editors are woefully under appreciated MythMaker. I don't think the average person out there realize how much of a movie or a show is totally dependent on an editors skill.

I would love to do that for a living, and I'm envious of your job. (Though I don't envy the position you find yourself in. That really sucks, sorry.)

rusty : I'm just saying, try doing something that isn't quite so bad for all of us.

I know others have already spoken to this, but I don't see why there is this inherent assumption that TV is 'bad' for you.

It's a medium, not a message. It can show you great and awful things, it all depends on what you choose to watch.
posted by quin at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2007 [3 favorites]


robocop is bleeding, your House script vexes me. You have forgotted the most importantest part of any House episode. If I may...

...
PATIENT: I have blood from my nose that is dripping.
CAMERON: That's bad!
HOUSE: Puncture his lumbar!
FOREMAN: No! Its juice will leak! All lumbars need lumbar juice!
HOUSE: I say puncture his lumbar! I need his sweet lumbar juice for my leg, which is ouchy!
FOREMAN: [punctures lumbar]
HOUSE: [scowls at vial of lumbar juice] There are mice in this lumbar juice! I do not want it now! [Throws lumbar juice to the ground and glares] Also, I am high on goofballs!
PATIENT: Also I was bitten by mice due to my poor hygiene.
CUTTY: You need hygiene drug. Also, I have not spoken in awhile.
...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


I don’t have much use for t.v. But I very much suspect it’s not the fault of the writers that most t.v. sux. Without writers it’s pretty much good looking people egotisticaly preening themselves while being shot through interesting camera angles.
...which, really, is most of t.v.

Some things might go awry, but if your source material is poor, I doubt anyone can make it look great.
Similarly - even with excellent source material, some folks find ways to screw that up.
I watched “Primer” a bit ago - really lousy production, the acting wasn’t that good, etc. but the story is so damned interesting it’s one of my favorite movies.
There are some bits of direction or acting that are so sublime they make a piece worth watching despite it’s story flaws (”The Aviator” comes to mind) but that’s pretty rare.
I can forgive a load of shoddy garbage if the story is good (hell, pretty much all of the Doctor Who series success is based on that)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:12 PM on November 2, 2007


I just hope the fancy-pants writers visibly support the strike next week (I'm looking at you, Sarah Silverman and Tina Fey).

WGA ad listing showrunners who will honor the strike. [via] Tina Fey is on the list.
posted by Tehanu at 12:14 PM on November 2, 2007


Thank you quin. It certainly is true that we can be underappreciated (where's my residuals?! ;) but I think some of that is that people don't really understand how editing works until they've sat in an edit bay for awhile. I think most people think that things are shot, and then, magically, you have a film.

With everything, but particularly with documentary and reality, the editor is one of the most primary storytellers, with the writer, and director. In fact, there's a saying that goes something like this - a movie is written 3 times, the first by the screenwriter, the second by the director when the film is shot, and the final time by the editor.

Anyway, I'm all for the writers getting paid for their work, I really am. I just think it's selfish to hurt the rest of the industry.
posted by MythMaker at 12:25 PM on November 2, 2007


I'm sorry this isn't really getting across. It's not a simple point, and I'm not doing a very good job of making it, but I think it's an important one, so I guess I'll keep trying.

I'm not trying to be elitist here. I'm not really even saying TV is inherently bad, although it, as a medium, has a combination of characteristics that makes it exceptionally hard for it not to be bad.

What I'm trying to say is that TV is bad for us because of several things about it that act together.

1) You watch TV (largely) alone. Sure, you also read books alone, but books make you use your imagination. TV does not. TV largely cauterizes the imagination.

2) TV is all-absorbing. You can't really do anything else and also watch TV. TV tends to displace other activities, rather than suplementing them, like radio.

3) TV, as we have it now, is formatted in such a way as to prevent it from telling stories that are very complex. Most of the time, you have one hour, minus 15-20 minutes for commercials, to tell a complete story. Series' can draw out a larger arc of story, which is one of the things TV can do that no other media can in quite the same way. And when it is done well, it's great. But wouldn't it be so much better if the episodes didn't have to be just one hour? Or chopped up by commercials so most of each episode is repeating what happened before the last commercial to catch up? What I'm saying is, the one really powerful positive thing about TV is mostly suppressed by the structure we've imposed on the medium.

4) TV is 1/4 to 1/3 advertising. And as an advertising medium, it's extremely powerful. I would say dangerously powerful. I have no trouble observing that its power as an advertising medium has severely warped the US, if not most of the industrial world. It has certainly badly, if not fatally, warped our political system.

5) TV never ends. Some people watch a couple shows and turn it off. But most people do not. Most people watch whatever crap comes on next because it's much easier than doing anything else. This is probably a flaw in human nature, that we're kind of lazy, but it's a flaw that is dreadfully magnified by TV. Look at the stats. People in the US watch a really crazy amount of TV. Doing anything for the amount of time we spend watching TV is not good for you.

6) TV, like (another well written character) Homer Simpson says about alcohol, is both the cause of, and solution to, a lot of people's problems. It makes you lonely and then soothes your loneliness. It makes you scared of the world and then keeps you inside, where it's safe, with your TV. TV is patently an addictive activity. It's such a widespread addiction that most people can't even think of it that way.

So, what I'm trying to say is, TV is bad for us for a bunch of reasons combined. You can cherry pick any one or two of them and find that characteristic in some other medium, or activity. But not all of them.

Anyway, this is pretty far afield from the writer's strike. And I did mean it -- I support labor, and I hope they get what they're striking for. But I also hope some of them look at what they do for a living in a different light, now or sometime. I would say the same to anyone else in the industry too -- I just think writers have a particular opportunity to go on and do something really great. Whereas gaffers, maybe not so much.
posted by rusty at 12:37 PM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Rusty, have you read Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television? It makes a case related to the one you're making.
posted by MythMaker at 12:49 PM on November 2, 2007


Anyway, I'm all for the writers getting paid for their work, I really am. I just think it's selfish to hurt the rest of the industry.

And when the only way the writers can get paid properly for their work is to hurt the rest of the industry, do you believe that the industry should be hurt or that the writers should not be properly paid?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:03 PM on November 2, 2007


MythMaker: no, I haven't. I suppose I should, if I'm going to go around being that guy.

I never meant to be that guy. Sorry.
posted by rusty at 1:05 PM on November 2, 2007


Bloody whiners. Back in the day, we wrote MetaFilter Towers for nothing.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 1:17 PM on November 2, 2007


Here's a nutty idea: Why doesn't the writers' guild join forces with the actors' guild, the directors' guild, etc? They're all in the same business; they answer to the same people. So...?
posted by Reggie Digest at 1:17 PM on November 2, 2007


Geez, rusty. You've let us all down.
posted by everichon at 1:19 PM on November 2, 2007


'ello. My name is Billy Bragg. I've been asked to strum my guitar and lend my authentic British working-class accent to helping you understand the plight of the California Cultural Worker. Over 'ere is the typical environment of one especially oppressed creative labourer: the television writer. One table, poorly maintained - look here, the donuts are from yesterday, some with nibbles out of them - to be shared by six grown men, one of whom doesn't shower every day. Where is the dignity of the private space, the cube of your own to decorate with your special collection of Tiki bar swizzle sticks? Look at these drab walls, the soul-sucking institutional pallor of this workplace. This isn't the California you see watching porn movies, that magical land of soaring ceilings, modern art and a pool on a hill overlooking the city. No, that's where you'll find those grabbing bastards, the bosses, fat cats plowing lines with No Limit Gold Cards made off the sweat of the labour of little people like Corey here.

Corey came to this land seeking a better life for himself, one where the strippers wouldn't take his money then ignore him. He only hopes he can earn enough after rent, car payments, gas burned over a 75 minute commute, gym membership, protein supplements, video game purchases, magazine subscriptions, Starbucks runs, crazy weekends, paintball fees and child support to be able to have enough left to send some home, in the form of a nice present at Christmas, to his divorced mother, a hardworking school teacher in a scenic Eastern state. Corey has six years seniority in the writing trade. He served two years apprenticeship as a migrant comedy worker in dark, hellish, unorganized clubs, where he endured heckling without representation. Corey drives a eight year old Honda Accord on roads where a 760i or an Escalade is the basic standard. Some mornings Corey notices the amount of hair left in his comb, asks himself how much longer he'll be accepted sitting around the table riffing Paris Hilton jokes, and wonders if he has an adequate pension. Just last weekend he was certain he was in at closing time with a psych/English lit student from UCLA before she was scooped from his grasp by some fancy adopted stepson of the executive producer of Judge Joe Brown. No respect for the working man. We ask for your solidarity with Corey, his brothers and sisters. Boycott mindless entertainment now. There is power in a Union.
posted by TimTypeZed at 1:25 PM on November 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


Dear Shakespeare,

I want to suggest that you take an opportunity to write something that is not for the stage. Write a novel. Write a short story.

But write something that is meant to be read.


Dear Reto,

Interesting idea. Maybe I'll write a sonnet or 150. Will that satisfy you?

Your pal,
Bill S.

Yeah, I get and even agree with the point you're making, but you could have chosen a better example.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:29 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's a nutty idea: Why doesn't the writers' guild join forces with the actors' guild, the directors' guild, etc? They're all in the same business; they answer to the same people. So...?

The other two's contracts aren't up yet. They will be in June, where people are expecting a similar thing to happen. Could be a perfect storm.
posted by tittergrrl at 1:30 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Here's a nutty idea: Why doesn't the writers' guild join forces with the actors' guild, the directors' guild, etc? They're all in the same business; they answer to the same people. So...?

So ... these three groups of people are often fundamentally at odds with one another when the credits are doled out and the profits are sliced up. An actor improvs a line on the set. Is he a writer now? A director re-works a line. Is he a writer now?

Get ready for more reality shows. Whoo-hoo. As someone said above, time for me to start making heavy use of Netflix and videogames.

Silly union bullshit. People talk about union-busting. Most often, it's the unions doing it to themselves, and largely out of a sheer inability to organize and negotiate effectively.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:32 PM on November 2, 2007


Pope Guilty -

Well, without getting into specifics, it's all about residuals. Since I'm with the majority of the people who work in entertainment who don't earn residuals at all, whether they make $.03 or $.06 per DVD doesn't effect me at all.

Plus, to quote the article by Ari Emmanuel linked earlier,

the effect of the change in residuals from DVDs and New Media they are seeking will not rise to the level of revenue they are asking for - or what the strike is going to cost the Guild's active members. Once again, the eventual cost of a strike will exceed the financial gain being sought.

Plus, all of the industry unions tie in together for pension and health care, so this means that less money is going into the pension budget for all the rest of us.

When the WGA stuck in 1988, it cost the industry 500 million dollars. It is going to be more this time.

It seems to me like diminishing returns. Yes, they'll get a tiny bit more in ancillary markets, but at what cost? And the rest of us, the non-writers, get no benefit from that cost.
posted by MythMaker at 1:38 PM on November 2, 2007


People will finally realize that Stewart and Colbert are only as funny as their writers. I swear most people I query on this think they write their own shit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:50 PM on November 2, 2007


This isn't even so much about compensation today, it's about securing the financial future of WGA members. In the very near future, electronic distribution will be the norm, not an alternative. WGA writers must have a clear agreement with studios to ensure that they are paid appropriately, or they will be royally screwed when direct-to-web video becomes the standard. Failing to adjust to the changing distribution model for motion pictures would be colossally stupid, thank goodness the WGA is smart enough to see which way the wind is blowing.

As for royalties, of course the writers deserve royalties. There is no one more important to the success of any performance than the writer. You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear; you need a good script or you've got nothing. That's not to say that there are not bad screenplays and bad screenwriters, but there are many good screenplays that get turned into bad ones by producers, etc.

Full disclaimer: I am a writer by trade, but not WGA.

Go writers!
posted by Mister_A at 1:54 PM on November 2, 2007


from the AMPTP website:
The AMPTP, the entertainment industry's official collective bargaining representative, negotiates 80 industry-wide collective bargaining agreements on behalf of over 350 motion picture and television producers (member companies include studios, broadcast networks, certain cable networks and independent producers).

Only 6* of the 350 really count, since the "independent producer" who is not contracted to a studio/network is now EXTINCT in television (the last one was sitcom makers Carsey/Werner) and most of the people behind the 'vanity card' production companies are on the list of showrunners in solidarity with the writers. So PLEASE don't call them "The Producers"; they are The Entertainment Business Megacorporations Who Also Run the MPAA and RIAA. With their fingers in every media pie, they wouldn't shed a tear for network TV to die out and be replaced with new media for which they wouldn't have to pay one penny in residuals to the creatives.

"I just think it's selfish to hurt the rest of the industry." I think it's damn near heroic. Ari Emmanuel is a tool; the time the writers DIDN'T strike and settled for the current "DVD" rate has cost them more than any strike. If writers or any other Hollywood creatives are going to have any share of the future value of their works, the AMPTP has to be broken, NOT the unions.

*Disney/ABC, Newscorp/Fox, NBC/Universal, CBS/Viacom**, Sony, TimeWarner
**officially split into two corporations with the same CEO and 90% common ownership

posted by wendell at 1:55 PM on November 2, 2007 [4 favorites]


You're just jealous that I got my own spin-off.

True.

I'm personally looking forward to the downward spiral of infomercials and then being spat out at the bottom of the German Erotischer Scheiße-Bildschirm market.

I hope I get to work with Corey Haim again!
posted by tkchrist at 2:03 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


disclaimer: I am a non-WGA writer and everything I have ever written for pay was "work for hire" with no residuals. Which I don't mind because most of what I've written has had a pretty short 'shelf life'.
posted by wendell at 2:03 PM on November 2, 2007


The reasons the WGA didn't wait for SAG and DGA to go out too are as follows:

1. The DGA are not reliable partners in a strike. No reflection on them, just a different membership and different issues. They are likely to cut a deal on residuals which would be unacceptable to the WGA, but would set a precedent.

2. SAG will strike but their contract isn't up til the middle of the year. Therefore the studios would have the chance to stockpile scripts for six months.

3. Striking at the beginning of a new TV season is much more painful for the networks than striking just before the summer lull.

4. The studios are in a rush to get a bunch of movies made before the possible actors' strike... these movies need to be rewritten in the next six months. If there are no writers, then they have to be perfect *now*. They aren't, needless to say, which is going to make for some big production headaches (no studio likes to lay down $100m on a movie they know isn't right... but without product they are screwed).
posted by unSane at 2:04 PM on November 2, 2007


PS. I was IATSE back in the day when I was a grip.

The Union that literally drove us OUT of work.

Thanks union!
posted by tkchrist at 2:05 PM on November 2, 2007


Mister_A -

There is no one more important to the success of any performance than the writer.

Well, that's a writer's POV. What about improv? What about reality? What about documentary? It is possible to make moving pictures without a screenwriter.

Birth of a Nation supposedly was shot without a screenplay. They say that John Huston carried around a copy of the book while shooting Maltese Falcon.

I have nothing against the writers getting paid, and I certainly think they should get paid for the Internet (which, frankly, seems like a bigger deal than the DVD residuals). But films are a collaborative artform, and a whole lot of people contribute creatively to the final product, not just writers. To say that the writer is the single most important person is as bad as the whole auteur theory that says that the director is the single most important person.

It's a collaboration. There are a whole bunch of most important people.
posted by MythMaker at 2:10 PM on November 2, 2007


And my performance on MetaFilter Towers was under a standard 7-year contract when the series started and my agent renegotiated a sweet deal, which includes the "end well/wendell" meme and at least two MetaTalk kerfuffles per year.
posted by wendell at 2:10 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I highly recommend reading Crap Plus One, an essay by screenwriter Terry Rossio, which talks about the many ways a perfectly good script can get massively screwed up after it leaves the writer's hands.

But it cuts both ways--if the average viewer has no way of knowing who's responsible for what appears to be a bad script, then he also has no way of knowing who's responsible for what appears to be a good script. If you can't blame the credited writer for a bad script-as-filmed (because maybe it was the re-writer or the director or the producer who screwed it up), you equally can't praise the credited writer for a good script-as-filmed (maybe it was the re-writer or the director or the producer who salvaged it).
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:28 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


It's official, comrades. STRIKE IS ON, BITCHES!!
posted by phaedon at 2:30 PM on November 2, 2007


*wanders into lobby of MetaFilter Tower 2, rings bell*

Hello...?
posted by everichon at 2:32 PM on November 2, 2007


fourcheesemac : People will finally realize that Stewart and Colbert are only as funny as their writers. I swear most people I query on this think they write their own shit.

Really? I can see Colbert, maybe. But Stewart is always breaking the fourth wall and revealing how they put the jokes together.
posted by quin at 2:40 PM on November 2, 2007


2) TV is all-absorbing. You can't really do anything else and also watch TV. TV tends to displace other activities, rather than suplementing them, like radio.

Interesting. Because I can - and do - read while watching TV, but I can't read while listening to the radio (at least, if it's talking-radio, like NPR or TAL).
posted by rtha at 2:55 PM on November 2, 2007


mythmaker, you interpreted what I said. You quoted it correctly:

There is no one more important to the success of any performance than the writer.

But you interpreted it to mean, "the writer is the single most important piece of the collaborative puzzle". That is not my point at all, I meant that the contribution of the writer is given short shrift next to the contribution of the director and the talent.

The examples you cite are outliers, except for the case of documentaries, many of which, as you know, are almost wholly the creations of their editors.

And when I said "any performance", of course I was referring to any motion picture performance; I did not think it was necessary to specify given the context.

You are incorrect.
posted by Mister_A at 3:07 PM on November 2, 2007


*MISinterpreted*

ach.
posted by Mister_A at 3:08 PM on November 2, 2007


Mister_A -

Well, I apologize if I misinterpreted you. And it is certainly true that writers are undervalued in Hollywood, and often seen as disposable.

But I don't see reality or improv as outliers. They both are pretty significant, and reality is only growing and taking market share away from scripted TV (which I think is a shame). That's part of why the WGA keeps trying to organize reality TV. But because there is many fewer people actually doing what is traditionally thought of as "writing," i.e. making up the words that come out of people's mouths, they are having problems.

In fact, WGA rules make it difficult to credit improv movies properly. One or two people get credited as "writer" when they are really only writing a scenario. A "story by" credit would be more appropriate.

But I do agree with you that writers are often undervalued. Frankly, it is often the case that actors and directors are overvalued.
posted by MythMaker at 3:41 PM on November 2, 2007


GRIFFIN

I was just thinking what an interesting concept it is to eliminate the writer from the artistic process. If we could just get rid of these actors and directors, maybe we've got something here.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:48 PM on November 2, 2007


Just try to name a writer, any writer, in Hollywood who is famous as a writer, and not as a writer/director, writer/producer, or the like.

Lem Dobbs

Carole Eastman (aka Adrian Joyce)

Andrew Kevin Walker

Budd Schulberg (see his great novel WHY DOES SAMMY RUN? for a semi-fictionalized version of the organization of the Writers Guild and Hollywood of the thirties.)

Richard Price
posted by cinemafiend at 3:52 PM on November 2, 2007


quin: It's a medium, not a message.

Well, that's sort of daft to say in 2007, what with clearly articulated media theory from 1964 and studies that back up that assertion, like here, or here, but the easiest place to start would be here, which is a very readable survey of how TV as a medium--regardless of what's on it--affects us all. The effects of the medium can be positive or negative, but to say that the medium itself doesn't matter is mistaken.

Also, rusty, as MythMaker mentioned, there are some terrific books that discuss in great detail exactly what you're getting after (I heartily recommend the Postman in my last link above). But I still loves me some TV--I just try to be aware of the effects it can have, and not overindulge.

On topic, go union!
posted by LooseFilter at 4:04 PM on November 2, 2007


Rusty - you're, not to put too fine a point on it, wrong.

1) You watch TV (largely) alone. Sure, you also read books alone, but books make you use your imagination. TV does not. TV largely cauterizes the imagination.

Crap. This might be true for older folks but I don't believe it true for folks my age or younger. That books make you use your imagination but TV destroys it nothing but a baseless claim you're making here, and one I reject.

2) TV is all-absorbing. You can't really do anything else and also watch TV. TV tends to displace other activities, rather than suplementing them, like radio.

Even more obviously crap than point 1. I, and most people I know, do exactly what you are saying is impossible here. Use TV to supplement activities. What, is this 1955 where everyone sits down with a TV dinner in front of a glowing glass teat?

3) TV, as we have it now, is formatted in such a way as to prevent it from telling stories that are very complex.

Ennnh. You say this and then in the following sentences completely make my point. The stories are told over the course of seasons. And you admit that some TV does tell complex stories. I'm gonna let you in on a secret; most novels, particularly bestsellers, don't tell complex stories. They tell very simple stories. Don't compare "most" TV to the best novels, that's not a fair comparison.

4) TV is 1/4 to 1/3 advertising.

Still stuck in 1955? I don't recall a single commercial last time I watched HBO original programming. And the commercials on network TV - a shrinking market - are made to be fast-forwarded through.

5) TV never ends. Some people watch a couple shows and turn it off. But most people do not.

This is not a knock on the quality of TV shows only on how people watch them. If kids are watching too much TV, that is the fault of their parents not of the TV.

6) TV is patently an addictive activity.

Not nearly as addictive as the internet. Why aren't you railing against Metafilter or Facebook or instant messenging programs?


You seem to be suck in an old mindset with your image of TV that of a 1950's family all gathered around staring at a scary glowing screen like slack-jawed zombies. Things have changed. And many of your objections have nothing to do with TV in and of itself but rather with bad parenting or whatever.
posted by Justinian at 4:30 PM on November 2, 2007 [5 favorites]


GhostInTheMachine: Just try to name a writer, any writer, in Hollywood who is famous as a writer, and not as a writer/director, writer/producer, or the like.

Chris Carter. Joss Whedon. Dick Wolf. Aaron Sorkin. David Chase. David Milch.

Theater is an actors' medium. Film is a directors' medium. But television is a writers' medium, and the age of the "name" writer was probably born with Stephen J. Cannell. Bocchco followed, and so it grew until people like Carter and Sorkin wound up on late-night talk shows as guests, just like actors and directors.

We'll see how it goes from here, but as for your question, Ghost, as Dick Wolf has written many a time - "asked and answered."
posted by tzikeh at 4:36 PM on November 2, 2007 [2 favorites]


Hollywood bookkeeping is notorious for being bent, blockbuster movies that never turn a profit being the most common example I've heard about. I've always wondered, has there ever been a serious IRS query into this? I would have to think that there are bureaucratic careers to be made that way, and yet, the nonsense, it would appear, still goes on. I understand why writers do nothing about it, but the government, that's another matter.

So do all gov't auditors in LA have scripts they want to sell? Is Washington in financial thrall to the industry, or scared of attack adds come election season? Why do we not see studio execs in the dock for accounting nonsense?

Any insight on this phenomenon would be welcome.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:02 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


All this "House" hate makes me sad, and now moths from Madascagar will fly into my bedroom and sip my tears as I sleep.

DAMN YUO, METAFILTER!!!




PS: Ouchy legs? Vexation? It's probably lupus.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 6:23 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Justinian - you're, not to put too fine a point on it, wrong.

That's about all you said there to me, so right back atcha. I was -21 in 1955, so don't pull this grandpa shit on me. The parts of my comment you didn't misread you simply misunderstood.

I feel good about what I said up there, so I'm not going to continue spelling it out. I'll clarify one point for you though: the internet, while people do sometimes go overboard on it, is active and involves a lot of imagination, what with the reading, the contributing, the choosing what to read or watch or listen to next. It is the media antithesis of TV.
posted by rusty at 6:51 PM on November 2, 2007


PS LooseFilter: Neil Postman always rings twice. :-)
posted by rusty at 6:53 PM on November 2, 2007


The fundamental error you're making, rusty, is asserting that TV has to be nothing but a passive imagination crusher in a way that reading a book is not. This doesn't match my experience at all.

And I say that as someone who reads for pleasure every day and a book collector.
posted by Justinian at 7:20 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


Metafilter Towers jumped the shark when they killed off ParisParasmus.

Maybe, but the old episode where that one guy cut off his hand was the shit.
posted by the_bone at 7:48 PM on November 2, 2007 [1 favorite]


I want my hand back by the way.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:38 PM on November 2, 2007


They wrote me out of season two of Metafilter Towers almost entirely! I'm still miffed about that, but at least I'm a semi-regular now. Much too soft and cuddly tho. Back in season one I was The Big Bad. Okay. I thought I was. Nowadays the writers give everyone else way too much face time. Our cast is too big. Why is all my best stuff on the cutting room floor every week? I might as well be saying "Hailing frequencies open, captain" for all the good it does me. My spinoff got cancelled in mid-season and nobody told me! What is it? Me and Daffy Duck have the same agent?!
posted by ZachsMind at 8:51 PM on November 2, 2007


Don't tell me this means that Lost is going to take even longer to finish.
posted by zardoz at 8:55 PM on November 2, 2007


Don't tell me this means that Lost is going to take even longer to finish.

It's not supposed to finish until 2010 anyway... It likely means season four will start later than originally planned - or some episodes from season four will get pushed back to the 08/09 season.

According to this, the show has produced 8 out of the 16 episodes for Season Four already.
posted by crossoverman at 9:17 PM on November 2, 2007


mullacc: "Does this mean we're in for something worse than reality television?" LOLcats Live.

Sadly, it can't be far off.
posted by robcorr at 9:33 PM on November 2, 2007


People will finally realize that Stewart and Colbert are only as funny as their writers. I swear most people I query on this think they write their own shit.

Uh, Stewart and Colbert are writers on their own shows. Their shows are shutting down for the strike. Stewart said as much on Thursday's show.
posted by sparkletone at 10:38 PM on November 2, 2007


PS: Ouchy legs? Vexation? It's probably lupus.

It's not lupus! Now go break into Patient's house and catch mice.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:55 AM on November 3, 2007


Television doesn't inspire imagination? Have you ever read or heard of fan-fiction? Or ever read what the creative minds at Television Without Pity, both the recappers and in the forums, can come up with, even when it involves the most banal of reality shows? Or the millions of what-ifs that followed the Sopranos finale? Or seen the endless speculation over the latest enigmatic development on Lost, Heroes, or Battlestar Galactica? Speculation that often ends up being much more creative than what the show's writers ultimately create in the later episodes.

Which also shows how participatory the medium can be beyond just the gathering of friends around the set.
posted by pandaharma at 6:30 AM on November 3, 2007


fourcheesemac : People will finally realize that Stewart and Colbert are only as funny as their writers. I swear most people I query on this think they write their own shit.

Really? I can see Colbert, maybe. But Stewart is always breaking the fourth wall and revealing how they put the jokes together.

Indeed, these if these people who watch the Daily Show and The Colbert Report don't know that Colbert and Stewart work together with a team of writers then these people don't really pay much attention to what they're watching. Colbert, just the other day even specified how many writers he has for the show, 13.
posted by juiceCake at 7:07 AM on November 3, 2007


Even more obviously crap than point 1. I, and most people I know, do exactly what you are saying is impossible here. Use TV to supplement activities. What, is this 1955 where everyone sits down with a TV dinner in front of a glowing glass teat?

Thanks for making my point for me.

I can unload the dishwasher and watch TV. I cannot unload the dishwasher and surf the internets.

The problem with rusty's arguments is that he's comparing all TV to some sort of Great Books version of books. My wife reads 150 books a year and then comments on all of them on her blog. Of the 110+ she's read so far this year, she's "meh" on about 50 of them.

We barely watch TV anymore. Most of what we watch is toddler-aimed shows, Stewart, Colbert, and random shows off TiVo. We've learned to turn off the TV if we're not watching anything interesting.

I talked to a couple of researchers into kids and TV last year and asked them point-blank if Dora was ruining my toddler. And they said no, because we were choosing good shows and being measured about what she does/doesn't watch.

And that's the case with all media, really. Music critics bitch about the latest manufactured pop idol, PMRC-types complain about violence in rap music, and the crusaders play Marilyn Manson records backwards to prove he's telling kids to massacre their schools.

Heck, once upon a time novels were BAAAD things to read because they stirred up feelings in virginal women and disturbed the humors.

Television, in itself, is not bad. It's a content delivery device, just like paper or TCP/IP protocols. But too much TV is probably bad for you. Letting TV control your life is bad for you.

But watching an episode of Dog The Bounty Hunter or Men In Trees because you're in the mood for something to assuage your tired brain? No different from reading a bodice ripper or a mystery. No different from listening to Jack Johnson. And there are good bodice rippers, there are good mysteries, and I think Jack Johnson has possibly recorded one song that doesn't make me feel like I'm trapped in a Starbucks.

Humans want stories. We learn from stories. There is nothing wrong with telling stories, and there is certainly nothing wrong, prima facie, with TV telling those stories.

The WGA folks are just trying to make a living. And I'll for the strike. About time they got a bigger cut of the DVD pie.
posted by dw at 11:44 AM on November 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


it's amazing how basically the only people who suck more than the -- mostly untalented, spectacularly venal, morally and artistically corrupt -- Hollywood writers are their unspeakably greedy bosses.

One is then forced to root for them the same way one would root, say, for Hillary if the Republicans nominate, well, anybody.
posted by matteo at 1:47 PM on November 3, 2007


One is then forced to root for them the same way one would root, say, for Hillary if the Republicans nominate, well, anybody.

It's a matter of principle. Some tool who writes for "Men in Trees" (who maybe isn't a tool at all, but simply a guy who's trying to make a living) is as entitled to his share of that money as anyone else who worked to put that show out there. Whether that show is worth a damn is not a related question.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:23 PM on November 3, 2007


One is then forced to root for them the same way one would root, say, for Hillary if the Republicans nominate, well, anybody.

As kittens for breakfast already kind of got at... While I'm sure there are plenty of writers working in television and movies that are all the pejoratives you mention...

Is it really so hard to believe that there are good people involved in making bad art because they need to feed the kids like everyone else?
posted by sparkletone at 3:58 PM on November 3, 2007


As a television writer, I don't want to go and "do something else." I love writing for TV. I'm proud of the majority of the work I've done in television. And I'm one of those people who works in TV yet is not a "fat cat." I'm one of those middle-class writers that people seem to believe do not exist. Sure, I've had a year or two where I made $100,000; I've had many more years in which I've made less than $20,000.

So it's actually quite depressing to hear people here calling people like me greedy, overpaid and selfish. I love what I do for a living, and I think that if I CREATE something that the studios then make zillions of dollars off, I should get a piece of the profits generated from what I CREATED. How is that selfish?

And yes, people are going to lose work because we're striking. The same people who HAVE work because of the scripts we write.

Anyway, I'll be out on the picket line come Monday, and I'll be freaking out about just how long I can continue to pay the rent while this strike goes on. I have not had a good year, and I've just had to abandon a script that didn't get finished in time to beat the deadline. But I guess that for some people here, that's okay: that script was somehow going to undermine our otherwise fine society anyway.
posted by OolooKitty at 6:24 PM on November 3, 2007 [7 favorites]


What Jon Stewart said on The Daily Show on Thursday night - cutting straight to the heart of the matter:

"You may have noticed tonight that I was using a lot of words. It's because there may or may not be a writers' strike next week and so I was trying to get in as many words as I could before something like that happens. There's a little bit of a discrepancy - the writers would like to get paid on what's called new media, the internet and such, and the corporations are saying "But it's too new, we don't know if we make money or not, I don't know, we can't pay anything". As you can see, both sides have their point. So we won't be here, but while we're not here, you can check out all of our content on our new website TheDailyShow.com - every Daily Show since I got here is on it - free. Except the advertising. So support our advertisers."
posted by crossoverman at 10:46 PM on November 3, 2007


it's amazing how basically the only people who suck more than the -- mostly untalented, spectacularly venal, morally and artistically corrupt -- Hollywood writers are their unspeakably greedy bosses.

I debated about whether to respond to you, matteo. Full disclosure: I'm a working playwright, a working television writer, a WGA member. I've won a Guggenheim for playwriting and a Peabody for my television work.

I guess I just want to say that I truly don't understand your bile directed towards a group of people who are, funnily enough, mostly unemployed, most of the time. Do you know a lot of Hollywood writers? Really? And all the ones you know are venal, corrupt, artistic douchebags? Really? Because I spend most of my days with "Hollywood writers." I'm surrounded by them. I call them, I collaborate with them, I socialize with them. I suppose I am a "Hollywood writer" (though I don't work or live in Hollywood. Or Malibu. Or whatever location seems incendiary and dismissive. But whatever.) I would hesitate to generalize about, um, everyone in my profession. But my experience has been that the writers that I know are thoughtful, passionate, smart, funny folks. Some of us are garrulous, some shy. Some are...you get the idea. I don't love everything that everyone writes. Far from it. But I don't think they're corrupt or contemptible for writing it.

I went back and read a smattering of your posts and comments on other topics. Your past writing suggests you are a smart and thoughtful person. I hope when people meet me and hear what I do--a vocation that I love--that they don't decide that I suck. Or that I'm bona fide when I write a play but artistically corrupt when I write an episode of television. I would respectfully suggest that your comment about us writers--about to embark upon a strike that will devastate many--is cynical and lazy.

Me, I'll be around Ooloo Kitty on the picket line on Monday.
posted by BClady at 12:12 AM on November 4, 2007 [6 favorites]


Good luck with the strike guys. I hope you win. Quickly. So that not too many people are hurt by the work stoppage.

Good luck on the picket lines.
posted by MythMaker at 12:22 AM on November 4, 2007


Is this a bad time to ask how one becomes a television writer who makes somewhere between $10K-$100K a year depending on feast or famine? I'd like to be able to say I once wrote for (insert tv series name that would light up half the heads in a room here). I'd like to be able to write posts to MeFi about why the writing strike is a noble thing and people misunderstand us writers cuz I'd know first hand.

Right now I'm a writer who averages $0K a year. I can't give my words away. That's how much I suck. I'm honestly trying to drum up some sympathy in my heart for this writer's strike. Maybe if I knew what it was like to be cheated out of new media revenue I'd have better luck at this.
posted by ZachsMind at 12:50 PM on November 4, 2007


Is this a bad time to ask how one becomes a television writer who makes somewhere between $10K-$100K a year depending on feast or famine?

Jane Espenson's blog is (mostly) about this very thing.
posted by sparkletone at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2007


I would respectfully suggest that your comment about us writers--about to embark upon a strike that will devastate many--is cynical and lazy.


I would respectfully suggest that you turn the TV on or go the nearest multiplex. good luck finding something made by you guys that doesn't totally

a) suck major ass

b) come across as astonishingly unoriginal

c) follow some formula where originality -- not to mention art -- does not exist

You're in the business of selling TV ads, or popcorn at the multiplex. Or both. Which is cool, we all have rents to pay -- it sure beats manual labor, and I say this as somebody who as a teenager (late teens) worked for a moving company, and that shit is backbreaking. But please don't lecture me about cynicism because possibly the only thing that Republicans say that actually makes sense -- OK, they only say it to appease the more unthinking in their "conservative" base, but still -- is that what comes out of Hollywood (most of it, OK) is shit; and shit without any redeeming value.

It's also, mostly, misogynistic, violent, materialistic bullshit, to boot -- what isn't misogynistic, violent, and materialistic is just plain stupid -- Everybody Loves Raymond, anybody?

(Speaking of writer fees for legal downloads -- people download that shit from P2P networks because they've realized that, being shit, is not worth paying for. Write better stuff and maybe people will think those shows and movies are worth something more than 0).

So I may need a lecture on cynicism but you're not the one to give it to me. With all due respect.

Having said that, good luck with your strike. I hope you win because your corporate opposition is much, much worse than you are.
posted by matteo at 2:59 PM on November 4, 2007


I liked ELR.
posted by tkchrist at 3:17 PM on November 4, 2007


90% of everything is crap - including especially the posts here at Metafilter.

Seriously, matteo, why the bile?
posted by crossoverman at 3:45 PM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


So. Never mind the fact that at some point in the past, the entertainment industry appears to have run over your dog before taking a dump in your refrigerator:

shit without any redeeming value.

I could not disagree more.

If nothing else, even the most bottom-of-the-barrel, irredeemable, steaming piles provide useful object lessons in how not to do it. Or in how a good idea can go bad. Or how a bad idea can go badder.

From another point of view:

"Movies are so rarely great art, that if we cannot appreciate great trash, we have very little reason to be interested in them."

Not everything that comes out needs to be ground-breaking, mind-blowing, earth-shifting art. Even worse, not everything can be for all kinds of reasons.

Great art is as much an accident of opportunity, timing and context as it is the product of tirelessly applied talent.

Movies and television are perhaps the most phenomenally expensive, hugely collaborative art forms out there. 1200 million tiny little things can go wrong.

So not everything's going to be a Godfather, or a Citizen Kane, or a Lord of the goddam Rings.

Maybe if you lightened up a little, you'd find that there's a lot to love in the little garbage heap that is our cultural output. And plenty of things that you really, really should just stay away from because they're toxic, yo.
posted by sparkletone at 4:56 PM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


It's instructive to remember that Matteo doesn't have direct access to American television, as an Italian living in Italy, and instead sees all television as game shows in which half-nude women are buried in sand while celebrities make prank calls, or Everybody Loves Raymond reruns. It's kind of like someone who can only read The Wizard of Id complaining about how every comic strip is crap and their creators should be shot.

Oh, and he's an asshole too, did that get mentioned?
posted by klangklangston at 5:35 PM on November 4, 2007 [3 favorites]


Matteo -

Take it down a notch. There's no need to be a dick. Just because you don't like everything out there doesn't mean that the people putting their heart and soul into their work aren't trying to do their best.

You're acting like a jerk. It's not polite.
posted by MythMaker at 10:19 PM on November 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, as a fellow (non-performing arts) union working stiff, go writers! We're behind you! Stick it to the Man!
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:05 AM on November 5, 2007


...people download that shit from P2P networks because they've realized that, being shit, is not worth paying for

Isn't shit something you *don't* want? How can something be both highly in demand, yet have no value?

@MythMaker: Any writer who doesn't appreciate the incredibly significant role the editor plays in the process is a complete idiot. You certainly deserve more respect than it appears you receive now. Knowing how much this will affect you and your brethren, I'm impressed at your position on this.

And to all the WGA writers here (wow there seems to be a few...), best wishes for a speedy end.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 6:50 AM on November 5, 2007


doesn't have direct access to American television


strangely enough, some of us travel (way too often, I have to say) to the US, have satellite, the Internet. and I may be an asshole but it's not that I mention your interning at Hustler or your career as editor in chief of the Nothern Bumfuck State University paper to demean your opinions here.


doesn't mean that the people putting their heart and soul into their work aren't trying to do their best.

well, again, as I wrote above, don't be generic, name all those great shows and Hollywood movies that these great artists are writing and I have obviously missed.
posted by matteo at 11:26 AM on November 5, 2007


The Wire. Mad Men. Weeds. Homicide: Life on the Street (no longer on the air, but one of my top 5 must-take-to-desert-island shows).

Others will be along to shortly to add to the list.

So, do those shows suck? Is the writing terrible? Do they make up Television's Absolute Worst? Or have you just not watched them?

Your dickishness seems out of proportion to this issue (fair pay for work done). If American television is so dreadful, then why the fuck would you waste your precious time watching it? And if you've only been watching Men in Trees or whatever, then it's like criticizing all of Western Lit. because you've read nothing but Harlequin romances.
posted by rtha at 11:46 AM on November 5, 2007


"and I may be an asshole but it's not that I mention your interning at Hustler or your career as editor in chief of the Nothern Bumfuck State University paper to demean your opinions here."

C'mon, I work (not an intern) at BARELY LEGAL MAGAZINE (along with Taboo and Hustler Fantasies), though I freelance for Hustler. And I was the opinions editor (not ed in chief) while I was at school. Along with working for a bevy of other places, mostly magazines.

Though, frankly, I shouldn't be surprised at your inability to get that right, Matteo—you've never been one to let facts get in the way of polemic.

And what is it that you do?

(Scripted television shows I like: It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Monk, Law and Order [I'm a sucker for crime genre stuff, whether in print or on TV], The Office, My Name Is Earl, 30 Rock, The Riches, Avatar, Fairly Oddparents… But I have to admit that I only watch about five hours of television a week, because I tend to take movies out of the library. That's because I like different things, not because everything is crap).
posted by klangklangston at 12:03 PM on November 5, 2007


Thanks, GhostintheMachine -

I think writers appreciate editors. I hope they do. I know that actors know that both cinematographers and editors are who make their acting work. Bad DPs and editors will make even a great actor look like they suck.

And I really would like the writers to get what they're asking for. I just hope that the strike ends quickly. Maybe everyone can come together and compromise soon.

Matteo -

It's all a matter of taste. Aesthetics and the question of that is "good art" is intensely subjective. That's one of the things I discovered as a programmer of the Slamdance film festival for a number of years - particularly with comedy, people's tastes are very, very different. There is not, and cannot be, a single canon that everyone will agree is "great" and everything else is not. Taste is personal.

So, I could list recent artistic films and TV that have come out of Hollywood, works that I think are quite good (and there have been quite a few, and, in fact, I'd argue that scripted American TV has been going through something of a renaissance in the last decade [reality TV notwithstanding]), but if those works aren't to your taste, then you can dismiss them.

I could as easily dismiss the works that you like. It's a variant of the perennial Metafilter favorite "your favorite band sucks."

But to come into this forum, where people are discussing an economic situation where they may not be getting any money for awhile, that will deeply affect their ability to feed their families, and simply shit on their life's work, is rude beyond description.

Courtesy to your fellow human beings ought to be something to strive for. Don't be a dick.
posted by MythMaker at 12:18 PM on November 5, 2007


Oh yeah, I can just picture the scene in the writers' room now:

"Good morning, fellow Men in Trees* writers! I had an awesome brainstorm over the weekend. This week, rather than taking a stale hunk of Northern Exposure and a quart of Sex in the City (minus all the naughty words) and tossing them in a Cuisinart, we are going to do some real writing. Yessiree, we're gonna stop churning out this crap that our employers specifically direct us to produce, for which they sign our paychecks, and we're gonna pen some Dostoevsky-caliber material instead. If the bosses object, we'll just give them the ol' Bronx cheer and keep going. I'm sure we won't be fired for this, and if we are [shrug], who cares? After all, we have to be true to our art first and foremost, whether the kids need braces or not. And it's not as if any other employees in any other fields anywhere in the world ever have to swallow their pride, suck it up and follow the orders of incompetent tasteless jerkweed hack bosses or cave in to the preferences of equally tasteless customers."

*This show does admittedly blow, but I still like to flop on the couch and veg out to its stupidity sometimes.
posted by FelliniBlank at 2:42 PM on November 5, 2007


If TV and movies are shit you can't blame the writers. Those are the last people to blame.

BLAME THE PUBLIC. That is what they want.

Sure. People SAY they want smarter fare. The facts prove otherwise.

People go in droves to the shit ( hello? Legally Blond 2) and the award-winning, critically-praised, so-called smart stuff does not make any money.

If every writer that could — WOULD — churn out nothing but intelligent provocative original material 100% of the time... well... most studios would go out of business because only maybe 10-20% of the public would go see it.

And then there would be no good writers. Only the shitty ones.

The shit finances the shine.
posted by tkchrist at 3:20 PM on November 5, 2007


Well, and I don't like every car that comes out of Detroit, or every class I took as a student, or every administrative decision by the government. But I do like the ability of workers to strike collective bargaining arrangements, and feel that things that I do enjoy (40 hour work week and overtime, to name two) are possible because of unions.
posted by klangklangston at 6:38 PM on November 5, 2007


Anyone piling on Hollywood writers should check out our unsold scripts before they jump to conclusions about what we're capable of writing. The best work of every writer I know is sitting in a drawer somewhere. Occasionally it gets bought by studio and either not made, or rewritten into blandness.
posted by unSane at 8:16 PM on November 5, 2007


WGA strike captains' blog. The "short version" of what they want and why.

WGA West strike news.

"Operation Pizza" starts at Whedonesque and successfully delivers pizza (with anchovies!) to Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Battlestar Galactica) on the picket line.

Actors on popular series refuse to cross picket lines.

WGA strike Twitter feed.

Clinton, Obama, Edwards all back strike.

Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Dollhouse) and Brian K. Vaughan (Lost) comment on the strike.

Shawn Ryan, showrunner of The Shield, explains why he won't be on set to film the series finale. Also he was present during the last attempt at negotiation:

I spent nearly 12 hours today in the Negotiation Room with the companies. I watched our side desperately try to make a deal. We gave up our request to increase revenue on DVD's, something that was very painful to give up, but something we felt we had to in order to get a deal made in new media, which is our future.

I watched as the company's representatives treated us horrendously, disrespectfully, and then walked out on us at 9:30 and then lied to the trades, claiming we had broken off negotiations.

I can't in good conscience fight these bastards with one hand, while operating an avid with the other. I am on strike and I am not working for them. PERIOD.

posted by Tehanu at 3:57 AM on November 6, 2007


I don't know if anyone is still checking in, but the writers from The Office made a little clip talking about this strike and what it's about. You can watch it here. The synopsis? Two of the writers at The Office were given the task of writing 10 shorts for the NBC website last season.

The network sold advertising for these web shorts; the writers actually won a daytime Emmy for their work on them. But they weren't paid (nor were the actors,) because the network claimed the shorts were only promotional.

(I had no idea that SAG hadn't worked out new media in their contract- which is up in June. If y'all think the writers' strike is crippling Hollywood, watch what happens when the famous people walk out.)
posted by headspace at 5:10 AM on November 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Tycho expresses solidarity.
posted by sparkletone at 6:43 AM on November 7, 2007


A short that breaks down the issues.
posted by BClady at 4:24 PM on November 7, 2007


The strike and residuals explained by the WGA on youTube.
posted by Tehanu at 4:16 AM on November 8, 2007


Shit, sorry, broken link in my post above. Same as what Tehanu posted.
posted by BClady at 10:36 AM on November 8, 2007


Am I the only one who thinks they should just fire all the writers for Battlestar Galactica?
posted by autodidact at 11:42 AM on November 8, 2007


Yes. At least in as much as I think they've earned their final season and should be allowed to go out however they feel best, regardless of what one thinks of the previous seasons.
posted by sparkletone at 2:07 PM on November 8, 2007


I didn't even realize we were posting the same thing, BClady. Great minds and all that. :)
posted by Tehanu at 3:33 PM on November 8, 2007


Oh. Thank you Sparkletone. Jane Espenson is hot! =)
posted by ZachsMind at 8:25 PM on November 8, 2007


Fans organize a website to coordinate WGA support efforts across fandoms.

WGA's petition.

United Hollywood reports that Friday's strike activity will focus on Fox.

CBS sends breach of contract letters to striking showrunners:

"The CBS letters yesterday said that if the showrunners don't report back into work for their producing duties, they're in breach and they'll be sued. All the other showrunners now expect to get similar letters. The writers agreed that, if anybody gets sued, the showrunners will all stand together. Those who are still working will go out and join us on the picket lines, and, if we're all back at work, then we'll all go out."

Layoffs have started.
posted by Tehanu at 11:34 PM on November 8, 2007


Film screenwriters run an ad in the trade publications pledging support for the strike. John August also blogs:

"The blockbusters of 2009 are sitting unwritten. That’s an economic factor I’ve never seen reported in all of this. The next installments of Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and every other movie franchise are unwritten and unproducible until the strike is over."
posted by Tehanu at 8:53 AM on November 9, 2007


As a union actor and a non-union writer I think a lot of people are overlooking the feature film side of things.

This could be a very, very good thing at the cineplex. When features start shutting down, non-union features will flourish. A new independent cinema could be born from this. A cinema reminiscent of independent cinema of the 1990's. Not that we want more of the 90's films, of course, just more thought provoking films.

The shite at the box office is really an affront to human intelligence.

Unfortunately the strike will have to last a long time to see a change like this occur due to the strikes.

But if the WGA holds on and the DGA doesn't push their negotiations up this could get interesting.
posted by wonderman2008 at 1:45 PM on November 9, 2007


hey i'm also a 0k a year writer
posted by flyinghamster at 4:42 PM on November 9, 2007


This strike is not hurting the pocketbooks of the major players in the game. It's hurting the support people that are normally taken for granted. Everything from catering to grips to hair and makeup people. Lighting. Foley. Effects. It starts with the story. Without that, the riverbed dries up.

Watching the networks scramble to replace their comedies and dramas with reality television and reruns and thinking that fixes things? That's too pathetic to be funny. You can't just circumvent the writers, and you can't expect them to work for free.

The writers are not asking for much. The corporations are refusing to cave as a show of strength. They know if they give in here, the next step will be for everyone else currently deserving a piece of the pie but getting nothing to threaten strikes, and those who already get a slice of pie will demand a bigger slice.

The Powers That Be have drawn a line in the sand, but they did that while standing on a cliff face, and it's a long way down for the people that support them at a fraction of what the big players make.

With something this top heavy, there's such a thing as gravity; even in economics.
posted by ZachsMind at 4:47 PM on November 9, 2007


I do wonder what will happen for movies as the strike continues. Especially since it's the 2009 summer releases being most affected at the moment, from what I hear.
posted by Tehanu at 3:11 PM on November 11, 2007


The writers contract needs to be revised in light of the new media scenarios outlined by headspace above, but if you think that adjusting royalties to be more fair equals "a strike for basic rights", then you have a very very different idea of "basic rights" than most people, and you're not doing much to shatter the champagne protest image.

Just saying.
posted by rokusan at 3:33 PM on November 21, 2007


I like shows like The Office and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. If this strike being successful means that the writers (for these shows, it's often the actors) get money that the networks, which are the bigger enemy in my opinion, would normally get, more power to them.

Isn't this the biggest issue in the entertainment industry, music and movies alike; not enough of the revenues are invested in the creators and that's why the overall quality is low?
posted by hellslinger at 7:55 AM on November 27, 2007


« Older Perhaps you'll recall DARPA's Grand Challenge wher...  |  Check out NASA's "CALLBACK" pu... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments