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StrikeWatch: Day 8

It's Monday morning and Week Two of the WGA Strike begins today, with no sign of resolution anywhere in sight. Today's themed strike: Bring Your Child to Strike Day (it's a school holiday, thanks to Veteran's Day). Expect the big stars to come out on Tuesday for a SAG-supported round of picketing.

For those of you who missed my late Friday post, an updated list of which series have shut down production (along with how many shot episodes and scripts remain) can be found right over here.

Over the weekend, Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof offered an eloquent and sobering op-ed piece about the strike in The New York Times, entitled "Mourning TV."

Lindelof's piece speaks volumes about the conflicting interests of writers and studios as much as it does signal the (long-coming) end of an era in which we all watched the same television series live, with commercials, on a set-top box. Those of us obsessed with our beloved TiVos knows that the winds of change blew long ago but it's only now that the studios have seen the obvious: that the Internet is drastically changing both the way that television is viewed as well as it is the way it's monetized.

As Lindelof succinctly puts it: "This is how vaudevillians must have felt the first time they saw a silent movie; sitting there, suddenly realizing they just became extinct: after all, who wants another soft-shoe number when you can see Harold Lloyd hanging off a clock 50 feet tall? Change always provokes fear, but I’d once believed that the death of our beloved television would unify all those affected, talent and studios, creators and suits. We’re all afraid and we’d all be afraid together. Instead we find ourselves so deeply divided."

The silver-tongued Lindelof goes on to explain his position, vis-a-vis the latest stage of grief he's encountered so far:
"I am angry because I am accused of being greedy by studios that are being greedy. I am angry because my greed is fair and reasonable: if money is made off of my product through the Internet, then I am entitled to a small piece. The studios’ greed, on the other hand, is hidden behind cynical, disingenuous claims that they make nothing on the Web — that the streaming and downloading of our shows is purely “promotional.” Seriously?

Most of all, I’m angry that I’m not working. Not working means not getting paid. My weekly salary is considerably more than the small percentage of Internet gains we are hoping to make in this negotiation and if I’m on the picket line for just three months, I will never recoup those losses, no matter what deal gets made.

But I am willing to hold firm for considerably longer than three months because this is a fight for the livelihoods of a future generation of writers, whose work will never “air,” but instead be streamed, beamed or zapped onto a tiny chip."
Meanwhile, Scrubs creator Bill Lawrence has spoken out about Disney/ABC TV Studio's request that he write a "backup ending" for Scrubs that would have enabled the studio to shoot a series finale for the beleaguered medical comedy should the strike continue.

Lawrence did not in fact comply with this request, instead filing typical scripts for the series and not the ending that had "two people kiss," opting instead to hold out on writing a finale until a later date. "I will use all my leverage to end this show properly, even if it means I have to do all the voices myself and call people up to read it over the phone," Lawrence told The Hollywood Reporter.

Over at United Hollywood, Office scribe Michael Schur has posted his Modest Proposal on how to resolve the ongoing battle between the writers and the studios. His Swiftian solution: that fat cat studio suits cut their swollen salaries by 85 percent in order to keep costs down. After all, says Schur, "Sumner Redstone of Viacom made about $52 million in cash and stock last year, so he’d still have close to $8 million a year. Peter Chernin of Fox made about $61 million, so he’s good. Sadly, Les Moonves of CBS only made about $35.3 million, so taking the paycut barely leaves him $5 million a year. Maybe he can get a bridge loan or something."

That, Schur promises, would get him back to work in a heartbeat. "I will write like the wind, buoyed by the inspiring knowledge that my corporate brothers stand beside me in this crucial time of belt-tightening for our industry."

Amen.

Speaking of The Office, one of that beloved series' staffers affected by the writers strike, key grip Dale Alexander, has spoken out about the fate of his fellow 102 below-the-line workers. Los Angeles Times' Show Tracker had excerpts from an email sent by Alexander, which express the strike from an entirely different perspective, that of the workers who find themselves caught in the battle between the writers and studios.

"We all know that the strike will be resolved," writes Alexander. "Eventually both sides will return to the bargaining table and make a deal. The only uncertainty is how many of our houses, livelihoods, college educations and retirement funds will pay for it."

Televisionary reader The Cinemaniac attended the huge massive rally at Fox on Friday, an event he called "incredible." (Cinemaniac can be seen here at right, pictured with the fabulously talented Jane Espenson.)

"It was truly amazing to see thousands of people gathering together, most in red, for a single cause," he told me. "There was a sense of excitement and and determination in the air, and it was clear this group would not back down and was ready for the long haul." For a description of his attendance at the event (and some pics with Joss Whedon, Ed Helms, Jason Bateman and others) head over to this post.

Among the interesting gems over at The Cinemaniac, there's this bit from his conversation with Espenson: "She told me about how ABC/Disney told all their writing fellows they had to show up for work or be fired. Now this might not seem so strange, but as writing fellows this is basically their foot in the door, so they don't want to lose their first job, but at the same time, if they cross the picket line, they will never be allowed into the WGA. It's a Catch 22, get fired from your possible entry into the guild, or cross the picket line and never be allowed into the Guild."

Man, the studios really don't want to make life easy for anyone these days, do they?

Comments

Anonymous said…
That letter by that grip expressed a lot of what i've been saying over the past week. I am all for the writers getting everything that is coming to them, but when the strike is resolved, those grips won't be getting more residual money, they will just be broke. I am beyond frustrated that no one is back in a room talking.

Both sides want to make that point that they are really serious about all this. Ok, we get it. You're serious. Get back in the room and start talking. The holidays are coming up and it's going to a very blue xmas for a lot of people.
Anonymous said…
Look... I am all for supporting the rights of the writers and fully support everything they are asking for... but what about the so-called "little guy?"

Hundreds - if not thousands are or will be out of jobs in the next few weeks, smack in the middle of holiday season. Besides Jon Stewart, is anyone taking up strike funds or paying for their mortgages, car payments, school loans, etc?

Of course, there are tons of underpaid WGA writers out there who the studios are making millions out there off of. But there are also underpaid makeup artists, production coordinators, gaffers, production assts, some of whom don't have unions to stand up for them, or have unions who actually have the power to. Dale Alexander from THE OFFICE did say it best there.

It is RIGHT to support the WGA but its more right to support those without a voice, without the bargaining people to do damage. And unfortunately the most damage will happen to them this holiday season.

Forget watching 24 in January. Will some of these people even have a roof over their heads to watch Farmer Got A Wife?
Anonymous said…
Jace,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful and comprehensive strike coverage. I think one of the most important things at this time is educating people about the strike and keeping people informed about what is going on and you have been doing both wonderfully.

Keep up the great work!
Anonymous said…
So, let me get this straight - If the writers really want to get back to work so bad, all they have to do is...go back to work. They walked off the job - not the other way around.
Anonymous said…
Anonymous, they walked off the job after their contracts expired and talks with studios about fair pay went nowhere, even after the writers made key concessions.

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