31 December 2007

The Writer's Guild Strike

The Writer's Guild Strike has been going for eight weeks and a day. I don't want to go over all the details, but from what I understand, I'm with the writers here.

Writing is what makes movies and television shows. The greatest actors in the world will stink if given a horrible script.

Everyone uses writers. Jay Leno and David Letterman use writers. John Stewart and Stephen Colbert do as well.

And honestly, I think writers get overlooked way too much.

Which is what the strike is all about, I guess. America notices when there aren't new episodes of House and Law and Order. Obviously the big corporations are loath to part with more of their money, but if writers want a bigger piece of the DVD-sales pie (as well as the online-media pie), then I think NBC and the others are going to have to give in eventually.

Heck, as much as America loves reality T.V., we can only take so much Amazing Race and Big Brother 8.

Apparently Letterman and others will be broadcasting new episodes this week. Dave worked out some agreement with his writers, but Leno will be flying solo. Should be interesting. I might even have to watch a couple shows. Ugh.

Why do guys like Letterman and Leno have their jobs? If they don't write their own stuff, it must be because of their delivery or something, right? But even that isn't very impressive. I don't get it.

Scott Pierce, entertainment writer for The Deseret Morning News, wrote about the effects of the strike today.

JUST A COUPLE of weeks ago, I wrote with confidence that because "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" both rely almost entirely on scripted material ... there's no way for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert to return to work until the strike is over.

So, yes, I was rather surprised when Comedy Central announced that both shows will return — without writing staffs — on Monday, Jan. 7.

You can sort of see how Jay Leno, Conan O'Brien and Jimmy Kimmel can do it. They'll do lots of interviews.

But while both Stewart and Colbert do interview segments, neither show is about that. And, thus, they can't possibly be the same shows when they return next week.

I write that with confidence ...

We'll have to see.


Matthew said...

Wait a minute, so somebody who aspires to be a writer sides with the writers in this issue? That is jaw-dropping. It kind of reminds me of how the public school teachers in Utah and other states banded together to oppose school choice in Utah. When it affects your professional interest, it's hard to be objective. Plus, the media already has us hating big corporations, so of course people think the "little man" writers should take more and the "big fatty " networks less. But since it doesn't matter to me how the money is split and I just want to see new episodes of "The Office," I'll throw my hat in with whichever side is more likely to win.

Brandon said...

So who is more likely to win?

And obviously I'm biased. It's my blog. :)

But seriously, do you agree or disagree that writers are underappreciated?

Matthew said...

I don't know who's more likely to win. I am sure that writers are underappreciated by the general public, because they're lavitry ny maso, lavitry ny fo. But I have no idea about their compensation, whether it is fair or not. I haven't really taken the time to delve into this issue. Like I said, I just want to see new eps of The Office. Other than that, all I watch is NBA and Bill Walton doesn't need writers. Who is more likely to win? The networks will give some small concession to the writers, who will tire of starving and take the bait.

Anna said...

I think the writer's are just selfish. Striking for 8 weeks just because they aren't getting a portion of the profits from online or from DVD sales. Give me a break. It doesn't just hurt the corporations it hurts everyone who works for those shows. It hurts the camera men, the set designers, the craft services (these are the people that provide the food on the set), the boom mike operators, the makeup artists, the extras, and so on. Thousands of people are out of work AND these people are making "very little" as well.

Come on now, I made $300 for one day I was in a commercial almost 20years ago. Everyone in this industry makes good money compared to the average american. They are making plenty of money, the writers are not underappreciated (hello Matt Damon and Ben Affleck -- Good Will Hunting). How many times have I gone to a movie and after someone says, "wow that writing was brillaint." People flocked to the West Wing because Aaron Sorkin and his staff were amazing writers...they lost their fan base when he left and the writing took a dive. The writer's make plenty and they get plenty of credit.

This is like the NBA strike...who freaking cares. Your complaints are ridiculous. Get back to work or at the very least don't ask for my sympathy. I'll have gone to college for 10 years by the time I graduate and even still I won't make as much as these writers. No sympathy whatsoever.

Brandon said...

How much do writers make, Anna? I'm asking because I don't know.

And sure, Affleck and Damon were lauded for their writing in Good Will Hunting, but they also happen to be popular actors.

Yes, people will say, "the writing was amazing," but does anyone look at who the writers are when choosing a movie?

Sorkin is a good example, but then there's Gilmore Girls. The original writer for the show wanted more money, but the producers turned her down, and the show went downhill after she left.

No respect. Writers do not get enough recognition for what they do, and that's part of what this is about.

Online media and DVD sales are a lot more than what was originally predicted. Sure, it's easy to say, "You make enough money, just leave this additional income you've earned for the company on the table and be glad you don't live in Cuba," but if you were in that position, it'd hard to just let it go.

And the strike wasn't the guild's first option. There were months of negotiations before they walked. From all I've read, the corporations refused to budge, which, in my opinion, is inherently unfair.

If writers are that expendable and unimportant to your company, hire new ones. Otherwise, pay them what they deserve and shut up.

Jimmy said...

The lack of payment for residuals is unfair...but goshdangit, I want my tv shows back.

Anna said...

Look here to see Matt Damon's record. You'll notice he was in no major films unil 1997 when Good Will Hunting and the Rainmaker both came out. Good Will Hunting launched his career if you ask me. So yeah, he's a popular actor now, but he wasn't really before they won the oscar for that.

And if you want to know how much writer's make...according to a striker's website (which I question the objectivity of this measure, but what the heck) http://www.unitedhollywood.com/crumb.html
I interpret this as "if a writer is good enough to be working they make $60,000+ a year." There's a reason many writer's (like many actors) do not work every year and its because they aren't the best. The statistician in me also asks, "what does the distribution of writer's incomes look like...certainly its not a bell curve" so basically I don't buy the "poor me" of this. Hollywood's unfair...you know what's more unfair--that teacher's get paid less than $30,000 a year to start. That's unfair.

Brandon said...

Look, if we're going to argue about if writers are making a living wage, that can go forever. If you get down to the base level, you can live on less than a dollar a day. Heck, with welfare you don't have to earn anything.

It's about if they are getting a fair amount of money based on what they bring to the company.

Teachers get paid so little because they bring little in real money to the "company." It's unfair, but that's reality.

Matthew said...

Brandon is exactly right. It has nothing to do with whether or not they get enough to live on. In the case of entertainment, the revenue has to be spread among the writers, actors, other staff people like camera people, makeup, etc., executives, investors, and others. In the end, if the writers feel like they are getting less of that pie than they deserve, they can either try to ramrod their employers, as they are doing, or go get another job. That's the beauty of America. One more basic economic principle: in a semi-market economy like ours, the fact that there are teachers means that they do get paid enough. If their salary was insufficient, there wouldn't be teachers there because nobody is forcing them to be teachers. The fact that you have chosen one job shows that there is not another better job you could have, so those teachers are getting paid what they should be.