Monday, November 05, 2007

Time To Get Paid

Picketing as Infotainment (In the Days of Web 2.0)

As of 12 hours ago (give or take) the Writer's Guild of America has been on strike. But what the hell does that mean? TV Squad gives a nice overview of how it might affect your television viewing habits. First, say goodbye to new episodes of Late Night television this week. Scripted shows, on the other hand, have enough scripts stockpiled to last until January. However, if the last WGA strike is any indication (it lasted 22 weeks), that might not be enough of a head start for your favorite shows.

The film industry is safe for the time being, with most of the summer blockbusters in either production or post. However, as Cinematical points out, even with the stockpile of scripts in Hollywood, the writers won't be available for rewrites. For X-Men XVII, or whatever the hell is coming out this summer, that's not such a big deal. But it could hurt the Oscar candidates considerably. Should the strike last for a while, who knows what we'll see in theaters come next fall/winter.

The big difference between this strike and the last one in 1988 is, of course, the internet. Even the impetus of this strike, writing residuals for DVD sales and internet downloads, are very Brave New World. And unlike in '88, there is a real and immediate way for fans to keep in constant contact and interaction with fellow fans and even writers. So far, Blog City looks to be overwhelmingly in the corner of writers. 20 years ago, there wasn't this connection between creative types and viewers. But in a Web 2.0 era full of Joss Whedons and Kevin Smiths, consumers of television and film are more apt to side with content creators (especially those with a visible web presense) rather than content distributors (like NBC or Universal).

Just as the web has revolutionized how we consume our content, it's also transforming (albeit, quite slowly) the political process behind how these shows are made. It's one thing for the Writer's Guild to stand up to the "big, bad studios" for their creative rights. But it's another thing entirely for studios to take on both writers and viewers, creators and consumers. Remember, for many viewers, these Studio Suits are the same guys who canceled Freaks and Geeks, Firefly and Jericho. There's no lost love there. If the studios can't bargain quietly (and in good faith), expect things to get real ugly, real soon.

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