Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Writers' Strike

Well, there has finally been some big-time writing news and I am the last to get to it! But Blogger had some issues starting about the same time as the strike and I had a doctor's appointment. It takes me a few days right after my appointment to kind of readjust to my meds (muscle relaxers and painkillers are what I take), so it's always a bit slow right after the first of the month.

Anyway, you obviously know by now that the TV writers are on strike. Several major TV shows have been hard-hit by this walk-out, including all the talk shows and many sit-coms - the biggest of which being NBC's The Office, which suspended production when star, Steve Carell (also a writer), refused to cross the picket line.

Now, this is the perfect opportunity for me to explain why I founded this site and started taking blogging seriously:

I don't care to join the WGA. I don't care to write for Hollow-wood, TV, publish a book traditionally, nor any of these other "traditional" writing approaches. Would I like to? Well, sure. But I'm not going in that direction because I hate the thought of so many people who had absolutely nothing to do with my actual work being compensated for it!

The WGA's guidelines make it basically impossible to become a member; it's a catch-22 situation like SAG's, where you generally can't become a member until you are published several times and you can't get published unless you are a member. I think you have to have 2 full-length novels published to qualify, then you have to pay an inordinate amount of "dues" and all of this is supposedly to "protect" you and handle your legalese. Except that, when you think about it, if you've already published 2 full-length novels without the WGA, why do you need them? And if you self-published those novels, you most likely do not have the money for dues!

But don't let me steer you wrong - I'm sure the WGA does a lot of good things for members, I just don't know exactly what those things are. And you can check out their "benefits" online, but only to an extent. It's just another labor union like any other.

Having said that, the real gist of the whole thing is that writers want a whopping $0.02 more per DVD unit sold! That's really pretty much it. That's why David Letterman called TV execs "weasels" - because they are. TV execs are claiming they don't know "how big the pie is, so how can we slice it up?" but that's total bullshit. If your job is to count money and figure out how much your take is, then you know damned well how much your take is - which means you know damned well "how big the pie is."

This is why I set up The Weirding and why I do not care to work in/for Hollow-wood nor traditional publishing companies in any capacity. If, at some point in my career, this should happen as a natural outgrowth of what I am doing, then great! We'll go from there.

Otherwise, I am a creative artist and I want the control over - and total income from - my work. What was the children's story about the chicken or whatever that asked everyone to help her plant the corn and harvest it and peel it and cook it and so on, and no one wanted to, but then everyone showed up and wanted some when it was ready to eat? You picking up what I'm laying down?

If I get big enough that I need to hire a lawyer, I hope I'll be big enough so that I can afford one on my own. Same goes for agents, managers, and whatever other outside help, in any capacity, that I should need. Before then, I am not going to play footsie with a bunch of assholes in the dimming hopes that they will "let me" do my job. Or, better yet (as is the usual case in The Industry), not only "let me" do my job but actually pay me for doing it - and a fair price, at that!

And online revenue is part of what these writers are fighting for. My suggestion could end this whole thing:

Develop your own website(s) or get together with some of your friends and develop your own website(s) and circumvent the industry entirely! In fact, any writers who want to receive residuals on their online content should feel free to submit here and I'll help you set up your personal advertising accounts and so forth and stick a single ad of my own on your page and leave you with the rest of the real estate! Further, I'll do all the web design work, if you do not know much about it, and that way, you don't feel like you're "giving away" your content for a few pennies' of residuals. (But there is a standard for submissions, once I get the guidelines back up and going.) Hey, you could do worse!

And while they are talking now about the "low-level" associates who are being affected by this strike (assistants, production managers, etc.), the people I feel lose the most are the ones who truly did everything the hard way, like the guys who put together It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

If you don't know that little story, it goes something like this: the one guy (Ron McElhenny) couldn't find work, so he sat down and wrote a script himself. Then he and some of his friends got together and filmed it. They shopped it around a little, got several bites, and decided to go with FX because of the network's enthusiasm for the show.

Now, here are some guys who did everything themselves. They had no help from WGA or SAG or anything like that; they couldn't find jobs, so they created their own. I have no idea if they were members of either, or any, union at the time they did this, but what a slap in the face if they were forced to join them after they did all this work on their own and are now being forced to give up their jobs for the betterment of people who would not give them jobs to begin with!

Of course, if everything works out right, they will reap the same benefits as the others on strike, but... you know?

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