Sunday, February 10, 2008

Finally I "get" the WGA strike

Tonight the stars will grace London's Royal Opera House for the one award ceremony that hasn't been blown off course by the writers' strike: the BAFTAs. The British academy awards were historically a regional sideshow. Even when the organisers moved them to between the Golden Globes and the Oscars they only cashed in on the faintest bat-squeak of borrowed glamour. Still, there's no denying that with the Globes reduced to a press conference and the Oscars awaiting the green-light, the BAFTAs are in the global spotlight. The heavy wheels of Hollywood are greased by red carpet glamour. And if you can't wear that dress to the Kodak theater you may aswell sashay up Bow Street.

I hadn't properly understood what was going on with the writers' strike until I read an article by Michael Wolff in this month's Vanity Fair. I mean, I understood that there was a disagreement over how much writers would get paid when an episode or film they had penned was sold or shown on the internet. What I mean is, I hadn't understood the real Fear underpinning the writers' stance, beyond a reasonable defence of their intellectual property. So here's the killer elucidation:

"As cheaper reality television has replaced much more expensive scripted shows, this has produced an ever growing population of writers who will never work again - writers who have been trained to work for a medium, network television, that effectively no longer exists. And that's who has effectively declared the writers' strike. Of the 10,500 members of the Writers' Guild, nearly half are unemployed. What they are fighting over is the future value of stories that have already been written - that's what's going to support these people......."

"The Hollywood writers are on strike because of the sense, shared by just about everyone in Hollywood, that the business, even the Hollywood lifestyle, is undergoing some radical downsizing - so grab what's left."

It's a great article and well worth reading if you have a copy of the magazine to hand.

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