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Fun Joel's Screenwriting Blog

(OR EL DUDERINO IF YOU'RE NOT INTO THE WHOLE BREVITY THING)

-- On Screenwriting and Related Topics

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Location: Los Angeles, CA

I moved from NYC to LA in October, 2003. And though I still think NYC is the greatest city in the world, I'm truly loving life here in the City of Angels. I'm a writer, reader, and occasional picture-taker.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Strike/Me Update

(LONG post warning.)

Where does the time go? One week and I'm posting tons of things about the strike. Turn around, and it's two and a half weeks later, with no posts! And its not that I haven't been keeping up on the news or participating. I just haven't had the time to post. So consider this a catch-up post. Many of the links in here, you may have already seen. But I'm posting them because I think they are worth highlighting, for those who may not have seen them yet.

So let me start by updating you all on what I've been doing. Let me pick up with Day 5 of the Strike. I did end up attending the big rally at Fox, and saw lots of stars. Shook hands with and thanked many, including Jesse Jackson, Dennis Haysbert, Seth MacFarlane, Tom Morello and Zach de la Rocha. Others I saw from close up were the guys from Reno 911 in their uniforms, Ed Helms, Brian Posehn and others.

I was pleased and overwhelmed by the number of people and the spirit of camaraderie, and though I didn't see a number of my peers/friends who I know were there, I did end up running into many others who I didn't expect to see. So that was a pleasant experience overall. And when will I next have a chance to sit down in the middle of Pico Blvd. in the middle of the day?

I made it out to the lines again once or twice the following week. I saw Steve Zaillian again (confirming my prior suspicion), introduced myself to him and chatted briefly and pleasantly. I also met a nice woman who writes for one of the daytime soaps. I'd never met anyone who wrote for a soap before, and it was really interesting to learn about that whole world and process. Additionally, since she was a Black woman, we discussed the lack of people of color on the lines (which I mentioned in that same post). She said she'd certainly noticed it as well. In fact, when she had walked to her car one time, she said that some people (non-strikers) asked her if she were "the only one." But we agreed that there may be more distributed at other locations, and that we'd seen a decent number during the Friday rally.

Another nice guy I chatted with had written some novels, then transitioned into features. He's one of those guys who has made a living in Hollywood without seeing much produced. These stories are more prevalent then you might think!

I also got to see a few more people that I knew, and reconnect with a few of the nice writers I'd met on previous days. Starting to recognize people there, which is nice. Of course, I knew it would be a while until I saw them again, since I was heading out to NYC/NJ the next night! This also meant that I unfortunately had to miss both the big march down Hollywood Boulevard, and the "Assistants Picket," which I would certainly have attended.

My original plan was to try to hit the picket lines in NYC as well for a day or two. Unfortunately, that was not to be. I got into the city early on Friday the 16th. But I had already learned the previous night that there were no pickets scheduled for that day. I got in touch with Alex to let him know, since he too was coming to town. We planned, instead, to meet up on the pickets on Monday. But when we later learned that they weren't going to be picketing that day either, the plan was nixed. Luckily, however, we did get to meet up at a bar on Sunday night, and it was a pleasure to finally meet him in person after all this time we'd been in touch in the virtual world of the Scribosphere.

Bottom line, for the entire 10 days that have been in NYC/NJ, there was only one day of picketing, on Tuesday. And unfortunately, I had too much work to do that morning, so I didn't make it out to the lines until about 5 minutes after the pickets ended. I at least got to meet a few of the WGAE picketers, and introduced myself to them, only to learn I'd missed my last opportunity to join them. Oh well. Would've been nice, and sounds (from the article) like they had some cool people out in support that day. Regardless, over this trip, I did get a chance to meet up with some of my readers, one of whom I'd met before and one with whom I'd only corresponded. I again failed to meet up with Joshua, but that was largely my fault this time. And I also got together with a guy I used to work for, who is now out on his own. And saw lots of friends, unrelated to the industry.

All this time, I've also been doing more research for the safari picture. As you may recall, I am in the midst of re-re-revising the treatment, and in my discussions (of which there were many during the week prior to my flight back East) we hit an impasse. The first half of the film is pretty set, but we're now completely rethinking or at least reconsidering the second half. And research seems the only way to go about this. It is frustrating, but I also know it is necessary. If we can solve these problems up front, I know the script will be better overall. And I hope that once we can agree on a good direction for that, I'll be able to get moving on the script itself, and hopefully knock it out relatively quickly. I certainly have my work cut out for me this week.

* * *

Okay, so now a number of thoughts, links, etc. about the strike.

Let me start by saying, I'm very pleased that both sides have agreed to meet again today. And I'm positively hopeful that there are rumors that this is all a formality. As you can see here and here, insiders are suggesting that the two sides have already agreed to most of the broadstrokes, and now just have some specific details to finalize. So hopefully, many of these thoughts I post here will not be relevant much longer.

That being said, let's think a bit about what the strike may have accomplished. Many people felt there was simply no way that the WGA could prevail and succeed against such wealthy and powerful corporations as those that own the studios and networks. (And for a great peek at exactly how huge these corporations are, you must check out this diagram from The Nation. Click on each company to see their details. And if you think these are already too big, you may want to examine a bill heading to congress now. Check out THIS site for more info.)

Still, I think that the studios/nets were going to be hurt a lot more than they'd originally foreseen. Some of the people I spoke to on the lines said the timing of the WGA strike was unexpected, since in '88 they waited to begin at the same time as SAG. Couple this with the showrunners walking en masse, which supposedly also caught the bosses off guard. Add this all up and it seems TV has been hurt more than originally expected. How much so? Enough that the nets could easily take a hit to their bottom line soon. There have been reports that advertisers are likely to ask for money back if too many reruns cut into viewership. Let me explain.

My limited understanding of how media buying goes (and please correct any fallacies I have here, if you know better) is that networks show their upcoming shows to advertisers. The advertisers (via media buyers) buy ad time, and the nets must deliver at least a certain level of ratings. This is done seasonally, which is why networks run sweeps weeks, to boost aggregate viewership for the period. (On a side note, it seems that the studios had enough shows to not have the strike affect the current season's sweeps week.) Anyway, if nets deliver higher ratings, all is good. But if it is too low, advertisers may get money back. This may be a big reason that the nets are so carefully examining their strategies to airing reruns.

What about the feature side of the business? Is there any damage the strike is doing there? Well, we must start with the fact that without late night TV, the studios lose a huge promotional vehicle for their big Holiday movies. This could hurt their bottom line sooner as well. And it may explain the talk of getting late night back on the air sooner.

But what about looking ahead? The lag time between production and release in features is significantly longer than in TV. So a prolonged strike would not show much of an impact until later in 2008, and into '09. We all heard the AMPTP party line about how they all stockpiled tons of feature scripts in advance of the strike. But as writers know, that only gave them more scripts that would need revisions -- revisions which can't happen during a strike. There are general rewrites needed, and once stars or directors attach themselves, they require rewrites as well. So first, the studios had to take a good look at their caches of scripts to see which were actually shootable.

And of course, that could lead to borderline decisions. Read this paragraph from the first of the above Variety articles for some of what we might have to look forward to, should the strike continue for a long time:

For pics going into production, producers would have to get creative in how scripts are reworked during filming. There's been talk that actors in comedies might be allowed to improvise, or that directors, producers or thesps will be allowed to tackle rewrites as long as they're not WGA members.

Luckily for us, the studios have started to wise up to the fact that can't work in many cases. In fact, we've already started to see some major films cancel production. Here's one story, and it has links to previous high-profile films that also shut down. Furthermore, though there are many films shooting on location (as opposed to on the lots that are being picketed), many of them have been shut down by loud picketers as well. If you're interested in knowing where there are film shoots in downtown LA, you might check this map. Not sure how accurate or up-to-date it is, but it could be a way to do something proactive.

A few random points, as well...

Those who have been following the news of the Strike have no doubt read that IATSE was not as supportive of the WGA as some of the other guilds (e.g. SAG and Teamsters). Well, this post points out why IATSE should be rethinking its position, as I think we've begun to see on at least an anecdotal basis.

We also know that the agents are the ones who were instrumental in getting the WGA and AMPTP back to the table today. But they are not the only ones likely to be hurt by a prolonged strike. The LA Times details exactly how high the costs of this strike could be to the city's economy overall, which is why politicians tried (generally unsuccessfully) to get this resolved as well.

At the beginning of the strike, people were complaining how boring the writers' strike signs were. They said that writers should be able to come up with better slogans! Well, I think we all know how much that has changed, but here is a nice collection of photos of some of the signs from the Fox rally a few weeks back, as proof.

And how else are writers putting their skills to work (without actually working)? Well, for starters, some are looking to the web, as this article from before the strike points out. This has clearly been a web-centric strike, in all ways possible. People have protested online, they have found ways to organize online, they have posted videos online, and the key sticking point int he contracts has been about the web. Here, then, are a few of my favorite vids from around the web. I'm sure you've seen some, but may have missed others:

Voices of Uncertainty
Videologblog: Writers Strike (Colbert Report writers)
Same Old Story (Irv Brecher)
WGA Strike: A Love Story

And as the strike wore on, we actually got a few that had some better production values as well:

Strike Police
Writer Boi - WGA
The Speechless campaign (make sure to scroll down for previous episodes)
The Mighty Pencil

And speaking of the mighty pencil, I'll point out the Pencils2MediaMoguls.com protest. If you're looking for more you can do until this strike ends, check these three posts for ideas. And if you want to help those who are hurt financially by the strike, here's one way to do it (even if they spell it swag instead of my preferred "schwag").

Lastly, here's a funny video from some "scab" writers. Kind of. And if you wonder about the origin of the term "scab," check HERE. I still prefer my definition in the comments to that post: "Whether this is its origin or not, I think the term scab is appropriate because it is something that covers up a gaping wound, but looks damn ugly while doing it."

Here's to hoping for a quick and favorable (to writers) resolution!

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some people might think that doing research on your writing assignment was scabbing out not so fun joel

i'm shocked

2:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Anon, I don't think doing research on a project for a NON-SIGNATORY company is scabbing out? Joel, it's an indie company, right?

4:15 AM  
Blogger Fun Joel said...

Anon 2, you are absolutely correct.

Anon 1, I am not only researching but actually writing this script on assignment during the strike. And that is perfectly acceptable, since I am not in the WGA and the company for whom I am writing this is not a signatory company. I would never scab.

6:11 AM  
Blogger Joshua said...

Another point I think the studios didn't consider was that the publicity war would go so much against them . . . there was a lot of talent with nothing to do, a few digital cameras and youtube . . . youtube hurt them far more than I think they'd admit . . . in particular, the short WHO ARE THEY LYING TO really hurt their position (too soon to tell if they can make money off the internet, even though they're telling investors otherwise) . . . I really think it was a bit of a shock, since most MSM was pretty much in line - but we all got regular blogs with info and passed it on . . .

I believe it sort of took them by surprise . . . they couldn't win the pr war, which kept the writers unified and stronger - very much unlike 88, when they cracked . . .

7:04 PM  
Blogger VDOVault said...

Hey Joel another site people can check for things to do to support the strike is

http://community.livejournal.com/wga_supporters/

6:44 PM  

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