Wednesday, November 7, 2007

WGA Strike

I wasn't planning on weighing in on the WGA strike partly because I try to avoid "political" issues here. Besides, I thought it was a no-brainer. But when I was reading a writer's blog about this, I was surprised at the number of uninformed comments some posters made, like
At work if I create a concept, idea, or program that makes the company millions I don't get any residuals, I am simply paid a salary so why should writer's get residuals?

To be honest the shows coming out of Hollywood this past 10 years have been crap with a few exceptions. Reality TV has ruined television, so why would I support people who have produced a lousy product to start with?
First of all, compensation has nothing to do with quality. Ask anyone who works in an office environment. Quality aside, that work is being produced by contract at the behest of production companies.

In any case, I'm amazed anyone would actually defend the media conglomerates and begrudge the actual talent responsible for creating the content for expecting a share of the enormous profits these corporations make from their work. (I suspect it's related to the general ambivalence people have for Hollywood—despite the fact that it's our society's own obsession with celebrity culture and the need to be entertained that makes Hollywood such a high-profile industry.) Such comments speak volumes about what's wrong with our country right now, when someone actually admits he's more than happy to be screwed over by his employer. If so, and you are willing to take it, you certainly have no right to be bitter.

Writers got the short end of the deal with DVD sales, primarily because there just wasn't a good understanding about the nature of digital media. With myriad new media delivery technologies coming online, like the Internet, writers (and, soon, actors) rightfully expect a piece of this new income resource.

The only reason American workers have even the kind of basic protections they enjoy today is because of what the unions fought for and achieved. If a creative work continues to generate income, the creator of that work should be entitled to a part of that income--period. In many cases, they've given up ownership of the property and, hence, the majority of the profit. But the trade-off is that they should be fairly compensated for the work.

I came across a similar quote by Hollywood mogul Lew Wasserman, who famously opined, "Everytime I flush my toilet, the plumber doesn't get paid." While certainly a nice sound bite, the easy response is, "Well, you don't get a check every time you flush it either."

More informed insider-info about the strike may be found at the website of writers Mark Evanier and Brian K. Vaughn, who both also happen to write for comics.

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