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Posts Tagged ‘WGA’

Strike Turns Hollywood Upside Down! Yikes!

November 7, 2007 5 comments

WGA Strike, Part III of ?

I know I’ve been talking about the WGA strike a lot lately, but I do have my reasons: This is an “intelligent entertainment” blog, and if talented, tenured writers are no longer producing content, there’s not going to be much entertainment in our future. Worse still, it probably won’t be all that intelligent, either. More than likely decisions will be made on the fly and off the cuff, by actors, producers and directors alike.

Heroes is reportedly filming a new ending to a December episode this week in anticipation of it filling in as a season finale. Photo copyright NBC Universal Television.

At this point in time, ABC’s Desperate Housewives, NBC’s Heroes and ER, Fox’s Back to You and ‘Til Death, and CBS’ Two and a Half Men, Rules of Engagement, The New Adventures of Old Christine, and The Big Bang Theory are all halting production, among many others, as shown in the updated grid on latimes.com. The scary part is that many of the series listed in the table only have anywhere between three and seven more weeks of programming left before their done. I say “scary,” because TV is going to be inundated with unscripted, reality television shows come January, and I was so relieved when that trend took a downward turn. We can only hope that it doesn’t become uber-popular again. That would be the worst kind of irony for writers once this whole issue is resolved.

The way I see it, this strike could essentially cause one of two things. Short of costing Hollywood much more than the $500 million it cost them in 1988, it may bring crews together in that sometimes elusive, yet collaborative, effort to create quality programming. Without writers to do the work, others will have to step up to the plate. It could be downright inspiring.

Or, sadly, it could cause an even deeper divide in Hollywood.

So far, it’s looking pretty bright. Actors like Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, America Ferrera and cast members from The Office have reportedly expressed their support of the writers, though many of their colleagues have remained coy. According to Variety, executive producers have been “refusing to cross the picket lines even to perform non-writing chores on scripts that have already been completed.” It’s great to see that there is such a unified front from Screen Actors Guild members and executive producers.

The Hollywood Reporter has a great article that documents the back-and-forth debate between Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP) president Nick Counter and WGA leaders. Make of it what you will.

It looks like many in the media underestimated how badly the strike was going to hit production on a variety of shows, but I think it’s a good sign that everyone is still supporting the writers. We’ll see how far that support goes in two months’ time, though it’s fairly clear which side of the debate is causing the problem here. Hopefully the writers will get what they want (and deserve) in a timely manner, so everyone can get back to work.

Still — and this is pure speculation here — I wonder if this may be drawn out longer so as to stop any chances of a precedent being formed. There’s been talk of a Screen Actors Guild/Directors Guild strike this summer, and maybe The Powers That Be are hoping it will be reconsidered, so as to prevent another huge hit like this. I don’t think anyone wants to see production halt from coast to coast, but if SAG members have justifiable reasons like the writers, it may be quite necessary. According to Firefox News, SAG president Alan Rosenberg was pretty confident, saying, “We’ll get what they get.”

For everyone’s sake, I hope that confidence is bankable.

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Writers Guild Strike In-Depth

November 4, 2007 1 comment

Writers Guild to Strike Monday

The more I learn about this situation, the more convoluted it seems. I know members of the Writers Guild of America are striking Monday because they want more of the digital piece of the pie when written work makes it to the Internet. Members of the guild are also striking for more residuals from the multi-billion-dollar DVD industry. That sounds simple enough… And fair.

Tina Fey is the creator, executive producer and star of NBC’s 30 Rock, one of the New York-produced series that will be immediately affected by the strike. This quadruple threat (known for her work on Saturday Night Live as the first female head writer, and her breakout hit with Lindsay Lohan, “Mean Girls”) is also a WGA member who writes for the series. Photo from geekfitters.com

Here is the official press release from the Writers Guild of America.

To start, I’m always nervous when guilds and unions strike, because it gets into that gray political area, and I’m never sure what the underlying reasons for the picket truly are… I mean, sure there are the public reasons, the ones that are stated without censure by PR gurus and union representatives — but then there are the reasons that are stated behind closed doors. Unfortunately, nothing is black-and-white with politics, and I don’t believe unions and guilds are always above reproach.

The WGA strike, however, seems pretty legitimate. I believe they have every right to want more for the product they provide. While I value all the working cogs of the Hollywood Machine – from the grips to the crafts services men and women to the producers, actors and writers – I have to agree that historically, writers have gotten the least amount of respect considering what they do for the industry. Actors, directors and producers are among the highest paid in Hollywood, and while writers are paid considerably for their services, it would seem they also get paid to not complain when their works of art are altered without their consent.

Apparently it’s not unusual for writers to be vastly ignored once they step foot in a studio; their creative control ends once they send in their edits, because as soon as the director and the producers get a hold of it (not to mention when actors are given the freedom to adlib), anything can happen. Let’s not even go into what happens when the editors sit down in their labs.

To be fair, writers know the risk going in, and the pay probably isn’t bad enough for them to leave. Still, I am a firm believer in the idea that television and film should be a collaborative meeting of the minds. I respect directors, producers, actors and editors for their contribution to the film industry. In short, I think they’re all brilliant, and as a media production student who would love to work in the film and television industry one day, I can understand their positions.

However, writers continue to lack the respect and, yes, financial advantages that others in the industry have. Yes, producers have been known to write, but if all producers were meant to write for the industry, there would be no need for writers in the first place. Writers are more often than not the first ones to nurse a new story to life, to research and develop it; they also tend to be the go-to people when edits need to be made in a pinch, or when actors have issues with the content; they are the ones whom few viewers know by name or face. I firmly believe something should be done to rectify this 70-year-old industry trend.

That said, I am disappointed that it came to this. This strike is essentially halting production on many programs. It won’t happen right away, and it won’t happen in droves, but it will affect many actors and crews. As The TV Zone blog on newsday.com stated, late-night television will be “gone. And quickly at that. And per my understanding, don’t expect someone like Jon Stewart to do a Johnny Carson – who left the air in the ’88 strike, but returned a few months later in May of that year. Stewart’s a member of the Guild and it’s inconceivable that he’d break ranks with fellow scribes.”

Also, according to the online publication, daytime soap operas could be facing re-run time after the New Year. Love ’em or hate ’em, the soap opera industry employs many who will more than likely be out of work for some period of time. The aforementioned strike in 1988 resulted in the producers writing instead, which kept the soaps on the air, according to latimes.com. Maybe that will be the case here.

 

Conan O’Brien is one of the many late-night funny men who will be affected by the WGA strike on Monday. Photo from tv.yahoo.com

So, what we have here is an issue that no longer just affects executives (who continue to get paid no matter what, bless their wealthy hearts), but it also affects crew members, or even writers who didn’t want to strike. In addition, I’m not even sure the contract issues the WGA is currently fighting have anything to do with soap opera writers, as their work does not make it to DVD or the Internet — legally.

Also, I’m not sure how the various unions support actors and crew members who are out of work due to a strike, and it’s entirely possible that they are required to be paid something while they beat the streets of Los Angeles and New York — mostly New York — looking for jobs. Still, I find it very ironic that the writers of Hollywood, in their quest to gain more respect, have essentially turned the industry on its head.

One other thing: It’s my understanding that executives are unwilling to raise residuals on DVDs because they’re not sure how sales will fare in the future. While I completely understand the logic in that business model, DVD sales are a very lucrative business for studios. It’s gotten to the point where a movie can essentially tank by industry standards in the box office, but rake in enough to make it a relative success in domestic and international/overseas sales, which include rentals and purchases. If I’m not mistaken, I believe the same can more than likely be said for television shows as well, which explains why the TV on DVD market skyrocketed a year or so ago.

I’m sure nothing is black-and-white, even in the WGA’s understandable attempt to gain more leverage. There may be more to the situation than meets the eye — in fact, I’m sure of it, considering WGA members haven’t been allowed to discuss their closed-door meetings since threats of the strike began. At the same time, they are honest grievances that are backed up by fact and historical precendent.

I hope the situation is secured in a timely manner, however, if only so WGA member Ajay Sahgal (video below) can stop stressing out. Poor guy.

Strikes, Viewership and ‘Women’s Murder Club’

October 15, 2007 Leave a comment

Strike on the Horizon

I’ve been trying to keep an eye on the recent Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) issues that have been a brewing in Hollywood of late. Apparently the issue stems from Guild members requesting more money for content that makes it to the Web. According to Broadcast Newsroom, there has been heavy debating on either side, but there is a silver lining for some shows: With the networks ordering so many scripts in advance (so as to compensate for a potential strike that will otherwise leave them with gaping holes in their programming), it’s giving “struggling” series a second chance at survival. The popular online trade magazine cited CBS’ Cane, FOX’s K-Ville and ABC’s Big Shots as examples of such stragglers.

This all seems to be yet another indication of the ever-changing distribution model that studios and networks have both been fighting and trying to keep up with for the past couple of years. There is, as always, an issue of copyright, and how the original authors of a product can be properly compensated. Unfortunately, thanks to torrents and a host of other video- and media-sharing websites, it’s very difficult to track every single download. While it’s unfortunate for the creators of each work, it’s also rather unavoidable. Worldwide, fans are determined and resourceful when it comes to finding what they want on the Internet.

Is TV Viewership Rising, Falling, Or at a Plateau?

I’ve been wondering lately how viewership has been faring, but it’s become a bit hard to compare this season’s performance with last season’s because of the recent DVR debacle. Networks are wanting ratings credit for viewers who watch their series through DVR and TiVo usage, and Nielsen is admittedly trying to keep up with the changes.

The digital age has caused a revolution for which networks, advertisers and Nielsen’s were not quite prepared, but they are trying. Still, I’m a bit surprised that there are no new series that have gotten the official axe yet. Granted, it’s still early, but usually there’s a stinker or two that’s canned after the first week. I’ve yet to find one. And I know that doesn’t mean that quality in programming has increased, because ABC’s Cavemen is still around. Its concept (and the fact that ABC, of all networks, actually greenlit it) still boggles my mind.

So, we have struggling shows that aren’t doing so hot this season. We have no breakout hits, despite the many, many, heavily-pimped new series, such as Private Practice, Bionic Woman, Journeyman, Cane, Pushing Daisies, Life, Moonlight and Back to You. However, we also have networks preemptively requesting more scripts so they can have something to produce and broadcast over the next three or four months in the event of a strike. With all of these technological and political changes, it’s going to be an interesting season. Some series may be cancelled a little later than usual, while others may be given a final chance to add that extra umph! they’ve needed to truly shine. Only time will tell how each network’s programming fares.

Women’s Murder Club


Picture by tvguide.com/ABC — From left to right: Paula Newsome, Laura Harris, Aubrey Dollar and Angie Harmon

I caught the series premiere of ABC’s newest drama based on the literary work of acclaimed bestseller, James Patterson. The series, starring crime drama veteran Angie Harmon, follows the lives and careers of four diverse San Francisco women as they work together to solve murders.

At first, I’m sure some people scoffed at the idea. Though Patterson (who also serves as Executive Producer of the TV series) has had incredible success with the book series, I’d imagine there may have been some trepidation with having an all-woman team solve crime. For one thing, it breaks tradition. Over the past 20 years, law enforcement shows have typically comprised of a male-female duo, with the male lead character mostly taking precendence.

While I am personally intrigued by the concept, I would not be surprised if some wondered whether the audience would buy, or be interested in, four women taking on the bad guys every week.

Fast National Ratings, as reported by zap2it.com, suggest that Women’s Murder Club had a strong reception with audiences. Though premieres are not always indcative of a series’ overall success, Friday is a tough night, specifically with CBS’ killer lineup. If the series can measure up to the competition on a regular basis, and build upon what I’m sure is an increasing online fanbase (most likely comprised of women), I think the series has the opportunity to be a success.

It’s unconventional, not just in theme and characters, but also in directing and writing. The story takes place in beautiful San Francisco, shying away from the obvious and overdone choice — gritty New York City.

While Harmon’s Lindsay Boxer has a backstory that may bring in a bit too much soap to the story (the character’s ex-husband is assigned as Boxer’s boss in the pilot), the combination of hard-nosed professionals with passion and a trusting friendship will ultimately drive the series. I’m looking forward to more episodes, and seeing how each of these characters will contribute to future storylines.