Reactions to Littleton’s TV on Strike

writer's strikeTV on Strike: Why Hollywood Went to War over the Internet by Cynthia Littleton really struck a chord with me; partly because I remember following the WGA strike on the news and even talking about it in class at my high school, but mostly because my mother, a freelance writer, producer and director for film and television, is a member of the WGAE, and was present at a few of the rallies that took place outside of the NBC building in New York. If I had to pinpoint the exact moment in the book that really hooked me, it would have to be a quote from WGAW president Patric Verrone, in which he explained what it would mean for writers to be stuck with the traditional residual payment system as outlined in their soon-to-be-expired contracts:

The companies are seeking to take advantage of new technology to drastically reduce the residual income that sustains middle class writers and keeps them in the business… their proposals would destroy the very pool of creative talent that is the basis of their immense revenues and profits. (4)

You might be thinking, “why this quote?” I felt particularly drawn in by these words because the more I thought about how Hollywood treated/continues to treat its content creators (i.e. writers, producers, directors, actors, etc.) the more disturbed I became at the way the U.S. entertainment industry as a whole functioned/functions. The fact that business executives get to enjoy the spoils of the film and television industry, rather than the very individuals who create the products that enable the industry (and execs’ paychecks) to thrive is beyond upsetting to me. As someone who’s looking to enter the creative side of the entertainment business, it saddens, and quite frankly scares me to realize that creativity isn’t as profitable a trait as the ability to sell a 30-second time slot to advertisers.

On page 6, Littleton includes a message from WGA leaders to its members over a year before contract negotiations began: “Don’t let them screw us on the Internet like they did on home video.” If events leading up to and during the 2007-08 writer’s strike and contract negotiations were, as the WGA claimed, a repeat of events that occurred after the emergence of home video, it’s safe to assume that there could be more strife to come for creatives in the entertainment industry as soon as the next “big thing” in technology rolls around. So, am I crazy for continuing to work towards a career in film or television?

No, I’m not. Although the majority of this post was dedicated to a few of the not-so-great aspects of Hollywood, as outlined in what I’ve read of TV on Strike thus far, I also was incredibly enthralled by the parts of the book that describe how the members of the WGA came together and fought for each other’s rights. In the book’s introduction, Littleton’s description of the WGA rally, which took place on LA’s Avenue of the Stars and was held on day five of the strike, reaffirmed for me that there are people out there who wish to protect creatives in the industry, and further, that creatives themselves will come together for the greater good of the guild when times are tough. I’m really looking forward to discussing this book in class with everyone on Thursday, but in the meantime, take a look at this article I found on AVClub.com, which adds a quirky twist to what we’ve been reading of the 2007 writer’s strike: http://www.avclub.com/article/the-writers-strike-of-2007-08-changed-ibreaking-ba-101217

Image found using Creative Commons.

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