For a while now, I've been wanting to collect my thoughts about the writers' strike, but I haven't known exactly what to say. It's a tricky strike to talk about because, more than a lot of labor union strikes, it has the media attention necessary to get the whole country, and members of the international community forced to pay attention. Of course, I think that labor strikes do impact many aspects of society, but the writers' strike nearly cripples the entertainment industry, which almost every American integrates into their lives daily (whether intentionally or not).
I've done a little bit of research, and I think that what the WGA is demanding is entirely reasonable. Certainly, the deal struck between them and the AMPTP regarding residuals from the home video market in the '80s is in need of being retrofitted to the current situation in which DVDs (which are cheaper to make than VHS tapes) are one of the main ways in which audiences feed their hunger for TV shows and movies which they don't have the time to watch when first aired. As far as new media is concerned, I think it's very beneficial to the writers that they got their panties in a twist about it sooner rather than later. The studios were able to get away with the home video thing back in the 80s because they weren't sure where the market was going to be going, and now the writers want to make sure the same thing doesn't happen with online content. I understand, from the studios' perspective, that no one wants to set anything in stone with a medium that changes so quickly, but already advertising revenue and personal ownership sales are being lost to the people who make up the creative backbone of the industry.
Now, all of this aside, there is so much collateral damage caused by the shutdown of production that anyone in the industry - or in Los Angeles - has a vested interest in the strike lasting as short as possible. When the last strike, in 1988, lasted 22 weeks, it lost the industry so many jobs and so much money that I really hope they don't ever come any more frequently than every twenty years or so. Already, too many people have lost their jobs, too many local restaurants and businesses have lost their customers, and in a few weeks (less tragically), people will have run out of new episodes of the shows they're used to tuning in to.
Of course, I support the strike. As someone who hopes to be an employed guild member within the next couple of years, I am so glad that the picketers are trying to get better contracts for themselves that I, too, will be able to benefit from. Tomorrow I have the afternoon free, and I am looking forward to having the opportunity to visiting the picket lines and seeing it all happen firsthand. I know I'm not the only young writer aware of the networking possibilities of supporting the strike in person, but mostly I think this could be another invaluable learning experience. All of this is happening right now, when I am trying to break in to the business, and I want to see it with my own eyes. Jane Espenson, currently a writer for Battlestar Galactica, has written that she's glad to see aspiring writers showing their support, and with picket information readily available on Chad Gervich's blog Script Notes, affiliated with the WGA magazine Writer's Digest, I feel confident going down and talking to people.
So, if you're in Burbank tomorrow, at Warner Brothers, Disney, or Universal, sometime in the afternoon, look for a short-haired girl in glasses and a red shirt, armed with snacks and business cards!