We wrote our Hollywood corespondent Steven Weber yesterday and asked for an insider’s view of the Writers Guild of America strike. Since we have faces for radio and voices for print, it’s nice to have someone on the inside who can give us their perspective.
So here is the latest dispatch from Steven Weber. Let him know what you think.
And thanks to him for the quick response.
Things out here are temperate and livable, weather-wise.
Movie stars mingle with the rabble, cocaine rails are being snorted
off the escalator bannisters and it’s like one big goddam party. You
may complain about the cold in D.C. but a little variance here would
be welcome. And with the smog, maybe it would snow brown-tinged
slush, which would be a boon for those who want to fill in their bald
spots but can’t gin up the cash for a good toupé.
I had actually written a screed on the strike for the
Huffington Post that was, of course, roundly ridiculed for its over-
wrought imagery and its attempt to relate the writer’s situation with
that of the beleaguered middle class of this country which is,
namely, that health and retirement benefits and reasonable
remuneration for services rendered are either being tightened,
outsourced or phased out while the companies they worked for were
still profitable and the bosses at the top were walking away with
hefty retirement bonuses. Typical lefty shit, right? And never one to
put down making money, I am am admitted capitalist. Yet I am against
profiting while endangering people’s futures and livelihoods. And I
know you or someone gifted at properly applying a sliderule could
cite why my emotion laden argument is inaccurate or misplaced or
whatever, but it just feels wrong that the writers—the vast
majority of whom do not make massive five to six figure salaries—
are not getting a piece of an ever expanding pie, and one that is
reliant on their material. The crux of the biscuit (Frank Zappa
reference) is that they are not looking to overwhelm any studio or
parent company with unreasonable demands but rather they are trying
to carve out what amounts to a mere existence (a little more than
they were granted at the onset of the DVD revolution when the last
strike was staged) in the vast potential of the internet and the
related platforms that will most likely become the next phase in
media’s evolution. And simply to have their services recognized and
to be able to make a living.
Now: does TV suck? You betcha! But that is due mainly (in my
opinion) to the proliferation of non-creative people in creative
positions, overseeing the creation of scripted product with all the
artistically nurturing sensitivity of an arthritic proctologist
shoving a ball peen hammer up one’s ass to smash some rogue polyps.
But for every several dozen or so crappy, brainless shows there is a
“Sopranos”, a “Seinfeld”, a “24” which makes up for it all. And
since the acquisition of studios by the behemoth parent companies
(whose bottom line is The Bottom Line), that relentlessly profit-
chasing corporate paradigm is applied to the creation of TV shows,
but with a decidedly killing effect. You can’t stand over some guy
with a beard, a smock and a palette screaming, “Paint a masterpiece,
douchebag!” But the mind that is obsessed with solely making a profit
is the polar opposite to the mind that wants to express the human
experience through art. However, both can coexist and should, mindful
and respectful of the process that makes the other work. And it has
worked. Just not so much anymore.
The technical minutiae of the writer’s dilemma escape me,
though. But there clearly needs to be a way for anyone performing a
service in their field to be reasonably compensated and for there to
be some reliable method for accounting. You know, like voting
machines. (That last comment was a joke. And you can have that one
for free. )