11
Dec
07

Steven Weber writes on the strike in Hollywood.

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.

Steven Weber

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. )

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16 Responses to “Steven Weber writes on the strike in Hollywood.”


  1. 1 Steven Weber
    December 4, 2007 at 10:32 am

    My comment is that this is a guy who I’d like to have a beer with! He’s sensitive, still handsome in spite of the damage wrought by fatherhood and self-abuse and genuinely cares about the country. I dunno, say what you will…I just like the guy!

  2. 2 firstfriday
    December 4, 2007 at 11:58 am

    We’d put you in touch with him but promised not to give out his contact information. Maybe you could just talk to you about getting together with yourself sometime, as long as you don’t give yourself that creep stalker vibe.

    You should, however, get out to DC on the first Friday of some month for some adult beverages. The strike doesn’t look to have a close end in sight, so you’ve got some time. Unless you’re going to compete on Dancing with the Stars…

  3. 3 just some dude
    December 4, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    TV does suck, thank god for cable. Why are there no original ideas out there? Do we really need a Dukes of Hazzard movie? Did we really need the show? Sure, I loved the shorts, but the rest of it? Pass.

    Get ready for the attack of the reality shows, which will suck!

  4. 4 Superchic
    December 4, 2007 at 4:39 pm

    Steven,
    What are your favorite shows, aside from those you’ve been on? What about them did you like?
    How much do you think writing has to do with the success of a show and how much do you think is the ability of the actors? I’ve seen some good shows where the writing wasn’t very good but the actors were so likeable and able to deliver a bad line well.
    Thank,
    Jennifer

  5. 5 Allan
    December 4, 2007 at 4:42 pm

    I keep seeing people saying that the writers are mostly middle-class and not the rich guys who make a fortune, how true is that? Don’t writers make a good living? Is it more that they don’t make that much compared to the actors, directors and producers? Next to them they probably do seem middle-class, but put them with their salary anywhere in flyover country and they’d be living quite well, I would bet. Am I wrong?

  6. 6 Jessica
    December 4, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Steven, come to a First Friday and I’ll buy you a drink! I don’t know how old you are but you still look great!
    Jess

  7. 7 Steven Weber
    December 4, 2007 at 6:25 pm

    Note how friendly the girls are and how hostile the guys. It must be my musk. I love this site!

    The success or failure of a show depends on many things, some purely serendipitous, others more calculated. Ideally though, a successful show, whether filmed or live, is the result of co-operative input from all areas of production. Those names speeding by on the movie screen as you shuffle up the aisle are pretty much essential, though some might argue that there are a fair amount of slackers who have actually contributed little, which is the case in any organization (except at First Friday). But there is a chemistry, a symbiosis between the word and the performer—and the audience, without whose active participation there would be a glut of mindless, mediocre dross. Oh wait—that’s the majority of what passes for pop entertainment these days, due in no small part to a passive audience drunk on glitzy technology. But I digress. Each production is different and there are weaknesses and strengths particular to each production. So sometimes the writing saves it, other times it’s the actors, directors, cinematographers, etc. Meanwhile, I mostly watch C-Span, so what do I know?

    As for the truth of most writers being “middle class”, well of course they are. Despite everyone in Hollywood being portrayed as wealthy Botox junkies (of which there are plenty) the vast majority are not, anymore than all Texans have oil wells in their backyards, wear 10 gallon hats and say “Yee ha!” from the open window of their Cadillacs. And I do not use the term “middle class” as a pejorative. I mean that it is the majority of those writers, toiling away at a profession they would like to make a living in. They may indeed want more material things, money, etc. but are generally content with their lifestyle. And they want to remain content and productive, period.

    And to Jessica, I am a spry 73 years old. But I can touch virtually all my toes and have virtually all my teeth.

  8. 8 firstfriday
    December 4, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    Hey, we work like dogs at slacking!

  9. 9 Steven Weber
    December 6, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    Glad to see this column generating such an overwhelming response. What am I, chopped liver???

  10. 10 firstfriday
    December 6, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    Diced. Just kidding.

    One thing to know about Washington is the first 3 weeks in December are all about the holiday parties. While there is a ton of money out here, You have to pretty much be either old or lucky to make a lot of it while you’re young, so the prospect of 21 days (more or less) of free food and drinks is too appealing to pass. That means everyone is out every night getting drunk and zombie-like during the day because of it. But we do it for free!

    Our hits are at record highs, and you deserve some thanks for that. But this is an issue we don’t understand, even though we’ve written a little on it. The same goes for our readers. Plus, we still have new episodes of our shows, so the impact hasn’t hit yet, unless you can’t get enough of new Jay Leno (and who can?), in which case you are in need of a hobby.

    It’s not a reflection on the post as much as it is people here scurrying around like the music just stopped and we have to find a chair. Except the chair is booze and no one wants to miss out on that.

    You should really come out for a First Friday sometime.

  11. 11 Skeptic
    December 7, 2007 at 12:35 am

    I have difficulty believing you’re really Steven Weber. Why the hell would you post here? Do you know these people? I read your stuff at HuffPo but just feel like this is some sort of attempt for this site to get publicity or something.

  12. 12 Han shot first
    December 7, 2007 at 12:43 am

    I sort of agree. Why would you associate with people like this if you hate their politics? Do you agree with them secretly? Just think they’re funny? Do they have compromising pictures of you?

    I’d like to ask questions but think this could be some sort of inside joke here but I don’t know how you can prove you’re who you say you are unless you post a video of yourself saying you’re you or a picture of you holding some sort of sign. But even those can be faked. I guess I’m skeptical as well.

    If it’s really you it’s pretty cool that you would do this for a website like this and cool that you are willing to speak to the other side. Not enough of that around these days.

  13. 13 Kim
    December 7, 2007 at 1:34 am

    Steven come to first friday tomorrow!@

  14. 14 Steven Weber
    December 10, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    It’s me, I swear to that cranky sonuvagun God-guy it is.
    Why post here on this rinky-dink forum for righty bloglodytes? Why the hell not? They were kind enough to reference me as a liberal cranky schmuck (nothing I necessarily disagree with) and I was vain enough to track them down. And here I am. I’ve never met these (I presume) gentlemen but we have extended our hands across the vastness of cyberspace and grasped in one of those cool handshake/dap-things that crusty Vietnam vets do. Yeah, I disagree with most of the politics around here (might be interesting to find out what I do agree with. I’m not sure myself.) but I like ’em. And they seem to like me. And now I am channeling Sally Field. I do think there needs to be a more public discourse, one that is less showy and adversarial. I mean, the ratings grabbing extremists on the left and the right are so frikkin’ obvious and tired already and there is inarguably so much crap going down in the world that demands unity (as opposed to the division they preach) that we should forego their bullshit and meet on our own, somewhere in the middle. Otherwise, it’s just one hand clapping. And unless FF would like to foot the bill, I will have to wait until the writer’s strike is over before I venture east to drink and leer.

  15. 15 Righteous Babe
    December 11, 2007 at 6:04 pm

    The Writers Guild of America strike is about as useful as bubble gum used to plug a crack in the Hoover Dam. Even if they get what they’re after, it’s just a matter of time until the television and motion picture industries are in the same predicament as the recording industry – which is set for another round of mass layoffs in early ’08 (and no, for the thousandth time, this is NOT due to bad business models and crappy music).

    So, who’s to blame for the impending fate of the creative industries?

    Just all violators of Article I, Section 8, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, known as the Copyright Clause, the Copyright and Patent Clause, the Intellectual Property Clause and the Progressive Clause (and, yes – if you’ve done the math the violators would be the majority of the American public and…drumroll…Congress).

    Under this clause the United States Congress is empowered to:

    “Promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

    But, are they using this power to actually secure the right? Hell no.

    So, why aren’t Americans protesting on the Hill with Mazer v. Stein signs in the same way they protest Roe v. Wade?

    “The economic philosophy behind the [Copyright] clause … is the conviction that encouragement of individual effort by personal gain is the best way to advance the public welfare through the talents of authors and inventors … Sacrificial days devoted to such creative activities deserve rewards commensurate with the services rendered.” Mazer v. Stein, 347 U.S. 201, 219 (1954).

    I have an idea, but what do you think, bloggers?

    p.s. ©

  16. 16 Righteous Babe
    December 11, 2007 at 7:32 pm

    Follow up: The Mazer v. Stein case wasn’t the best example of a Supreme Court decision upholding artists rights (to say the least)…but the point was that the Court recognized an economic philosophy which the current administration does not.


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