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GROUND PENCILS DOWN

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) West and East (WGA-e), are on strike. The union membership represents most writers who create the words — screenplays, scripts — from whence feature films and television programs are produced. The nemesis is the producers — referred to as “the moguls,” people who are, for most intents and purposes, the studios, the organizations that finance and make the physical process of production and later distribution possible for the films and television programs that began with — and earn their money from use of — the scripts.

Nikke Finke has about the best, up-to-the-minute coverage of the entire process (“On The Line – Strike News As It Happens” Part I and Part II) — the strike itself, the daily discussions that are identified, the experiences of the writers along with many shared comments from the other production and studio people also affected — from mostly the WGA, the writers’, perspectives. There are a few “union heavy” or “thug” type comments here and there from obviously Leftwing socialist union members of the WGA, but for the most part, the comments shared by WGA members in Finke’s comments section have been decent, informative, level and reasonable.

At stake in the strike is the residual income the WGA seeks from “new media” — media streaming on the internet from work they’ve created — and this issue is significant to the moguls because as goes the WGA configuration now if the strike is resolved, will also go the other unions in the entertaiment industry, specifically the Screen Actors Guild, if not all the others involved (crafts, Teamsters, all areas).

Unfortunately, the WGA has to work against (deserved) anti-union sentiments in the nation, and, a degree of disgruntled lack of sympathy from consumers (also deserved), due to the ongoing “bad product” of the last few years emanating from the entertainment industry. Many Americans, mostly, are well fed-up with the overwhelming “blame America first” range of films from Hollywood and the writers are taking most of the blame for that in the public eye so far.

A lot of writers, however, maintain that they are not responsible for the bad product of late — that they write what they’re asked to write, what the studios (those “moguls”) expect, what they deem will sell and that is mostly blood, gore, destruction and anti-American screed.

I both agree with the writers and disagree — I’m not keen on the entire concept nor functionality of unions but in this specific case, writers in the entertainment industry, the WGA as a union not only makes sense but is necessary. Also, WGA members have to support themselves and their dependents on per-project basis — they’re what the rest of us refer to as “independent contractors” and they have to maintain their own health insurance and retirement funds — and very few of them are the big-money earners that the media makes the most of as to income news. They also must write scripts that someone is willing to purchase the use of; their ongoing source of income through non-active project times is the residual money they earn from rebroadcasts of films and television made with use of their words, and this residual income security is a benefit established by the union and wouldn’t exist without a union effort involved.

But, as long as the anti-American screed standard persists among the moguls, that’s what the writers create, or so the writers say. However, I wonder if but what the screed standard that is the problem for many of us consumers is actually the shared sentiment of a bad and badly affected industry.

On practical terms, I’d like to believe the writers are not responsible for the bad product but then there are the comments that persist on Finke’s website from those antagonistic socialist WGA members, that seem to promote antagonism of capitalism as the primary issue — if not of the strike, certainly now to continue one. Thus, I wonder just to what extent the entire entertainment industry remains respectable.

Once in a while, a really good if not great feature film comes along and a few times a year we get a remarkable broadcast on a television series, but otherwise, I find myself wondering if the vast majority of the film industry shouldn’t be off applying for work elsewhere. Obviously, it’s time for a change in the arrangements that keep many people pushing the negativity on the rest of us and thinking it’s worth our dollars.


C O M M E N T S : now closed