That happens, the writings is not always on the wall and now with the writers strike in the US, that wall may be empty for some days. Before I go into the now, lets consider what happened 15 years ago when the writers had their fill of exploitation. They went on strike for 100 days and the cost to the California economy was a thumping 2 billion dollars. That setting just now after covid would buckle many players all at one, making the US economy take a turn down in a stage it cannot afford it. There are other elements as well, but they do not matter at present. I was thrown by stories last week about writers that were living on US support. The people that are the foundation for billions in profit are not given a fair shake. How is that for greed and exploitation. They are not asking for the moon, they merely want a fair shake, a decent income. And I cannot see why not. I write stories, I created the foundation of movies and TV series. As such I identify with their needs. Not because of the income or the work I am in. I write for fun and to keep my skills honed. Yet the power of creation is strong and I can identify and side with anyone who made that their life’s ambition.
As such when the BBC (at https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-65447046) gave me ‘Hollywood strike: Late night comedy shows to go dark as writers’ walkout begins’ I took notice. It wasn’t merely “A Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, the first in 15 years, saw more than 11,000 writers – 98% of voting members – walk out from midnight. Tuesday’s late-night shows are expected to shut down first, while forthcoming shows and films could face delays.” This wasn’t merely a majority rules setting. 98 percent agreed, that is more than strong. It shows that the greed driven parties have taken things too far. I know it is not that simple, but that is the feeling it gives us. In. Place like the US where most people cannot agree one way or the other, 98% agreed and that number needs to sink in with many of us. We see the late night show references, but the larger stage is that this is not about one employer, one show or one movie. This is about the bulk of all and that matters, especially when a person like me throws the terms ‘greed’ and ‘exploitation’ into the mix, because that is how I feel about it. When I see stories about creators of successful series being on government support, something does not add up and these two term come to mind.
And there is a larger stage with “This time around, writers are clashing with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) – which represents the major studios, including Amazon, Disney, Netflix and Paramount – in demand of higher pay and a greater share of the profits from the modern streaming boom” the BBC gives us part, but I believe that there is more. You see when we see ‘a greater share of the profits’ we think it is the writing, but what we forget that streaming profit streams in ‘ad infinitum’ and even if that were true, that is not what the writers get, nowhere near what the writers get. To give a simplistic version, if that setting was completely true. A person like Dorothy Catherine Fontana could (due to her involvement in Star Trek The Next Generation) buy David Hasselhoff out of his $51 million mansion and take it for herself. Even if she got a mere $0.05 per episode, Star Trek TNG has been running in syndication since it aired in 1987 and it is still running at full speed on Netflix, even today. Not all series get there and not all do that well, but there is a time gap, there is a larger stage. Consider that a radio station has to register every record they play, because the composer gets a royalty fee, this has been going on for decades. So why is there no setting for streaming? Now, I am over simplifying this and I am setting a slightly inaccurate example but the premise stays the writers want a fair shake and when we see that industry make billions, why not? The stage is that streaming is a new media that is not completely understood. Some see it as a temporary stage, some see it as the next iteration in media and there is a reason that studios are jumping on that train, it is where the consumers are and during that jump some thought it was a sweet deal in a few ways, yet the people creating those series are largely forgotten, that is how the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and its members feel about it and when you have to make ends meet that feeling of happiness sour in seconds and that is what I believe we see now.
And when we see “Key issues in the talks have been how writers get paid for shows which often remain on streaming platforms for years, as well as the future impact of artificial intelligence on writing.” And here again we see two different settings. You see AI does not exist, whatever comes from these solutions isn’t created from the mind, it comes from data, data that these writers contributed. See it as an IT solution to cloning the writers mind, based on data the IT solution never created in the first place. So how long until they are made obsolete? And when I see “The AMPTP said it had offered a “comprehensive package proposal” including higher pay for writers.
But it was unwilling to improve that offer further “because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon.”” I do not see a solution or a proposal, I see a stalling tactic, a way to keep more and hand out less to a people who created the success in the first place. In this Jimmy Fallon (the comedian) gives us “Arriving at the Met Gala, Fallon said he hoped the strike would not go ahead, but at the same time wanted to see “a fair deal” agreed for writers. “I need my writers real bad, I got no show without my writers”” which I think is the true part and with ‘a fair deal’ he hits the WGA nail on the head, I wonder how long it will take the AMPTP to take a serious stand and not true to negotiate part by part and with a ‘win’ on every segment. You see,100 days is enough for some streamers to find whatever they can in Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, not to overlook Korea, Japan and India. All players that will have time and with 100 perhaps even longer to find players to go for THEIR solutions. They have been in the dark a lot longer and they are hungry for desperate streamers. How much damage will that bring. I reckon it will be more than the $2,000,000,000 the industry had the last time and when that happens, who will win? I feel certain that at that point the AMPTP will not feel like a winner. You see, a player like Netflix relies on its 230 million subscribers, especially outside of the US, their subscribers will look for other solutions when Netflix does not deliver. All this whilst the WGA and its members merely seek a fair deal? This could end up being a mopping exercise whilst the tap remains running. A lot of energy going nowhere and the spectators can clearly see that tap running. The empty wall is not merely the lack of creativity, it will be the result by not decently rewarding creativity. But it is early days, it is merely week 1 of the setting, the writers are adamant. How strong is the AMPTP deal? I honestly do not know because I have not seen any of these documents, but writers that take hunger over food whilst being underpaid is not a good setting, greed never wins over desperation, history taught us that lesson the hard way a few times over.
Enjoy this marvellous day past Sunday.