1/21/2008

Forbes Magazine on the Strike


With all the arguments about what constitutes fair compensation for writers in New Media, not enough attention is being paid to the more fundamental issue that Thom Taylor talks about in his article in Forbes Magazine from January 17th:

But the media has been wrong to suggest the current battle is simply over cash. While the debate does affect how to divide pieces of the digital media pie (for which writers, after all, create the recipes), the work stoppage is really about the writers' desire to be treated as partners in a creative endeavor, a concept that studios have moved further and further away from. Residuals reward creators, just as stock options reward employees, or royalties reward patent-holders. It's funny that with all the MBAs running the show, studios fail to understand that simple principle of commerce.

He writes about the long-term impact of the 1988 strike, and how we may now find ourselves in a nexus of change that is as big, or bigger:

But it's the WGA's deal with Media Rights Capital that could end up being most significant. Co-founded by a new media entrepreneur who sold his dot-com for over $1 billion, MRC's willingness to form a pay structure for creators' work on the Internet is bound to have studios reconsidering their strategies. ..

As the town starts the New Year, the question facing Hollywood is: "What new business model will emerge from this strike?" Because--as in 1988--it may well be the work stoppage itself that changes the business forever. The studios could be cutting off their noses to spite their faces, because the longer the strike continues, the more inevitably it becomes that their one-time partners will begin to create and distribute product via the Internet--without them.

11 comments:

Charlie said...

I love how articles like these that tout the writers striking out on there own (no pun intended) fail to acknowledge two important facts (i) if it was so easy, rewarding and profitable for them to do it, then they would have done it already (hence the reason they're still holding out their hands to the studios for work and money) and (ii) television is on its last legs because people got tired of the crap that was passed off as entertainment (horrible writing all but completely killed the sitcom and dramas aren't far behind) (and that's the fault of the writers AND the studios).

I welcome the writers moving onto the internet. They'll see that they aren't going to be coddled by studio executives who tell them their crappy writing is great. They aren't going to automatically get the viewers that networks command because of their branding and they aren't going to get the perks that they got working in Hollywood. It's a new day. Have you see the crapfests on the internet written by professional hollywood writers? Awful. Good luck. But those of you dreaming (with stars in your eyes) of the day you'll be creating internet content that will reach the same audiences as the networks must have left your senses on the picket lines.

paint the town red said...

To 'Charlie'--
Many "crapfests" on the Internet earn shitloads of money. Writers have traditionally needed studios to finance and distribute content. Welcome to a new day... Check out network TV's demographics; college kids. And they don't have land lines, and they don't own/want TVs. They have cell phones and computers. The future IS now, and it's on the Internet. Even the advertisers hate the networks. Soon, the money will be staying with the visionaries. Not with the assholes who try to mind-fuck everyone into thinking they hold the magic, the creativity, and the brains to keeep it together...

maynotlast said...

Oh, no, no, no, NO, NO, NO!!!! For the love of god, DO NOT make this strike about "respect." Make it about getting the BEST DEAL POSSIBLE! Writers will NEVER get the respect they deserve. If this strike "is really about the writers' desire to be treated as partners" then let's just say goodbye to television and movies and everything else right now, because it ain't coming folks. The WGA can strike until their shirts turn blue but "respect" will NEVER be offered.

Luzid said...

Charlie, you really shouldn't let your petulant envy of writers' ability to create color your logic.

Just because you can't hack it doesn't mean you should attack those who can.

Jealousy is ugly.

Richard Cosgrove said...

Charlie says...

Meeooowwmmaaameeeyooowwwmeeeyammmmeeeooow!!

(In case that was a bit too British: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9HB0HcINjWs&feature=related)

- Richard

4merBTLer said...

I enjoyed reading Mr. Taylor's article at forbes.com. And there is some good commentary there, as counterpoint to Gavin Polone's "pot stirring".

Thank you for pointing me over there, UH!

Oh, and Charlie, change is never easy, but true creatives know all about starting over... and over, and over, and over... They also know that to be true to their vision, they can't please everyone. You're obviously one of the more difficult to please, but you're not going to deter creatives from their need to create, through whatever outlet they can find.

I'm not a writer; I'm 100% techie. But I don't have a problem with starting over again, either. We would all just prefer to not to have to.

thom taylor said...

Some people were out buying Disney stock or IBM's, while others were out buying Microsoft or - more recently - Google's. Neither investors went bankrupt of course, but I'm happier siding with the latter crowd...

Memo to maynotlast: you are confusing respect with partnership. One is a subjective assessment, while the other is a condition. Studios have over the past two decades worked hard in reducing the writers' role to work-for-hire employees, which by nature is anti-creative. Some will say, "then writers should share in the losses," but effectively they do so already - since a flop can sideline a writer’s career (even when the writer might have already been creatively removed from the process). Partnership is like the best case scenario that a writer enjoys with his agent - they help each other get rich (ain't it funny how over the course of the strike the once greedy image of agents has turned to benevolent peace-maker?).

I don't think any writers are asking for respect. They gave that up when they moved to Hollywood.

vfx_Kid said...

Hey Luzid,

When you say . . .

"Charlie, you really shouldn't let your petulant envy of writers' ability to create color your logic. Just because you can't hack it doesn't mean you should attack those who can. Jealousy is ugly."

. . . who's being petulant? Get over yourself. You know nothing about what Charlie's created. Writers are not the only ones who "create."

BTL Guy said...

Can someone point me to some hard facts and numbers on the made-for-the-internet "crapfests" that are earning "shitloads of money?"

I'm serious.

It's all well and good for everyone to talk about moving to the internet and "doing it all for themselves", it's all wonderful talk about what an insult $1200 for internet streaming is (and I, too, thought that number would be higher), but, seriously, where are the "shitloads of money" internet creations?

I'm personally aware of two made-for-the-net video series that are popular.

One is Ask A Ninja, which is a kinda wacky quasi-scripted (non union) show.

The other is Mr. Deity, which is a quirky, well-written (non-union, I think) no-budget series.

Neither of these is making, as far as I know, a "crapload of money."

There's also Quarterlife, but I believe that was barely breaking even (please correct me if I'm wrong) until it was picked up for (wait for it) broadcast television.

Repeating the mantra that "everything is moving to the net" and that "the internet is a goldmine" are great soundbites, but repetition does not make something true (though Karl Rove may dispute me).

If there really are successful internet creations, especially if they use union Writers, Cast and Crew, I'd love to know more about them.

4merBTLer said...

To Thom Taylor,

"I don't think any writers are asking for respect. They gave that up when they moved to Hollywood."

LOL! That last line of yours made me look at your profile and click around. Turns out there's alot more "Hollywood" in your history than your profile page implies!

"Some will say, "then writers should share in the losses," but effectively they do so already - since a flop can sideline a writer’s career (even when the writer might have already been creatively removed from the process)."

They also share in losses through smaller/fewer residuals on unsuccessful works, don't they?

It's not like a residual is a bonus; from what I understand, a writer takes a portion of their fee up front and "invests" the rest in the success of the finished product, reaping dividends (or not) down the road... Or am I just completely misunderstanding the concept?

I like reading your comments, and it was nice to read your (2 that I found) articles.

Brian said...

Great Referral to the Forbes Article.

The big problem, as I have stated in other responses - is that the old and new media are converging.

The Content we have traditionally seen on Broadcast and Cable - is already being delivered via the internet. Already what is internet and what is TV are being blurred, and will continue even further.

People are already able to watch movie and Television programs on their big screen that were delivered over the internet.

Several Major companies - Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Tivo - have all announced new services and or devices for direct delivery from the internet to your television set - of existing and new content in all it's forms.

The Apple TV 2 - announced Last Tuesday and available next week - works without a computer. You can click and buy or rent your favorite movies or television shows, or podcasts from your couch. For the home viewer - the experience is the same. A Lean-back user experience.

The problem with the current DGA PRoposal is - If the studios can cap residuals at $1200 - and the Studios can elect to use internet for delivery (avoiding Payments of Television Residuals)- and the Viewer has virtually the same user experience (Watching The content on their big screen sets) AND The viewer gets the added benefit of Time shifting ( watching what they want , when and where they want to) It's a no brainer.

Reruns as they previously existed will be gone. And they will be gone because - for the viewer the experience has not changed. In fact it has improved. For the Studios - they save money. For the content creators - They lose money.

And Content delivery will switch to what the studios will classify as internet delivery. And the box that will begin the transformation is probably already in your living room.

For many with Cable television - Their Internet connection is delivered by the same cable and the same company. Walk over to the cable box and you will see a USB connector that does nothing right now. But will be able to connect to hard drive storage or direct connect to your computer. It's already in place.

The business is changing. Time to get out of the old mindset.

What should happen ( but probably won't) Is starting over from scratch instead of piling new stuff on top of the old rules and formulas.
There should be a recreation of the whole business model from top to bottom, in light of the new world that exists.

But those with power won't give up what's comfortable ( on both sides) and Those without it -still what the dream that they'll get it some day. So the best we can hope for is a realistic partnership that shares gives a fair share of the pie. And a flat. low percentage formula could not be more fair to the studios.

If you make money - we make money. If you don't make money - we don't. I've heard it said on the picket lines a thousand times. What's not fair about that? Shared Risk and Shared Rewards. Please AMPTP -I'd be willing to here a non-rhetorical answer to that question.

Looking at the bad DVD deal and sitting at the dawn of a new media area- This is a turning point and the time to resolve this is now.

I think President Bush came up with the best Strike Slogan yet. - I can't believe I would ever type that sentence- But, I think he did.

Here it is:

" Fool me once - Shame on Me. Fool Me Twice.... We won't be fooled again!"

Peace and hoping that a fair deal comes soon.