Monday, November 05, 2007

go get 'em, WGA

Thursday night I was at a party where a screenwriter was talking about the then-impending strike:

“I was on the phone taking notes from this 23-year-old executive and she was like, ‘I really want you to get script 11 to me today, because we’re trying to stockpile before the strike.’ I don’t know if she even knew what she was saying, which was, ‘Help me to fuck you.’”

I’ve heard people mutter a few comments along the lines of comments that are muttered when professional athletes go on strike—i.e. why should rich people get even more money?

If the writers were striking to take bread from the mouths of janitors, I would agree. And yeah, as a writer who has never earned more than $200 for a fiction piece (with the average being approximately two complementary copies of a literary magazine; in my neck of the literary woods, a cash economy hasn’t even replaced the barter system), I understand the temptation to roll one’s eyes.

But the writers are striking to take money from the big giant safes of executives (picture Les Moonves rolling around in it a la Scrooge McDuck). And the studios are acting—as the guys on the other side of the table always do—like the Earth would come to a screeching halt if their profit margin were to narrow slightly.

I heard a guy on NPR talking about how the copyright and royalty systems are essentially archaic, and we’d be better off with a model in which writers (and musicians) are paid more up front with the caveat that their work would then become free and reproducible to all. He was probably right—you can’t fight the steady march of technology.

But as long as studios are making money off creative products, so should the people who actually created said products, as opposed to the people who leave notes like “A Martian wouldn’t say that” in the margins of scripts.

When the writers are back to writing, I suggest they turn their experiences into a musical. Strikes and other forms of mass protest always make good ensemble numbers—see Newsies, Ragtime, Les Miserables, Evita.

In the words of Disney’s under-appreciated 1992 live-action Christian Bale musical Newsies:

Nothing can break us
No one can make us
Give our rights away

Also in the words of Newsies:

Go get ‘em, Cowboy!
You got ‘em now, boy!
Go get ‘em, Cowboy!
You got ‘em now, boy!

Okay, so not all writers are Stephen Sondheim. Still.


thelastnoel said...

I so support the writers. The studios are taking in millions and will continue to do so for decades to come. A writer will never make any of that.

Cheryl said...

The problem is that people who are good at making money (execs) always manage to make more money than people who have other talents (writers, actors, equipment schleppers, etc.). But hopefully a good union can at least narrow the gap.