Quick! Name your favorite writer. Screenwriter. Got it yet? No? Ok, name the writer of your favorite movie in the past year? Casino Royale? What? You don’t know? I didn’t think so. So why champion the cause of people you don’t even know to get a few thousand more tacked onto their paychecks which are already higher than yours?
Strikes are often unpopular things which lead to accusations of whining, laziness, and greed. If steel workers strike and the price of your new car goes up, you get angry. You see tough, mustached men demanding dental insurance and you think “Go back to work!” Why then, has America apparently placed its support behind the Writer’s Guild? Before we delve too deeply, let me say these are just my extrapolations, examinations, and alliterations – get it? Never mind.
First up, let’s take the image of the WGA Strike. It is decidedly unmilitant. There are burly mustached men marching, nothing is being thrown and no one is yelling in your face. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The WGA is completely non-threatening. They mill about, tapping away on Blackberries, chatting on cell phones and dunking their Krispy Kremes into Starbucks Grande cups. If it weren’t for the fact that they’re standing up, we’d all just assume they were gathered in the writer’s room discussing the finer points of a fart joke. This conveys somewhat of a lack of seriousness to the strike. They don’t seem concerned. They’re content to march from 8am til 4pm, have a few snacks, wear some collectible t-shirts and then drive home in their Luxury SUVs and E-Classes.
Secondly, and importantly, is the ramifications. Or, more specifically, the lack there of. How has this affected the population? Well, if you don’t live in a production town (and really Hollywood is the only one of note -even NY vastly pales in comparison when it comes to film) you haven’t had your life impacted at all. The cost of DVD’s hasn’t risen. They haven’t stopped making them. A movie ticket still costs $8-14, no change there. The popcorn is still overflowing with greasy faux-butter and costs as much as your ticket. No, this strike hasn’t negatively affected anyone outside of the production world. And in a country of 301 million, that’s very few.
But I think the real reason is this: America doesn’t trust big business. We surely don’t trust the entertainment business. Know one outside of Hollywood (and very few within Hollywood) know what a Producer does, but they know he drives a nicer car, lives in nicer houses (emphasis houses), and pays someone to fold his underwear. And for me the best part is, no producer reading this will ever get mad, because hell, he is a Hollywood producer! Nothing to complain about.
American citizens and movie-goers see the box office receipts, they hear about Tom Cruise’s paycheck or the budget of a Charlie’s Angels film and they see waste. The second installment of the Angels cost $120million dollars. If they can throw that much money around, surely there is some there for the writers, am I right? The Producers and studio heads are greedy and evil! They spend so much money on producing this films and they live the life but they refuse to share. And while that may be partially true, or bullseye in some cases, that’s the way the people see it. Hollywood is a “Hurry up and Waste” business. They’d rather pay someone to hand deliver 4 DVDs to the same guy at 4 different times of the day, paying him a bonus for driving, an hourly wage, and removing him from the office, meaning they need to hire a second assistant to cover the times he’s not gone. They’ll do that rather than have the kid drive one time delivering 4 DVDs. Hurry up and waste.
There are plenty of nice guy and great producers out there. Ones that aren’t eating sushi four times a day and stocking their private DVD catalogs with “research” material. But the ones that do this have let the cat out of the bag and now there is no sympathy for the big corporations and their heads. Do they deserve it? I won’t know the answer until either a) the WGA gives me health benefits and lets me in or b) 20th Century Fox hooks me up with a Land Rover. I’d settle for a Jeep Rubicon.
So in my humble opinion it’s not some overwhelming love for the writers, but just a matter of “no skin of my back” with a touch of “stick it to the man.” Though in this case, the man won’t learn the lesson. The money won’t be leaving their pockets. There will just be slightly less money entering their pockets than there could be. The rate of growth will slow, but the earnings will still be heading up. The writers won’t write better or more, they’ll just get paid more to do it. So who wins and who loses? Well. Not the Producers, the Writers, or the patrons. The writers get some extra scratch, but they’re already winners. The producers, still getting paid, getting rich. The movie goers? No cost increase to them. The only people really taking a hit are below the line guys. Editors, grips, gaffers. I already wrote about how they’re getting the shaft, but it’s still true, even more so, as more shows shut down. They’re not getting paid more or less, but they’re sure as hell working less.
So what is my epic conclusion? There really isn’t one. The Strike really won’t help or hurt any of the “players” involved or the consumers. A little more here, a little less there. It’s still one big, sweet chocolate pie of money and same few people are still gobbling it up while the same citizens still pay to bake it.
So America, support the writers, don’t support the writers, favor the studios, stick it to the studios. Nothings going to change. A few more crumbs of pie one way or the other. Won’t hurt you, won’t hurt them. The writers may get an extra car or a new addition to the house, but it won’t change them. It still just comes down to the two biggest kids on the playground jockeying against each other on who gets to take whose lunch money.
So my final thought – Strike justified or not? Don’t know. Everyone in this business (more so than, but similar to the world) looks out for themselves. If there was some shakedown I could get in on to make a few extra bucks, I’d be tempted as hell to climb aboard. As long as us peons get to keep our jobs and don’t get shafted on the ticket prices, whatever.
And America, do yourself a favor, learn a writer’s name or two, if you’re going to support them. Paul Haggis put a lot of time into Casino Royale for you. But then again, maybe the Producers deserve some credit. Oh who am I kidding – we still don’t know exactly what they do.