Writers Need to Recognize Opportunity

I haven’t written about the ongoing writer’s strike, mainly because I couldn’t stir up a whole lot of enthusiasm. However, today’s announcement that five studios have cut staff contracts caught my attention. Without meaning to, I believe the writers have set the stage to completely change what we refer to as the entertainment industry.

The cut contracts affect everyone from producers to directors (and writers, of course). I’m finally interested because the writer’s strike is now directly impacting future events, not just this year’s television season. Apparently,

January is usually a busy month as it is the start of the pilot season, when new programmes are tested. But with the writers’ strike continuing, there is a lack of scripts to choose from.

I believe the writers have an opportunity, but it will mean serious change. They’ve made their point that they are the fuel that runs the Hollywood machine. At some point, if they continue down this union path of negotiating for the group as a whole, the current crop of writers will become obsolete. The increasing quality of what’s available online (often for free) proves this point.

I’m probably not the first to suggest it, but why don’t the writers form their own intellectual property company? Writers could “buy stock” in the company to help cover their operating expenses (e.g., legal fees) or to offset insurance costs, giving them the benefit of group discounts. However, the writer maintains ownership of his or her property until they are presented with an individual deal that meets their standards. The really good ideas will give the writers the power, and the not so good ideas…well, maybe will see better options on television if quality becomes a part of the economic question.

Whatever the end result, the writers have to see that the way they’ve always done business is broke. They have two choices: (1) they can continue with negotiations, hoping there’s work afterwards, or (2) they can redefine their business, taking control of a process that’s controlled them for decades. I know which one I’d prefer. What about you?



2 Responses to “Writers Need to Recognize Opportunity”

  1. January 17, 2008 at 4:04 am

    Britt: grat idea, and kudos to you for thinking outside the box – but the situation you described is very similar to what exists right now, under the 4creen Writer’s Guild. Most people don’t know that mwmbership in the Guild is mandatory for Hollywood writers; if you don’t join the guild, you can’t erite for a show or movie; and if you sign on as a writer for any show or production company, you have to join. And, the SWG provides pretty much all the functions you’ve described, including paying some legal costs. And it doesn’t hold the writers’ IP. On the other hand, it doesn’t sell or market the members’ works, so it doesn’t iperate as a for-profit enterprise.

    Neverthless, what you’ve described is doable, and in many ways, sensible.

  2. 2 Britt
    January 17, 2008 at 11:20 am

    @Joe: I should have included the mandatory membership issue in my original post, because you bring up the important point that people can’t write in Hollywood unless they join the WGA. My proposed alternative was more of a co-op situation instead of a the forced membership that’s currently required.

    The whole industry is paralyzed because the group as a whole is on strike, which is detrimental to many individuals. Ultimately, I was proposing moving away from group negotiations for intellectual property rights to individual contracts, rewarding quality and giving the writers more control over their working experience.

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January 2008
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