09 January, 2008

Why They Fight

Writer’s Strike Enters 9th Week!

The writers of Hollywood are striking. For a good explanation why go here: Why we Fight

Hollywood has come to a standstill. It has been projected that over a billion dollars has already been lost because of the strike. It’s affecting everyone from actors to set builders to the food service industry. While, I admit, the rest of world goes on not paying much attention.

Late Night has returned. The major three + Daily Show and Colbert are back on the air. The only one with his writers is David Letterman. That means that everyone on the other shows has to be off the cuff. The Daily Show came back without the other “journalist." The rules of “writing” are very strict and they wouldn’t be able to pull off one of their normal stories without writing, I don't think. Though I do have to admit I have been impressed by Jon Stewart the last two nights and hopes he realizes he doesn't need journalists to be funny.

The other late shows are feeling the pinch. The actors have aligned themselves closely with the writers, refusing to cross the picket lines. David was smart, he negotiated an interim contract with the writers guild (I think) consenting to the demands they are trying to get the corporate execs to agree to. He can do that because David owns his production company, and isn’t under a large umbrella organization like the others.

From my understanding the writers are striking because they want royalties from when a show is played online or bought through a medium like iTunes. They also want increased royalties from DVD sales – being that DVDs are pretty cheap to make and seemingly become more expensive every year. Makes sense. And this strike has proven that Hollywood cannot live without writers. Sure, Charlie Sheen can deliver a funny line, but who gave him that line?

I suspect it is the most valuable people in Hollywood who get paid the least. Think about it, we attribute all this money to the actors, pay them $20 million a picture. But someone (a lot of someones) wrote the script, someone built the set, did their make-up, designed the costumes, etc. And, as good of an Action as Brad Pitt is, no one is going to believe he is Troy if he’s standing in his backyard in a costume gladiator outfit. You need the behind the scenes people and yet they are completely forgotten when it comes to who gets how much money.

They say actors like Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Cameron Diaz, and others can “open” a movie. I think it’s hype and if Halle Barry wasn’t there to play Cat Woman they would have found someone else. Bad example, but really the person making the role is minor to the dozens of other people who go into creating it. Think about it, sure I want to see Johnny Depp sing – but if he was standing on a stage with a razor blade trying to get me to believe he was some crazy barber I wouldn’t believe it. And if he had to sing ad-lib because there is no script it would be even more depressing. Maybe instead of idolizing these actors who are a dime a dozen we need to recognize the many people who go into making a movie work.

And as the we go into the ninth week of this strike and we have long given up on fresh shows and have begun turning off our TVs, opting instead to spend time with our children or engage in real conversation or find other ways of entertaining ourselves (like reading or exercising) there might be a message in this that maybe as a nation we shouldn’t idolize this industry so much. Perhaps the ultimate message in this is that instead of having to watch Gray’s Anatomy we can spend Thursday nights catching up with those in our lives, finding out what’s really going on behind that plastered smile.

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© Amanda Lunday