A Case of Useless

A couple of thoughts about the writer’s strike. The first is this Video that made me laugh.

Anyone who’s perused fanfiction.net can tell you that the comic embellishment here is at a minimum. These people do exist and that fact is both sad and hilarious. But after a bit of rumination, I felt that this video had some wider implications beyond brightening my coffee break.

This skit takes the producer’s optimum position to its hilarious conclusion. The ability to buy labor using non-monetary benefits. Workers who are just happy to be there! It’s manager heaven! I worked as games tester for about a year, and one thing I learned was that any passion you have for your job can be used to bend you over a barrel. My work was repetitive and there were thousands ready to take my place, so it’s no wonder I didn’t get re-hired after my second contract with the company. 10 dollars an hour and 60 hour work weeks seem like a fair price for the chance to work at a video game company. It’s same deal for the Writer’s Guild, the Director’s Guild and the Screen Actor’s guild. Without them, management could easily do whatever they wanted to workers because people would pay to do the work that they do.

The second item is this blog post by Ryan Sohmer. If there ever was a case for an internet-only entertainment universe, Sohmer would be it. His comic strip, Least I Could Do has run for over five years with four books out and an animated series deal on the way. However he may have trouble getting any help writing said animated series if he maintains his line of thinking. Sohmer believes that if the producers and guild just bucked up and compromised, everybody would get back to work. Everyone MUST get back to work, otherwise all the actors and studio janitors will go hungry, this great 70 year old infrastructure will crumble and America would no longer be the cultural epicenter it once was. Oh no! The actors will have to choose between their dignity and a little gold statue at the Oscars! If you ask me, this sounds like a good thing.

The producers are about to get hit with a terminal case of useless, a disease that few occupations recover from. Back in the days of a three channel, one newspaper, one movie screen universe, the producer’s job was much more important. Making sure that the most appealing if not best content got out there to attract the best viewers and the best advertisers was a task that required strategy and tough decision-making. When the internet came along and made sure joe nobody was as accessible as NBC, creators are now able to make money from a small audience without the interference of committee thinking. Networks and corporations simply are not able to maximize revenue from the personal, specific stories that make mass media what is today. Technology is going to replace the functions of producers until they are simply providers of production capital, and holding money is something the banks have covered pretty well. The Producers know this, and they are attempting every under-handed trick in the book to keep themselves relevant and swimming in cash, from anti-net neutrality bills to copyright extensions. Every trick that is, except serve the consumer and pay a decent price for labor.

Every day the writers remain on strike brings the entertainment industry to a more robust and equitable business model. Furthermore, it’s not like any of the workers on those shows haven’t been unemployed before. In the Vancouver where they film Battlestar Galactica, an unemployed tradesperson is pretty much an oxymoron with this job market. When you lose your job, you don’t dress up like G.I. joe and go shoot up a happy burger. You look for work, you retrain, and you adapt. It may take only a few hit shows on the internet to change the game completely. Besides, if enough actors and directors boycott the oscars, things will really start to get interesting.

Ryan Sohmer’s Strike Musings, Part Deux

Fanfic Video via Writer’s Life