Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Producers

The Writer's Strike. The last time I wrote about it, I talked about how media buried the lede, and then listed the reasons for the strike right up front. This time I'm going to list exactly WHO the writers are striking against (drumroll please).


That's it. Six companies that make up the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Six corporations that comprise the bulk of news and entertainment in this country. Calling them "the Studios" evokes images of Thalberg and Goldwyn and the golden age of Hollywood, but that's not these guys. Calling them "the Producers" calls up images of Gene Wilder and Zero Mostel (sorry, for you modern kids Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane) selling 350% of the ownership of "Cavemen", but that's not accurate, either. These are big companies that generate their own weather and ecosystems. It's a tough sell to portray them as the innocents here.

When the writers' struck in '88, there were some 40 members of the AMPTP. Now there are six companies that dominate it. That's what they're talking about with media consolidation. A few weeks back the FCC held, with very little notice, hearings in Seattle to talk about making matters even worse. The meeting ran until 1 in the morning, with almost everyone opposing it. The board listened, checked who was funding their campaigns, and promptly voted to allow more media consolidation.

Of course you heard about it. Well, no, you probably didn't, since the people giving you the news on it would be the same big companies that would get bigger. And similarly, most of the decent coverage of this strike are coming through non-standard channels, which the big companies do not control as directly (yet).

And it has pretty much worked - the corporations are back at the negotiating table much sooner than anyone expected. The writers (with loud support from the actors) have maintained a high profile, stayed on-message, and have rallied a great deal of public support (both local Hollywood and the various fan bases). Now everything goes quiet as both sides can't talk about what they are talking about, but it is a start.

Nikki Finke continues to do good reporting (Note the article on how the AMPTP has sacked their PR person). United Hollywood continues to be a great source from the striker's side. Their latest is the speechless video, which, as all things worth watching, has Bill Macy in it.

And Variety, which is a little behind the times (and more on the corporate side), notes how writers are seeking other opportunities in comics and video games. Comic fans of course know that TV writers have been regulars in the comic scene for years (Kevin Smith, Joss Whedon). And "vidgames" (as they call it) tend to use in-house folk, which sort of undercuts their point as well. But they do quote Flint Dille, TSR ex-pat and brother of my former boss Lorraine Williams. Small world.

Oh, and the Internet, 24, the Writer's Stike, and LOLCats all combine here. It is a perfect storm of comedy.

More later,