Friends, As you may know, I am a member of the Writers Guild of America union. Those of us who write movies and TV shows are now in the third month of our strike. As the strike continues, many of you are probably wondering what’s going on and when will new episodes of your favorite shows return. I don’t have an answer to that question. But I want to share with you the bigger picture of what’s at stake — that Hollywood may possibly be in collapse, how did this happen and what can be done to save it.
I have a good friend who used to be a dialogue, editor for major motion pictures and TV shows. He won, and or was nominated for Oscars and Emmys. He always had work for many years until things started changing. So much work was being outsourced to countries where production costs were less. Because fewer jobs were happening here, the work that was being produced here came at a very high cost to the workers. My friend said the stress was so bad in the editing suites that he knew many editors, who committed suicide because they couldn’t deal with the time crunch that was expected if you wanted to still work in Hollywood . My friend finally cashed in his union pension, and he actually sold his Oscar and Emmy statues and moved out of state. He does construction now, and earns a tiny fraction of what he used to. But he’s never been as stress-free and happy. Our form of vulture capitalism has been eating people alive for a long time. The idea of losing another industry , such an important American industry, to other countries is heart breaking! We have allowed corporations unfettered decision, making that has very literally killed our economy, and destroyed the middle class all on the altar of corporate profit. Because most of our politicians are bought and paid for, and do the bidding of these corporations, the rest of us are getting screwed. Just like 85% of Americans support universal background checks but can’t get it, this is another issue where the right in the left would absolutely support keeping manufacturing in the United States as opposed to outsourcing it. I recently participated in a three hour exercise where half the people in the room were Republicans and half were Democrats . (The organization that put this on is called Braver Angels). The bottom line was that most of the people in the room agreed that the military should be audited. It’s never been audited and we think, both Democrats and Republicans, that it’s high time. The people want to know the reason behind things like the $600 hammers. It seems to me that if a large group of Republicans and Democrats showed up at their senators local office and demanded that this issue be dealt with so that we don’t lose another American industry, the politicians would sit up and take notice. It isn’t often that the right and left work together to do some thing they both want. This seems like something that could actually get some traction. I hope so. I would hate to lose the movie industry.
The laws need changing but Hollywood also needs to produce a better product. I rarely watch anything made in America because fake tits,teeth and blonde hair spouting inane dialogue don’t do it for me. I do like documentaries and watch a lot of British made series. America tried to remake Broadchurch and it was unwatchable.The original was riveting. Two of the best actors of our time in lead roles. Great dialogue, direction and stunning cinematography. There is talent on this continent but it seems the brainless and boring wins out. I cancelled cable tv years ago.
Whatever happened to America’s anti- trust laws? Hoorah for Hollywood 🤩
Thank you for sharing this insightful article. I won’t pretend to understand all of it but I offer my support to all of the wonderful creative minds and hard workers who bring us great entertainment. Fingers crossed that the situation turns around soon.
This is so important, I wish it could be shorter. Or presented in a way such that length doesn’t discourage reading, Thank you, just as I need to know how my food is processed and gets to me, I need to know how this nourishment gets to me and in what condition. Thank you Michael.
There are great minds in each of these industries to find the solutions but time and greed are the enemies.
Thank you for the enlightened history. This explains why 50% of stuff produced by Netflix and others is such crap. And they get away with it because many people, my Gen Z kids included, just zone out on cable afterwork. They watch the stupid with the good just to have something to numb their brains, I believe. And many really good shows and movies are never seen by most people because you have to have at least 5 diffrent services to see them! So you aren't saving on not paying for cable.
First, Michael, I am a Union supporter, I sat on he Board of Directors for two different unions.
Second, I absolutely agree Corporate greed is pushing America into the abyss of fascist dictatorship.
But, and there is always a but. The whole world of entertainment has been vastly overpaid since the 1920's. In the old world, which ended with the invention of moving pictures (opinion) entertainment was appreciated but not paid fortunes. There was theater at least from the time of ancient Greece, there was music so far in the distant past there are no accurate dates for its beginning. Troubadors sang for their "supper" and temporary housing. But entertainers were rarely among the wealthy class.
It was moving pictures (movies as they came to be called) that opened entertainment to the "ordinary" people of the working class. That and a big help from the Great Depression which pushed people into despair and opened their eyes to cheap entertainment for temporary escape. For 10 cents they could escape their woes by watching a double feature. Somewhere along the line, enormous wealth crept in. A poor girl with a beautiful face and good figure, or a handsome man who could ride horses and shoot a gun, could become rich and famous.
The problem is they became too rich and too famous. Now people like me, question the value of something that is merely entertaining. I enjoy your books and your movies (most of them) because they happen to agree with my built in prejudices in favor of equality for all. But, Johnny Depp, or Emily Blunt? They're good actors, but are they more valuable to society than say Joe Biden, or Albert Einstein?
I hope your strike will come to a reasonable conclusion with at least half of you demands met. But I believe in the hotel employee, healthcare workers, farm workers, and teachers strikes whole heartedly.
I got rid of my satellite dish 5 years ago. I don't miss it. I occasionally watch PBS and MSNBC on my phone. I kept my TV so I have movies on DVD for a rainy day.
It sounds like the Robber barons sure don't like sharing their wealth. You intellectual writers have got them by their testicles, because people who are not intellectuals cannot make good writers. The barons only option will be to hire someone who can write Hitler type speeches and force feed the population hatred to divide America even more, in the future. That doesn't sell a lot of products except pillows. Liars and scumbags mostly. Another side effect of capitalism rearing its' ugly head. Unlimited greed should have been banned thousands of years ago instead of worshiped. A maximum wage about 10 times the minimum wage is sustainable. Plato wanted a maximum wage about 450 BC. The robber barons won't be happy until we are all groveling at their feet. And they still won't be happy.
Corporations are people, sort of, but they can’t be arrested. If you gobbled up your neighbor, you’d probably get arrested, right?
Time to re-think and rewrite this plot-line.
Should consumers stop subscribing to Netflix for solitarity? Is it putting the cart before the horse?
After listening to Fran Drescher's comments at the SAG-AFTRA news conference, I have a few words to offer: SAG-AFTRA Studios, Pictures and Cinemas.
From Prime Time Access Rule (PTAR) it became Prime Time Underwriters' Interest (PTUI).
I played on the soundtrack of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (cello). Every year I'd get a residuals check and report this on my taxes. It wasn't much--around thirty-six dollars, but it was something. Then suddenly, a few years back, it stopped. This article explains why. I'm hoping that the writers will prevail. They are the true bones of the Hollywood economy.
He lost me the second time he called my all time favorite movie, Back to the Future, “weird.”
Great understanding of the situation. I had not idea!