Discover more from LegalDispatch
WHAT WE’RE STRIKING FOR ISN’T WHY WE’RE STRIKING
Today, it was announced that my second novel, Infinitum (f/k/a PROJECT FROST) is going to be published next summer by Lake Union Publishing. Here’s the Tweet from my editor, Chantelle Aimee Osman:
(Nice to see Eli Stone getting top billing here.)
I’ll be revealing more about Infinitum in the coming months, but what I really love about the logline Chantelle wrote is that she made a connection which wasn’t intentional on my part between a recurring line of dialogue — “I love you too much” — and the book’s theme.
WHAT WE’RE STRIKING FOR ISN’T THE REASON WE’RE STRIKING
Well, here we are in the third week of the WGA’s labor action. This morning, I picketed at the Disney lot where I saw this piece by balloon artist @ballusionist:
The moral of the story: Clever and talented people are not to be trifled with.
Picketing for hours at a time gets you talking with a lot of folks. Those conversations spark thoughts and some of those thoughts grow into epiphanies. The one realization that has hit me like a smack to the head is that I don’t think what we’re striking for is the real reason why we’re on strike.
As I’ve stated here and others have stated elsewhere, the WGA is striking in order to ensure that television, feature, and comedy/variety writing remains a viable profession for those who are not independently wealthy. We’re striking against the encroachment of A.I., so-called “mini-rooms,” and ever-diminishing compensation for the work we do.
Brief digression: When the writers went out in 2007/2008, we were striking for certain things — better DVD residuals, jurisdiction over new media — but it’s noteworthy that this time ‘round, we’re striking against developments that threaten the business and our profession. I think it’s the reason why the WGA is seeing so much more public support than we did 15 years ago.
Even with that support, however, our present day’s bumper sticker discourse requires us to boil complex ideas like “span protection” and “minimum room size” and “writers working at minimum” down to a single word and we’ve chosen “compensation.” This strike is about compensation, we say.
Except… maybe it really isn’t?
Because the more writers I speak to, the more one thing becomes clear to me. And it’s probably something the studios shouldn’t know, so please keep this between us, okay?
The vast majority of writers — if not all writers — would do what we do for free.
Because, at the end of the day, we’re artists. We’re not doing this for the money, we’re doing it for the art. If you need proof of that, just look at all the writers who have had to take second jobs, take out second mortgages — you name it — to continue working at their craft.
You want better proof? How about all the literally free work writers do every day? All the unpaid drafts in features. The endless drafts of television pilots without any additional compensation. Heck, 90% of TV development is done for free.
(Come to think of it, don’t worry about keeping that secret from the studios. I think they already know.)
But here’s the problem: This whole “it’s the art, not the money” arrangement is bottomed on the implicit agreement that the art will be worth doing for free. If it’s truly to be about the creative and not the money, then the creative needs to be worth it.
And if the writers I’ve been talking with on the picket line are any indication — and I believe they are — it just ain’t worth it lately.
Personally, I’ve had great experiences in features — particularly lately — but television? Oof. It’s a dire hellscape, an endless parade of notes and second-guessing where the only aspiration is to mediocrity.
(And it ain’t that much better for the poor souls giving the bad notes in question. Merger-mania and the endless rounds of layoffs it’s inspired has turned being an executive into a daily game of professional Russian roulette where their focus has understandably been on keeping their jobs instead of actually doing their jobs.)
It even gotten bad for TV’s showrunners, who are supposedly TV’s “top writers,” a topic I spoke with The Ankler about in a piece entitled “Showrunner Crisis: 'It's a Sweatshop at the Top'.“
Now, none of this is to suggest that the issues we’re striking over aren’t existential, as I and other have asserted. Rather, it’s to identify the deep and very real vein of frustration and anger this strike is tapping into. The picket line is the primal scream, but the people on the line are whispering: You can treat us poorly or you can pay us poorly. But you can no longer do both.
STAR TREK: ECHOES
I skipped last week’s newsletter, but if I was better at this publicity thing, I would have told you that Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Echoes Issue One was coming out this past Wednesday. The reviews have been insanely positive, which is really nice. (This was my favorite one.)
I talked a bit about the series on, appropriately, space.com.
You can check out a preview here.
I’m kinda conflicted about cross-posting this here because the last thing I need is another James Gunn-esque drama in my life, but my close friend for now, like, many years, Cole Haddon has a great Substack newsletter of his own and he recently asked to interview me about the whole LA Law experience.
I spoke as frankly as I could without giving fodder to those who write clickbaity articles or trolls on social media who delight when I experience a setback. You can check out the piece here:
Be good to each other.