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Striking Out on New Media

(Strike Photos)

I’m on strike! As a member of the Writers Guild of America, I have been on strike for the past week.

The only reason for the strike — and don’t believe anything to the contrary — is that the studios have refused to pay writers (and screen actors, and directors) residuals on new media. When you download a movie from Amazon or a TV show on iTunes, the people who created that content, who devised it, wrote it, acted in it, and directed it, get exactly 0% of the profits. And the studios want it to stay that way.

The WGA was asking for an increase in the residuals made on DVD sales (unlike new media, creators make a small percentage off of DVD and VHS sales, pay-per-view showings, TV sales, etc). For months now the studios have said that this was the reason the contract couldn’t be closed. However, at the eleventh hour — on Nov. 4 — the WGA took that off the table. It came down to new media and only new media. And the studios refused to budge.

This strike is absolutely not a matter of the rich getting richer. We’re not striking because of guys like me who have made numerous feature films, or guys like Greg Daniels who have created popular TV shows. This is for middle-class writers — your regular TV staff writers and people who may have done one or two small feature films.

Residuals are a way they can make perhaps a few thousand dollars a year between gigs. This is a way they can put food on the table and pay the rent during downtime — and downtime is something almost all writers (and actors and directors) have.

And the members of the Writers Guild are striking not only for themselves — they’re striking for the actors and directors as well. Most likely, whatever deal we agree to is the same deal the actors and directors will get when their contracts are up later this year.

None of the TV shows or movies you watch would exist without us, the people who created them, who poured our hearts and souls into the making of them.

Yet, again, the studios think that only they should be making the money off of them. And new media is exceptionally important — in just a few years that may be the way most of us experience most of our entertainment.

I’ve gotten a lot of messages from my friends on MySpace (that’s a new media thing) worried about me or my various projects. The truth is, as long as the strike ends in the next 30 to 40 years, I should be personally fine.

However, although the strike for me is, in some ways, a bearable thing, I recognize how lousy it is for the rest of the industry, and the city of Los Angeles in general, so I want it to end quickly. I can’t help but think of all the crew people who are going to lose jobs because of this, or the Burbank waiters and waitresses whose tips are going to dry up as the work around them does.

Not to mention you guys, the audience.