The WGA Strike: Post Perspective

Post production clearly follows production, so what happens when production has no scripts to shoot?
In this week’s podcast we talk with David S. Cohen of Variety to get a post production perspective on the effect of the Writers Guild strike.

David Cohen - Variety Features Editor

This week we talk to Features Editor of Variety magazine, David Cohen to get an insight on the Writers Guild strike. This podcast was recorded on Day 5 of the strike (November 9, 2007). Things can change quickly with this type of story and one of the best places to get the latest news is a special blog that Variety has set up: The Variety “Scribe Vibe” WGA Strike Blog

Day 5 was marked by a rally in Century City outside the Fox lot, there were and estimated 3500 participants. Many television shows have shut down production already, which has an immediate effect on the production crew and very quickly moves to affect the post production side of the business.

The last major strike was in 1988, but a fair bit has changed since then, starting with the entire reason for the strike – the interest in payments resulting from show being resold over the internet to mobile computing devices. Writers, via their union, seek residuals for shows and movies streamed over the web and on cellphones and a doubling of residual payments from home video sales, plus an extension of guild pay and benefits to writers on reality TV programs. In many ways their demands reflect the huge shifts in media consumption since the late 80s, the growth of the web, the huge growth in TV shows via DVD and the avalanche of reality programming that many claim was started by the last strike.

Another thing that has changed, according to Variety, is the pilot season system that piled so much of the years new programing around the start of the fall season. Quoting Variety, five years ago it was rare for any pilot scripts to pop up before Thanksgiving in the USA, now there are mid-season replacements and there is also a type of summer season with a bit of reality first run programming. “NBC’s Ben Silverman, ABC’s Steve McPherson and Kevin Reilly (first at NBC, now at Fox) have made so-called “off-cycle development” a priority the past few seasons as they tried to shake up a system that produced too many projects in too short a time frame.” “Some execs are even wondering if a work stoppage could be the final nail in the coffin of a development system they all know is broken” the article points out.
In response to the writers claims, the studios point to DVD sales as being needed to offset rising marketing and production costs and that it’s too early to lock into pay formulas for online shows because technologies are changing rapidly. They see no reason to pay for streaming of TV shows on the web because to them it is a form of promotion.

But either way the post production community is faced with some serious issues from a dispute that they are not directly involved with. The first hit are those companies who process dailies and transfer rushes. But with this strike having the potential to run for a long time its effect will move to most aspects of the post-production business as scripts dry up and ultimately have wide reaching effects on all areas of the entertainment business and the general economy.

In this week’s podcast we take a first look at the effect this might have, especially in LA, but with talk of productions moving overseas and using foreign writers and international production locations, the effects of a long term strike may be far felt. It is only the end of the first week, and events may change over night, for more information check out the extensive coverage at Variety:

Strike Information Resources:
Variety WGA Strike Blog

Wikipedia entry about strike

Writers Guild of America
WGA Contract Briefing
Strike Picket Locations

AMPTP – Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers

United Hollywood blog
Strike Swag
Photography by Hamilton Strike Photos

We last spoke with David for an article and podcast entitled Killer Schedules: Behind that Variety Story. This was a followup to his May Variety story titled “Blockbusters take toll on f/x shops”.

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