Thursday, December 6, 2007

This is the Reason Writers Write, and Don't Produce

Alec Baldwin hits the nail on the head when he says the Writers' Guild strikers are terrible negotiators.

I knew there was a reason I liked Alec Baldwin, aside from his ability to make entertainment out of chewing up the scenery and spitting it out into a teensy pile of oaky splinters on 30 Rock.

Actually, what makes 30 Rock great, nay, what inspires Baldwin's prowess in mimicking probably every achingly clueless network head he's ever run across, is, at heart, the writing.

It's the writing that makes great shows. Period.

And writers need to stop thinking about themselves as a commodity, or risk being nickel-and-dimed to death, and start conducting business as purveyors of content whose work has a value far greater than any hourly rate or 4-cents-per-DVD charge.

But as Alec Baldwin points out, writers are terrible negotiators; that's how they get into the writing business.

As kids, they try selling lemonade, but realize they liked penning the sign more than setting prices and selling product.

They put off selling hoagies for their high school marching band trip long enough that the only way to get the trip to Orlando paid for is to pen a very serious note that their parents can post in their coffee room, imploring colleagues to buy a soggy fundraiser sandwich.

Maybe they even failed macroeconomics in college.

They simply don't have the negotiating gene. Or if they do, it's greatly surpassed by their writing and creativity genes.

(The proportions are roughly equivalent to those that Seinfeld, showing George the hefty head of iceberg that represents the amount of the Costanza brain devoted to thinking about sex, compares with the little lettuce scrap that accounts for all other thought activity. It's like that.)

Don't fool yourselves, Network muckity-mucks: the content available for free over the Internet in the form of blogs and YouTube videos doesn't hold a candle to a well-crafted comedy show.

That takes skill in the form of a roomful of talented writers, masterfully led toward a goal by a head writer, who gently coaxes or cajoles or teases or mocks or simply supports their efforts at spinning 22 minutes of golden delight out of straw.

My suggestion is for Networks to give over a substantial portion of revenue to the writers. Yes, revenue. Heck, open your wallets and give the writers whatever they want.

Because no matter how ridiculous you think the writers' demands are, it will still be next to nothing to you. You'll still make your kajillions.

Why give them what they want? Simple.

They will simply never be tough enough negotiators to gouge you, Networks. They're writers. And you need them more desperately than you'll ever know.

Because without the writing, you simply don't have television.

1 comment:

kitty said...

hear hear!

It's hard for writers, I think, who are considered just that - a plural word. They're not stars. They're not known faces. They're consistent jokes, drama, plots.

I feel for them. Must be a tough profession.