Life in Hollywood, below-the-line

Life in Hollywood, below-the-line
Work gloves at the end of the 2006/2007 television season (photo by Richard Blair)

Sunday, April 30, 2023


                                              Photo by Mark Boster, LA Times

Today is the day of decision: by tomorrow we should know if another WGA strike has been averted.  Looking from afar, I have no inside knowledge as to what will happen, but all that I've read and heard points to the likelihood that a strike will be called, and it could be a long one.  I was still working in Hollywood during the last WGA strike, which ran for three months between November 2007 until mid-February of 2008, and it hurt everybody in the business. The issues this time around are an outgrowth of what that strike was about, but this time the issues are even more serious.  The threat to writers truly is existential this time around, and the streaming entities will be cutting off their proverbial noses to spite their equally proverbial faces over the long run if they don't come to a reasonable compromise ... but that doesn't mean they'll do the right thing until, as the saying goes, they've tried everything else. 

If then.

This column in the New York Times, by a successful working screenwriter in Hollywood, explains the issues at stake -- and here's the money quote:

“Allowing screenwriters to sustain a stable career is absolutely the smartest investment that the industry can make.”

He's right. Despite the contractions in the business since the halcyon days of the digital streaming boom,  the industry depends on having lots of smart, creative, motivated writers to come up with shows the viewing public will love.  Sure, they'll watch the inevitable toxic algae bloom of "reality" programming a lengthy strike will generate for a while -- but not forever -- and once the subscription cancellations begin to snowball, those streamer executives who drew a hard line in pre-strike negotiations will come to regret it.

We all had to absorb the gut-punch of the strike back in 2007/08, and it wasn't fun.  There are always ways to get through such lean times, but as I described at the time, it's not easy.  I'm out of the game now on the sunny beach of retirement, but still have a lot of friends in the biz who really don't need an extended stretch of unemployment -- not after suffering through the Covid shutdown -- so I really hope the producers and streamers will come to their senses and make a fair deal with the writers.

As Wilford Brimley used to intone, "It's the right thing to do."

It's also the smart thing to do, so, fingers crossed...

* Bend over, here it comes again.

Thursday, April 20, 2023



                                            "Bather," by Igor Belkovsky                                                     

As spring tiptoes in, it was brought to my attention that there was no fresh post here on the first Sunday in April.  Yes, I was aware of that. When the energy -- and ideas -- just aren't there, what's an ex-juicer to do?

Punt, that's what, and truth be told, I really didn't think anybody would notice.  The audience for this blog was never all that wide to begin with -- even in the halcyon days of yore when a particular post resonated, it might garner 2500 views at most -- and now that I'm long gone from working on set, the numbers have dwindled to a mere handful.  I get it.  Real time stories of drama on set are a lot more interesting and relevant to readers than book and DVD reviews, so no harm, no foul.

Still, one among those readers reached out to ask if I was okay. She'd noticed the absence of a post, and once you reach the age where a growing number of friends have been lost to the Grim Reaper, you understand that silence can mean Something Bad has happened.*

Not yet, gentle reader, not yet.  The Reaper is coming this way, of that there can be no doubt, but he's still down the block a bit.

I hope.

Maybe I'll have a fresh post for May and maybe not -- it's too soon to say. I still have some cleaning up to do from the Noachian Deluge of winter, during which four and a half feet of rain fell along with a virtual forest of branches, and believe it or not, I've been working a lot more on the blog book.  I know ... you've heard that before and will doubtless hear it again, but that book turned out to be a much bigger project than I'd anticipated.  So it goes.

Meanwhile, here's an oldie from another April when I was still in the thick of the Hollywood wars. The industry was recovering from the WGA strike at the time, and wouldn't you know it -- another WGA strike now looms. Back then the writers were worried about their income from the new streaming services -- an issue that still bedevils them -- but now there's another monster crawling out from under the bed: AI writing technology, which has the potential to put a lot of writers out of business.  

Good luck, WGA -- I hope you win this one.

And so without further ado: April is the Cruelest Month

* Thanks, Deb!