need breeds resourcefulness

It’s a wet and miserable Sunday in Ireland, so I moseyed by FunnyorDie for a few laughs. I check out the site every few weeks to see what’s being uploaded.

There’s a big range of videos on the site, from hysterically funny to damp squib, but Fleshy Loves Kittens is well worth checking out. I’m always impressed when a funny sketch like this works hard on all levels: writing, direction, production, acting, lighting, etc.

Also, Bush Zombies is a treat. It’s a clever use of existing material mixed with bogus information about a president suffering from zombie paranoia.

During my visit I discovered the website of the lovely Uncle Jay Explains the news: “Helping small minds explain big news”. Uncle Jay’s shtick of explaining the world news to children means he uses sly humour to make this point. It’s updated every Monday, so tomorrow you can fill up on more elucidation from Uncle Jay.

I’ve been watching the videos that the striking writers in the USA are producing and uploading to various web sites. There’s the daily footage of the strike, but even better have been a couple of hilarious pieces from the writers of the Colbert Report and The Daily Show (without Jon Stewart).

So now the Producers are going back to the negotiating table on November 26th, but the cynic in me believes that just them trying to take the heat off. The difference between this strike and the last one in 1988 is the Internet. The writers have outlets for their viewpoint that weren’t available the last time, and public opinion is clearly in their favour.

One point the writers are hammering home is that the CEOs of the major media conglomerates have been trumpeting to the financial markets how much money they are pulling in from new media, and yet they claim to the writers that they’re not making any money in that arena. Either the producers are lying to the financiers and their stockholders (the latter being a federal offence) or they’re bullshitting the writers. In all likelihood it’s a mixture of exaggeration and miserliness. Still, the media giants are on record for their profit suggestions, and that is really hurting their case. Plus, what the writers are asking for–8 cents for each DVD sale and digital download–is so puny that to the average person it is borderline ridiculous.

I hope the writers stand firm. Considering the arrogant manner in which the AMPTP approached the negotiations in the first place I doubt they’ll soften their tactics. I’m sure they’ll offer something pathetic as an opening salvo. It’s quite likely that the strike will continue well into December, and perhaps into the New Year. But, in 2008 the AMPTP have to negotiate a new contract with both the Actors’ and the Directors’ Guilds, and the solidarity being expressed between all the Unions in Hollywood is going to make them nervous.

It’s quite likely there’s going to be a lot of fallout from this strike. I think the major media corps are going to be scrutinised over their profit claims, and that could bring a mistrust about their stocks that could hit them (and eventually the writers) hard.

On the plus side, the writers are actively out and about on the streets. They are talking and networking with one another in a manner that’s uncommon in the trade. It’s strengthening the union and the relationships between writers. I think now that some of them are engaged in shooting and producing their own pieces for the Internet we’re going to see a new generation of writer-directors as a result. In fact, if the writers were smart they’d start thinking now about how they could get the jump on the studios and start creating work for the Internet to capitalise on the viewers they have attracted.

I suspect this is going to bring a lot of people’s attention to the possibilities offered by the Internet to deliver entertainment. Of course they’ve been looking at it before, but there’s a squeeze on now. Writers are unemployed and restless. They’ve got to start thinking beyond the usual avenues for revenue. The studios have proved that their bottom line will always dictate their actions, so it would be easier to circumvent their involvement at all.

Now, how to create a quality product and deliver it–with a profit–online is the difficult issue. But there are a lot of smart people out there walking the lines and talking to one another about this issue. My suspicion is that someone is going to crack this quite soon.

Necessity is the mother of invention after all.

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