Damon Lindelof on The Writers Strike

Lost showrunner and co-creator Damon Lindelof has a great editorial in today’s New York Times about the Writers Strike.

 “I am angry because I am accused of being greedy by studios that are being greedy. I am angry because my greed is fair and reasonable: if money is made off of my product through the Internet, then I am entitled to a small piece. The studios’ greed, on the other hand, is hidden behind cynical, disingenuous claims that they make nothing on the Web – that the streaming and downloading of our shows is purely promotional. Seriously?”

In the op-ed piece titled Mourning TV, Lindelof makes it clear that “TELEVISION is dying” and brilliantly compares our current situation to the stages of grief.

“I should have realized this four years ago when I first got my TiVo box, but denial is always the first stage of grief,” Lindelof writes. “Twenty percent of American homes now contain hard drives that store movies and television shows indefinitely and allows you to fast-forward through commercials. These devices will probably proliferate at a significant rate and soon, almost everyone will have them. They’ll also get smaller and smaller, rendering the box that holds them obsolete, and the rectangular screen in your living room won’t really be a television anymore, it’ll be a computer. And running into the back of that computer, the wire that delivers unto you everything you watch? It won’t be cable; it will be the Internet.”

To people in the Industry, this prospect is not exciting, but instead scary. Lindelof compares the feeling to how “vaudevillians must have felt the first time they saw a silent movie; sitting there, suddenly realizing they just became extinct”. And this brings us to fear.

“Change always provokes fear, but I’d once believed that the death of our beloved television would unify all those affected, talent and studios, creators and suits. We’re all afraid and we’d all be afraid together. Instead we find ourselves so deeply divided.”

Lindelof explains the reason for the strike in very simple terms, “for more than 50 years, writers have been entitled to a small cut of the studios’ profits from the reuse of our shows or movies; whenever something we created ends up in syndication or is sold on DVD, we receive royalties. But the studios refuse to apply the same rules to the Internet.”

And he has a great point. I don’t see how anyone could think otherwise. Lindelof’s show Lost has been streamed “streamed hundreds of millions of times” with commercial advertisements on the web, and sold god knows how many episodes for $1.99 a pop on iTunes, yet the writers get NOTHING for it. As more people convert to the on demand lifestyle, less will be watching commercials or even watching a program on television. So not only will the writers be refused access to royalties from the internet, but the royalties from television will grow smaller and smaller as the audience moves to online. And this strike could effect your television viewing habits until 2009.

“If this strike lasts longer than three months, an entire season of television will end this December. No dramas. No comedies. No Daily Show. The strike will also prevent any pilots from being shot in the spring, so even if the strike is settled by then, you won’t see any new shows until the following January.”

“Most of all, I’m angry that I’m not working. Not working means not getting paid. My weekly salary is considerably more than the small percentage of Internet gains we are hoping to make in this negotiation and if I’m on the picket line for just three months, I will never recoup those losses, no matter what deal gets made. I am willing to hold firm for considerably longer than three months because this is a fight for the livelihoods of a future generation of writers, whose work will never “air,” but instead be streamed, beamed or zapped onto a tiny chip. “

“Perhaps it’s not too late, though, for both sides to rally around the one thing we still have in common: our mourning for the way things used to be. Instead of fighting each other, maybe we should be throwing a wake for our beloved TV. Because the third stage of grief is bargaining. And bargain we must, because when television finally passes on, there will still be entertainment…” “And we’ll still be writing every word.”

I hope the studios come to the table and settle this thing sooner rather than later. The writers aren’t going to back down, and threats of lawsuits and mass firings of below the line staff won’t get them to budge. They are here to fight for 4 cents, and the sooner the studios understand this is the only road, the sooner this will end.

Read the whole article on NYTimes.com.

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