Saturday, November 10, 2007

WGA topical ramblings

Warning: this may be more inane and rambling than my usual razor-sharp critical tongue. If you want something more focused, read the forthcoming piece about Blade Runner.

I'm definitely not qualified to talk about the current state of television. I hardly watch an hour of TV a week... occasionally I catch Scrubs, or a show on the Food Network, usually over someone else's shoulder. Somehow, some cryptic convergence of factors has destroyed my interest in boobtubery, which has been replaced by books, movies, and the Internet in my life.

Still, it's interesting to see an uprising and a debate about productivity in the entertainment industry. Strikes are so closely associated with the great days of blue-collar labor that it's confusing, and almost blasphemous, to see the concept make the postmodern transition into the world of "cultural production." The monetary elite in this country used to care about revenue from products... cars, infrastructure, etc. Now, they care about broadcastable, promotable content... something only seasoned dialogue writers can provide.

So: time to rethink cultural production? For a long time, I had trouble dealing with the idea that the vast majority of costs and payments in this country are for things that aren't physical, and that are infinitely reproducible. A computer program developed by Adobe, or a song written by Radiohead, or a digital photograph from the archives of Sebastio Salgado... those things require the creative effort to be put forth once, and from that point on, they can propagate infinitely at no further cost -- and if somebody is paying for each copy, they can generate infinite revenue. They don't require materials, or even labor, to keep making money for the people controlling them.

I think corporations, asserting endless control over things like songs and scripts, are acting on the old-fashioned paradigm. The fact that the distributor is recouping all the capital suggests that it's the distributor who's paying for the materials, when in fact there are no more materials. It's the creative locus of the work itself that is generating the revenue, so by rights, the majority of the capital should be distributed to the creative producer -- the writer, the artist, the band. Corporations are using their status as middle-men and distributors to hijack all the capital being circulated in this country.

Whether this analysis is accurate or painfully biased, it still seems like the same issue: the issue of revenue being siphoned away from producers and into the hands of bureaucrats. I'm unforgivably compelled by the instinctive belief that there are more executives, accountants, and business majors in this country than the infrastructure really requires, especially in the age of individual empowerment and immediate communication.

So I say, yay to the writers' guild, just like I said yay to the MTA workers a few years ago. I'd suggest going a step further, too... if you're in a stalemate too long, start publishing your writing via alternate sources. Show that, if it's not worth the network's attention, it's definitely going to be worth somebody else's.


chocolatebooks said...

Have you read Richard Florida's work about the creative class?

Jesse M said...

Have not... heard of it, but it hasn't made my reading list yet. I'll throw it up on the wish list, and perhaps I'll get to it soon :)

(I'm currently reading OurSpace on the advice of another friend, which is distantly related)

Thanks for the suggestification :)