A Horrible Idea

All the way back in 2007-2008 the Writers Guild of America staged a Writers’ Strike. This mass refusal to work brought the entertainment industry to a standstill for it’s 14 week duration. One of the main goals of the strike was to balance the diminished monetary compensation the writers got in comparison with the profits of the larger studios. Among the many proposals from both sides regarding the new contract, there were several key issues of contention including DVD residuals, union jurisdiction over animation and reality program writers, and compensation for “new media” (content written for or distributed through emerging digital technology such as the Internet). As an example, a writer would receive residual income for their work in writing a script for the tv show The Office, but not for the short episodes that would appear exclusively the internet.

Out of this bitter conflict sprang a HORRIBLE idea (that’s a joke).   Joss Whedon, writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and FIREFLY decided to do something about it. Here’s what he wrote the following (as posted online here).

“It is time for us to change the face of Show Business as we know it. You know the old adage, “It’s Show Business – not Show Friends”? Well now it’s Show Friends. We did that. To Show Business. To show Show Business we mean business. (Also, there are now other businesses like it….Once upon a time, all the writers in the forest got very mad with the Forest Kings and declared a work-stoppage. The forest creatures were all sad; the mushrooms did not dance, the elderberries gave no juice for the festival wines, and the Teamsters were kinda pissed. (They were very polite about it, though.) During this work-stoppage, many writers tried to form partnerships for outside funding to create new work that circumvented the Forest King system.
Frustrated with the lack of movement on that front, I finally decided to do something very ambitious, very exciting, very mid-life-crisisy. Aided only by everyone I had worked with, was related to or had ever met, I single-handedly created this unique little epic. A supervillain musical, of which, as we all know, there are far too few.
The idea was to make it on the fly, on the cheap – but to make it. To turn out a really thrilling, professionalish piece of entertainment specifically for the internet. To show how much could be done with very little. To show the world there is another way. To give the public (and in particular you guys) something for all your support and patience. And to make a lot of silly jokes. Actually, that sentence probably should have come first.”

And he did it.  He made a 3 part web show called Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog.  He posted online for free, and then people bought it from iTunes, and then they bought the DVD, and comic book, and they dress up like the characters at conventions, and so on and so forth.  So what’s my point then?

New media was one of the sticking points of the writers strike.  Joss Whedon and his friends were just as successful as the big Hollywood studios were.  New Media has power.

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