Office writers, others explain their side on YouTube

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"You're watching this on the Internet, a thing that pays us zero dollars."

Those are the words uttered by The Office writer and producer Michael Schur on a YouTube video put together by striking members of the NBC comedy.

Alongside fellow Office writer-producer-actors B. J. Novak (who plays Ryan Howard), Mindy Kaling (Kelly Kapoor), and Paul Lieberstein (Toby Flenderson), Schur and other Writers Guild of America members decided to attack the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers by using the strike's main point of contention--the Internet.

The two sides are currently at odds, and at the center of the argument is compensation for sales of DVDs and profits made off of Internet streams and digital downloads--aka "new media." The writers say they don't get their fair share, the producers say it's too early to come up with a profit-sharing model.

The aforementioned crew of The Office, NBC's number-one comedy, grabbed a video camera and filmed themselves on the picket line talking about why they're striking. The comedy writers mange to make light of the situation while at the same time driving across serious points.

Among the topics discussed are Steve Carell's absence (he refuses to cross the picket line), the fact that writers didn't get paid for exclusive online-only "webisodes" commissioned by NBC, and studio lawyers using the term "promotion" as a loophole around paying the scribes.

The writers also use the video to promote United Hollywood, a Web site designed to support the WGA while on strike. On one post, actors Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh from ABC's hit med-drama Grey's Anatomy, explain on video why they're supporting the writers.

While writers have made their voices (and chants) heard, studio execs have been largely quiet. However, one former studio head had no problem opining on the hubbub.

Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, speaking at the Media and Money conference, said "I've seen stupid strikes, I've seen less stupid strikes... This is a stupid strike," according to Reuters. "It's a waste of [the writers'] time. [The studios] have nothing to give. They don't know what to give."

The Office was one of the first shows to halt production in the wake of the strike. There are currently only two more new episodes ready to air, and barring a resolution to the strike, the show will see its season ended unexpectedly and be forced into repeats early.

For more on the writers strike, check out TV.com's Strike Source, featuring up-to-date statuses on shows, the latest information, and more.

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Jan 03, 2008
If you like this, you may go to agemingle.com, many people are talking about it these days
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Dec 04, 2007
I'm sure they get more money than any of us.. ¬¬
And yet.. they complain..
What sort of on-line Tv do they mean?
'cause for example, the downloads don't pay anybody, do they? I don't think torrents have any other profit than free sharing..
Anyways.. I hope they find a solution soon, I don't want my fav shows to end their seasons now, so unexpectedly.
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Nov 30, 2007
Boo writers!!! Stop it with the internet and dvd residuals - you are not entitled to them! Argue for increased salaries, that is an acceptable position.
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Nov 29, 2007
@SydneyLostHouse

I was a server in the restaurant biz for about 8 years while I put myself through college and it's obvious that you've never had to do the job yourself. I saw many many people who did not have the ability to wait tables--many of them quit and many stayed on and continued to do an very poor job. Don't tell me you've never been to restaurant received poor service, as I'm sure it's happened to you many times, and on the other hand, I'm sure you've received excellent service just as many times. The same can be said for writing, and, no, you don't have to have a diploma to be a writer. Serving is a very cerebral position, and I suggest you think harder before speaking out of inexperience and ignorance.
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Nov 12, 2007
There's a big difference between waiting tables and being a writer. Anybody can wait tables so there's no reason to pay them a ridiculous amount of money. It takes no skill to do the job. That's not to say that the job isn't hard but it's a job that can be done by anyone. Writing takes actual talent and incredible knowledge of the craft. In order to be a good writer, you actually have to go to college and graduate school. But even after that, many writers still aren't getting paid like they've been to college. These people have incredible minds, are very talented, and deserve to get what they are owed. Basically, the writers do all the heavy lifting and the networks reap all the rewards.
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Nov 12, 2007
The writers going on strike is a matter of proving their point: Without the writers, they have NOTHING.

The writers deserve their fair share of everything. EVERYONE deserves something, cause everyone involved works hard to make a good show or movie. But the thing is, everyone works around a SCRIPT. Without the script, without the writers, there is no work to be done. The actors have nothing to act, the directors have nothing to direct. The camera men have nothing to film. It's all about the SCRIPT.

That's why they're fighting so hard, and going on strike. They're making their point clear: With the writers on strike, no work will be done. No new shows, no new episodes of old shows. Nothing.

Since the writers are so very important, that is why they deserve the money. It isn't right for them to not get their fair cut. Everyone is needed to create a successful show, and the writers are needed probably the most. That's why until they can reach an agreement, us poor TV fans will be stuck with crap reality shows, since that's all that the networks will be able to give.

Writers are required for quality TV.
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Nov 10, 2007
litlthread, I get your point, but I'm not sure the comparison holds. The restaurant business is a very different animal from most businesses (if anyone deserves to get a better deal, it's the restaurant staff!) wellicanbake, that sounds a lot like the situation in Japanese schools. I have two cousins teaching elementary school and jr high, and when I went to Japan a while ago I saw them get up at 6:30AM, get home around 21:00PM, and THEN grading tests/papers, prepping for class etc on a daily basis, 6 days a week!
It's amazing it's still called "teaching", because that most certainly does *not* cover the job description.
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Nov 10, 2007
Hi long time reader first time poster. I am a teacher by profession and as a result I get a lot of stick for the long holidays i get and people talk about how easy i get it. However I amd often up at 6 and in school by 7 just so i can get some work done before the kids turn up at 8:30. and most mornings i a have a meeting before they get there anyway. I then do a full days work where i often lose my break due to needing to get photocoying done or having to talk to some children about their behaviour in lesson. Have you ever tried to get a class out go to the staffroom make a cup of tea (yes im british) and drink it and get back down to your classroom in 15 minutes its a push i'll tell you. then at lunch it is just 40 minutes and again same rules apply to detentions and other prep work, not to mention the lunch times when im on duty. the school day for the kids ends at 2:50 however after more detentions, meetings, marking, coursework clubs and prep for other lessons i don't leave to go home often till 6. on top of all this often when i get home i need to do some more planning for the lessons later in the week as well as put in a few hours each weekend.

Most people would be suprised how much you put into to teaching, and i think that this sides with both parts of the arbument here. Until you are in an industry like writing for film and tv there is no way you can feel what goes on. I can only guess the stress some of these writers are under to get next weeks award winning script ready that will be shown to millions of fans and critics, I'm lucky my audience barely goes over 30. So for them to go through all this and then get paid a one off would be ridiculess and more to the point the studio will have been breathing down their neck for the next scripts, which when done they can then at leisure distribute onto DVD and web and other formats with slighlty more than a week to work. So should the writers who may be off air next week get something for this, definately.

However here is the flip side' like i said i don't know exactly what goes on here as im not in that industry and can only guess. I'm willing to bet there are a few big fat cats misribly living off other peoples creativity because they lack their own but i think this is not everyone. I imagine checking a show works finding the right audience sorting out approriate advertising foreign sales, choosing your next big gamble for a show and being aware that to product you run is on television 24 hours a day and is constantly affecting your life and whether you make or lose is not exactly stress free either and there are alway people who want a bigger slice of pie. sorting the incomings and out goings is going to a nightmare and often there is less left at the end than people might expect. So pay what is fair there is no argument there but don't expect what is fair is an easy term to come up with.

A thought, it is faces that often sell films and tv not names. people can often remember who appeared in something but not who wrote it. As a result the stars are often paid hundreds of thousands of pounds. I'm not at all suprised by their support of the writers it doesn't take a genius to work out that no one needs a 14 million dollor house to match their last one because they happen to have appeared in the latest Pirates of the empire strikes back IV. Yet they are out their demanding more money. if they were willing to live on a reasonable salary then maybe other people could to, they are just hoping no one catches on

One final comment on this meanding line of thought. Like i said im a teacher, the holiday is needed the work is hard and there is a lot of presure and a fair bit of abuse that comes with the job. I stand up to parents who don't have their childrens best interest at heart and i help those who do. People should resist and fight (though i am a pasafist) corruption like fat executives who only give money to charity so to off set taxes and think the extra 50,000 this yeat on top of the million they already make is needed. but I don't do my job for money i don't think any teacher does. I love teaching and there are so many other rewards different from the pay packet each month.A 'Thnaks sir that was a good lesson' may not feed me at the end of the day but it sure makes my life a better one. Im sure the writers feel they have similar perks at the end of the day and all I ask is that yes get their fair share but money doesn't make the job and i hope they don't lose sight of that.

oh yes and as you can tell I'm not an english teacher
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Nov 10, 2007
I don't know. I was a waiter for a long time. The restaurants get away with paying wait staff less than minimum wage because waiters are expected to get tips. I usually got paid 2.13 an hour. I'm sure there was a lovely legal formula to come up with that seemingly arbitrary number.



Anyway, restaurants not only squeeze as much regular labor out of wait staff by having them do prep jobs, running duties and closing duties before and after they open to guests, they also charge the waiters a percentage of their sales. If I sell you a ten dollar steak, I have to pay the restaurant 30 cents or more at the end of the night, whether you tip me or not. Most wait staff refer to this percentage as "table rent". Waiting tables is a really hard job that requires multi tasking, memory, physical strength and personality. Waiters walk several miles during a typical shift often carrying heavy trays, putting up with rude customers and they get screwed by the huge corporations that run the restaurants but they're not on strike. When I was a waiter, I recognized that I was putting up with the crappy nights where I made little to no money (once even owing money after a 6 hour shift because a table walked on the tab - yeah, most stores will make you pay for it). I put up with all that because of the good nights when I made good money, the flexible hours and the casual atmosphere of the job. Do I think the writer's are right? Yes. Do I think they should strike? No. They're jobs aren't perfect and they should work to correct that but going on strike is irresponsible. It's putting other hard-working people out of work. I get that they're being screwed and that sucks but lots of people get screwed everyday and still show up for work. I mean, have you ever been rude to a waiter? It's fun isn't it? It can make you feel nice and powerful when you've had a bad day, right? I mean, why pay him what the restaurant expects, assumes you will, 15% of the tab? The steak wasn't perfect. Nevermind that the cook is the one who under/over cooked it. It's all the waiter's fault. You'll order 50 bucks worth of food, insult the person who worked for you and walk out leaving little or no compensation for that work and the waiter owes the store $1.50 for the 30 to 60 minutes they worked for you. Now, that's a crappy job people do everyday.



The studios suck for screwing the writers but the writers suck for screwing everyone else.
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Nov 10, 2007

StarrGazerr - think of your light bulb situation this way. If you compare your light bulb to, say, a dvd: You take your dvd home, and you don't pay anyone who had any involvement in making the dvd more than once, just like your light bulb. You don't have to pay the folks who made your dvd 5 cents every time you put it on, just like your lightbulb; but there are a lot more dvds out there, and a lot more lightbulbs, and everyone is paying once for the one they buy. Who is receiving the money from that dvd (or that lightbulb) and what percentage are they getting? (I’m sure you could find an argument that people who put together the lightbulbs might deserve more money, but just try and go with the analogy that you created.)

Think about how much it actually costs to manufacture a dvd versus how much they charge for it. Now where does that money go? Well, it should go to all the people who were involved in creating the content ON the dvd, and yet the people who created it, the people without whom there’d be nothing to put on the dvd, are completely short changed for their work.

If you write a book, you get money from your book every time one sells because you created it. Bill Gates gets money from every copy of Windows because he created it. People who write for tv shows get such a tiny share from the dvds, and now with the internet, they are receiving nothing even though each episode contains advertisements that the networks are getting paid for. The networks are basically scamming writers (and actors and a lot more people involved in the production of television shows, the writers have just had the first contract to expire since this became an issue) out of something that they have always gotten. They’ve found a loophole to rip the creative industry off. Now instead of being repeated on television, they can just show these shows on the internet and nobody gets any money at all. Without the show on tv, there is allegedly no revenue to be shared " but this isn’t true.

In my opinion, especially because of advertising revenue, every incarnation of a tv show is like a "new product." Everyone who is involved in the tv show gets some kind of residual from repeating a program, thus making it that new product. If there’s advertising, everyone who is supposed to be getting residuals should be getting them, and with this system they are being short changed.

I think the saddest part of everyone who is against this strike is the fact that none of these people are taking into account the 98% of folks in the WGA that are unemployed! When they show the average of what television and screen writers make, they are showing the average of WORKING writers; people who have a job to go to every day, or a big name writer that scores $4mil a script. That accounts for 2% of all people trying to make it in Hollywood (and NY for that matter). A great deal of that 98% NEED residuals to survive! Let's put it this way, wouldn't you rather NBC/Universal (one of the largest conglomerates out there: GE!) be sending them checks than having to rely on unemployment and possibly welfare?

I’ve seen people on here so angry about the strike, but why? Because these people who are striking are so important in their daily lives! If it’s so annoying to you that 24 won’t be on this year, you should realize the value of these people! You should support them so that this gets resolved quicker.

I know this was convoluted but I hope it somehow helps you understand the concept of residuals a little more.

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Nov 09, 2007
StarrGazerr615, in case you're interested, here's a very well-written article about the issue on EW.com: http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20159387,00.html. He makes the point that no one argues that other writers--novelists, playwrights--shouldn't be paid for each copy sold or performance of their work, and TV and film writers should get the same deal.
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Nov 09, 2007
Fair enough, qiwihead. I would agree that, given an entrenched system which is not going to change, if a residual is paid for one use of the work, then a residual should be paid for a different use of the work. But I am still bothered by the whole concept of residuals.



Thank you to all of the posters. An intelligent discussion is always worthwhile.
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Nov 09, 2007
StarrGazerr615, just a quick explanation of the residuals system: The reason creatives receive residuals is an acknowledgement of how creative careers work. Most writers, actors, and directors do not have steady work. This isn't a career like working in a factory or office where you come in to work every day and you'll have your job for years. You never know when your show will be cancelled and you might be out of work for months or even years. Or in the case of movies, when it's done you might not sell another one for years. In order to make these careers at least somewhat practical, the residuals systems was created. The other side of it is that companies should not be able to continue making money off of your work for decades without you receiving anything for it. Sure, you were paid when you first wrote the movie, but think about classic films that have been repackage ad infinitum and continue to make money for their studios. You really don't think it's only fair for the people who actually created that film to continue to get a piece of the revenue? If it weren't for them, the studio wouldn't be able to make that money in the first place, so why shouldn't they continue to get paid for that work?
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Nov 09, 2007
Well, StarrGazerr615, you're basically criticizing the past 60 years of how creatives are paid in the entertainment industry. That's an entirely different argument. The issue here is that the studios are fine with the current system of creatives receiving residuals, but they don't want to give them residuals for new media distribution. That's just greedy and unfair. They can't agree on the one hand that creatives should receive residuals and then on the other hand say they won't receive them for Internet distribution. They're just trying to shut the creatives out of this new revenue stream, and that's not fair. Hence the strike.
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Nov 09, 2007
Thanks to those who suggested reading the Ron Moore interview. However, it does not change my opinion. It seems that the solution to this problem is for the writers to insist on a higher salary (or payment for one-shot work) up front. The whole concept of residuals is a little ridiculous. You get paid for doing work, then you get paid more for doing nothing more. I would think the writers (or anyone selling a product) should set their prices based upon the expected value of their product, but not insist on being paid over and over again. And if the studios won't pay a price for that product that the writer believes is fair, then DON'T SELL THE SCRIPT. I would love to be paid forever for work I did twenty years ago, but that's not how things work in the rest of the world. I agree that people like Eisner are greedy b*st*rds, but just being an ass doesn't mean that you have no rights, either.
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Nov 09, 2007
I say they deserve a bigger piece of the pie as we see now without them there is no tv
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Nov 09, 2007
Eisner has always been a tool, but that comment raises him to douchebag level. Read the Ron Moore interview hash1978 posted below for the real story. The suits are just looking for a way to make free money off the backs of writers who are already underpaid for the most part. Even Jay Leno commented that people think writers are all rich, but most TV writers are making $30-50k. But the suits still want to squeeze them for more unpaid work. The studios should be ashamed of themselves. Hopefully the public will see through their ridiculous lies and support the writers. And as Ron Moore points out, this is only the beginning. SAG and the Director's Guild might be forced to strike over this issue as well if the studios don't grow up and pay people for their work.
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Nov 09, 2007
StarrGazerr615, check out the interview below.
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Nov 09, 2007
LAURAMARIE63, This interview might help:
xttp://galacticabbs.com/index.php?showtopic=2186
Ron D Moore (BSG) really explains it well!
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Nov 09, 2007
I am so confused at this point, I don't know who to support.
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Nov 09, 2007
Contrary to popular belief, not everyone in Hollywood is a millionaire. Most people in this town are no different than anyone else in America. We work hard to keep a roof over our head and feed our families. Like union members across this country we want fair payment for our work, health care and pensions. We also deserve Residual payment when others are reusing our creative work for profit. Lets face it, nothing happens in Hollywood until a writer types the words FADE IN.
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Nov 09, 2007
I just don't get it! If I go to Home Depot and buy a light bulb, and I pay Home Depot for the light bulb, why would I possibly have to pay HomeDepot another nickel every time I turn the lamp on? And if I decide a week later to move that light bulb to another lamp, why on Earth would I have to pay Home Depot again? The writers are paid to write a script, and they are paid for the product they produce. Why should they be paid more when the owner of that product decides to use it?? Someone please explain!?!?!? One last thing - a lot of comments suggest that because a show is a hit (and thus makes a fortune in DVD sales) the writers are entitled to some of that success. But doesn't that overlook the fact that 99% of the scripts written for television are never aired, and most productions lose money? If a show doesn't get high ratings, do the writers give their salary back? I don't think so - it is Michael Eisner and the rest of the actual owners of these shows who suffer the loss. If the writers want credit for success, then don't they need to pay for failure, which occurs in nine out of ten situations?
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Nov 09, 2007
Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, "It's a waste of [the writers'] time. [The studios] have nothing to give. They don't know what to give." What a load of BS Eisner!!! The studios have millions of dollars to give, they just don't want to share it equitably with the very people who allow them to make those millions. The writers are only asking for a very small percentage for residuals from new media such as DVD and internet... if the studios don't make any profit then the writers don't get any money either, however, if they do then the writers want a small percentage of the profit made... I can't think of anything more fair than that!
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Nov 09, 2007
Man, i bet they wish they didnt unload early with all those great hour long episodes, they might have had more new stuff to air :D ....but seriously the hour episodes were cool.....
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Nov 09, 2007
I hope it ends soon.
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Nov 09, 2007
I'm pretty shocked at the amount of people who aren't supporting the writers here... This is evil corporate America at work here, people!
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Nov 09, 2007
As posted by others, I don't care who wins, I just want the strike to end. I am have less sympathy for the writers every single day that passes by.
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Nov 08, 2007
I don't really care who ends the strike right now, just as long as it ends.
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Nov 08, 2007
A) I cannot believe I'm posting something on Tv.com, I should have better uses of my time.

B) To the people mentioning rich writers: Do your research! They don't make much. Your average retail manager at your favorite retail outlet is likely outperforming them financially.

C) To the people mentioning the hordes of underlings out of work because of the strike: This is a valid point. The PA's , interns, grips, caterers, name anyone you like, they're getting pretty screwed here, you're right. But they were living on borrowed time. Without the writers hard work (genius, in the case of the Office) there wouldn't be a show. These people, the caterers and etc, would never have had a job to lose if it wasn't for the writers. It all, and by all I mean anything in Hollywood worth producing or putting effort towards, stem from the pens of the writers. Sure, it's unfair. Yes, it sucks. But they must have known their jobs were temporary. Christ, it's TV we're talking about here! They already had an expected end date when they showed up to work the first day!

D) I defy you naysayers to explain why it would be fair in particular for the writers of an award-winning webisode (the Office, again) to get absolutely no pay. To be clear, this essentially means they were told to show up to work one day to write an episode, finished the task, with style, and then were thanked for their time and sent home with no pay. You can't tell me you'd go home happy that day knowing that you could have made more money waiting tables at a decent restaurant than doing the job you were contractually obligated to do.

E) And to Eisner: "they have nothing to give"? Come on! Really?! Granted you can only sell a few ads for online material or we won't stick around long enough to watch it, but there are indeed ads for the current material. That money is going somewhere, it's as simple as that. Even if it's shaky, unreliable, and simply a best guess at how to handle it the money should be divided appropriately. They've mentioned that it's a fledgling field, and this is true, but it's not so fledgling that they couldn't figure out how to sell ads. The fact is, right at the moment they realized they could charge for ad space the various production companies should have thought ahead on this one and saved us all a lot of trouble. But they didn't. They called it a promotional event, pocketed the loose change and moved on.

F) If you want good TV support the people who actually make it happen, not just the people who take credit for it. Follow the actors' lead here. They understand that if they're not supportive now they'll be written into obscurity when everyone is back at their desks.
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Nov 08, 2007
I hope the already wealthy writers of The Office are satisfied when other people who work on the show have sick kids who die of starvation.
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Nov 08, 2007
What about all of the other people who work behind the scenes. How many people are going to be out of work for weeks or months because of this? What about the caterers? How about the extras and other unsung tv people?
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Nov 08, 2007
blah blah blah.. who cares anymore I don't. I'm sick of hearing their boohoos.. and the others too just give them it already.. @@
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Nov 08, 2007
I think their pissed because they aren't getting paid for all the hits and so forth these shows get. But in all fairness it's not just the writers, you have like 100s of people involved...why just a few cry and moan about it?!
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Nov 08, 2007
they wont do tv yet they will do the internet
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Nov 08, 2007
I'll miss new episodes and it will be hard to be without them for awhile but I do tend to side with the writers on this. It doesn't make me any happier about the strike but that's just the way I see it.
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Nov 08, 2007
I have mixed feelings on this whole issue. Granted I think the writers should be compensated an acceptable amount for their work and effort. The "cluelessness" of the Studios smacks of an attempt at capitalizing on a money making scenario before they have to break it up and start dishing out fair shares. I also have no idea how much money writers make in general and whether this is a viable complaint or whether it's a case of trying to cram more food on your plate because their is extra room, regardless of if you need it or not. In the end you know who this is going to hurt the most? Us. The Viewers. The Fans. Why? If this strike continues then we lose out on a full season for our favorite shows. This is sure to hurt a show's following and/or ratings in the future. Not to mention it just blows in general. If a settlement is reached and the Studios have to start sharing their revenue from digital distribution then I imagine we'll see the cost of shows on itunes go up as well as no more free streams online. This is going to drive people away from a studios website and push viewers to more "free" alternatives. I do believe that the writers should be paid for what they do. Although if they love writing then it should be about the writing and not the money. I am aware this is a naive view in todays world as everything is about the money. I do tend to lean toward the writers with my support but I don't really foresee a "good" conclusion to all of this in the end.
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Nov 08, 2007
That is one funny ass video!
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Nov 08, 2007
I love that video. I have been watching it over and over.
I so support the writers
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