January 14, 2008
Greetings... and the Personal Toll of Pencils Down
Posted by Garry Jenkins


Many thanks to Gordon and his colleagues for inviting me to guest blog at Conglomerate.  I teach Business Associations, Nonprofit Organizations, and a leadership development course (“Lawyers as Leaders”) at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law.  So I expect my blog posts will certainly cover a range of issues associated with those subjects over the next few weeks.  Today, however, I want to talk about what’s been on my mind lately: the Hollywood Writers Strike.


As my family, friends, and students already know I watch an exorbitant amount of television, especially for a law professor.  So this is a difficult time for me.  While certainly those in the television/film industry (and those making a living supporting the industry) have been feeling the strike’s effects for months, it seems that regular viewers (like me) are just starting to actually feel the impact....  And, it’s not good.  Many of my favorite shows are already out of new episodes, essentially on permanent strike hiatus, and last night’s Golden Globe Awards (hooray for big television drama winner “Mad Men”)--usually the kickoff of what has been dubbed “Awards Season”--was a golden bust (that press conference format was a real snooze) and the first high profile victim of the strike.


I’m hardly an expert in labor relations or labor negotiations, but I find it fascinating that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has started granting select waivers to certain independent production companies (i.e., David Letterman’s Worldwide Pants, Tom Cruise’s United Artists Entertainment, and the Weinstein Company) with similar deals expected (at least according to the WGA president).  I wonder if these waivers will drive the major studios (GE, Disney, Viacom, News Corp. and Time Warner control approximately 75% of television and movie viewing) back to bargaining table.  So, here’s my serious business question: does this kind of divide and conquer strategy actually work?  The waivers certainly give the "David Letterman Show" and Harvey & Bob Weinstein an advantage over their respective competitors.  It seems that this leg up can’t please T.V. executives at NBC (home of the "Tonight Show with Jay Leno") or the major studios which seem to aggressively compete with the Weinstein brothers for the best scripts, movies, and awards.  Are these players too small for the rest of the industry to care?  Will there be a tipping point with enough independent companies succumbing to the WGA demands and going back into production because of the waivers that the powerful Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) will go back to the table?  


Of course, I hope the strike gets resolved soon (especially for all those industry support people out of work), but as I see commercials for the slew of bad reality programming that the networks are sending our way, I REALLY hope the strike ends soon for my sanity!  I need my “Mad Men” (if you haven’t seen it, season one encores begin on Mon., Jan. 21 @ 12am/11pm central (Sun.) on AMC), “Friday Night Lights,” and “How I Met Your Mother” fixes.  I guess that I can look on the bright side and think that because the writers have put their “pencils down” that I’ll have more time to tackle my ever-growing “To Do” list.  Okay, who am I kidding?  In the meantime, there’s always my Netflix queue.



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