Solving the Writers Guild Strike?

That title is definitely presumptuous, but the panel presentation I participated in today was meant to help inform members of the WGA about the Internet advertising industry and to discuss how writers might be able to exploit their creative skills without being dependent on the traditional studio structure.

I was the token non-WGA member. In fact, I have no agenda and frankly don’t understand the issues well enough to take sides in the strike. To me, it’s like Denmark declaring war against Sweden – made sense in the old days, but not in today’s environment. But I do have some good friends who are writers and were open-minded enough to want to understand what makes “new media” tick (thanks to Ken LaZebnik for organizing!)

I was told to expect 50 people in the audience, but there was more like 300. The other panelists were really good, but my favorite was Kent Nichols, who with a partner launched “Ask a Ninja” a couple years ago and now has a thriving Internet video business.¬† It was a lot of fun, and the audience members were kind and curious and energized.
My presentation is here: InternetAdvertising2008WGA.ppt

The WGA is putting together its own web video site, called StrikeTV, to showcase how writers can be successful without a studio. I wish them good luck. They will need a good viral marketing team to get enough traffic to this site to really make a significant impact (either political or monetary). Anyone want to step up?

As to solving the strike? My own idea is probably too radical. I’d take a cue from the Silicon Valley / Tech / Internet industry and form any new creative project (e.g. a complete television show) as a corporation, just like a tech startup. Every participant (e.g. employee), from the actors, to the writers, to the cameramen to the makeup artists would receive stock options, rather than royalties. The financiers would get their stock too, but spreading the potential wealth around just makes modern sense — that opportunity to hit it big really drives the industry forward and creates super motivation.

Thus the complete “brand” of a show becomes the value, rather than an individual episode. Whether it is ever re-broadcast, syndicated overseas, streamed over the Internet or makes money in t-shirts and mugs – if money is coming into the corporation, the shareholders would get dividends rather than royalties. This puts the creative and production people on the same level as the financiers and reduces the risk of hiding profits.

In my industry, this is equivalent to granting stock options to the Google masseuse.

Go ahead, call me crazy.

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One Response to Solving the Writers Guild Strike?

  1. Ken Hayes says:

    Update: One of the best overviews of the speakers at the seminar has been written up in Comic Book Resources:

    HOLLYWOOD 2.0: NEW FRONTIERS IN NEW MEDIA – PART 2:

    http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12379

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