Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11/28/07- Paul Scheer talks to me about the Writers Guild of America strike...

(left to right) Aziz Ansari and Paul Scheer on the picket line.

Writer, star of such shows as Human Giant and Best Week Ever, Upright Citizens Brigade alum, and good friend of the blog, Paul Scheer took some time out to talk to me this week about the W.G.A. strike and is here to break down just what exactly this whole strike actually means for the writers and you.

1. Most people have no clue what this writers strike is actually about. Quite frankly, what is it all about?

It's kinda complex but at the same time pretty simple. The Writers Guild protects the Writer's rights and helps create programs for residuals, payments, health care etc... and the Producers Guild represents the producers, they want to make sure that they get properly compensated for the projects they invest in.

The big hot button issue is that the producer's guild doesn't want to pay the writers for any of their projects in new media (mainly the internet). For example something like "Webisodes" from your favorite shows are written by writers and so far their hasn't been a program to compensate them for rendering such a service. The same is true for internet downloads. The writers believe that they should share in the revenue of these new types of technology but the producers keep telling the writer's it's too soon to tell if the internet is going to be profitable. However they are simultaneously telling their share holders that the internet is the future for new additional revenue. So something doesn't add up.

In 1988 during the last writer's strike the Producers made the same case with Home Video. They didn't believe Home Videos would be profitable and the writer's believed them and they saw very little revenue from the Billion Dollar DVD and VHS market. So this time the writers were cautious not to get screwed over.

For more detailed and better analysis of the situation check out and

2. What will the strike mean for people's favorite t.v. shows?

Well daily scripted Talk Shows were affected first. Shows like the Daily Show, Letterman, Colbert, Conan, etc...All have been in repeats for the last 2 and 1/2 weeks since the start of the strike. As far as scripted shows go right now people aren't really going to notice a big difference right away but in a few weeks scripted shows will also be going into repeats because the scripting of new episodes stopped when the strike started and once they run out of scripts shows go dark. Hypothetically if the strike was to continue for a long time. The only new shows you'd see would be REALITY SHOWS. Which would suck.

Movies are also being affected, for example The Davinci Code Sequel stopped Pre Production because of script problems that can't be fixed because of the writers strike. Even work on the new Star Trek Film has been compromised because JJ Abrams who is a WGA member as well as a director can't script any new lines while filming because doing so would violate the WGA stance on writing during the strike. Those are just 2 examples from a wide array of problems in the feature film world. So as you can see the problem is BIG.

3. Do you see the strike coming to an end anytime soon?

On Monday, the Producers and Writer's Guild have agreed to return to the table to continue negotiations after 2 weeks of silence. So that is a really good sign. But no one can be sure about when exactly this will end. However once both sides can agree to a fair deal and TV and Films can start again.

4. What is it like out there on the picket line? Are you finding it to be a suprisingly good place to network with other writers?

The Picket lines in NYC are a lot of fun actually unless it's raining, then it kinda sucks. But we do get to march around one of those one of those big inflatable pigs, that is pretty awesome. Obviously we are there with a defined purpose but it's great to see familiar faces and hang out with people who normally are swamped with work to do anything. I'm just really impressed and honored to be in a community who have come out in such a big way to support each other and this strike through picketing, viral videos, blog posts and even fund raising shows, like SNL and 30 Rock's live UCB Theater performances for the production staff of their shows.

5. What will be the impact of the strike on people who have roles other then a writer(such as producer, camera man, tech guys...etc)?

Production staff unfortunately is taking the biggest brunt of the strike because they are being fired from their jobs as shows and films stop production. Essentially many people are going on unemployment and unfortunately at the end of the strike these people won't benefit either way. The WGA and Producers Guild recognize that and it's in their best interests to get people back to work. I know this is one of the most troubling aspects of the strike for me. But luckily many of these people in production have been supportive of the writers and their stance, which is great.

A skit by Fred Armisen dealing with the strike: