News is going around how the Hollywood writers are going on strike. The dire circumstances: we’ll probably be without original television for a few months.
However, it raises the question of the point of unions in a creative industry. I can completely understand the purpose of unions in regimented industries that has a clear divide between upper management (white collar) and the blue-collar grunts. But how can it possibly fit in something as varied as screenwriting? It would be absurd for all published novelists to join a union, and if the union didn’t have its demand met – say 20% royalties – all fiction writing had to cease. It would be absurd and unenforceable. Which is why the screenwriter’s guild is equally retarded.
The strength of union lawyers might come in handy for contract negation on some high-profile adaptations and summer blockbusters. But everything else, those niche indie films, character studies, avant-garde narrative structures, innovative dialogue pieces – I think those guys should jump ship. A union shouldn’t dictate creative efforts, nor should it demand industry-wide standards. The market (that is – the creative value of each script) should decide compensation. There shouldn’t be a minimum payoff, or guaranteed revenue streams or profit shares. That kind of thing leads crappy films.
And hey, if they were legit writers, they’d be in the game as a labor of love. You want to make cash, be an investment banker.