As you might have already noticed. late-night talk shows were the first casualty of war. Pretty soon, sitcoms and hour-long dramas will follow suit and, should the Writers Guild of America's strike continue for many months, as some experts have predicted, film production might also slow to a trickle. But as visible as the picketing penners are right now, much of the drama of the current strike will probably happen incognito.
Right now, the media are making much of the strike because it's fresh, new, has shut down production on dozens of television shows and has encouraged some famous faces, such as Jay Leno and Tina Fey, to hit the picket lines in solidarity with the striking scribes. Union haggling, even when it takes place in Hollywood, rarely remains compelling drama. A labor dispute is rarely a bloody battle in the streets, but rather trench warfare, with both sides gaining a little ground and then falling back in retreat.
What this will quickly become, after the celebrity faces tire of taking coffee and doughnuts to the strikers required by their union to walk the line 20 hours a week -- about 18 hours more than the average Hollywood writer is used to working in a seven-day period -- is a slow slog toward a solution that, inevitably, both sides will find unsatisfactory.
The real question here is how long this can go on. The last Writers Guild of America strike lasted 22 weeks and postponed the fall premier season. This could go even longer. Both sides have bunkered in for what could be a long, cold winter.
On the studio side, film scripts have been stockpiled, and reality shows, which do not use union writers, are prepared to take over prime time. On the writers' side, measures have been taken to ensure that, if need be, the strike can hold for as long as it needs -- weeks, if not months.
Although there are public parties interested in what the result might be. The central sticking point is the guild's desire to have writers compensated for income made off Internet downloads, DVDs and whatever the next-generation platform might be. What I'm interested in seeing is the aftermath, the veritable tidal wave of projects that should follow the successful conclusion to negotiations.
Here's the thing: Although the writers are on strike, I would imagine that very few of them have stopped writing. Sure, they might have ceased work on the projects that were being worked on for studios and networks, but that doesn't mean all those laptops will be switched off until work officially resumes.
Reach Steven Uhles at (706) 823-3626 or firstname.lastname@example.org.