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Friday, October 12, 2007

Do we need a Writers Guild on the Internet?

There’s a writers strike looming but I’m not sure we need a Writers Guild on the web. As Craig Rubens of NewTeeVee writes, The last Writers strike spawned Reality TV shows like Survivor. Now there are Independently produced Reality Shows like The Next Internet Millionaire that are up, running and building an audience with global distribution on the Internet.

As an artist plagued with ideas this is the first time in my life I can afford the canvas to create whatever pops into my head. Creating entertainment with moving pictures, written words, pictures and digital code I’ve now reached a threshold where I can write, shoot, edit and distribute all by myself. I’m not as fluent in editing and the creation of HTML as I’d like to be but due to necessity I’m working on it and it’s exhilarating to be able to dream something up, write it, produce it and distribute to the world in the same day. Now I’m one of a handful of people making money in viral videos but I’m still not able to survive solely on my personal creations. I supplement my income with new media “work for hire" projects for studios, networks, consulting with Web 2.0 companies, podcasters and wanna-be podcasters.

Thanks to the Internet and the low cost of digital canvas this is the first time in the short history of filmed entertainment that writers and other digital artist don’t need a Movie Studio or TV network to make a living by creating moving pictures. Unfortunately it may not be the lavish lifestyle they have been used to living complete with residuals and it most certainly will be a bumpy ride to transition from traditional media.

The people best positioned to make the most out of this WGA Writers strike are the 20 year old kids who can write, produce, direct, edit (maybe do a little motion graphics and music) and have some understanding of HTML and sales. (Little mini Robert Rodriguezs) These mini RRs will be able to create online entertainment, distribute it and monetize it enough to make a production assistant’s wage to start but with additionally attached advertising to their evergreen work or what I like to call “Digital Residuals” they will make a writer’s salary and maybe more. If they are smart enough to build their own brand like Ask a Ninja has done they will never need a Movie Studio, TV Network or a Writers Guild. The other benefit they will have if they are smart, is that they will retain ownership of their properties and be able to license them to other platforms making even more money.

If you are a talented writer and make a good living right now in traditional media you really need the WGA fighting for you because the kids coming out of school now are mini RRs and what they can do on a used Apple MacBook Pro MA610LL/A 15" Notebook PC with a 2.33 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM, 120 GB Hard Drive, DVD/CD SuperDrive and a Sony HDR-UX7 digital video camera that they buy off Craigslist is amazing. They not only pose a threat to you they also potentially can threaten movie studio and TV revenues, especially if those studios and networks have to pay a lot of money for writers now when they aren’t making any money online yet.

Sure the production won't be the same quality as traditional media for awhile but when viral videos start getting paid the advertising dollars that Cable TV gets for delivering more eyeballs than Cable TV delivers, production values will increase. Remember the early days of Cable TV? Shows looked like crap but the content was there and the eyeballs followed.

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