[Update: The tone of this piece is much darker than it needs to be. There's talk that it's not a bad deal; there's talk that it's a very mixed bag; there's talk that it's a big win for writers and directors alike. And as Joss Whedon puts it, "We need, now as much as ever, to act as if the strike is NEVER going to end. We need the rage that sends us out onto the picket lines, the passion that makes us look for alternate methods of financing and developing content, and the unity that reminds us how much the studios have taken from the community already by forcing this strike. As far as the WGA is concerned, the studios have not made one decision based on fair business practices. (Funny side-note: they've also abused writers as long as there has been filmed entertainment.) Some of the things that have been broken in these last months can never be fixed, some truths about the studios' power-grubbing inhumanity that can never be forgotten, or laughed over (as they have been for decades)." I'm skeptical about the AMPTP's good faith and irritated by the fawning stupid press coverage of the DGA (and of directors vs. writers generally), and in spite of personal interest in the existence of a ludicrous system like Hollywood, the fact is, it's a system whose exclusive hold on major-media content creation and distribution will and should end. The sooner the better. Increasingly, that's the real meaning of the WGA strike, and the DGA settlement sure as hell doesn't change that.]
The Directors Guild settled with the AMPTP yesterday. Rumours are floating that the writers' strike is about to be undercut to an extent by some high-profile 'fi-core' defections. ('Financial core means you remain in the union but go back to work, forsaking your right to vote on, or participate in, union leadership, but still paying dues for nonpolitical activities and still receiving the benefits of your guild's collective bargaining agreement.')
As things stand, if the writers hold out until summer, the Screen Actors Guild goes on strike, and Hollywood temporarily goes dark. The relatively quick DGA settlement gives me the usual uncalled-for dismissive feelings: of course the directors don't feel the need to strike, for the most part they're contractors brought in to work on the pieces that the writers create. Why should ownership stake be of vital interest to them? Of course that attitude is unfair and in some cases inapplicable, but it's clear that the current ways of assigning credit and ownership are even more unfair (and carry very real financial and creative consequences). Directors have too much power relative to writers in Hollywood films - not true on TV - and though they're at the mercy of the production houses and financiers, they receive accolades that obviously should accrue to those who, y'know, 'think the stuff up.' (Read the reviews of Cloverfield for a shining, laughable example: the name most breathlessly praised is that of J.J. fucking Abrams, who produced the film. Drew Goddard, who wrote the thing, is hardly mentioned. Those in the know know that he's a gifted writer, but film critics don't know how to care about screenplays for a variety of reasons. Some good, most bad.)
In terms of man-hours, the writer on a Hollywood film contributes a lot less than every other department. But Hollywood has nothing without them: it's not the goddamn writers featured in the endless parade of upskirt paparazzi photos, Scientology videos, 'let's save the Africans' banality, and pathetic Big Brother-style self-pimping. With few exceptions, that's what's left when you take away the texts to play. And the radical unfairness of the writers' existing arrangements with Hollywood - indeed, the vacuity and greed of the only-blockbusters, all-the-time commercial film ecosystem - should be more than enough reason to keep striking, to find new avenues for expression.
Hollywood is increasingly a big-budget specialty shop, and in the next few years we'll see one curious outcome of this strike: that a long negotiation with the AMPTP was the force that pushed an enormous number of creative professionals away from their relationships with those six grotesque corporations, and into new, more independent arrangements, with smaller audiences at first but growing, expanding. Every day the AMPTP keeps this up, that's another storyteller who'll be convinced to find some other sandbox to play in. They're losing business and potential workers not only today but from now on. Which means hard times for some...but good news. For everyone.