Ever heard of a keystone species?
A keystone species is a species that has a disproportionate effect on its environment relative to its abundance, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and help in determine the types and numbers of various others species in a community.
Such an organism plays a role in its ecosystem that is analogous to the role of a keystone in an arch. While the keystone feels the least pressure of any of the stones in an arch, the arch still collapses without it. Similarly, an ecosystem may experience a dramatic shift if a keystone species is removed, even though that species was a small part of the ecosystem by measures of biomass or productivity.
Folks are beginning to wake up to the fact that that’s what writers are in the entertainment industry. Without writers, long considered the lowliest of the white-collar workers in Hollywood, the whole system collapses. West Coast Writers Guild, which is the union for television and screenplay writers, calls for writers to strike today.
The results will reverberate far and wide:
Around Los Angeles County, where about 254,000 people work in the entertainment industry, agencies and production companies are already considering layoffs and cost-cutting to cope with the anticipated slowdown.
Matters as far afield as Oscar promotions will be touched. “It definitely affects campaigns,” said Amanda Lundberg, a partner with the New York-based publicity firm 42 West, noting that film publicists rely on the likes of Jay Leno and David Letterman to promote their wares.
Similarly, thousands of businesses, whether mom-and-pop companies that train dogs for television shows or lumberyards that specialize in building materials for sets, face consequences. “I’m really scared,” said Oren Ashkenazi, owner of TVC Television and Cinema Wardrobe Cleaners, near the Warner Brothers lot in Burbank, Calif. The cleaner processes up to 2,000 garments each night for television programs like “24.”
It’s sad that it had to come to this.
United Hollywood is a great blog that outlines the writers’ arguments clearly and without b.s. (Naturally. Because they are….writers). The perception is that writers in the entertainment industry are raking in the big bucks. Not so:
The reality is NONE of this is true. What is true is that the average Guild member makes 5K per year from his or her writing services, the average Guild member is middle class, and the average Guild member has been financially taken advantage of for the past two decades to the point of embarrassment.
The other big reality is that the future of ALL film and television is INTERNET bound, a paid advertising medium for which each and every Guild member currently has ZERO financial participation. With entertainment industry executives and studios raking in exponential profits every year and hiding much of those profits through creative accounting and fuzzy math, it is ESSENTIAL that, as members of the WGA, we stand up for what is only reasonable and just. The studios have forced us into this position through their greed and hubris. The attitude at the executive level often is that these movies and TV shows write themselves when in reality the obscene profits they are making always start with us, the writers.
It’s unclear whether the outcome of this strike will have implications for writers in other mediums. But the WCWG strike should be followed closely by all who make a living with the pen, or ah, keyboard.
UPDATE: Joss Whedon weighs in.