Toxic. I spent last weekend in Los Angeles, and that’s how the local environment was described to me. It wasn’t in reference to the smog. The potential Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) strike is looking more like a certainty as recent talks between the Guild and the studios broke down. The worst part of this whole mess is that the main sticking point is over compensation for Web and new media. With Web shows and series just now gaining popularity, this couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Web entertainment has finally moved from an afterthought to top-of-mind with studios and networks. No longer the bastard stepchild, everyone in the industry recognizes the potential and power of Web shows to become mainstream phenomena — and eventually make money. Hence the digging in of heels in on both sides.
Contrary to popular opinion, LA is not a hellhole. LA is not a wasteland of superficial, artificially-augmented airheads who perpetuate the lowest-common denominator style of entertainment.
Well, wait, yes it is. But LA is also home to some of the most genuine people you’ll ever meet, and also some of the most creative. And ironically, this strike means that the Web, which was built around the idea of letting anyone create content, is shutting out the very people who could give Web series and shows a shot in the arm — professional writers.
Go ahead, call me a sell-out for not wanting all of my entertainment to come from some guy with a Web cam in his garage. But I want to see what the writers from Heroes could do with an online series. How awesome would a web show be from the team behind The Wire? And I’m excited at what the TV pros manning quarterlife could deliver.
The online video world just needs a little more time. Give us another year, then we’ll have a better idea of what people are watching and when, what works and what doesn’t. And then online shows and series will really kick ass, and the toxic cloud hanging over LA could clear.