Like I said, I’m behind in my blogging (and a little annoyed to be sitting here realizing that now “blogging” is yet another thing I can be late in doing), so here’s a quick round-up of some links I had meant to blog about on time.
The Writers Strike. The WGA strike is the story of the moment, not least because of the obvious possibility that the finances of scores of entertainment industry workers could be severely impacted in the weeks ahead. But the strike is also forcing to the forefront complicated issues involving the future of digital delivery and the methods by which creative workers will be paid for their work in a new media world. To keep up with breaking details about the strike, head over to Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily, read the latest, and then, about a half hour later, hit refresh and read it again. I don’t know how long she can keep up her WGA strike liveblogging, but Finke’s coverage has been impressive so far. For other commentary there is a WGA-affiliated site, United Hollywood, and, of course, screenwriter Craig Mazin’s The Artful Writer. Another screenwriter, John August, has commentary on his blog today too. And at his Hot Blog, David Poland has a reasoned, tough-minded analysis of the situation.
Want the anti-WGA side? If so, surf over not to one of the studio sites but instead to the left-leaning British paper The Guardian, where critic David Thomson suggests that we should have little sympathy for those partly responsible for Hollywood’s recent output.
Digital Distribution. Somewhat related is today’s must-read from Scott Kirsner in Variety, in which he discusses Ed Burns’s upcoming feature premiere on the iTunes Movie Story and why Apple may be winning the digital download race. Another of Kirsner’s pieces that is required reading is his investigative opus, Internet Publicity: Control versus Chaos, in which he spends a couple of weeks trying to legally snag a promotional photo from a THINKfilm release for use on his blog. Kirsner’s larger point: distribution companies are slow to service, embrace and profitably exploit the inevitable anarchy that has been created by web movie journalism. Check out the comments thread as well for some great references — like this link to The Cluetrain Manifesto and this one to an interview with Penn Jillette — as well as a response from THINK.
In recent weeks, I’ve read articles in which black Hollywood elite like Halle Berry, Spike Lee, and Tyler Perry have expressed their frustrations with some aspect of the industry, specific to their race. It seems to me that we’ve created this unfortunate reality for ourselves, this prison that we’ve psyched ourselves into, when we clearly have the power to create the kind of truth we yearn for. Instead we wait for a group of devout capitalists to some day realize our plight and intervene accordingly.
As with some of the other pieces cited above, the article is just part of the story — an active comment thread carries on the debate. Here’s an excerpt of a comment by a poster calling himself “Rodney P.”:
As a co-founder of a black owned film distribution company, all I can say is “easier said than done.” No company can claim some inalienable right to be in business. It must meet the demands of its customer base and compete fiercely with others that may be better capitalized and better positioned to do so. The motion picture industry is a reflection of the dominant society, which, through mass media, has already conditioned the African-American audience in terms of its standards, values and expectations. So it’s really an uphill battle. One other thing: it makes no sense to emulate Hollywood in trying to build an independent presence for African-Americans in cinema — you will always play catch-up. You have to change the paradigm in terms of what your target audience’s expectations are.
After you check out Obenson’s article, subscribe to his podcast. The Obenson Report focuses on “Black Cinema from all across the African Diaspora.” The current episode, dated November 5, includes a discussion of the 1974 film Claudine as well as commentary on the NPR piece.