Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Off Air

In "Striking writers in talks to launch Web start-ups," Virtualpolitik friend Joseph Menn reports on the front page of yesterday's Los Angeles Times about the growth of self-financed independent productions for Internet audiences that are staffed by former studio professionals. The article raises a number of questions, of course. 1) Would this violate the "pencils down" policy of the WGA and thus constitute encouragement of so-called "scab labor" policies? and 2) Can the film and television industry really follow the lead of the music business, since the number of people needed to make the actual product is an order of magnitude higher? Certainly, cutting out the middle men makes sense for musicians on either side of a spectrum that runs from a garage band using MySpace to rock stars Radiohead distributing In Rainbows on the Internet with choose-your-own-pricing, but the specialization of labor in Hollywood makes DIY more difficult.

Menn's generally a very good reporter, but as "news" for a new media critic, this story also lacks a certain amount of excitement, given that anyone under fifty in the WGA with half a brain already knows that many-to-many computer networks will almost certainly replace traditional one-to-many broadcasting and that lots of interesting content appears on YouTube every day. If anything, the fact that The LA Times could only find "seven" such ventures indicates that they didn't look under many rocks to write the story, since I could probably find more examples of web shows by pros in development at a typical LA holiday party.

Finally, the fact that the most hilarious guy they could come up with to serve as an exemplar for this new bite-sized television was the co-creator of the Air Bud series was utterly discouraging. I'd rather watch more web savvy content in shows like "The Guild" than be subjected to an inferior product informed by a tired Disney live-action sensibility.

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