Sunday, March 16, 2008

TV Writers’ Strike - The Aftermath

The Hollywood writers’ strike was both a blessing and curse for me personally. I’m hooked on just about every detective, adventure and science fiction program on the tube and the last couple of years have seen explosive growth in all three. The strike tipped the balance temporarily toward reality shows and repeats I had already seen. Boredom ensued, but I supported our courageous writers by not watching those reruns.

Of course, the unintended consequence of all this was that I suddenly found myself with more time to write, and to devour the latest issue of Writer’s Digest. My next novel took dramatic leaps in word count. On balance, the good outweighed the bad.

But what about the courageous writers who actually took a stand? To find out I wrote to Rafael Alvarez, a Baltimore native who made his bones writing The Wire and moved to Hollywood to grow his career. He was writing and producing a great crime show called LIFE just before the strike. I waited until the end of February, assuming he was overwhelmed with catch-up work, before asking about the fate of his series and whether he thought the strike was worth it. His answer?

“Yes. We won the establishment of a formula based on gross internet revenue that sets precedent. The numbers aren't that great right now, but putting the formula in place was a great victory.”

Pretty positive words there. But on his own career... not so much.

“Personally, I’m not busy yet with TV work because NBC fired half the staff of all shows on its schedule and I got the axe the day after the strike ended, even though LIFE was renewed for a 2nd season."

Geez, NBC... vindictive much?

These days Rafe is teaching writing classes, doing book signings, and writing a great weekly column called Storyteller for his hometown paper, the Baltimore examiner. You should check out the column, and not just because it is some of the best writing you’ll ever see. It is also true that the more on line visitors it gets each week the better off Rafe is with the editors. There’s more than one way to support our courageous writers.

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