Yesterday's blog post, about the shadiness of Prospect Park's efforts to "circumvent the unions" and bring ABC's recently cancelled shows to the web without having to deal with the bother of paying actors, camera operators, writers, wardrobe people, etc. fair wages, obviously struck a chord with people. I've never received so many private messages, Tweets or Facebook comments about/links to a blog post as this one. Nor have any of my previous blog posts ever received so many hits in so short a time.
I know I didn't write The Great Gatsby, or say anything remotely original. In fact, I think the reason so many people have read that piece, and passed it along to others is that I didn't say anything revolutionary. I think a lot of people heard the news about Prospect Park considering bringing in an overseas partner and bypassing the unions and felt the same way I did: that this would be just plain wrong. It flies in the face of what so many people are fighting for, these days: workers' rights, basic benefits, the end of the huge inequity between the 1% and the 99%. I believe a lot of people read about PP's on-going negotiations and thought, "This is wrong."
Interestingly enough, of all the communication I've had about this blog entry, only one party has come out in favor of Prospect Park, and the move to squash existing union rules. I won't name the party, because I'm not interested in giving free publicity to an outfit that supports union busting. what I will say is that it's a new media production company. I'll also say that their arguments in favor of PP's efforts are as "ridiculous" as they labelled my blog post.
According to this party, working within a new media should abolish baseline union standards that were developed for television. A new medium, according to this party, calls for a whole new set of rules. This party likens the unions involved to the unions that protects the person employed to raise the curtain at Broadway theaters - these days, the curtains are opened and closed electronically, yet union rules still call for a curtain raiser to be paid a full salary. Pretty ridiculous. I agree. But it's a comparison that makes no sense. This party argues that a new medium calls for new negotiations and new contracts. That's double speak for "we think it's ok to pay people less money and cut their benefits, if we want to, because this isn't tv, where budgets are big." If this isn't One-Percent-Speak, I don't know what is.
This was never about having to pay a curtain man, even though the function had become automated.
Quite the opposite: it's about expecting the curtain man to show up and do his job, as usual, but only get paid as if his job was mostly being done by a machine.
New media IS a different animal from television. That's why it was "ridiculous" for Prospect Park to promise the public the same production quality, the same casts, and the same frequency of programming. Since the media is new, what needs to be renegotiated first shouldn't be how much the actors or writers or crew earn. What needed to be negotiated from the very beginning was - HOW COULD THESE SHOWS BE CHANGED TO REALISTICALLY BE DEVELOPED FOR WEB VIEWING? Instead, Prospect park thought backwards - they promised the whole enchilada, and then figured they could buy it at the rate of a questionable 99c Taco Bell taco.
The party that came out against my blog called it not only "ridiculous", but "unfair."
That's rich. Prospect Park is trying to bilk workers out of their hard-earned union rights, and I'm being unfair.
The Case For New Media
In case anyone is wondering, I'm the last person to be against web-based programming. If anything, I'm excited by it. I think it's the future of entertainment. I think it's a shame that the most widely talked-about new media venture these days is Prospect Park's attempt to bring OLTL and AMC to the web, because it's a mess, and it's not representative of what new media can be. Neither are the ridiculous and unfair arguments made by the unnamed new media operation mentioned above.
Successful new media ventures have been the ones that haven't tried to simply lift a television or cinema model and stick it on the web. I'm not a fan of Venice: The Series, but at least the people who developed it had the presence of mind to create something that didn't require 15 elaborate sets. What I saw of the series used only two or three sets that were existing structures: restaurant scenes filmed in an actual restaurant. hotel room scenes filmed in a hotel room, living room scenes filmed in someone's living room. A lot of what I saw on Venice was a mess, but at least they got this right.
Tello Films produces original, successful programming that's been specifically developed for the web. No one-hour, daily shows with a cast of 30, and a 52-week schedule. Their programming works on the web because it was specifically developed, from the ground up, for the web. They don't promise or claim to recreate the television experience; they offer a new and different programming experience.
And this is the root of Prospect Park's debacle. They thought they could lift two established television programs that cost an enormous amount to produce, and just drop them, as they were, onto the internet. In their screwy, stupid and greedy minds they figured, "Same shows, same frequency, same amount of work...but if people are watching on smaller screens we can pay people less to make them."
Now THAT is ridiculous and unfair.