FilAm TV Viewers Tune Out

By Joseph Pimentel/Asianjournal.com

BURBANK – Filipino-American television viewer Jon Ibay has nothing to do on Wednesday nights now that the creators of his favorite show “Lost” walked out.

Ibay is one of thousands of Filipinos and viewers who have religiously watched ABC’s hit show ‘Lost’ every Wednesday night since it first premiered in 2004.

Like most fans, he’s anxious about the new season and its engaging story lines.

“The time between last year’s season finale to this seasons premiere was already too long,” said Ibay, a 29-year-old LA County Administrator. “Now, the season is already in jeopardy.”

Last November 2, thousands of writers from every major Network and Cable studio across Los Angeles and New York put their pencils down and formed picket lines.

Particularly, the writers of ‘Lost’ joined thousands of their colleagues in one of the largest entertainment industry strike since 1988, jeopardizing viewer ratings and literally ‘lost’ many shows seasons.

More than 60 television shows from daytime Soaps, Late-Night television, to network and cable original series were affected by the strike. Not to mention the millions of viewers at home who had tuned out or settled for re-runs of their favorite shows.

The last time the writers walked out on studios, they demanded better VHS sales. This time around, new media such as DVDs, the Internet, downloads, web streaming and web/ TV phones that have been transforming the entertainment industry became a main focal point of the strike.

“Companies are basically saying that they should not have to pay our members for our material [on the internet],” said David Weiss, the Vice President of the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAw). “TV shows like ‘Lost’ that would have gone to re-runs or syndication that would have generated money for our members are now going to the internet and companies are saying we shouldn’t get paid for that.”

“The reason that’s crucial to us is that those residual payments is the money that keeps food on the table of our members between gigs,” he added.

He said that 45 percent of their members are not working in any given year. The WGA represents more than 12,000 members.
Another hot issue is DVD sales.

“Right now, we receive about 0.3 percent of DVD sales,” said Michael Tabb, a feature film writer carrying a “Writers Guild on Strike” stake. “We’re asking for 0.6 percent. That’s about five cents for every $20 DVD customers buy.”

However, many people think that writers are paid handsomely for the little work they do.

Tabb said that is not the case.

“It takes me as long as two years to finish a script that I’m proud of or as little as three months,” he said. “People don’t understand that [feature] film writers can go months of working on a script then realize it’s wasted time because the script is not working. We try to write three scripts a year and hope that one of them sells.”

Tabb added that even if he did get paid for a script, he would need to pay his manager, agents and government taxes.

“A lot of people throw big numbers out there on how much a screenwriter gets paid for a script but in reality, those are overblown, exaggerated numbers,” he said.

Adam Horowitz, a co-producer and writer for ABC’s hit show “Lost” said he’s striving for a fair deal with the networks.

“We’re here to show our unity and focus to get that deal,” he said standing in front of the Disney Studios in Burbank. “What it boils down to is if they [the studios] get paid, we want to get paid. This is a union town. We’re not only here to fight for ourselves but we are here to fight for all the unions so that we can all be treated fairly.”

Horowitz said he does not know what’s going to happen to the remaining seasons episodes of ‘Lost.’

“Well right now, the studio is filming the seventh episode and production continues even though we will not be doing anymore writing or producing,” he said. “I imagine they’ll [the studios] finish the episodes that were done before the strike but after that no more writing until this is resolved.”

So far talks with the studios have grown stale.

“There are no backdoor negotiations at this time,” said Weiss. “We’re basically waiting for them to respond to our offers.”

Despite the lack of negotiations, the strike is gaining momentum. Most recently, Actor and Writer Steve Carell of NBC’s hit-show ‘The Office’ refused to cross the picket line and joined the protest.

Viewers are also joining the cause. Chris Cheong, a 22-year-old student at UC Irvine, said to give these writers what they are demanding.

“They need to be paid for what they are doing,” he said. “I watch ‘The Office’ all the time. It’s funny and it’s very well written.”

Tabb said he and the rest of the writers are prepared to strike for “however long it takes.”

As for Ibay, he said he probably would not watch ‘Lost’ re-runs.

“Right now, I don’t watch a lot of other shows that is affected too much by the strike. I’ll just watch sporting events.”

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