I gotta admit to experiencing some Tinseltown schadenfreude during the Writers Guild strike: Unlike my brothers and sisters in print journalism -- whose union can't seem to shield them from endless rounds of layoffs, much less get them more money -- screenwriters hung tough, negotiated hard and got at least some of what they were asking for, in large part by demonstrating how their work stoppage could bring LA county's economy to its knees.
During the three-month strike, the county lost $3.2 billion in direct and indirect costs, according to Jack Kyser, Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation's chief economist. The strike ended Feb. 13 when guild members approved a tentative three-year contract giving them a stake in revenues generated when TV shows and movies they've scripted are distributed online.
The contract is due to be ratified Feb. 25, the day after the Academy Awards are broadcast. And here's where my loyalties divide: I may be a writer, but I'm also a major movie fan, and I get a huge kick out of watching the Oscars, particularly the preshows. I love the glitz and glamor of the red carpet, to say nothing of the occasional swan dress. While I wasn't upset by the cancellation of the Golden Globes, which pale in comparison, I'd have had a bit of a boo-hoo if the guild hadn't gotten it together in time to pen this year's "And the Oscar goes to ..." speeches.
The red carpet isn't just a place for celebs to see and be seen, though: It's a place where those who cater to the glitterati can show off their wares. Had the strike not been settled in time, Kyser estimated, the total economic impact would have been around $130 million, and it would have been felt by folks like Alan Schwartz, whose design firm creates knock-offs of the most popular gowns on the red carpet, and by my friend Sonya Paz, whose pop-art watches will be included in nominees' goodie bags this year. And you can bet after-party planners and hosts, who lost about $2.5 million in the fallout from the Golden Globes' cancellation, are breathing a sigh of relief.
So all things considered, I'd say the strike's resolution is a win-win. Writers are better positioned to reap the rewards of the Internet economy, other industries affected by the strike have the chance to regain some financial footing through the Academy Awards, and I get to watch oddly dressed actors read stilted speeches off the Teleprompter. There's no business like show business.