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WGA Strike: How Things Have Changed

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Speculation about the WGA strike, when it will end and how, seems like such a waste. An understandable one, but a waste nonetheless. What's important is understanding how things have changed.

Corporations that once controlled so much of the movie, television and record industries could afford to lavish their talent, craftspeople and themselves with generous, if not mind-boggling, compensation. When three networks called all of the shots, when movies were made with more of an eye toward content than marketing, when popular music uplifted the soul rather than deadened it, it seemed that everyone was paid a lot of money, from the grips to the drivers to the stars to the studio heads.

However, when Bruce Willis was paid $5 million for a movie, things began to change. We entered a period wherein everyone wanted, and got, more. You knew that things were distorted when agents started getting rich. Not the owners of the agencies, not the Norman Brokaws on the scene. Regular Ten Percenters began making seven figures. That was a big change. Once agents saw salaries rise and their own income potential with it, the old school practices of developing clients began to die. If you want to get repped by a good agency today, you have to walk in the door printing money.

Willis' salary seems modest by today's Hollywood standards, and that may be the problem. The writers deserve a piece of the digital pie, but how much? How much do any of the elements who work in the industry deserve, management included? There will always be bidding for services of stars, great directors and gifted writers. But does the suit who follows the fashion and signs the $20 million star also deserve $20 million?

Pressures to maintain high salaries, industry-wide, in such diverse sectors as commercial aviation, entertainment and automobiles are taking their toll. I predict that in the next ten years, a major auto manufacturer or a major airline or a major television network will fold. Perhaps, one of each. In the meantime, the Writer's Guild needs to replace their negotiators and now. The AMPTA does not give a damn about what is on the screen or what happens off of it. The men who run Hollywood now do not call the shots. The Jeff Zuckers and Brad Greys of the world ultimately answer to men who do not even live in Los Angeles. They live on yachts or in the clouds. They don't know how painters and costumers are suffering, because they've never met one. Get rid of Verrone. And try to have a Merry Christmas/Happy Holiday/Happy New Year.

Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.