Hollywood in Labor

Today's cuppa: chai spiced black tea, office coffee.

On the scripted-show sets I've visited lately -- indeed, all the ones I've visited since the end of the WGA strike -- the talk has been about whether or not SAG (the Screen Actors Guild) would also walk out. The union's contract expires Monday, and near as I can tell, there is neither a new contract nor a call for a strike vote.

The New York Times says maybe.

Slate says no.

I say, I hope not.

Continuing the same position I had during the Writers Guild walkout, I don't take sides in labor disputes to which I'm not a party. In this situation, I confine my concerns to the collateral damage -- the crews and office staffs and caterers and truck drivers and all the other employees and ancillary businesses that already took a body blow over the three-month WGA shutdown.

After sitting on more sets than I care to count, my respect for crews has no bounds, and they're just as important to the production process as studio executives, writers, directors and actors.

The way everyone does business in the media -- and that includes my business -- has changed, is changing and continues to change, whether we like it or not. There have been and will be casualties, and right now, I'm not sure anyone really knows how many and exactly who they'll be when it all shakes out.

And I'm not just talking about the effects of new media, the Internet and all that stuff.

Entertainment isn't like food or fuel or medical care or a roof over one's head or clothing on one's back. Movies and television (especially cable and premium channels) are luxury goods, ones people will give up if their budgets get squeezed hard enough.

There was just a story yesterday about Salt Lake City preteen sisters protesting the high gas prices that forced their parents to cancel their cable-TV subscription -- which included daily doses of "Hannah Montana."

Here's to hoping that everyone involved in the business remembers that and never takes their ultimate bosses -- the audience members -- for granted.