Already Late

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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Here's how I knew that the writers strike was over, really over. It wasn't the voting, or Nikki Finke's site, or anything like that. It was the email. From the studio:

"Hi. The network really wants to get all pilot scripts in fast, so we need to see an outline as soon as we can. Is Friday totally not doable? It's sort of time-critical. What we're hearing is that the network is going to make all pilot orders starting next Monday."

So I email that Friday is unlikely. I email that even if we did get the outline in, it's pretty impossible to get a draft done by Monday. Because, I add, you know, the strike and stuff.

And then I get an email back. "We know, we know, it's been crazy, of course, but it's just that this year pilot season is going to be compressed and we really love the project but the truth is you're already late."

Already late? Technically, the strike was still officially on when these emails went zipping back and forth, so the term "already late" must be an existential one.

We're still all a little raw, I think. We all know that the business is going to get smaller and tougher and, if possible, even meaner that it's been -– and that the cozy club we all used to enjoy –- you know, we'll turn the script in when we turn it in, there's no real rush, we don't like deadlines –- well, in an era where the term "force majeure" suddenly means not what it's supposed to mean –- "act of God, act of foreign enemy" -– but instead "we don't want to pay you anymore" –- everything seems like a threat. "You're already late." What does that mean?

And I wasn't even sure they still remembered that there was a script due in the first place –- the past four months have been kind of disorienting, what with all of the procrastinating about the spec script I was going to write, and the afternoon naps, and the daytime television that suddenly got interesting. I just assumed that everyone had spent their strike the way I spent mine: blanking out the autumn, scratching the '07-'08 television season from my consciousness, writing off the year.

The past four months have been a blur of warning bells and buzz words –- I used non-writer phrases like "business model" and "disruptive innovation" and "economics of scarcity" and "ubiquity discount" and in general thought a lot about the entertainment business, thought so hard that my head hurt. I treated the whole episode like a really long Harvard Business School case study paycheck, and I sort of expected that when the strike finally ended, everything would be different.

It's like I've been waiting for all of the changes that are supposed to be coming to the entertainment business –- you know, the web stuff and the end of pilot season stuff and the no more money stuff –- that I forgot that really, that stuff hasn't happened yet. It's going to, of course, but right now, it's, you know, same old story. Studio emails, pilot script due, I'm already late. The strike's over, and I already miss it.

That's it for this week. Next week, the second act boo. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.



Rob Long