Smells Like Strike ... Again
I've been so busy seeing how long I can keep up this life without a TV marathon that the pending actors' strike snuck up on me. As of this writing, the negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers have gone cold. Way cold. So cold, in fact, that it has cast a frost over the movie and television production in Canada, according to various sources. The industry on both sides of the border has essentially put all projects on hold until the other shoe drops – meaning that the actors go on strike. Although the current contract has expired, SAG members have not voted to officially go on strike and have been advised by the union to continue reporting to work.
A July 8 date is mentioned as a new target date to reach a deal. At issue are the same ones that drove the recent writers' strike – residuals from online content and DVD sales and health and retirement benefits. What makes this negotiation process pricklier is the fact that SAG and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists are not seeing eye-to-eye with each other. Many actors are members of both organizations. AFTRA has already cut a deal with the AMPTP, but SAG is not content with mirroring what AFTRA settled for. This puts SAG in a poor light from some perspectives. AMPTP, of course, thinks that SAG is not negotiating in good faith, and depending on where an actor or production worker is on the food chain and how long he can survive if another strike hits the industry, he may be wondering why SAG doesn't just follow AFTRA's lead and avoid all this strike business altogether. But the real question in my mind is why haven't AFTRA and SAG merged already? That seems to be the underlying struggle, which I have to believe AMPTP is exploiting to its full extent. Unless both sides decide to clasp hands and sing "We Are the World" (as a reported open letter from actor George Clooney to his brethren suggests), it looks like another strike is waiting in the wings, meaning that the traditional fall TV season is in danger of being delayed. The effects of the earlier writers' strike are still being felt, and a new strike would deal a decided blow to the industry.
How patient can traditional TV viewers be in the wake of a second disabling strike? Not very – traditional TV viewers will migrate to other forms of entertainment in droves. And it's not like there isn't other content out there to choose from. Take this new discovery on Crackle.com, The Jace Hall Show (found in my continuing effort to root out new and exciting content made for, as Clay Nichols of Austin-based DadLabs.com says, "the new-fashioned way of watching TV"). The very appealing host, Jason "Jace" Hall, a video-game producer turned film and TV producer, seamlessly blends his work in all three worlds into a hugely entertaining five minutes of fun, insider info, and interviews with celebs, game developers, and Internet sensations (as in a very funny segment, featuring "Chocolate Rain" star Tay Zonday). It's "Hollywood glitz with gamer geekdom," press materials promise. And that promise is not broken.
Among gamers, Hall is known for founding the game development studio Monolith Productions, which was acquired by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment in 2004. Some of the games shepherded under his lead at Warner Bros. include F.E.A.R., The Matrix: Path of Neo, Justice League Heroes, and others. If you are as far outside gaming culture as I am, you will appreciate Hall's thoroughly welcoming lead into the gaming world, given without reproach and without a smidge of snarkiness. Gamers will appreciate exclusive interviews with game developers, such as George Broussard and Scott Miller of 3D Realms, and salivate over Hall's hands-on first look at the now-legendary Duke Nukem Forever. The game is the sequel to the popular video game Duke Nukem 3D. Originally set for release in 1998, DNF has been 12 years in the making and is now the subject of gamer lore and high anticipation. Hall gets to test out a beta version of the game. Although his experience is off-camera, he reports on his experience with so much gusto, I might go out and buy the game.
New episodes of The Jace Hall Show appear every Thursday at Crackle.com. Archived episodes (all four) are also available for viewing.
The next film in the POV documentary series, The Ballad of Esequiel Hernandez, airs on Tuesday, July 8, at 10pm on PBS. See "Tragedy on the Border," June 6, for Anne S. Lewis' interview with filmmaker Kieran Fitzgerald.
As always, stay tuned.