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Will Hollywood strike back? Writers have been reduced to stoop labourers

Unions amass power through manipulation. David McNew/Getty Images

Unions amass power through manipulation. David McNew/Getty Images


September 30, 2023   6 mins

In the Fifties, television destroyed radio, many of whose stars were themselves survivors of the death of vaudeville, and persisted through radio and into film: The Marx Brothers, W.C. Fields. And many of the first movie stars had come first from the music halls, such as Chaplin; Will Rogers became a movie star after his pre-eminence in vaudeville.

But the movie stars were contemptuous of the New Form, and hung back until the dam broke. (I recall casting discussions in New York in the Seventies themed: “Do you think he would consider doing a Movie of the Week
?”) Still, television and film rubbed on, misharnessed, until the current amalgamation. In 2013, I wrote and directed an HBO film, Phil Spector. On hearing of it, my young son said: “Dad, you’re doing a Made-For-TV Movie. That’s shameful.”

Now the new technology has, again, upset the applecart. Streaming has forever disrupted the old means of distribution, which, after all, is the determining factor in disseminating information — and, so, in determining content. Industrial production requires and rewards economies of scale and expenditure. The corporation buys in bulk, with neither time nor interest in that which one might call artistic integrity, which a comptroller, looking at numbers alone, could only understand as insubordination. The actually talented — those disposed and able to bring their idiosyncratic vision (art) to manufacturing — are as much of an obstruction as Chinese devotees of Feng Shui would be to the Hyundai production line. (To disrupt a production line is the original meaning of sabotage.)

There is a hopscotch effect in show business — it may be universal, but this is the only racket I know. The entrepreneurs and adventurers jump on the new thing. Some become successful, and the creators, actors, hucksters and thugs may exist in some sort of equilibrium until the tide turns.

With the coming of television, producers searched out the famous, to draw the viewers, but also hired the unknowns to work cheap. Early TV scripts were farmed out, one or several at a time, to individual writers (previously known as “writers”). There was a writers’ room, generally, only in comedy shows. No writers’ rooms were required for horse operas, and Warner Television churned them out on their lot, distinguishable only by their theme-songs. With the success of The Industry, land values increased. The movie lots — belonging to Paramount, Warners, Universal, Fox — cut down or eliminated the backlots where the films were made, turning them into cash. (Century City was the backlot of 20th Century Fox.)

Independents then took to the streets and the countryside, to film on location — a process greatly simplified by the invention of the Steadicam in 1975. Now, one didn’t need to lay “dance floor” to allow the heavy cameras to move; and the more sensitive film stock lessened the need for elaborate lighting. Filmmaking, then, migrated first away from Hollywood, and then out of the United States, as the unions caught up with the economies enjoyed on location.

When I first showed up, movie scores were recorded on a soundstage in New York or LA by a full orchestra, the conductor watching the film projected, full-sized, behind them. Today they’re recorded over the internet, or its equivalent, by musicians in some Baltic Land, while the conductor watches the film on his iPhone. The number of working film musicians in Hollywood decreased from thousands in the Forties to virtually none today. But the number of writers increased.

Music is, of course, the universal language (except for Disco), but writers of English-language films require only the entry-level skill of speaking English. So, Hollywood, in the age of mass streaming, and tsunamis of “content”, needs writers. The writers work in Hollywood, rents here go up, but salaries go down. This is the ancient contretemps between the workers and the owners, capital and labour.

The workers, however, have always been split between the crafts and the industrial unions. Marx, that jokester, said that all the worker has to sell is his potential for labour. Well and good for a miner or cotton-mill girl; but a craftsperson, let alone an artisan or artist, has something more to sell: the productions of his unique talent and skill — and, to be Marxian, its potential beauty. Artisans have little in common with those on the assembly line; in Hollywood, however, they are in the same unions.

As for the unions, like any organisation evolved into life, they develop their own hierarchies and agendas, which more closely resemble those of management than those of the shop floor. They take form from the struggles of shop stewards, delegates, and negotiators within the union; as with our government representatives, they live in a hermetic world, separate from those they are elected to represent, and amassing power through their control, which is to say, their manipulation. The relation of union leadership to management is like that of opposing parties in Congress. Whatever differences they profess or portray, they play golf together, and, on the golf course, complain or joke about their constituents, who make it so tough to get along.

Interchange between the parties may sometimes appear static, but it is always in flux. Greater pay causes an influx of union members, which gives the union more clout in making demands, and more dues with which to enlarge recruitment, “research”, and similar bureaucratic metastasis, and to raise the salaries of their litigators and staff. Successful wage hikes force management to reduce profits or forgo modernisation.

Or changes in technology may incite management to attempt to cut employment, prompting the unions to insist on the status quo. The negotiations that follow inevitably result in higher costs to the consumer, which weakens the producer. Finally, these, like all negotiations, are a game of chicken, played by teams with catchy slogans on their sweatshirts: “We owe it to the stockholders”; “We owe it to our brave union and martyrs.” (Essentially the teams’ mascots.)

The United Auto Workers negotiated the richest deals in the history of organised labour in the Sixties — workers won great benefits in wages and pensions, but, 20 years later, American Automakers were, effectively, paying three sets of salaries where the Japanese, unhampered by unions and thrilled to employ automation, could make a better car cheaper, and so, captured the market.

Few gold rush miners got rich. The big money was made by the folks who sold the shovels. On the other hand, the Aboriginals of Australia were doing swimmingly for millennia, until the coming of the Europeans in 1780. The newcomers saw what they thought were ignorant savages; but the Aboriginals had worked the land, and managed it, through inventive technologies of crossbreeding, fertilisation, and controlled burning, and could find water, and both sustain and consume the odd local fauna. The Europeans could do none of the above, and starved until the next ship arrived. They drove off, killed, or enslaved the Aboriginals, who were displaced by a technology (firearms), which has the power to coerce, but none to create.

The slash-and-burn methods of Australian Aboriginals can be called primitive, or magnificently effective methods of environmental control — harnessing natural processes for human sustenance, through understanding of the cycles of growth-and-decay. The ash of the burnt-over areas fertilised the ground for new growth, not only of planted crops, but of shoots and berries to attract and support the food-source wildlife.

A similar, though unintended, example can be found in the auto industry. Allied bombers destroyed the industrial capacity of both Germany and Japan, and then American money rebuilt them with new technologies, to compete with American production’s outmoded plants and the cumbersome employment contracts based upon the old technologies.

Q. Are technological changes beneficial? A. To whom, at what time? Radio wiped out Vaudeville; some performers persisted, but it was only for a while (as did some Neanderthals with the advent of homo sapiens).

Has society benefited by the ubiquity of streaming? Endless internet outlets have resulted in the proliferation of chaff, and the inevitable reduction of writers to the status of stoop labourers. Yet thwarted inspiration will always search for an outlet, which can most easily be found today in the writing of refrigerator magnets — for if they do not amuse, shock and delight, they aren’t purchased. The consumer here has a choice, as he does not with industrial entertainment (buy the subscription and take it or leave it). One, however, cannot spend the evening with a glass of vodka appreciating a refrigerator magnet.

How will it all end? It will not, but will continue, will-he, nil-he: the unfolding Grand-Guignol of human nature, rushing, like the wild river in flood, unchecked, and so on, carving its own banks and channels, while some in the lowlands adapt, flee or pray, and some, thinking themselves immune, picnic on the high ground, clucking at the spectacle, and suggesting to each other that Something Must be Done.

With thanks to Pat Shipman for ‘Our Oldest Companions’.

Copyright © 2023 by D. Mamet


David Mamet is an American playwright, film director, screenwriter and author. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Glengarry Glen Ross.


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Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
7 months ago

I like David Mamet but for online articles I prefer the style of journalistic writers like Ed West, Douglas Murray, Rod Liddle and Mary Harrington whose writings are as clear as George Orwell’s. I find David Mamet too writerly, too playful in his language, too keen to come at things from an angle. I enjoy ‘good writing’ in the novels of say, Vladimir Nabokov, but in articles I want the writer to get to the point as quickly as possible and in as plain a style as he can manage before I move on to the next article. In the end I became restless with the effort of understanding where this was going and stopped reading.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
7 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Yep, that’s how i was reading it, until i stopped half way through, and for the same reasons. It appeared he was trying too hard to be clever and show his “writerly” credentials.
I’d add Joan Smith to the list of writers who know how to get to the point, stay there, then conclude. Mary Harrington often opens with an anecdote which invariably has resonance to the main point, which again is fine.

Last edited 7 months ago by Steve Murray
Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I keep tellin’ ya, it’s the vodka.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
7 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

In other words, you want journalists and pundits, not playwrights and screenwriters?

James Graham
James Graham
7 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

Someone should tell those cats overhead that many of us prefer caviar to cornflakes. But I think they’re in to much of a hurry to listen.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
7 months ago
Reply to  Kelly Madden

To write articles and do reports?
Yes.
I don’t want Journalists to write plays particularly, but that article was a mess.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
7 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

There were interesting analogies but I learned nothing. Like I never learn to log in before I read.

Ari Dale
Ari Dale
7 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

Yep, short and sweet- please.

Apo State
Apo State
7 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

I generally agree, but one line in this essay was (for me, anyway) worth the price of admission:
”Music is, of course, the universal language (except for Disco)
”

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
7 months ago
Reply to  Keith Merrick

The point had fallen asleep over a half empty bottle of whisky before Mr Mamet got round to calling on it.

Andrew Soltau
Andrew Soltau
7 months ago

I seemed to have missed the bit where Hollywood strikes back.

Charles de Batz
Charles de Batz
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Soltau

sub-editors write the headlines, not the authors

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
4 months ago

I don’t think the subeditors read it all the way through either but were hoping thats what it would be about.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Soltau

Exactly!!

Nellie Bly
Nellie Bly
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Soltau

There is nothing direct about striking back in the piece. Any such thoughts are implicit in this the-end-is-nigh piece.
Mamet is correct, I believe. Hope that those looking forward to higher salaries realize that there will not be jobs carrying those higher salaries.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
7 months ago

We have Netflix, Stan, Britbox, Disney, Apple TV, Binge and Prime. While they all have the odd good movie, tv series, or, heaven forbid, made-for-tv movie, 99% (assiduously researched peer reviewed percentage) of the “content” is dross. Prime, in particular, makes me laugh. I love westerns and Prime serves up stacks. The only trouble is many are populated by actors I have never heard of, or one actor I have heard of who puts in what could generously be termed a cameo, and look like they were filmed on an iPhone in someone’s back yard and garage. Which is a roundabout way of saying, yes, your content has veered wildly away from the sunlit uplands of “artistic integrity”. And don’t get me started on the “How do I watch” option, which directs you away from one streamer to another, but only if you fork over the digital readies.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
7 months ago
Reply to  Tony Taylor

I actually rather enjoy a movie where I don’t know the actors. I’ve been exposed to so much salacious information about the lives of well-known actors, and have seen them too many times on talk shows and award shows that it’s hard to see beyond their personality and see the character they’re trying to play. It’s like “oh there’s Nicole Kidman with a prosthetic nose, I wonder how her marriage is going to Keith Urban,and boy, her face lift is pretty bad, and she didn’t used to have big boobs”. It’s distracting.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
7 months ago
Reply to  Clare Knight

I take your point, but I was more using “unheard of actors” as a generalisation for rank amateurs, try hards, wannabes, nobodies and duds. As for the celebrity actors, i much prefer like my films full of talented character players and the odd star and share your disdain for the likes of Cruise and co.

R Wright
R Wright
7 months ago

While I appreciate what this piece tried to do it is too flowery with not enough bald facts. I wanted to find out more about the outcome of the strike and its implications and came away with little.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
7 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

Exactly.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
7 months ago

“…How will it all end? It will not, but will continue, will-he, nil-he…”

But it has already ended, human nature just doesn’t know it yet. As ever, still one step behind, even as the next technological wave comes crashing in. But this one’s the Biggie. The Large Language Models are here, and it’s over.

________

(With apologies to Robert Graves):
“….Prodigies enough, soothsayers? Write no more now, Humanity, Gods of the Earth, write no more…”

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
7 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

I’m glad you post here, Prashant, it makes me feel like I’m not the most nihilstic guy around.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
7 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Dalton

🙂

Last edited 7 months ago by Prashant Kotak
Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
7 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

This could be an Unherd record for shortest ever edit.

Right-Wing Hippie
Right-Wing Hippie
7 months ago

On hearing of it, my young son said: “Dad, you’re doing a Made-For-TV Movie. That’s shameful.”
Your son has a finely developed sense of family honor; doing a made-for-TV movie would be a black mark upon your escutcheon and might get you whipped on the steps of your club.

Benjamin Greco
Benjamin Greco
7 months ago

I wish Mamet could focus. Labor relations to aborigines to refrigerator magnets, my head is spinning. He is a writer so full of himself that he thinks every sentence he puts on paper is a gem. I’ve known a lot of computer programmers like that, they write a lot of unnecessary code that is difficult to maintain. But I digress, Mamet like.
It’s hard to tell if Mamet was trying to make any points so I will make some for him. American adversarial labor relations result in problems for everyone including consumers. Countries like Germany and Japan do better though, not just because of technology, but because labor and management cooperate.
Streaming will collapse sooner than people think, the model is unsustainable. There is too much mediocre content, and no one can afford to pay for all the services out there. Most people only keep a service for a month or two. I am always switching streamers. If you have paid for Max lately you can see that Warner bros. has given up and is importing content from every cable channel they own. Just what we need Jake Tapper and CNN on demand. Didn’t that already fail? Streaming will morph into free services like Freevee where you have to watch the commercials. Over the air TV is dead. It was felled but the DVR not streaming.

Last edited 7 months ago by Benjamin Greco
Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
7 months ago

Always be closing, Mr. Mamet – excellent advice even for an essayist.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
7 months ago

Speaking of vodka, this reads like it was written under its influence.

Mark epperson
Mark epperson
7 months ago

What’s missing from the comments and barely touched in the article was the role of the finance, say beancounters and Gordon Geckos, successful campaigns to apply profit algorithms, to EVERYTHING, including Hollywood and entertainment media. These algorithms are designed to bring max profit to the end user, the owner of the corporations, bank, hedge fund, etc. They are doing a hell of a job for themselves. Amazon prime is a “prime example” as fees go up regularly, what used to be free is not going to cost you $2.99 a month and yet Amazon is really not losing any money, in fact, they are doing very well. Unions were formed to combat this total greed and if a company has a Union, they deserved it at one time. The only way to change Gordon Gecko’s mind is to quit buying any of his products. Things will change very quickly and if applied to all media, the same result. But what are the chances, we have it too easy, and $2.99 isn’t really a lot, and folks like the few shows that are actually any good. It will happen, who knows when, but then the Oligarchs with their company flags, will have most of the money, property, and all of the power. We either are hypocrites who can’t or won’t address the greed or we stop buying this BS from all quarters.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago

More fatalism. We are not obliged to worship some Tech/Market God as if it was all powerful and resistance was pointless. It is a choice. In the past we have benefitted enormously from technological progress but we have also been able to put in place a few curbrails to prevent new technology taking us over a cliff.

Take food, as a simple example, where since the nineteenth century regulations have discouraged crude adulteration and then other more sophisticated threats to our health. There may be more to do but no one disputes that is possible to limit what gets put in our bodies.

At the other extreme, there is genuine outrage at the thought that scientists may have sought to sidestep regulation of enhanced viruses in Wuhan. No one accepts that scientists have an absolute right to innovate in order create profitable (or militarily effective) drugs. Some restraints are necessary. Drugs have saved millions of lives but there are necessary limits to research which must be enforced.

In the cultural and media area, there is less need to interfere – and justifiable concern not to censor ideas or promote a single vision – but even here society needs to watchful. I see no problem with streamers replacing cable and network TV. Netflix has produced some innovative output just as HBO did in its prime. Change is often good. But on the other hand social media have had a devastating effect on local news reporting which makes local democracy a farce. It has also financially incentivised polarisation. Both points suggests we need to step in to limit the damage.

The risks associated with AI and the singularity have only just begun to be debated, but the same logic applies.

Technology promotes change. It is up to us to prevent it being bad change. Tech exists to serve us not us tech.

Something must be done or, more specifically, some things must be prevented. Say “No” to techno-fatalism.

Last edited 7 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

But resistance IS pointless. There is a general misunderstanding of what Technology is. Technology isn’t some tools someone invents at periodic intervals, that you buy, sell and use. Technology is a trajectory that humanity is riding like a bucking bronco. You do not have control, you just attempt to hang on for dear life the best you can. And you WILL get thrown off sooner or later.

John Tyler
John Tyler
7 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Sounds very philosophical, but nonsense! Tech is precisely what you say it is not: applicable tools based on scientific enquiry; and engineering is the application of technology in a practical setting. The last thing we need in this world is for the bloody philosophers to take over technology! They’ll have us using it to enforce ghastly, destructive ideologies instead of bettering the lot of the human species.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
7 months ago
Reply to  John Tyler

I plead guilty – talking philosophical sounding nonsense is my USP.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
7 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

What is quality? The printing press did not create Shakespeare but it enabled work to be widely spread. The technology of paper and charcoal does not create a drawing by Michelangelo, da Vinci or Raphael. Perhaps the issue is the Western World is not creating Shakespeare, Michelangelo, da Vinci or Raphael.
What is the technology reduces quality of creativity and results in the crass and crude? ? The USA is the wealthiest nation the World has ever seen but Florence a city of at most 100,00 and post Black Death of 1350, only 30,000, yet produced far greater artistic excellence in the period of 1380 to 1520.

ALLEN MORRIS-YATES
ALLEN MORRIS-YATES
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Charles, how do you know that great artistic excellence is not being produced? There are several billion people alive today. I would be startled if quite a few were not producing “works” of great artistic excellence. But given the numbers of little pockets of practice that exist even in my own city that I have only a very fleeting knowledge of, I am not surprised that if one only looks to the major streamers for the “works” of great excellence that one comes up disappointed. The best opals and gemstones take some work to find.

Susie Bell
Susie Bell
7 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

What a deeply lovely thought

Duane M
Duane M
7 months ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Prashant is correct: Technology has its own momentum; it moves itself forward. Because there is always someone who wants to explore the next step beyond the current technology.
Take, for example, the cloning of mammals. Mammals are good at reproducing — just look at us. Do we need cloned mammals? Not at all. But it’s an interesting technical challenge, so a lot of people worked on it and in 1996 we got Dolly the sheep. Now we have the technology to clone almost any animal. Including humans.
Now, how about an artificial womb — do we need that? Of course not, but it’s an interesting technical challenge and people are working on it. Getting close toward success with mice. If it works for mice, it can be made to work for humans.
Does anyone want to see a world of cloned people, or people born from artificial wombs in some sort of baby factory? Most of us find the idea horrifying. But once the technology is there, who’s to stand in the way?
That’s what I mean by technological momentum.

Andrew Horsman
Andrew Horsman
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Well said.

starkbreath
starkbreath
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

‘Something Must Be Done’. Well guess what, not only is it not being done, it’s not going to be. The worldwide disaster created by GoF research in Wuhan illustrates this. No one’s been held accountable and no one’s stopped this insane abuse of science from continuing. And AI? On the one hand we have the futurists (as always) waxing poetic about the boundless boon to humanity this will be, on the other the voices pointing out the boundless potential for abuse it is creating. In the meantime, people everywhere are adopting this technology because no one wants to be considered a Luddite.

C 0
C 0
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I appreciated your injection of hope into the discussion, but while I admire and seek to emulate that sentiment myself when thinking about new technologies – and especially when discussing their impacts with my children on the world they are inheriting – I can’t help but remember Marshall Mcluhan’s observation that “the medium is the message”, and that we do ultimately in fact tend to serve the tech. A great book that tackles this was Nicholas Carr’s “The Shallows”. It was written about the internet and its psychological AND physiological impacts on humanity, and was written just prior to the advent of Big Social Media and the attention economy. It still holds and I would say applies just as much to now ubiquitous social media as it does to newer areas such as the burgeoning fields coming to comprise transhumanism. Whether we continue down the path and over the cliff however is not a foregone conclusion. Sometimes there is a stampede in the other direction when the herd finally pays attention to the alarms being raised by those along the edges. Unfortunately stampedes are not easily guided or stopped and the fallout can take a terrible toll on the herd.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
7 months ago
Reply to  C 0

I accept I am an optimist by disposition but, at least in theory, it is possible to control the impact of technology because it is rarely just new gadgets that drive change but gadgets + legal and institutional context. To take communications, both printing and radio were enormously destructive in their initial effects. The former led to a hundred years of religious wars in Europe, while the latter empowered a number of charismatic politicians who mastered the new medium. Some such as Hitler were unfortunate.

When TV came along, however, in different ways both the U.K. and USA imposed notions of balance which supported social cohesion. It was only when these rules were abandoned that Fox vs MSNBC led to polarisation.

Likewise, the malign influence of social media was significantly exacerbated by their exemption from the normal obligations of being a publisher. If hypothetically this exemption was abolished then overnight social media would be transformed. (I am not recommending this just illustrating my point).

To me the central problem is the lack of will to address these challenges. Some of this is the zeitgeist as demonstrated by the fatalism of most UnHerd readers. Another factor is more philosophical in that post modernism etc has led to a cynical “post truth world” which denigrates attempts to study reality and seek to solve problems.

But, overwhelmingly, I think it is about the soft corruption of this new Gilded Age which means that – especially in the US – wooing corporate sponsors rather than the electorate has become the central focus of politicians. I think this is the underlying challenge beneath many of the issues that get discussed in UnHerd. Cut out that cancer and many other problems would suddenly become soluble.

But, as you correctly say, I am a compulsive optimist.

Last edited 7 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Peter Johnson
Peter Johnson
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I agree with your view. Everything can be managed. I think part of the despair and fatalism is due to the irrational undemocratic way our institutions and leadership have acted in recent years about various issues: think Covid, global warming and trans issues. Many of us live in countries where both major political parties have identical policies and positions on those issues. Yet that seems to be changing in recent months as people are waking up to the fact that they are being lied to. This welcome cynicism will help with the management of AI. Finally – some of the side effects may be positive. People may spend less time online if they know they are engaging with bots. Maybe I am a bot. The elimination of medium skilled desk jobs may also be a good thing. The people in those jobs will likely do something even more productive.

Paul MacDonnell
Paul MacDonnell
7 months ago

A first-rate, thoughtful, and amusing piece.

Last edited 7 months ago by Paul MacDonnell
William Brand
William Brand
7 months ago

the important factor is the ability of AI to produce fake images and speech. The Face and voice that appears on the screen need not resemble the actor behind the character. one need only map the face of a model unto the actor to make the actor fungible. Dubbing becomes instantaneous with Korean words turning into English with a single keystroke. It even works with lip reading and Lassie the dog has found her English, Spanish or Kiku voice. Except for Darren on Bewitched one never herd of the star of a TV series being recast. Stars made a million an episode because producers were afraid to replace them. Now the face stays the same while the actor changes. The actor will be lucky to get minimum wage. You can have multiple actors in the same role. The race of the character can be changed along with the dubbing. Produce in the third world and all characters will be white or the reverse.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
7 months ago
Reply to  William Brand

I agree that people haven’t any real grasp on how AI generating images is changing things and will change them entirely.
My own field was photography, press photography through the old B/W, dev, fix paper print and all that, into the digital era.
People talk about reality without really noticing that the way digital cameras record reality means they have created a new, usually hyper saturated, hyper sharp, hyper real version of reality since digital prehistoric times..ie 1998.
Digital reality is really just a string of infinitely variable mathematical equations, or rather strings of numbers..two numbers. Every camera has ‘filters’, pre-programmed number strings that do whatever the filter has been set up to do, subtly extend chubby faces, de wrinkle or whatever. These are set filters, for us thickies, but the changeability of the ‘image’ is infinite and now we don’t even need an ‘image’ to start with.
This process of disintermediation, that digital content enables aggregated content platforms to pursue will/has already moved to it’s final task- dis-intermediating the perception of reality, and decoupling it from any need for a reality.
I remain an optimist.

Tony Taylor
Tony Taylor
7 months ago

I’m actually enjoying the discussion herein vis David’s style of writing. Wilfully circuitous it may be, and no doubt a nice change from treatments, drafts, rewrites and stuff, but let’s face it, there’s a fair bit of space on the internet to accommodate all styles and while this article skirts the point, and I even rolled my eyes at the last paragraph, I enjoyed reading it. What’s more, it may have bumped yet another Unherd article on sex. Every cloud…

Amy Harris
Amy Harris
7 months ago

A magnificent piece of writing from this author (I’ve always preferred his books and essays to his plays), the general theme of which can be applied to so much of modern life. Sadly, they don’t make them like Mamet any more. We must find the blueprints and clone him. I’ve witnessed this story first hand and he’s on the money.

Russ W
Russ W
7 months ago
Reply to  Amy Harris

I too enjoyed the writing.

Sophy T
Sophy T
7 months ago

No writers’ rooms were required for horse operas,
What are ‘horse operas’?

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
7 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T
Paul Coker
Paul Coker
7 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Weekly TV Westerns.

Jeff Cunningham
Jeff Cunningham
4 months ago
Reply to  Sophy T

Rawhide. Maverick. Etc.

Kelly Madden
Kelly Madden
7 months ago

Writers are—as (correctly) noted in Deadpool—“the real heroes here” in any contemporary entertainment. Or at least the most under-appreciated talent involved in the greatest works.

I’m not an entertainment writer, but our scribe here is, and I would have expected a bit more solidarity in this piece?

Michael Walsh
Michael Walsh
7 months ago

Based on what I’ve seen of their output in recent years, it would seem that Hollywood writers are determined to prove John Gardener’s adage, that “Real writers can’t write junk fiction. To write junk fiction requires an authentic junk mind.”

Douglas Proudfoot
Douglas Proudfoot
7 months ago

Internet content streaming could, potentially, lower the barriers to entry of new creative talent. The costs of production and distribution for video on the net are much lower than for traditional movies and television. The current upheaval is the process of adjustment to the new reality.

Current organizations are sized for the older economics, large production companies and a large writers union. The new economics of the net allow for smaller, owner operator companies to make feature films and series that they can sell in multiple ways, including large streaming services like Netflix, and more shared distribution, like YouTube and Rumble.

In addition, the demand for streaming content has outstripped the supply, so a lot of foreign content is now available for streaming. This includes content from Eglish speaking countries like UK, Australia & Canada, as well as countries like Frace, Spain and Denmark wit dubbed English or subtitles. The use of competing foreign supplied content threatens the pricing of domestic content, at least in the short term.

Last edited 7 months ago by Douglas Proudfoot
LeeKC C
LeeKC C
7 months ago

I actually enjoyed the language of this article. I think as an ‘artisan’ I was hoping for more wisdom or depth, or insight that I don’t have to an industry that I quite frankly know not much about. So for that I was disappointed. Mamet’s fault, maybe not. Maybe that is the point.
Like the very subject that he speaks of, I find myself constantly seeking more ‘depth’ and am always found wanting. Disappointed and a little at times disillusioned with so much content out there. We have substituted depth and nuance of character in all its colors for fast quantity and masses of choice and we want it now.
I also think the word ‘artisan’ has now all but lost its meaning to the tech – this is already here. I do think there will possibly be a push-back. I think, well I think I will, take depth over this endless, never ending shallow pool of flashing lights and shallow scripts treating me with a juvenile mentality.
If enough people start turning off, who knows.
Viva the delight of the more slow and savory!!! We have lost the delight of the tension in the waiting and anticipation.

Joe Donovan
Joe Donovan
7 months ago

Great writing. Not “too mannered;” far from it.