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Postcards from Ludditeland
No, I am not blind, [well, maybe,
I don't own a computer.
I am a dinosaur.
But unlike the brontosaurus, with his
pea-sized brain, I can see the meteor heading toward the Earth, I can see the
ultimate extinction of my species —
My mistrust of technology is nothing
new. I stopped writing on a typewriter
when they went electric. At the birth
of photocopying, I mourned the death of the mimeograph machine – but, then
again, that probably is because the smell got me high.
The truth is I'm scribbling this in
longhand. I'd use a quill if they
weren't so goddamn messy.
Yet, here I am writing a piece for the WGAE
website. I guess the "New York Times
Book Review" would call that irony.
Sometimes I feel like Moses, atop Mount
Nebo, looking down at The Promised Land, enjoying the vista but knowing I will
never be a part of it.
I'll admit I have always been fascinated by
the potential of the Internet.
Back when we were making Homicide,
we did a series of what you'd now call webisodes – titled "Second Shift" –
separate characters, but still Baltimore cops, trying to close murder
cases. Eventually, some of our broadcast
TV characters appeared in the webisodes and later, the Internet characters
showed up on our series.
We even did a live news conference on the
website, where our audience played reporters at a press briefing. People were allowed to ask any questions
they wanted — only they had to be about the homicide case and not about Yaphet
A lot of fun. And, I think, a first.
What attracted me to the idea of "Second
Shift" was the endless possibilities, the chance to tell stories from divergent
yet compatible points of view.
As a result, an episode of a TV show
becomes more than the sole source of the story, it's the launching pad off of
which different perspectives and facets can be revealed.
For Oz, we created a virtual prison
where fans could travel through the corridors.
(And leave unmolested.) We also
did a couple "teasers" where we set up a character on the Internet — an
undercover cop who was saying goodbye to his family before going inside — and
then introduced him onto the series.
For The Bedford Diaries, we put our
fictional characters' profiles on MySpace, as if they were real college
Someday — and soon — all of these
"experiments" will be commonplace. They
will be an expected and integral part of the storytelling.
Which is why the next MBA contract
negotiation is so important. We, the
members of The Writers Guild, East and West, will be doing what we always do —
creating — and whether it's broadcast or cable, celestial radio or feature
films, webisodes or anime, we deserve to be respected for our work.
in July, the WGA negotiating team and the corporate types will sit down to sort
through business models, real and imagined, to figure out a way to compensate
will gripe and groan, but they will not be able to alter one fact: The media
may be evolving, but ordinary people want to hear breaking news or see new
legends unfold. That hasn't changed
since we were cave dwellers squatting around the campfire.
on Mount Nebo, I have seen the future.
And it is still us.