Writers’ strike and Web video: A continuum

by Mathew on January 12, 2008

Some more details from Liz Gannes over at NewTeeVee about the efforts of movie writer Aaron Mendelsohn and some fellow striking writers to put together a mini-studio to produce Web content. They’re looking for VCs to put up $30-million or so to launch their studio, Virtual Artists — a name that appears to be a reference to United Artists, the seminal 1920s studio founded by Charlie Chaplin and others.

Incidentally, it’s worth remembering, as Paul Kafka points out at Silicon Alley Insider, that United Artists didn’t work out so well, in part because movies became longer and more expensive to produce. Most of those who formed the studio were also well-known actors — in other words, the “talent,” and not just a bunch of writers whom most of Hollywood (rightly or wrongly) assumes are a dime a dozen.

So will Mendelsohn and his gang be able to follow through on what Marc Andreessen recently described as the remaking of Hollywood in Silicon Valley’s image? That remains to be seen. Kafka worries that the economics of Web video are uncertain at best and there is certainly some evidence that that is true. But why does it always have to be a black and white question of Web vs. traditional TV and movies?

With Quarterlife, Marshall Hersovitz and Ed Zwick have shown that there can be a lot of overlap between TV and Web video, in both directions. Meanwhile, some comedians, actors and directors who started with short video clips — Andy Samberg and the Lonely Island crew come to mind — have managed to extend that into more traditional (and presumably lucrative) spheres. To me it seems a lot more like a continuum than a black and white separation of worlds.

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