SAG Strike Videos: Two Aesthetics

Back during the Writers Guild of America strike in 2007, I wrote about my fascination with the strike videos produced by striking writers.  At the time, I expressed interest in how the videos used web video not only to convey their talent as writers but also as a not-so-subtle reminder of the stakes involved in the potential profitability of web video.  One of my favorites, “The Office is Closed,” used writers and actors from TV’s The Office to curry favor with viewers who faced the problem of having their TV schedules disrupted.

Now, a similar situation is playing out in the debate focused on whether the Screen Actors Guild should go on strike, a debate that hinges, in part, on new media residuals and one that has divided the SAG into two factions.  Because I haven’t been following the story terribly closely, I don’t yet have a position on the proposed strike, but I was interested to see two recent videos produced by SAG members taking positions on the strike (both videos courtesy of Nikki Finke).  The first video, featuring actors James Cromwell and Kaley Cuoco, uses the genre of the “backstage film” to illustrate the argument that a strike could cripple Hollywood economically, sending more productions away from Hollywood.  The video is polished and professionally produced and uses a two-minute long tracking shot reminiscent of the opening scene of Robert Altman’s The Player to provide a sweeping overview of why the contract ought to be ratified.

The second video, “Save the Biz Redux,” remixes the audio and video of the original to make it appear to be a press video made by the studios in 2011 gloating about beating SAG.  By chopping up the video and playing with the color, the pro-strike video transforms the Hollywood aesthetic of the original to depict conditions at a “non-union new media production.”  A set supervisor chastises workers for taking more than one doughnut and glances at a document before telling her assistant, “Oh, that’s a SAG voucher. We don’t need one of those anymore.”  As a remix, the video works best only if you have seen the original, but through the use of a vaguely menacing female voiceover oddly reminiscent of the voiceover in the McCain “Celeb” ads, the Keep SAG Relevant video presents an interesting–and often convincing–counterpoint to the original video.

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