Thursday, January 17, 2008

Whys and Why Nots

So I’m thinking, once again, about the whys and why nots of my attitude toward the striking writers and after some introspection, I’ve come to several conclusions.

One, I think screenwriting is hackwork. You write scripts, you’re a hack, because you put together little bits of ideas and words and occasional full sentences and you create a dialog. I think that’s hackwork. I don’t like ad copywriting either because I think that’s hackwork also.

Two, I think getting paid enormous amounts of union-protected dough to do what most people do every day is not laborious. Picking up other people’s garbage? That’s laborious. Washing other people’s clothes and scrubbing their floors and emptying their bedpans——that’s laborious. Poring over pages of computer code, tarring a roof in the hot sun, making cold calls to sell life insurance, unplugging someone’s toilet, working at Hot Dog on a Stick——that’s incredibly laborious.

Getting into the writers’ union? That’s laborious, and also amazingly difficult, even to seasoned writers. There are even some professional scriptwriters who, after going through the mysterious Guild process of seeing who gets final credit for a script, are amazed at the protectionism and, uh——what’s the word?——favoritism that goes on at the Guild.

I’ll give you an example: Ed Norton, the actor, rewrote the script for the biopic Frida and, because he wasn’t in the Guild, he didn’t receive any writing credit. The same thing happened to Richard Pryor, who rewrote much of the dialog in his movies.

And so, because of this perceived unfairness by many professional entertainment industry people outside the Guild, they couldn’t give a rat’s ass for the Guild when they start to ask for more power and money.

Three, I am not friends with one person in the Writers Guild, yet I know at least one person in the Directors Guild, the Editors Guild, the Producers Guild and, of course, the Screen Actors Guild. I don’t know one stinkin’ union writer to feel sorry for, and no, those little videos they produce don’t make me feel sorry for them either.

My industry friends, some who now work strictly in advertising, think this is the end of the Writers Guild. Instead of production companies signing negotiated contracts with the striking writers, striking writers and many non-striking writers will sign individual contracts with the studios, all negotiated through their agents, instead of through a union.

You’ll see 17-year-old Randy from Wisconsin, who’s a big star on YouTube, get a production deal. Or a film editor, who is good with working on movies and TV shows that are not fully scripted or even unscripted, get development deals. After all, it’s been said that a film editor was responsible for Borat’s movie actually being funny.

The recent spate of movies by Judd Apatow and friends were all virtually unscripted. What if a movie studio promised writing credits to actors who were especially good at improvising their lines?

That’s what happens when the people in power are forced to adjust. They create change, often for the better (reality shows) and often for the worse (reality shows).

Okay, now that I’ve got that off my chest, let me tell you about this idea I have for a movie involving L.A. street gangs. It’s pretty good, actually. And all the lines are improvised, as is most of the action. But there’s this one little inciting event…

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