How can they tell?

When former President Calvin Coolidge (aka “Silent Cal”) died, the witty Dorothy Parker cruelly asked “How can they tell?”  I had a slightly similar question when I heard about the screenwriters’ strike in Hollywood:  “Why should we care?”

I know that the strike is not a good thing for the Hollywood economy, in that it will affect thousands of jobs.  Nevertheless, in terms of the product Hollywood pumps out to Americans and the world, I simply can’t weep any tears that the people who have been writing that stuff are going to stop writing.

I think we can use fewer shows such as Aliens in America, which ridicules Americans by having them play the fools in front of a Pakistani Muslim boy (read my post here to know what I’m talking about); the vapid, shrill show The View; or the violently hostile Brian de Palma flick Redacted.  Perhaps we need a break from Hollywood’s angry, amoral vision of America.

If it were up to me, I’d have the writer’s strike last a good long time — and this despite the fact that it hurts the handful of conservative screenwriters lurking in the background there or any other people who work in Hollywood put don’t share the industry’s out-stated political views.  Sadly, when there’s a cancer, removing it usually causes collateral harm to innocent tissue as well.

5 Responses

  1. The strike is quite possibly a good thing, especially for features. (Movies.) The way the WGA works, you get one freebie, before you have to join the union. In other words, if you’re a granny (or an anybody) in Des Moines or someplace, and you have a great idea that you’re actually literate enough to put in more or less proper form and down on paper, you’re allowed to do it. It catches someone’s eye, it gets made and becomes something, and everyone thinks: “isn’t that great, good for you, Granny, aren’t you cute” – and that’s your free shot. Here’s your million dollars and your Academy Award, thanks, go home.

    If you do it AGAIN, however, Granny – now you’re a pro, and in the union. Period. And of course most, it should be noted, of the Grannies don’t have more than one idea in them, or the drive to set it down. (Writing is recreational and fun – until you start getting paid and living on it. Then it becomes work, requires discipline, and isn’t so much fun any more.)

    So the actual effect of the strike – if it drags on, (and dragghing on is the key) – is to give some of them their shot. Some of those things sitting in slush piles at agencies will be lifted out, dusted off, and may actually be read – which is a good thing. Some new talents might be found mouldering in there. Without a long strike they’d never be read.

    TV is a different matter. It’s an endlessly grinding maw that requires endless feeding, and it burns up writers quick. For them the discipline is more important than the talent. As the old saying goes: we don’t need it brilliant, we need it TODAY. And lots of it. The average feature can take a year from the time when pen first hits paper through post-production, and is two hours long. TV brings you four hours of daytime, three hours of prime time, plus an extra hour or two of Leno, Letterman, Conan, Kimmel, et al – every damn day.

    The other thing about this, if you want to scab around the edges of this strike, you’d best be careful, because if you’re any good or have any plans of making it in this arena one day, you really don’t want the WGA looking at you two years from now and saying: “hmmm, who was this guy ‘El Kabong’ back in autumn of 2007 who seems to have been stylistically identical to you?”

    That would be very bad for your future as a member of the WGA-W.

    It’s always fun, though. Funny to see how quick those comic geniuses Leno, Letterman and the rest of them become silent without a stable of people to make them even vaguely amusing, let alone comic geniuses. Notice that their networks don’t trust them an inch, and put them right into re-runs. “I don’t need writers, I’m pretty good, you know: twenty years of stand-up!” “Uh-huh, Jay – go on home, play with the cars, we’ll call you when the strike’s over.”

    Good for the writers. As the only people in Hollywood who may actually be talented, every now and then they have to get their backs up.

  2. I defend anyone’s right to strike (except against the
    general welfare (are you listening, air traffic controllers?)
    but my attitude is a lot closer to BW’s than to JJ’s.

    Who cares?

  3. This is going to impact a lot more people than the writers. You’ll see a lot of the behind scenes people have to start digging into their pockets too.

    It is going to be a painful experience that is going to be quite unpleasant for the smaller guys.

  4. I personally think it’s totally fine if they strike. My only problem with strikes is when the government prevents either side from (otherwise legally) acting in their best interests. All the writers can form a bloc; all the studios should be allowed to discuss their positions and form a bloc, too.

    The writers have every reason to try to get their piece of the DVD residuals pie. And if they want to organize to do it, that’s fine by me.

    Hopefully the writers of “House” have enough episodes in the can so that my favorite show won’t be affected. Yes, I know, that’s selfish!

  5. There are writers in Hollywood? What do they do there?

    Just kidding. My initial reaction was the same as BW’s. I have no idea what the strike is about, and the junk I see on TV doesn’t motivate me to find out.

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