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*He is not a secret agent. Not at all.



I'll explain the Snake Pilssken picture later.

Writers are a necessary evil. Seems to be the view of a certain segment of "the industry." It pervades, doesn't it? I've seen lists of Emmy winners in publications and online the Monday morning after the awards that dutifully lists every category, save the writing. I've seen reviews that namecheck the actor, the director and mention the "powerful script" apparently written by no one. There's the heinous "film by" credit (which is offensive to more than just the writer, but writers take the most umbrage, it seems). I've heard of writers not being permitted on the set of their own film. The writer is most frequently the first one off a project. Need I go on?

Hence the situation we have now.

We all know the phrase "If it's not on the page..." And it's true. So why is it that the writers in must struggle for respect in all its forms? I have a theory.

Let me first propose that the three most important classes are (in alpha order) actors, directors and writers. The big above-the-line types. (Producers will produce, they're a force of nature). Now let me propose three extreme scenarios, the difference between which will illustrate my point.
1. The Death Scene

All the actors you've ever heard of drop dead, Specifically SAG dies. From Oscar winners to character actors who just look familiar. Angelina Jolie, gone. Brad too. Film and TV. Kyra Sedgwick? Bye-bye. Maybe you're not familiar with the name Glenn Morshower? You've seen him plenty. He's gone now too. Everybody. What happens?

Well, stars sell projects. To the studios and to the audiences. Let's say that the heartrending though uproariously funny story of a golf shoe maker, a script that has been passed around town as an amazing piece of work is going to be put into production. George Clooney is up for the part. He read for it and was amazing. Only one other guy was even better. Bert Stuffel. Bert made people cry and reexamine their lives or laugh in such a way that before that day, they may not have actually been alive. And that in just a cold reading under fluorescent lights.

95% chance George is getting that role. If he's not, every other actor in the film will be a known factor.

Without all those names, bankable, known commodities, agents, producers and studio heads will experience absolute cellular collapse (biological and telecommunications-wise). Even if they get their shit together, box office takes will be so far down for long enough that the studios would shutter and the entire industry would have to be reinvented, but it wouldn't happen...because we have You Tube now.

2. Cut!

All the directors vanish from the face of the planet. Or, as above, DGA contract expires...forever. Know what I'm sayin'?

There's some skill there that needs to be replaced and while that skill can be replaced, the fact is that the director has the ability to demolish huge piles of the producer's cash. There's a trust thing in hiring a director, as well as technical ability. The ranks will be refilled, but it'll be slow (a year or two) and film output would be at a crawl for some while, threatening the capability of the industry to continue to exist.

3. Rewrite!

The membership of the WGA all turn into colored polystyrene dodecahedrons and are crumbled to dust.

Things only stop long enough to read the stuff in the slush piles and pick out the good stuff. Hollywood stops for maybe a month.

Very very very very very very very very very few writers will sell a film or show to the public at large on the strength of who they are. And it's not up to the writer to to waste film, go into overtime, or do anything else massively fuck-up-able with a multi-million dollar production.

"Turn in the script, collect the paycheck and, preferably, go home."

Just as there is amazing acting talent out there yet to be discovered, and numerous directors champing at the bit to get a shot behind a camera, there is an enormous wealth of really good unproduced material out there and for a very short window (perhaps after a politically correct grieving period) getting read will be a snap. And everything will be available for guild minimum (you can crush writers, but the union is forever). Those with the chops will get a deal and those without will have their worst fears confirmed. And most of those writers will never see the inside of the studio gates. They'll get an agreement to sign by FedEx and a check sometime thereafter.
That's why it takes a strike to get some serious attention. Even then, the WGA doesn't generally get what it wants. See 1988.

Sure, there will always be independent filmmakers and what-not, but they are not enough to fill the hole and even in the dearth of post-Hollywood-apocalypse, the wide audience is still not going to go see most of those movies.

Anyway, it was this thought of a Hollywood Apocalypse that reminds me of Escape From L.A. were the big quake wrecked the valley and sunk stuff and blah blah blah. When I saw that flick and Snake rides his one-man sub through the channel over sunken landmarks, the first thing I though of was "Did the entertainment industry survive and if so, how?"

Did New York take it over, maybe building some studios out in New Jersey. Did Canada step up? Or did everyone suddenly develop a taste for Bollywood flicks?
©2024 Michael Patrick Sullivan
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