I’ve noticed a growing militancy in screenwriters since the WGA strike. Not least in myself. It seems we are absolutely fucked off to the back teeth with our status in this industry as little more than work experience fluffers (excuse my vulgarity, but this industry makes me feel like a whore sometimes).
A couple of incidents this week have added to the humiliation.
They provide a list of ‘nominations in the major catagories’. And yes, you’ve guessed it: not ONE writing award.
They list everything from Drama Series to Made for TV Movie and the Lead and Supporting Actors and Actresses in all of them. Not one writer.
This means that Laura Dern getting her people to fax in her supporting role in a TV movie is more of a major category than the individuals who wrote Mad Men, Battlestar Galactica, The Wire, Damages, The Office, Pushing Daisies and Flight of the Conchords.
Why? Because writers don’t mean shit.
Then I attend my regional film agency’s great big pre-launch for a new interactive media fund. Loads of people there, and we all walk away with an info pack. When I get home I discover the pack contains a DVD showcasing regional talent… and my short film is on it.
I’d heard about this DVD a while back. It was released free with a magazine. A mate told me about it: ‘I’ve just seen your film on this free DVD with this magazine.’ Oh really? No one told me. Finally, I have a copy of my own.
I look over the packaging. All the names of the creators are there, including my director. Mine isn’t. I may have written it but I am not the author.
Why not? Because writers don’t mean shit.
In 2003, the International Affiliation of Directors issued their infamous Dublin Declaration stating that ‘the director is the primary author of the audio visual work.’ They might as well have just gone round and kicked every single screenwriter in the crotch and pissed on them afterwards.
Writers guilds responded with our very own Toronto Declaration – pointing out that, if anything, the writer should be regarded as the ‘primary’ author of a film, and that their declaration flies in the face of the whole notion of filmmaking being a collaborative medium.
Whenever we writers start fighting our corner, we are always reminded just what a collaborative medium it is. A fact they conveniently forget when they release it as ‘A Name of Director Film’.
And they do this because writers don’t mean shit.
Filmmaking is a collaborative medium. A small army of people join forces in order to create one, each person chucking into the mix their own unique ingredient. But every film begins with a blank page. Every film begins with someone willing to mine their soul to fill that page with a story. Every film begins with a writer.
I wrote most of this last night and posted it as my editorial to the daily Shooting Screenwriters bulletin. It’s caused a bit of a stir. Some people have already pointed out that writers don’t mean shit because they don’t stick up for themselves.
This is true. Hopefully, a rant like this will make more writers realise that fact and lead to more of us doing something about it.
A version of this rant originally appeared in Shooting Screenwriters, and the now defunct 12Point liked it so much they ran it with a response from agent Julian Friedmann.