WGA Negotiations Continue, And MORIARTY Weighs In...
Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.
I have received a mountain of e-mail in the past week asking me to comment in some way on the possibility of a WGA strike. I joined the WGA in 1995 after optioning a one-act play I wrote with Harry Lime to Showtime Networks. I have very strong feelings about the way the guild operates, and about whether we should strike, and about the issues on the negotiation table right now... and those opinions, frankly, don't belong on AICN. When I'm here, I'm on the other side of the table, a fan just like all of you, someone who still believes that every time I fork over my $9 at the box-office, I deserve something special in return. Still, there's all those letters, all those readers asking that I comment in some way.
What I'd like to do is simply pass the mic to someone who already said everything I have to say, and he said it better. The sad thing is, he said it decades ago, and every syllable still holds true. So... here he is... the voice of reason... Raymond Chandler:
"The impulse to perfection cannot exist where the definition of perfection is the arbitrary decision of authority. That which is born in loneliness and from the heart cannot be defended against the judgment of a committee of sycophants. The volatile essences which make literature cannot survive the cliches of a long series of story conferences. There is little magic of word or emotion or situation which can remain alive after the incessant bone-scraping revisions imposed on the Hollywood writer by the process of rule by decree. That these magics do somehow, here and there, by another and even rarer magic, survive and reach the screen more or less intact is the infrequent miracle which keeps Hollywood's handful of fine writers from cutting their throats.
Hollywood has no right to expect such miracles, and it does not deserve the men who bring them to pass. Its conception of what makes a good picture is still as juvenile as its treatment of writing talent is insulting and degrading. Its idea of "production value" is spending a million dollars dressing up a story that any good writer would throw away. Its vision of the rewarding movie is a vehicle for some glamorpuss with two expressions and eighteen changes of costume, or for some male idol of the muddled millions with a permanent hangover, six worn-out acting tricks, the build of a lifeguard, and the mentality of a chicken-strangler. Pictures for such purposes as these, Hollywood lovingly and carefully makes. The good ones smack it in the rear when it isn't looking."
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May 2, 2001, 2:05 p.m. CST
Moriarity speaks elegantly. About what, I do not know. I like chicken stranglers.
May 2, 2001, 2:05 p.m. CST
by Wee Willie
But who cares?
May 2, 2001, 2:06 p.m. CST
I hope that it doesnt cum to a strike! We gotta have movies or how else can we get out off this rotten world! Ok, maybe with a good book (Lord of the Rings,anyone:)))!
May 2, 2001, 2:17 p.m. CST
I agree with the brilliant words of Mr. Chandler.
May 2, 2001, 2:51 p.m. CST
Well said there!
May 2, 2001, 3:06 p.m. CST
Just wondering. Is there a date on that quote?
May 2, 2001, 3:27 p.m. CST
One of the more infuriating articles I've read in the last month came courtesy of Peter "I'm Responsible For THE GODFATHER Being The Classic It Is, And I'll Brag About It Every Chance I Get" Bart, who related the story of paying a writer to stay off of the set so they could go about the business of getting the film made. And which film was that, Pete: ISLANDS IN THE STREAM, or YOUNGBLOOD? Good thing you kept that lousy, no-good writer -- the guy/gal good enough to write a script worth filming, but somehow not worth a shit when it needs fixing -- off the set (I say this knowing that many writers are inherently better at doctoring than others, but many of these scribes are cut loose before they have a chance to even try!) It's that kind of mentality that has the studios arguably batting below three hundred every year.
May 2, 2001, 3:40 p.m. CST
Uuuuuummmm, something is SO not quite right with this picture. Chandler's quote talks about set pieces over story and THE MUMMY RETURNS and A KNIGHT's TALE are absolutely what he's talking about! Really, it makes no sense for you to say that there is an inherent nobility to the writing process when you rain praise upon crap like those movies which obviously have nothing to do with good story and everything to do with bombastic effects and silly, juvenile writing. Given, you guys have liked some brilliant films as well but don't act like you wish writers/creators would get respect when YOU ALSO support the movies and filmakers and studios that piss on them as well! It's a bit two-sided don't you think?
May 2, 2001, 4:55 p.m. CST
So let me get this straight... you support stopping production of film and television, and costing the immediate Los Angeles area 6 billion dollars and 80,000 jobs because you feel writers are a little mistreated? Allow me to contrast with the undoubtedly poetic words of Chandler and say to all WGA members: "Eat shit you whiny little fuck-holes!" Try being a P.A. for a week and then talk to me about mistreatment or lack of respect. Only when you work a 90 hour work week for 475 bucks after taxes (it's happened to me several times) will you know true exploitation in the movie biz. And you fucking writers want to take away what little we already earn because among other things, your egos don't allow for a director to take "a film by" credit. For shame. Not to mention hypocritical since all the things that Chandler mentions are NOT EVEN ON THE NEGOTIATING TABLE!! They're not negotiating to do away with story conferences, or producer's input, or any of the things Chandler complains about. I'm not in the WGA, so why do I have to stop earning a living when you assholes refuse to work? What do I tell my child when I can't afford a place for us to live or food for us to eat? (and no, I'm not exaggerating) Do you think anyone cares whether a P.A. is feeding his family? No? So why should I care about your cause? Answer me that! Nuff said!
May 2, 2001, 5:02 p.m. CST
I read an article on Film Threat about the phoniness of AICN. A dude named Ron Wells(I think) wrote that Moriarty(AKA Drew McSweeny) had never had a script sold or produced and that he was simply just a would-be critic for AICN(which also states that that is the very reason he does not get paid for his contributions to the site). The article went on to make fun of Moriarty some more by Wells commenting on how talking with him was like arguing with a junior high kid. The fact is and alls I can say is, Moriarty still pays 20 bucks to register for his spec scripts, not 10 bucks(which is the registration fee for members). He really shouldn't talk out of his ass, he's really giving real members a sort of pathetic and goofy appearence. Moriarty and most likely thousands like him are the ones who create stereotypes of screenwriters when we're really not like that.
May 2, 2001, 5:08 p.m. CST
by drew mcweeny
So... I've never sold anything and I've never had anything produced, eh? Well, that's news to me. Not only have I won awards from DramaLogue for stage productions of my work, and not only have I had several plays published by Smith-Kraus and performed all over the country, but I've worked for several independent companies as well as (as I mentioned quite clearly in the piece above) Showtime Networks. I've even reviewed a film based on one of my scripts here on the site, giving it a largely negative review. You can swallow every word of Ron Wells' poorly researched hit piece if you'd like, but you're a fool if you do. The name, by the way, is Drew McWeeny. It's on the "Contact" page on this site, available to anyone who takes the time to look. I am who I say I am. Try running a search for me on Yahoo! and seeing what turns up. You'd be surprised how lazy Ron Wells' work really was.
May 2, 2001, 5:36 p.m. CST
About the strike: look, it seems like I'm getting two different messages here. On the one hand, I've got writers like you and Chandler talking about how writers need more power -- or at least more respect -- in the film creation process (slight diversion: what exactly is the WGA looking for, if this is the case ? Playwrights get the final say of what gets changed in the script -- do you want to do the same for screenwriters ?) And on the other hand, I've heard people saying that creative issues have nothing to do with the strike. If this is the case, then what ? Money ? Look, I've heard both. Which one is the real issue ?
May 2, 2001, 5:36 p.m. CST
Honestly...I know tons of people who write better scripts that the assholes in the WGA._________________And the WGA wants to end or limit producer input? Most of these writers don't have a freakin' clue about marketing and demographics.___________Fuck quality, I don't go to the cineplex for that. My girlfriend gives me quality...
May 2, 2001, 6:15 p.m. CST
I am a writer. I have written one 120 page script, start to finish, and have written a ton of other stuff that never got completed. I think Most of the people in Hollywood who deal with films unfortunately have their heads up there asses as far as what business they are in. They are in the storytelling business. They want their result, but they are too undisciplined, or too proud to try and figure things out in any practical fashion. Unfortunately, this applies to many writers as well. Often enough, those writers rush into this business just as much as the execs, the directors and the producers do, and sometimes with even less of a clue. If we want good films, we have to have good professionals out there on all sides of things. And also... Get the choice of what movies get made OUT OF THE HANDS OF THE MARKETING AND DISTRIBUTION DEPARTMENTS!!! These people put the cart before the horse, and try to divine results that any intelligent person knows they can't. They treat it like a gamble, which it can seem like, but they don't understand what many professional card players do: That when playing a game like that professionally, you don't gamble, you work from your skills. Sure, you'll still lose from time to time, but your losses aren't going to be as spectacular as those poor idiots who walk in the room expecting to hit the big time, or your successes as short-lived as those who do manage a flashy victory.
May 2, 2001, 6:48 p.m. CST
Just like the WGA, the article is dealing with two different diverging issues: artistic integrity and money. The quote is about integrity. The issue in the end is money. That is only one thing you can negotiate with a studio: money. It's what they respect; it's what they will understand. Writers have always wanted more respect (at least I do). They want the recognition they deserve for their creative efforts. However, as a writer, one is stuck in a position in the caste system of this industry that will NEVER change. The writers that do maintain control are the ones that cross over into producing or directing. One thing that concerned me about the initial negotiations was the fight over the director credit. Thank good that
May 2, 2001, 7:50 p.m. CST
by Basic Alias
I can't imagine why anyone would want to make a living as just a screenwriter. You have absolutely no control over the final product. Anyone can change the script before, during and after production, and in the end, after the story's been completely twisted and fucked up the producers and the marketing department and the under-age, coked-up actress from the cover of Teen People, who gets all the blame? The screenwriter. 'Cause it's their name on the credit. _____ I think the best example of Hollywood's utter comtempt for the stories they tell is the use of committees and script doctors to write the screenplays. I mean for cryin' out loud, it took around two dozen people to write the Flintstones movie?! My autistic cousin could've thought up a more original plot! It reminds me of the old game where a message is whispered from one person to another until it's completely different from the original. Imagine putting that into the context of story-telling. How could the sixth script doctor possibly know what message the original screenwriter was trying to get across? He can't. And he never will.
May 2, 2001, 8:29 p.m. CST
if everyone is so pissed off about hollywood, why do you all work in it? get out of the business, or stop bitching about it, accept it, and play ball. all these so called writers on this talkback bragging about the scripts they've written. big f-ing deal. anyone pay you for them, or buy them off you? no? then i got a flash for you--you're not a writer. the only way you people can honestly describe yourselves professionally is in terms of what you get paid to do--how you make a living. sitting diligently at home by yourself after a oh so tough day of pa-ing and finishing a script does not make you a writer--all it gives you is a hobby. and for the poor bitter pa who was bitching about being mistreated, all i can say is that as soon as taking out the garbage and getting people coffee become highly technical and professional skills by which only a few qualified people can actually earn a living, then i'll feel bad for you not making enough money. until then, grow up, shut your trap, and realize that you're lucky to have an entry level job in an industry that is unrivaled in the sheer magnitude of possibilities for a new kid with some brains. you are surrounded by possibilities every day at work, wake up. this whole issue comes down to one thing that no one in this talkback or in hollywood has the courage to admit to themselves--everyone, and i mean everyone, is replaceable. the writers, just like the commercial actors did last summer, are about to find this out the hard way. ps-uncapie, where the hell you been?
May 2, 2001, 8:38 p.m. CST
by BGW Claw
First off, yes they should be paid more in residuals and whatnot. They're not asking for anything too absurd there. Now on to the things they don't need. The whole "A Film By..." credit issue: First off, why the FUCK does this issue reside with the WGA and not the DGA? Maybe it's just me, but let the writers worry about the writers, not the directors. The whole 12-step-ish plan and rules they want to implement are complete crap. Do some directors NOT deserve the credit? Yes (Renny Harlin, Paul Verhoeven, et. al). But it is the director who in the end is responsible for that story coming to life. And if the director also produced or wrote the script, well that's a no-contest. NEXT ISSUE: We want more influence and power! SHUTUP! I can understand why it might upset someone if the script they sold gets completely changed when the film is realized. BUT, the key word being BUT...when you SELL your script, they can do whatever the fuck they please with it. If you're so concerned about your words being mangled, don't sell the damn thing...or keep a copy for yourself. Either that or make plans to direct as well. Or you can find the money yourself and produce it independently. But don't bitch when the person who paid you for the rights decides they want something changed. Sure, you might be the right person to come to for changes at first, but in no way should that be required. You sold it, it's out of your hands. That check you received? That means you sold it and it's their property now. And it usually means you signed its life over to them. Should the writer be allowed on set? Sure, but not in a supervisory capacity. He can watch his words (more or less) brought to life as a bystander, not someone who must give permission for any changes. I am a screenwriter (but not yet a WGA member), and it pains me to say that I disagree with what some of these guys are saying, but enough is enough. Get the damn contract done guys...it's not worth it to go on strike. I pray that SAG's demands will not be as ludicrous. Thank you.
May 2, 2001, 8:51 p.m. CST
Writers do. PAs (along with craft service, drivers, film commission interns, and many more, get credit just for showing up. Writers are the only contributors to a movie who have to go to arbitration to get credit for what they created from nothing. Then they are assigned the blame for the dreck that results from an endless stream of imbeciles trying to be writers. This week, for the second time in less than two years, one of my movies went into production and the arrogant scumbags didn't even have the common courtesy to notify me, let alone honor their contractual obligations. And yet nearly every review of every awful movie (which seems to be nearly all of them these days) excoriates the writer for the terrible script. The writer, of course, had nothing to do with the script. The "script" was written by the development morons (who prefer to call themselves creative executives) who couldn't generate a creative thought if they were wired in series, the name-above-the-title auteurs fresh out of USC, Joe Farrell and his pencil-pushing goons, Joe Lieberman and his holy-roller fascists, Jack Valenti and his robots, the craft service guy, the star's hairdresser, the Teamster donut eaters, the auteur's boyfriend, the poor overworked underpaid PAs, anyone but the author of the film. And they wonder why we're pissed.
May 2, 2001, 8:52 p.m. CST
"Writers will always get screwed, get used to it!" If there's even a remote chance that screenwriters can earn better treatment, it's worth it. I don't understand why you're all advocating continued mistreatment of artists. One of the reasons so many big-budget movies are so bland and mediocre is because they're watered down by committees and rewriters and script readers who all want to leave their mark on the production. Anything that even vaguely alleviates that situation is a help. It's like the McCain-Feingold bill; it won't eliminate campaign finance corruption, but it will alleviate it just a little.
May 2, 2001, 9:32 p.m. CST
Your comments tell me that you truly have no idea what it's like to try and make a living in Hollywood as a newcomer. It's a truly shitty gig and the biggest myth of all is that the position of PA is unskilled. Actually, nothing could be further than the truth. In the end, the people that get consistant work is the people who know how a set works and how the AD keeps it running. I went through four years of film school and when I landed my first major PA gig, I learned that I didn't have the first clue how a set truly worked. Anyone who calls the PA an unskilled worker is quite frankly, an ignorant ass. Oh, and CDS, I've worked on two major features and I have yet to see my name in the credits. Plus, these current negotiations have nothing to do with your gripe about arbitration. But that is neither here nor there. I didn't post my message to tell you all how much being a PA sucks. (Well, okay a little) I was mainly making a point that the writers compared to a lot of other positions on a set gets a hell of a lot more respect. And if I have to be out of work and potentially be unable to provide for my family because a union I don't belong to decides life is unfair, I'm going to be pissed! Comicartist... I wonder how you would feel if someone was threatening to shut down whatever industry you work in. Not to serve your best interests mind you, but for just one small section of your industry. If you really are a comic artist, it'd be like you being out of work because the people who make art-pencils stopped making them because they want more respect. It has nothing to do with you but your out of work anyway.
May 3, 2001, 12:50 a.m. CST
And all your bullshit about how asking for respect (or as you put it, "whining") is "unbecoming of a man" and how Hollywood liberals are uncreative just proves it. Let me say on behalf of all Hollywood liberals (I'm sure you think we're all a bunch of "fagots" and "nancy boys" or some such insipid thing), fuck you, Comicartist. I find it ironic that you choose a nic that clearly has nothing to do with who you are. If you understood art or an artist's life in any way, shape or form, you wouldn't tell us to just find another job if we're unhappy where we are. You'd support, or if not support at least try to understand, the position the screenwriters are in. Screenwriters are treated like shit in Hollywood. It's always been that way, and it'll always be that way, even if the opposition caves in to the demands. They're second-class citizens, and they're asking for respect, which is well-deserved. So in closing, as Shakespeare (someone who I'm sure would have fully backed the Guild in this situation) said, "Disparage not the love thou canst not know". You don't understand the writers' position, so until you do, shut the hell up and stop trying to tell them how to run their careers. Go back to selling real estate or whatever the hell you said you did, and leave the artistic career guidance to other artists. Ciao...
May 3, 2001, 2:40 a.m. CST
by Salem Hanna
That sums up Hollywood's attitude to writers, and it sucks cock big time. Yes, producers are under more pressure and yes, directors have to deal with star egos - but when a film is huge, they get almost all the credit that the actors haven't already claimed as their own. I say the credit 'A film by...' should go to whomever first had the idea for the story, be that the writer, director or producer. At the end of the day they're all equally important and deep down inside producers and directors know it.
May 3, 2001, 2:55 a.m. CST
by Salem Hanna
People misunderstand what a good writer is. It's not just coming up with a complex story; Chandler says in the quote that they spend millions dressing up a story that good writers would throw away. But sometimes, the simple plots work best. Good writing IMHO has more to do with creating engrossing and/or charasmatic CHARACTERS than complex plots. I admit, writers and actors are more than a little dependant on each other here, as the performances have to fit the dialogue and vice versa, but even the most plot-twist heavy storyline - which can be thought up by studio execs if they got together over coffee - is souless and often lacking in credibility without the characterisation that only good dialogue and acting can provide. Sorry for rambling on guys.
May 3, 2001, 5:14 a.m. CST
The Guild is barely asking for anything. I mean, when you break it down, it's going to cost each studio like fifteen million bucks a year-- or about half of John Travolta's salary per-awful picture. A long strike would put a lot of hard-working people out of work, but then again, if it wasn't for the writers, these people's jobs wouldn't exist in the first place.
May 3, 2001, 6:55 a.m. CST
Nobody's saying you're unskilled, but, last I checked, you didn't write the film, you're not directing it, you're not shooting it, you're not acting in it, you're not editing it, you're not producing it, you're not casting it, you're not designing any aspect of it, you're not managing the production, you're not composing the score, you're not directing the second unit, you're not lighting it, you're not performing stunt work, you're not scouting locations, you're not foley editing, you're not working on the visual f/x team, you're not applying make-up, or styling hair..... quite frankly, you're doing the grunt work, which is appreciated when done without complaining. Do your job well, and maybe you'll get a chance to move into whatever field interests you. Keep bitching, esepecially after working on only two productions, and you'll never get anywhere. So keep pulling that cable and smile. Oh, and would you be a pal and grab me a bagel from the craft service table?
May 3, 2001, 7:34 a.m. CST
who writes entertainment features, I may not be in quiet the position as a long time member of the WGA is, but I firmly side with them and their demands. Everyone is quick to shit on the writer when a film tanks, but never thinks of praising them when a film does major box office. I know how disheartening it can be when something you worked hard over gets mangeled along the way by others- in the process loosing either subtle or even major points you were trying to say. If this does lead to a long term strike, an I think there's about a 70% chance of that happening, relax- it will give us all some time to go back and watch plenty of the great old films that are out there. If a strike happens, look up the nominees and winners of the writing Academy Awards from, oh say, 1930 to 1955, a time when the studio system, for all its faults, at least gave a little more respect to the writer's role in film production.
May 3, 2001, 7:58 a.m. CST
The studios have largely made the bed they are so uncomfortably in right now. For years, they have allowed stars and agents and directors and producers to virtually write their own tickets. Now, the Writers ask for a little respect, some fair treatment, and yes, a little money would be nice, it sets off a firestorm of accusation and finger-pointing such as has not occurred since (most likely) the last moments of Little Big Horn. The tragedy of the situation is that some of the participants who are in this little power play should be eradicated like Custer. The SAG, and the DG will ask for concessions, and expect them if the writers get concessions. True. It will cost the studios more money. True. Why? Well, the reasoning in the SAG and the DG will be as follows:
May 3, 2001, 8:35 a.m. CST
Will all you whiny little bitches be screaming your stupid assed cybaby opinions out when the SAG and or the DG go on strike too ? That is why Hollywood is shutting down... the SAG will strike at the end of June... they are responsible for this... yet the writers are being blamed again for something they have next to nothing to do with. Each and every studio has thousands of scripts in their archives that they could start making... if the actors weren't going to strike in June. So sjut the hell up and stop blaming writers who at least have organized a union and are fighting for their rights, and trying to get respect in the place where they're treated like shit. For teh one of you that is yammering about how little respect PAs get, and how you think writers get "respect" on the set? Wake up and smell the f**king maple nut crunch! We don't get on the set unless the director wants us there... and even then we don't have any say in anything... imagine how you would feel if, after putting your heart and soul into a thing... you saw it raped and pillaged before your eyes... oh, wait... you don't know what thats like because you don't have the creative ability or talent to come up with anything other than a bitchy little rant about a job that is important to producers (since they do, after all, need their triple lattes) only. If writers are given more respect and a little more say in the film making process perhaps fewer films would come out of hollywood looking like the retarded child of the union of an inbred red-headed step child and a jack-ass.
May 3, 2001, 10:15 a.m. CST
i'd be a lot more inclined to do just that if they'd stop blaming every poorly written movie on the amateur re-writing abilities of a producer or a star. you don't want your "art" (itself a laughable term in this context which i won't even get into here) fucked with? don't sell it. i don't hear you bitching about getting paid for it when you sign that contract. you want residuals? fine, i'd give them to you if it were up to me, but don't waste everyone's time and undermine everyone else's ability to earn a living just because you don't like the film by credit. you can't honestly think the dga is gonna roll over and let everyone and their mother come to casting, dailies, test screenings, etc, because the final say in those areas and creative control of the entire FILMMAKING (dammit, you drove me to capitalization) process are not and should not be in your hands. you get to sit in your ivory tower and philosophize that you are blessing the rest of us with a living. btw, isn't it ironic that the writers will pontificate about filmmaking being a collaborative effort on the one hand, and then tell us how without them there'd be no movies on the other? the ivory tower is yours, but when it's time to play in the real world, the owners of the film should be in control. you writers remember the owners, don't you? they're the people who paid you. half of the posts above are begging for hollywood to give the writers some respect. here's a novel idea--how about if the writers instead stop bitching about not getting it and go out and earn it for themselves?
May 3, 2001, 2:06 p.m. CST
...I am truly stunned by the sheer volume of ignorance and bullshit in this talkback. And by virtue of the fact that it IS a talkback, that's pretty fucking impressive.
May 3, 2001, 3:09 p.m. CST
There's no way to increase the good movies Hollywood puts out, or any way to decrease the amount of crap. Give more power to the writers ? Great, if we're talking about someone like, say, Neil Gaiman. But for every good writer, there are a thousand would-be big shots utterly convinced their 'masterpieces' are the high point of Western literature. On the other hand, keep things as they are ? I agree with Chandler -- the present circumstances are obscene. It's a damned paradox.
May 3, 2001, 5:45 p.m. CST
Alceste, Not to get completely off topic here, but I'm not asking to be put in control of a film, nor am I getting into a pissing match about how "PA'S" are the most vital component, blah blah blah. I'm not asking for anything great here, just to be treated like a human being occasionally. I don't mind doing the menial grunt work tasks, I actually enjoy it. I love being on the front lines of film production and seeing first hand what most only get to see on the screen. Be that as it may, I do think that we work just as hard as anyone and get almost no thanks for it. (monetarily or otherwise) Plus, just to clear up a confusion, I've done far more than 2 shows, I was just saying that only 2 of them were what I would call major features. Comic Artist, I don't like being a PA, but I never said anything about giving up. You seem to equate my complaints with some kind of surrender. It doesn't make me weak to complain about my job, as long as I don't let my qualms sabotage my career. (which I don't... otherwise I'd never get work) You actually kinda missed the point entirely. I'm on here complaining because I WANT to work. I may be forced out of work due to circumstances totally out of my control. I don't understand how you can't see that this is extremely upsetting. Especially when someone has responsibilites such as mine. (I'm far from the only person in this situation) Just to bring this thing back to the topic at hand, I think it's clear that just about every job in this business gets shat on from time to time. (some more than others) I just hate that I may have to put aside my goals for the contrary interests of a minority of workers. It doesn't seem fair but what is?
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