April 18, 2017

Somehow the word that comes to mind is: nothing.



That's a teaser on the front page of the NYT website that goes to an article titled "With a Hollywood Writers’ Strike Looming, Here’s What to Know."

Subtle shift from "Here's what you need to know" to "Here's What to Know." That teaser was bossy.

But here's one Q&A from the article:
Why is it always the writers who go on strike?

As a rule, the directors are well paid and feel valued by entertainment companies, and the actors’ union can be a bag of infighting cats. That leaves the writers.

According to historians, the friction between “scribes” and studios dates to the end of the silent film era. Studios suddenly needed writers to provide witty dialogue, so they imported wordsmiths from New York. But they treated writers — or at least many writers have felt this way ever since — as expendable stenographers.

Put another way, writers see their craft as artistic expression. For the most part, studios see it as commerce.
But the writers must see it as commerce if they are striking.

76 comments:

Laslo Spatula said...

Because writing another sequel to a Comic-Book Superhero Movie is Hard.

I am Laslo.

Matthew Sablan said...

Just what we need. The Reality TV Renaissance for the Era of the Reality TV President.

tcrosse said...

Who writes the voice-overs for In-A-World-Where... trailers ? Or do they write themselves ?

MisterBuddwing said...

A Hollywood story, in all likelihood apocryphal, but I like it: Screenwriter Robert Riskin, who collaborated with director Frank Capra on a slew of movies such as "It Happened One Night," "Mr. Deeds Goes to Town" and "Meet John Doe," got so sick and tired of hearing about the "Capra touch" - as if Capra had created his movies single-handedly - that he supposedly dumped a hundred blank pages onto Capra's desk and said, "There! Give that the 'Capra touch'!"

As I get older and more crotchety, I find myself more interested in classic movies over most of the new stuff. In "Sunset Boulevard," the William Holden character, poring over Norma Desmond's personal attempt at a script, marvels, "Sometimes it's interesting to see just how bad bad writing can be." But when I see a true classic like "Casablanca" or "Scarlet Street" or "Mildred Pierce," I marvel at how good good movie writing can be.

tcrosse said...

There's the classic line about the starlet who was so stupid she slept with a writer.

tim in vermont said...

Shouldn't using "wordsmith" unironically being a firing offense for a writer?

Comanche Voter said...

Geez Louise. Hollywood writers must have been on strike for a couple of decades now consideing the pap that makes it to the screen. So they are going on strike again. Same old, same old.

Laslo Spatula said...

Captain America: Friends, we must rally in the face of this new danger!

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: Yes! We must use ALL of our Powers!

Iron Man: Excuse me?

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: Is said we must use ALL of our Powers! Now!

Thor: OUR Powers?

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: Yes! Why are all of you laughing?

Iron Man: Dude Who Shoots Arrows Dude, what you got ain't much of a Power. You pretty much can just shoot arrows real good.

Thor: With my Hammer I can destroy City Blocks.

Iron Man: See? THAT'S a Power. And I can shoot lasers out of my suit. Power.

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: But sometimes there are situations where a well=placed arrow is needed!

Iron Man: Really? Like I couldn't just blast it with my lasers?

Thor: I could hit it with a throw of my Might Hammer. And my Hammer comes back.

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: So what are you guys saying?

Iron Man: We're saying that we pretty much let you hang around because you have a costume and all...

Hulk: Puny arrows!

Iron Man: But you're a minor character. If you were funnier you'd be comic relief.

Thor: But you are not funny. Iron Man is funny.

Iron Man: Yes. I have Power, and I'm funny. You're kinda... redundant.

Thor: And small.

Hulk: Small is puny!

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: What about Captain America? What Power does HE have?

Iron Man: Well, he kinda represents the American Ideal. He is Good PR.

Captain America: I am the Embodiment of the American Spirt.

Iron Man: Yeah: that. Meanwhile, you -- you shoot.... arrows.

Thor: If you were a Villain I would crush you instantaneously.

Iron Man: Yeah. Pretty Much what Thor said.

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: I don't have to take this from you!

Iron Man: Sure, leave if you want. Maybe you can form a Team of Third-Rate Heroes.

Hulk: Puny heroes!

Iron Man: Maybe get, like, a Postman who can deliver Mail with uncanny accuracy. Something like that.

Hulk: Puny Mailman!

Dude Who Shoots Arrows: Oh yeah? Maybe I WLL leave, and you all will be sorry...

Captain America: Friends, we must rally together, not fight amongst ourselves!

Iron man: Shove it, Captain. With the Dude Who Shoots Arrows leaving you're next up on the Expendable List...

I am Laslo.

MadisonMan said...

I need to strike for higher wages. Althouse, up my salary or I'll take my pithy commenting skills away!!

That's what Laslo should say.

John Tuffnell said...

Wordsmith isnt so bad. "-smiths" take raw materials and add value. Blacksmiths, goldsmiths, gunsmiths. Professional writers are assembling words into something useful.

Likewise, the hotel sign-in Mr & Mrs. Smiths are assembling themselves into something useful. Pretty sure that hotels don't have sign-in logs anymore, so maybe that little anonymity game has passed into history.

tim in vermont said...

Wordsmith isnt so bad. "-smiths" take raw materials and add value.

I understand the construction, it's just an unnecessary word that, in addition to not adding any value to the language, it sounds stupid. It is not actually totally without value, it does convey the pretentiousness of the writer who uses it.

Jupiter said...

I am all in favor of the writers' striking, but what I would really like to see is a producers' strike.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

As I recall, the last time the writers struck we ended up with some pretty good stuff on the Internet.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=dr+horrible+s+sing+along+blog&view=detail&mid=D2A88CC5E421127B11EED2A88CC5E421127B11EE&FORM=VIRE

Ignorance is Bliss said...

MadisonMan said...

I need to strike for higher wages.

Screw the higher wages. I demand more posts with links to girls in bikinis ( with the plausible deniability of pictures with scenery, or vans, or dogs, or something ).

clint said...

The problem with "wordsmith" is that a writer isn't cobbling together words out of letters, he's cobbling together sentences and stories out of words. It should be "sentencesmith" or "storymonger" or perhaps "screenplaywright".

I, for one, look forward to a second Hollywood writers' strike. I remember the last one fondly for Dr. Horrible -- and the potential audience for good straight-to-internet entertainment has only increased since then.

rhhardin said...

According to historians, the friction between “scribes” and studios dates to the end of the silent film era.

There's friction and non-friction.

zipity said...

Gee, what will I do if the writers strike?

All I will have left is the 2,300 titles I have on 5,000 DVD's, plus my Amazon Prime and Netflix streaming...

The Horror....

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Also, we demand that at least 33.4% of all posts include a tag for one of your commenters. We provide the value here, we deserve name recognition.

tim in vermont said...

I guess that people who write for the internet don't read widely anymore. Probably just genre novels. Movies are the new reading, so you get words like "wordsmith" used, when anybody who had read Washington Irving, Crane, Whitman, Twain, Hemingway, Faulkner, cripes, even Flannery O'Conner, would be embarrassed to use it.

rhhardin said...

I watched my first Chuck Norris last night. They can turn that out without any writers.

tim in vermont said...

"Playwright." See, that's how it's done.

Darrell said...

Kane's last word was "Noseblood" in my first draft.

Hagar said...

I do not understand the objections to "wordsmith."
Can AA look up for us just how old the expression is?
It certainli is much older than I.

Hagar said...

Shakespeare was a great wordsmith.

Annie C said...

If the writers do strike, will Laslo go out in sympathy? Nooooo!!!!

rhhardin said...

Longfellow was a wordsmith. He brags

Under a spreading chestnut tree
The village wordsmith stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms 5
Are strong as iron bands.

Muscular poetry is metaphoric.

Darrell said...

yeblive, syrtwim, juwaio

Wordsmith.

holdfast said...

I guess they need Black Widow for diversity? Her only power us "scissoring".

Cap is a bit like Rocky Balboa. He can take one hell of a beating and keep going. Also, he doesn't need a parachute to jump from a jet into the ocean. Or from a high rise elevator into the lobby.

rhhardin said...

Writers need a special operations division.

rhhardin said...

There ought to be women writers too.

Another male field like math and chess.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

@clint

Having posted the link, I have now been lured into watching Dr. Horrible once again. Joss Whedon may be crazy, but he is talented.

Peter said...

"Why is it always the writers who go on strike?"

Because writers have less status in Hollywood than just about anyone else?

(And, yes, the low status of writers seems to be reflected in the products, in that the products often show little if any character development or much of a comprehensible plot. And why should they? When was the last time you saw a movie or video based on who wrote it?)

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Cap is a bit like Rocky Balboa. He can take one hell of a beating and keep going.

Cap is supposed to be some sort of tactical genius, but why would that be? He led (and why would he be the one leading it) one small commando force for a couple of years in WWII. He was promoted to Captain on the basis of being the recipient of the Super Soldier Serum. At least going by the movie, he received no training, not even basic. He certainly did not attend OCS. So were would all this tactical acumen come from? Combat tactics is a serious subject that soldiers spend quite a bit of time learning and practicing.

Known Unknown said...

"If it isn’t for the writing, we’ve got nothing. Writers are the most important people in Hollywood. And we must never let them know it."

- Irving Thalberg

Dust Bunny Queen said...

That may be my favorite Laslo of all time.

I've always thought that about the dude who shoots arrows. Why is he super when he is really just a good archer in a neat costume with a mask (and btw, pretty nicely buffed) Captain America is walking a fine line too.

buwaya said...

Marvel needs Laslo.
And new superheroes - ponytail girl and creepy guy.

Known Unknown said...

"Why is he super when he is really just a good archer in a neat costume with a mask "

Not all superheroes have super powers. Tony Stark has no super powers. Batman/Bruce Wayne has no super powers. And for the record, Hawkeye went on to form the super-cool West Coast Avengers!

Michael K said...

As I get older and more crotchety, I find myself more interested in classic movies over most of the new stuff.

I might go to two new movies a year, if that. A few theaters show classics like "North by Northwest" to draw us dinosaurs.

I just finished a long biography of Hitchcock a d he would use a dozen writers in platoons. He called them "stooges."

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Why doesn't Tony Stark give everyone an Iron Man Suit?

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=give+everybody+iron+man+suits&qpvt=give+everybody+iron+man+suits&view=detail&mid=978FFD78B352C55E5644978FFD78B352C55E5644&FORM=VRDGAR

Freeman Hunt said...

"North by Northwest"

My husband took two of our sons to this when it was in the theater recently. They had a great time.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

@ Known Unknown

Ah. But then they would be exceptionally talented heroes. Not necessarily super with super/mutant powers. Actually, I like the exceptionally talented hero type because more people can aspire to be The Arrow. Not everyone can be Thor.

I think that screen writing is very different from play writing. The play relies on the character and dialogue (along with some nifty scenery). You are more immersed in the immediacy of the experience and the melding of the actors skills and the crafting of the dialogue. Movies, anymore, seem to rely more on special effects and less than on acting skills or dialogue....or even plot development.

If you want to see a masterful screen rendition of a masterful play....

See. Rope by Alfred Hitchcock from the play by Patrick Hamilton. Not everyone's cup of tea, but really interesting...to me anyway.

rehajm said...

Having posted the link, I have now been lured into watching Dr. Horrible once again. Joss Whedon may be crazy, but he is talented.

I recall watching this during the last strike, too. I was quite confused how they could create something while navigating all the strike rules of the various guilds. What was the point of the strike if you still supply product?

In the end didn't the last strike just sort of fizzle out then everyone went back to work?

rehajm said...

Inevitably the late night leftie rant shows will somehow be allowed to continue.

tim in vermont said...

Are you a native speaker of English, Hagar?

Shakespeare was a playwright and poet. There are screenwriters, novelists, all fitting neatly under the umbrella of writers, what does the word add? Did a wordsmith fashion Beowulf?

Scribes is funny because, like scriveners, scribes are not creative. Irony.

John said...

Iron Man: Sure, leave if you want. Maybe you can form a Team of Third-Rate Heroes.


Amen, Lazlo, Amen.

Wasn't there actually a movie about 3rd rate superheroes a few years back. I never saw the movie but do remember the trailers. Only thing I remember is Janine Garofelo as PMS Woman. Tagline was fierce but only works 3 days a month.

Hmmm... No YouTube clips. Am I remembering wrong?

John HEnry

Sam L. said...

I see I have nothing to lose by not seeing new movies. TCM does it for me.

tim in vermont said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

Blogger Peter said...

(And, yes, the low status of writers seems to be reflected in the products, in that the products often show little if any character development or much of a comprehensible plot. And why should they? When was the last time you saw a movie or video based on who wrote it?)

The problem is the amount of time. Even a long movie is only 150 minutes, most are much shorter. How much character development can you do in that time.

I had always known about John LeCarre but never had any desire to read him. A few years ago Tinker Tailor came out and something made me get the DVD on Netflix. I was blown away. I've since read every one of LeCarre's books, most multiple times.

Then I found that there was a 6-7 part (depending on version) mini-series of it by BBC from back in the 70's and watched that. (Available on YouTube or DVD) It is amazing what can be done with a movie when you have 6 hours to do it in. Good as the recent movie was, the mini-series was so much better. Having Alec Guiness as George Smiley didn't hurt, either.

Night Manager is more recent. 6 parts, available on Amazon streaming. Lots of character development and nuance. Far more than could have been done in a single movie.

John Henry

Michael K said...

"Good as the recent movie was, the mini-series was so much better. Having Alec Guiness as George Smiley didn't hurt, either. "

The same was true of "Lonesome Dove." I have a DVD of another miniseries titled "Broken Trail" that is pretty good with Robert Duvall.

I have the whole set of the "Smiley" series of miniseries.

"Smiley's People" is also excellent.

David said...

I do not think there is anything I need to know about this.

FullMoon said...

Problem is the health plan, not raises Studios are running a huge deficit, with single guild members contributing zero to insurance costs,families paying $500.00.

Follow AA's link for info.

TV programs most affected.

holdfast said...

@Ron Winkleheimer - I suspect that as a skinny kid in Brooklynn, young Steve Rogers spend a lot of time playing Risk and various other strategy board games. But that's about it.

@John - You're looking for "Mystery Men". Actually pretty funny. Before Ben Stiller was [briefly] a big star.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0132347/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

My favorite third rate hero was always The Tick.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112196/?ref_=fn_tt_tt_3

Infinite Monkeys said...

I, for one, look forward to a second Hollywood writers' strike. I remember the last one fondly for Dr. Horrible -- and the potential audience for good straight-to-internet entertainment has only increased since then.

My first thought when I saw this was to hope for a Dr. Horrible Part II.

I still want to sing, "We do the weird stuff!" whenever I see Nathan Fillion.

holdfast said...

Anyone remember the Bond film "Quantum of Solace"? How it made no sense, had terrible dialogue and was pretty much the most confusing Bond film. Which was weird, following the acclaimed reboot "Casino Royale".

Well, that's because it was only half-written by Haggis et al., and then Daniel Craig and Mark Foster had to finish it during the last writers' strike.

http://www.nme.com/news/film/daniel-craig-i-wrote-quantum-of-solace-script-myse-876806

clint said...

"Ron Winkleheimer said...
@clint

Having posted the link, I have now been lured into watching Dr. Horrible once again. Joss Whedon may be crazy, but he is talented."

Yep. His political rants may be unhinged, but he does snarky dialog and ensemble casts to perfection. And his politics doesn't infect his storytelling.


Re: Hawkeye and Black Widow...

Remember that the Avengers were assembled by Nick Fury and SHIELD. The point of Hawkeye and Black Widow is that they're trusted agents. The others may be much more powerful, but those who aren't actually foreign heads of state (see: Thor and Black Panther) are loose cannons (like Iron Man) or barely under control (like Hulk).

holdfast said...

Query why we trust a Commie turncoat, but whatever.

FullMoon said...

"Given the size of the problem, it seems likely that the WGA plan will have to institute premiums and make cuts to benefits and eligibility. To put this in context, a $500 premium increase results in premiums of $500 for an individual and $1,100 for a family, which are still less than SAG-AFTRA’s and scarcely unmanageable for most middle-class people.

And, to buy a somewhat less generous plan on Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, would cost a whopping $6,000 per year for a single person (Blue Shield Gold 80 PPO, 45-year old Los Angeles resident making $75,000 per year). That would be sticker shock."

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Looking at the quality of writing, I would have thought the writers were out on strike the past two years. Newspaper and TV news writers also.

Send in the scabs!

walter said...

I've been surprised by how musical chairsy the director's position can be in a series..even within a season. You'd think continuity there would be critical.
I apay less attention to the writer credits (part of the sore spot?) but wonder if it's similar or worse there.

"the directors are well paid and feel valued by entertainment companies, and the actors’ union can be a bag of infighting cats. That leaves the writers."

..and production crews. Usually pretty good continuity there..within a season at least.

walter said...

They are carrying very nice signs in the picture. I suppose the design gets refined each time. But..no fist image?

TestTube said...

P. G. Wodehouse wrote a satirical short story on just this topic -- "The Castaways". Well worth a read.

It can be found in the collection of short stories entitled: "Blandings Castle and Elsewhere", which I assume is available through our gracious hostess's Amazon portal:

https://www.amazon.com/ref=as_li_ss_tl?_encoding=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&linkCode=ur2&tag=althouse09-20&linkId=BGOO4WVJFE2KYB7G

Sigivald said...

If the writers go on strike and people continue not caring or watching TV, will anyone outside Hollywood notice?

Static Ping said...

Because writing another sequel to a Comic-Book Superhero Movie is Hard. --Laslo Spatula

Given that the D.C. Comics movies tend to be mediocre to terrible, outside the Batman franchise which has been great for the most part, apparently it is hard. Marvel also cannot seem to make a watchable Fantastic Four movie no matter what they try.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

Marvel also cannot seem to make a watchable Fantastic Four movie no matter what they try.

Sony owns the rights to The Fantastic Four, sold along with Spiderman back in the 80s I believe. So, its not Marvel's fault the movies are so awful.

Gahrie said...

I've been surprised by how musical chairsy the director's position can be in a series..even within a season.

Kevin Smith has an interesting take on this subject. It boils down to the director basically being a cheerleader in TV.

You'd think continuity there would be critical.

That's the show runner's job.

I apay less attention to the writer credits (part of the sore spot?) but wonder if it's similar or worse there

There's usually a stable of writers that contribute to each show.

Roughcoat said...

Forget it Jake, it's Hollywood.

rehajm said...

to buy a somewhat less generous plan on Covered California, the state’s Obamacare exchange, would cost a whopping $6,000 per year for a single person (Blue Shield Gold 80 PPO, 45-year old Los Angeles resident making $75,000 per year). That would be sticker shock

Not a shock to anyone suffering in the exchanges without a subsidy. Funny that this individual would be the type helped the most under a Ryan style plan. I'd reckon not a single writer supported it.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

rhhardin, you must be joking. Admittedly, I focus on mysteries when I'm not focusing on music, but, really -- between the Golden Agers (Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Allingham) and the current or recently deceased (P.D. James, Ruth Rendell, Catherine Aird, Elizabeth George, Sara Paretsky), you can barely find male writers at all. I exaggerate, naturally -- James Patterson seems to turn out a new book every month or two -- but women dominate mystery writing and have for nearly a century.

Joe said...

Snark is fun, but there are many talented writers in Hollywood, far too many of which get their work pretty much destroyed by rewrites from directors and, especially, producers. That aside, there are a relatively small number of "fixers" who do exactly that to problematic scripts, yet don't win awards and often aren't even listed in the credits. (John Sayles and William Goldman both have excellent reputations for doing this.)

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

tim in vermont,

Did a wordsmith fashion Beowulf?

I strongly suspect that no one originally "fashioned" Beowulf, in the sense of writing it down, any more than the Iliad and the Odyssey were "fashioned." These are orally-transmitted poems, only later committed to paper or whatever. So "writer" is also off. In fact, "wordsmith" in that context is preferable, in not referring to putting pen/pencil/stylus/whatever to paper/whatever. You can be a wordsmith if you can't read or write. You need only know how to speak.

tim in vermont said...

Poet, however, would capture it perfectly.

tim in vermont said...

I wonder what the writers would think if they created some kind of picket line, you know, analogous to our national border, and people kept crossing that "border" if you will (I'm sure they won't) to work for lower wages than the writers, inside of their little "country" were willing to work for, undermining their bargaining power?

That's why I say that we ought to call illegal aliens what they are, scabs.

rhhardin said...

@ Michelle Dulak Thomson

Vicki Hearne can write (Adam's Task, Bandit, Animal Happiness) but she's the exception. Philosophy, lit crit.

Guys who read her are always amazed.

I don't think women like her.

holdfast said...

Sony owns the rights to The Fantastic Four

I suspect that would be news to Fox. Since they hold the rights to the Fantastic Four, along with the X-Men and related Mutants.

Of course, there are some cross-over characters in grey areas. In Fox land, Quicksilver is Mutant and his dad is Megneto (per comics canon). In the Marvel MCU, he got his powers from an Infinity Gem.

http://screenrant.com/marvel-comics-movies-characters/

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I suspect that would be news to Fox. Since they hold the rights to the Fantastic Four, along with the X-Men and related Mutants.

My bad. I knew I should have googled that. Sony owns Spiderman. Fox owns FF.

Edmund said...

@rehajm wrote: I recall watching this during the last strike, too. I was quite confused how they could create something while navigating all the strike rules of the various guilds. What was the point of the strike if you still supply product?

Joss Whedon's production company settled with the unions and so could produce material.

In the end didn't the last strike just sort of fizzle out then everyone went back to work?

No. Both sides gave up some.

@walter said...
I've been surprised by how musical chairsy the director's position can be in a series..even within a season. You'd think continuity there would be critical.

Weekly TV shows are on very tight schedule. It takes 3 weeks to do an episode of a TV drama. In week 1, the director breaks down the script with the senior staff (location scouts, art department managers, etc.) to set up the production timeline and do the other prep work. In week 2, they shoot the episode. In week 3, it gets edited. So, the director is busy for all 3 weeks. I've noticed that when an actor on a show directs an episode they tend to have a lower profile in the previous episode and usually little or no presence in the episode they direct. In a movie, the art department starts up as much as several months before shooting to build sets, get props, etc. and work anywhere from a few days to a week ahead of the shooting. In TV, it's much faster paced.

I apay less attention to the writer credits (part of the sore spot?) but wonder if it's similar or worse there.

Most of the weekly series have a "writer's room" where they brainstorm with the showrunners on episodes, the arc (if any) in the year's plots, etc. This starts before the season and writing assignments are made. In some cases, the showrunners will write some. Although one or two names may be on the teleplay, there is a lot of collaboration, especially on comedies. The writers are on salary, btw.

..and production crews. Usually pretty good continuity there..within a season at least.

Yes. In California, the crews usually work on the series for about half a year (22 episodes plus some holiday time) and then go on unemployment for the rest of the year.

(I have family in the business that have worked on commercials, TV, web series, movies.)