What about us not so good writers?
They talked through the early
morning hours. They
talked through the strike deadline. They talked, talked, talked. And
then...they came to an agreement averting a strike that one L.A.
mayor says would have destroyed the economy in burgs as far way
as Cannes. And as a writer I must say. Thank you...NOT!
There's a lot of us writers out here who did not
stand up on their stack of unsold scripts and cheer. We are
the writers who aren't concerned about residuals, vanity credits
or Internet sales. I'm talking about us writers who just
aren't very good. Or is it very well?
"A film by..." credit? Come on, I'm
still working on "A check by...". While some of
the better working writers were praying daily for a settlement
(which is a big thing 'cause normally they're praying for a good
piece of corned beef at Art's Deli), many like myself were praying
for our negotiating team to stand firm and accept none of the Producers'
offers. Even if they gave us exactly what we asked for, do
not agree to it. There were principles at stake here. Subtle
ones, yes. Principles so subtle that only dogs could hear
them. Unemployed, writing dogs.
One of those principles was that a strike would have
given most of us writers a wonderful rationale for unemployment. "Damn
this damned strike. Now how do I feed my kids?" This
works on so many levels. First, I don't even have kids. I
just didn't want to take the chance of adding one more child to
the literary landscape who, upon reaching eighteen, would be more
attractive to the networks than me.
Second, I get to sound like a radical, the dream
of every writer. I haven't felt radical since the late sixties
peace marches...er, um...which my parents told me about.
Third, and most importantly, it gives me a cool explanation
for why I never get any work. Do you know how valuable that is
to a writer? Do you know what it's like to have your eighty-year-
old mother (she had me when she was around fifty-five) asking every
other day, "How are you making it?" "Have you heard
anything from that Spielberg boy yet?" "Why don't you
become an exotic dancer like your sister? She makes good
money." Sorry, been there. Done that.
"I wanted to be a writer and, blast it, Mother,
a writer I am!" is what I've thought of saying to her many
times. And now, for the first time in my career I have the
opportunity to answer my mother's questions with more than just
Fourth. A strike would have given me something no
strike settlement could buy...pity. The plain, unadulterated
sense of "...there's nothing I can do about it. They
just won't let me write."
Finally, I could hold my head high up high, carrying
the "What about my kids" strike sign in front of some
cold-hearted studio. Finally, I could go back to my high
school reunions and explain, bitterly, passionately, proudly, that "I
am a writer and just like Larry Gelbart and David Kelly, they won't
let me work!" And finally, I wouldn't have to feel
so pathetic when my sister sends me her lap dance tips.
It's too late to do anything about it now, but I
say to all you unemployed writers who sat on your hands and let
this agreement happen, there will be a next time. This contract
will one day cease to exist. When that day comes, it will
be time for every not very good writer to run out onto the streets,
puff out your chest and let your voice be heard..."I'm mad
as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!" Only
change it so no one will know you stole it from another writer. "I'm
angry as all get out and I'm not going to accept this thing happening
anymore!" See, I told you I wasn't very good.
Steve Young is a contributing editor at the
By" magazine, Prism Award winner and a Humanitas
Prize nominee for his television writing. He can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org. His
website is here.
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