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Thursday  May 24 10:06 PM EDT

The Writer's Settlement Took
Away the Only Thing I Had

By Steve Young

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 petty excuses.

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 WGA's "Written By" magazine,   Prism Award winner and a Humanitas Prize nominee for his television writing.  He can be reached at theeothersteveyoung@juno.com.  His website is here.

 

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