Monday, 11 February 2008

The WGA strike… Words are indeed a powerful thing.

I’m going to talk about something a bit different today. I’m going to take a step back from checking out the latest merchandise and whatnot, and talk about an issue that affects all of us here in fandom, and which holds a special significance to me, for reasons which will become apparent in the next paragraph. We’re here to prove we are an authority on what we talk about, and thus I am fully qualified to write a few words on the Writer’s strike in the US.

Today, the WGA (Writers Guild of America) have finally been in talks to hopefully come to an agreement with studio bosses and bring the strike to an end. The strike itself has affected shows such as LOST, 24, and many, many other favourites. Not just that, movie studios have suffered too, with schedules being thrown into chaos across the board. Now, I have worked as a screenwriter (albeit on zero-budget horror/vampire movies). That is what I am trained to do, and as such I have been keeping a keen eye on developments with the strike. I have also kept an eye on the endless, repetitive, tiresome tirades from seething fans all over the internet. Thankfully, there have also been a large amount of actual intelligent comments on the matter from other areas of online geekdom.

My tuppence worth? Chill out, all of you. Mainly the flamers. While the common opinion is ‘I could write better than that’, the simple fact is, most of you really couldn’t. Create a coherent story with believable, fully rounded characters with convincing progression and perpetually interesting situations. Go on. Add to this insane deadlines, immeasurably annoying rewrites and tinkering (from people with little or no idea of plot or construction), and the pressure of delivering 120 pages that will become the basis of a multimillion dollar feature film with ridiculous amounts of backing at stake.

Can’t really blame the writers for wanting a fair share of the obscene amount of cash involved in these things, can you? After all, it is the writer that gives the flavour-of-the-week celebrities the actual lines to spout, and also to give the demented warblings of directors and producers some form and direction.

There have been some interesting developments such as regular talk shows resorting to other means of getting scripts written, and thus coming out with their most original stuff in a long time. A little shake-up couldn’t hurt. It does pay to remember that you have to make the effort to make things worth watching in the first place, otherwise stop complaining about a decline in ratings for your beloved shows that never seem to go anywhere, or even end in a satisfactory manner.

There have been various reports of progress being made of late, either from execs desperate to reassure their audience or misinformed outsiders. After many, many drafts of the deal there does appear to be something emerging. What concerns me is whether or not the rest of the WGA members will agree to abide by the deal, should it come about, and return to their keyboards. I do hope so. In an age where we place so much value on the people who go in and preen in front of the cameras for a while, we neglect those that give us the stories in the first place.

The moral of this sorry tale? Respect the writers, for they are the ones that provide the plate that the stars and executives feast from. A little appreciation wouldn’t go amiss.

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