With the Writers Guild and the producers in serious negotiations to come up with a new contract before Oct. 31, the gap between the two parties seems unsurmountable. The resulting TV and film writers strike could create a hole in the Southern California economy larger than Jeffrey Katzenberg's stock option.
And while most people believe that evading a strike would be desirable for almost anyone outside the YouTube community, there is a large segment of the entertainment industry that no one seems concerned about.
I'm talking about the writers who aren't very good.
There's a lot of us writers out here who are standing atop their stack of unsold scripts and cheering an upcoming strike. We are the writers who aren't concerned about rewrites, vanity credits or DVD 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 pray 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 are praying for our WGA negotiating team to stand firm and accept none of the producers' offers.
Even if they give us exactly what we asked for, I stand firmly against it. There are principles at stake here. Subtle ones, yes. Principles so subtle that only dogs could hear them. Unemployed, writing dogs.
One of those principles is that a strike would give most of us writers a wonderful rationale for unemployment, which, like most actors, is our most oft state of employment.
"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, on reaching 18, would be more appealing 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 '60s peace marches ... er, um ... which my parents told me about, because I'm really very much under 40 and still capable of coming up with a youthful and hep-to-the-jive concept.
Third, and most important, 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 80-year-old mother (she had me when she was around 55) 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, dammit, 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. Now it's an exuse filled with honor and passion. Cross the picket line? Over my dead final draft program.
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."
At last, I could hold my head high up high, carrying the "What about my kids" strike sign in front of some cold-hearted studio. I could finally go back to my high school reunions and explain, bitterly, passionately, proudly, that "I am a writer just like Larry Gelbart and David Kelly, but they just won't let us work!" And above all that, I wouldn't have to feel so pathetic when my sister mails me her lapdance tips.
It's not too late to do something about it. I beseech my brethren and sistren writers: Don't vote for a settlement, no matter how you think it will employ your friend who might hire you. He's had 30 shows under his belt and he's never called you in to pitch.
It's time for every not-very-good writer to run out into the street, 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 you should change it enough so no one will know you stole it from Paddy. Try, "I'm angry as all get out and, damnit, I'm not going to accept this thing happening again!"
See, I told you I wasn't very good.