Never Doubt the Power of the Screenwriter

Hal Dresner is a screenwriter whose latest novel, "Nobody Sleeps Well in Casablanca," will be published next year.

I am proud to be a Hollywood screenwriter. Why? Well, not for the art or the money or the ability to have agents return my calls within weeks. No, it’s because since the dawn of talkies, writers have always been the uncrowned kings of Hollywood, the secret titans of Tinseltown, the underground reel royalty.

I didn’t always feel that way. Forty years ago, when I first came to L.A., I’d heard disparaging remarks about “schmucks with Underwoods” and jokes about the starlet so stupid that she slept with the screenwriter. But since then I’ve learned that’s just backbiting from envious producers, jealous directors and impotent studio heads, all of whom wish they could do what we do.

And what is it that we do, besides grow hair, pace around a computer for a few hours, have lunch and watch movies?

We change the world. We affect the way people think and how they act. We use our dreams and ideas to mold society. And when you look back at it, it has always been that way.


Back in the ‘60s, we were proudly promoting social unrest. (And I was doing my part by writing a movie about a guy who leaves his wife and kids for his boss’ wife.) In the ‘70s, we were subversively selling sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. (And I was in step with a hallucinatory horror film about a man turning into a snake.) In the ‘80s, we were almost solely responsible for more sex, crime and greed. (I was in the vanguard with a comedy about a homosexual bandit.) And in the ‘90s, when no one else was stepping forward, we were flooding screens with gratuitous violence. (And I was in sync with a spec script about a guy inciting domestic chaos by leaving his family.)

But those are only the contributions that you know about. Finally, it can be told that, for decades, we humble scribes have been using our skills in the service of a great cause: promoting God.

You’re laughing, right? Writers are supposed to be agnostics or atheists, rebellious, independent thinkers who take the road less traveled--except if the other one leads to the open bar. That was just our cover. In reality, we have been part of a noble conspiracy to bring the Word of the Almighty to movie audiences everywhere. While you thought you were just enjoying mindless entertainment, you were, in truth, receiving The Truth.

So now, revealed for the first time, are God’s Top 10 Movie Messages to the World, as channeled through the Writers Guild of America, West:

10. On His forgiveness: “Nobody’s perfect.”

9. On His unwillingness to condemn: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

8. On our lack of faith: “What we have here is failure to communicate.”

7. On our ability to please Him: “Go ahead, make my day.”


6. On the rumor that He was dead: “I’ll be back.”

5. On what we are doing to the planet: “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore.”

4. On our denial of His power: “You can’t handle the truth.”

3. On our failure to pray with conviction: “You talking to me?”


2. On our persistent spiritual unconsciousness: “Snap out of it!”

Yes, for decades writers have been trying to help us forge a better relationship with The One. Unfortunately, up to now, we haven’t been paying attention. But He isn’t giving up on us. Rather, He sees each day as a new chance. Why just the other night on a late show, I heard Him say:

1. “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

So producers, directors, studio heads, agents and starlets take note of this important tenet for the Hollywood Rulebook: Don’t ever underestimate screenwriters. Because we have friends in very high places.