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This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I'm going to get in trouble for this. But, anyway.
Let's be honest. If you're a writer, or a writer/producer, or any of the constellation of hyphenates that means that along with what you do that really brings in the dough, you also are a member of the Writers Guild, you've been on a movie or TV set before.
You may have even run a TV show, or directed a feature film.
And assuming you used a union crew –- Teamster drivers, IATSE craftspeople -– and assuming you weren't shooting in Toronto or Vancouver or somewhere a lot cheaper to film than Los Angeles, you confronted certain union rules -– meal penalties, turnaround times, that sort of thing. And if you're being really really honest, you'll have to admit that you felt...I don't know...irritated at all of those union strings.
You're shooting late at night, and it goes way past schedule, and the turn-around time -– union rules require a certain number of hours of down-time between shoots –- is going to bite you, unless, you know, somebody asks the UPM to ask the Teamster captain and the other union leaders on the set to, you know, come on, guys, we all want to get this thing done...you know?
Or, you could squeeze another shot in before dinner, but you'll probably go over a bit, so somebody asks somebody to ask the guys, hey, are you going to be jerks about this?
Or, you've got a pilot you've written that you really love -– it's really important to you –- and it's your first big pilot, and there's no way -– no way –- you can do it for the budget unless you do it in Vancouver, which means a Vancouver crew, which adds to the runaway production problem in Los Angeles and leads to fewer jobs for local guys to do.
Or, your casting director wants more money. They're trying to start a union too, did you know that?
Or, you make your assistant pay for his own parking.
Or...look, there are lots of things that we writers do -– admit it -– that aren't all that nice, or all that fair, or all that supportive of the other labor groups in our business.
And now here we are, asking for support and solidarity from them. The people we've kind of, at best ignored.
I remember a few years ago, during the last contract negotiation, one of the big umbrella issues was something called "respect." The Writers Guild –- correctly, in my view –- wanted to do away with something called the Possessory Credit –- you know, the thing directors get -– "A film by..." as if they wrote it, too. "A film by Rob Reiner," for instance, when Rob Reiner didn't write the script. We wanted to get rid of that. "A film by" should only apply to a person who both wrote and directed a movie. And we wanted some other "respect" stuff, too: we wanted to be included in press junkets and allowed set visits and get to walk on the red carpet.
The possessory credit, though, was really up to the Directors Guild. And the Directors Guild said, essentially, forget it. You want to talk about how little respect the writers get in the feature world? Fine. But then let's talk about how little respect directors get in the television world, where it's routine to talk of them as "traffic cops," and to deny them their first cut, among other things.
It's hard to get something done in this business. By the time the film is loaded -– or, in many cases, the hard drive is booted (a lot of talented camera guys are out of work in this digital age; did we march for them?) -– everyone is so exhausted and worn out from just getting something going that they barely have energy to make the thing itself. So when we are actually doing something, actually filming something, actually doing the thing we all came here to do, rather than having meetings and pitch sessions and budget calls and story arguments about it, we tend to cut corners. Human corners.
So we should be careful –- all of us, writers who now claim membership in a labor movement; studio heads who have the temerity to call someone else greedy; all of us -– with the name calling and the posturing. Because this strike is going to be over, someday. And when it is, will everything go back to business as usual?
That's it for this week. Next week, Christmas in Hollywood. For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.
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