Friday, January 9, 2015

"Writers" - Part 1

Yes, that's with quotations.  "Writers."  Fuck 'em.  Can't stand 'em.  I wish they'd all die and go to Hell.  Well, the Hell part, yes... the death part is case-by-case.

I work in an interesting industry.  One in which expressed aspiration sometimes seem to have as much value as actual productivity.  "Directors," "Actors," and "Writers" galore out here.  I can't speak to the first two, so I won't.  But "writers?"  Oh, yeah.  Deal with those fuckers on a near-daily basis.

Let me clarify.  On the one hand, we all know what writers are.  They're people who get paid to write, write diligently, and are (for the most part) considered professionals.

"Writers," on the other hand, are rank amateurs.  They talk (probably a lot) about writing.  They talk (probably a lot) about their ideas, but skimp on the details lest another "writer" in the crowd try to steal them.  They have rarely (if ever) been paid to write.  And they're anything but professional.

Full disclosure: I'm a little irate at the moment.  I'm also a little sick (winter cold), in pain (shoulder injury), and probably inebriated (I take that back... this is not a full disclosure).  I suppose I could gather my thoughts a little and then express them in a coherent manner, arranged logically for sake of argument, and concluded with a convincing message... but, nah...

Instead, I'm going to back up and tell you a couple of stories of times I've had to deal with "writers."

But, First: Independent Filmmaking

Thanks to the anti-Hollywood rhetoric that's been floating around the past couple of decades, everyone should by now be aware that there are two dominant filmmaking entities in the United States.  The aforementioned Hollywood (the "evil" studio system) and the lesser-known, but highly regarded independent scene.

These days, Hollywood vs Indies is usually presented as a creative battlefield.  Hollywood, being predominantly a money-making institution, is typically derided as making too many sequels, doing too many remakes (or reboots), and altogether being too afraid of creating truly original product.  Independents, being predominantly "in it for the art," are hailed as the exact opposite.  In the tech world, innovation is commonly found in small start-ups.  I suppose in the film world, the same is true.

But here's the rub... people have careers in Hollywood.  They're paid for what they do, because their products sell.  I apologize for the gross generalization, but the dream of every independent filmmaker is to be paid for what they do.  Which requires being in Hollywood.

So, inevitably what happens?  Those who show a serious desire to make movies for a living move to Los Angeles (or other film hubs, but let's stick with the big one, shall we?).  Almost invariably, they get stuck in the independent world.  It's obviously more nuanced than what I'm going to state, but the independent world is where the cream-of-the-crop floats to the top!  Eventually.  And I do mean eventually.

It is a long, slogging process.  Writing projects, making projects, distributing projects.  Usually for no money and no (immediately obvious) reward.  It is in the indie world that budding filmmakers learn the politics of filmmaking.  Sure, they were taught camera, sound, even acting in film school, but most film schools leave their students with no inkling of the legal landscape, the financial landscape, or even the landscape-landscape (seriously, watching newbies drive around Los Angeles can be hilarious).

Basically, it is the indie world that budding filmmakers learn to be professional filmmakers.  Well... it used to be, anyway.

See, with the increasing egalitarian nature of the process of filmmaking, there's less and less need for filmmakers to behave as the elite filmmakers (their own purported heroes, idols, and mentors, I might add).  One can now grab a camera, a few friends, some cheap sound gear, and an Apple computer and go make a movie.  No paperwork (including, sometimes, no script!), no restrictions, and no one to answer to.  Bad habits are picked up, quickly, and no punishment for said bad habits ever arises.

Until, anyway, these new-indie filmmakers try to make a studio film.  Which involves lawyers, agents, executives, and a whole slew of people, laws, and institutions that require paperwork.

It is no accident that the jump from the indie world to Hollywood results in the most casualties.  Figuratively speaking, of course.

Why did I tell you all of that?  To set the stage for this discussion of "writers."  Quite possibly the worst of the independent filmmakers.

Side note: I'm actually not one to refer to writers (of any kind) as filmmakers.  But let's just do it to keep this simple.

*Continued in "Writers" - Part 2

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