Writers' Strike, Take One
by Scott Holleran
The Writers Guild of America logo
January 18, 2008

Burbank, California—United Artists' thought-provoking Lions for Lambs may have tanked in theaters but the revamped motion picture studio's deal with the striking writers' union looks like a smart move in today's changing times. Besides Tom Cruise's and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's UA, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) agreed to terms with businesses owned by comedian David Letterman and director Doug Liman.

The contracts are sidestepping top movie studios—which have totally failed to present a coherent case against the writers' demands—circumventing traditional Hollywood. Independent agreements are exciting for the future of movies, which may be consumed in an expanding variety of mobile formats.

The Bourne Identity director Liman summed it up in a statement released to the press: "If the last strike is best remembered for the studios attempting to show they could create [content] without writers, this could be the strike where the writers show they can do it without the studios…what matters is compelling [content]—and compelling [content] starts with the writer." The Weinstein Company and Lionsgate are reportedly considering similar terms.

Obstinate studios, which drove stock prices up for years by selling the potential of the Internet as an engine of profit, only to backpedal once the writers rightly called upon them to practice what they'd preached, ought to either make a serious argument in favor of their position or recognize that making money from movies first means properly compensating those who create scripts—by meeting the writers' demands.

The union, which unfairly has government intervention on its side, has made mistakes, too, such as approving an awards show run by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), outrageously comparing the plight of writers to the civil rights movement's struggle. The WGA should maintain credibility by refusing to sanction every awards show—including and especially the Oscars—and reprimanding Reese Witherspoon, who apparently appeared in recorded clips for one of those programs (and, incidentally, if the strike happens to kill the spread of idiotic awards shows and incessant celebrity worship—which feeds paparazzi, by the way—score one for motion picture progress).

During her televised acceptance, Miss Witherspoon, who really ought to know better, uttered the evasion that movie stars are nothing without their writers or their audience. Nice try to dodge the issue, Miss Witherspoon, but the writer can write without an audience—see the forementioned Lions for Lambs—but there is no movie, let alone an audience, without the writer.


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The Writers Guild of America (West)

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