Streams

Are Writers Being Wronged?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Rene Balcer, executive producer and head writer for Law & Order and creator of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and Adam Brooks screenwriter for Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, and member of the Writers Guild East Council, explain why writers are putting down their pencils to strike.

Guests:

Rene Balcer and Adam Brooks
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Comments [13]

Roy

Sarah, you've already proven my point. You just weren't as elaborate as I was.

Dec. 04 2007 11:44 AM
sarah from Manhattan

Oh Roy, I've said nothing hypocritical. Without addressing the merits of the writer's strike, I simply pointed out that they are not a sympathetic group. It is a lot easier to feel sympathetic for a group, or take their claims seriously, when their hands are clean. The Hollywood writing industry's hands are not - while clamoring for more money, it would behoove the industry to reform its own culture to allow some of these benefits for which they are fighting to trickle down to a greater number of people, namely women and writers of color who are routinely denied entry to the field. It is hard to stomach hearing people crying for more rights when any benefits won will be doled out selectively. In fact, doing so can make an otherwise just cause become unjust.

I already avoid movies and shows that demean people of color. However, even when representations aren't offensive, there is still the problem of no representation at all. The public may be able to express their sentiments through their wallets but I believe the industry has an obligation to address this issue as well. And if nepotism were abated a bit, and if hiring practices were made more fair, I think some of these representation problems would fix themselves in time, unless you believe people of color would just continue to portray themselves as stereotypes, or not portray themselves at all, in their own writing.

Nov. 07 2007 02:27 PM
Roy from Queens, New York

The hypocrisy you have, sarah, is that you don't care about the writers striking, yet you want more diversity in the entertainment industry. You can't uphold one social upheaval while demeaning another.

If you want to make a change in the industry, do it yourself by doing the actions I aforementioned in my first post. Writers aren't butlers or maids, saying "Yes, massah", "No, massah" and "Ho Di Do, massah", and don't deserve to treated as such. They're human beings who take their life experiences and put it on a page. Not a people can do that, but the people who complain about "the way things are" should. That's my point.

Nov. 07 2007 12:35 PM
sarah from Manhattan

I've re-read your comment Roy, yet I fail to see this hypocrisy you mention. Please explain . . .

To note, I am not a writer, nor do I have any intentions of becoming one. But the point is that I don't have to become one in order to change the type of programming in Hollywood - there are already plenty of other women and people of color who share my perspective and would like to see their lives accurately portrayed in film and television, and they are already trying to make these changes in programming. The problem is, they can't get their foot in the door.

Nov. 07 2007 12:04 PM
Roy from Queens, New York

Sarah, of course I'm aware of the likes of Rhimes, Fey and Aklis. I'm even a fan of the unsolved homicide drama "Cold Case", created by Meredith Stheim and the horror comedy "Reaper" by Tara Butters and Michelle Fazekas. Hell, I always wanted to be a part of TV and films since I began to write short stories when I was twelve.

Thing is, if you want to challenge ethnic stereotypes, don't support the shows and movies that strengthen them. Create your own stories. I wrote about my life as a lonely teenager who loves to read and write as a screenplay. It's WGA-registered, and I'm busy polishing it.

If you have to compromise, make sure you don't screw yourself out of a good deal.

And I know you didn't post that writers of color shouldn't strike, but your "devil may care" attitude towards the striking scribes makes you a hypocrite. The union isn't perfect. Then again, nobody is.

Nov. 07 2007 11:49 AM
sarah from Manhattan

Roy, I never said that writers who are people of color shouldn't strike - I understand the obligations of union members and of course the few writers of color want the same contract benefits the white writers do.

This is also not just about the struggles of individual people of color or women to break into the field, although I sympathize with the difficulties they face. And to note, the Shondra Rimes, Mara Brock Akils, and Tina Feys of the world are RARE - you should know that.

The diversity issue I presented concerns not only writers seeking to get a foot in the door, but the viewing public. If I have to hear about another movie where a white teacher has a "profound effect" on her "inner-city" students and changes them for the better, I will scream. If I see another heavy black woman on TV snapping her fingers and speaking loudly (of course, for comedic effect), I will scream. If there were more Asian writers, do you actually think they would continually write parts for themselves as martial artists, immigrants, and "happy ending" masseuses? I mean, really, give me a break. People have grown so accustomed to the racial and ethnic stereotypes presented in Hollywood that they almost don't question them anymore.

Nov. 07 2007 11:38 AM
Roy from Queens, New York

That maybe true, sarah, but to make this issue about racism is asinine. It doesn't matter if you're black, a woman or have zero connections with the industry. It matters if you're a talented writer and willing to perserve.

Look at Shondra Rhimes, the first African-American woman to create a hit TV show, "Grey's Anatomy", let alone a spin-off, "Private Practice". She's going on the picket lines, after her shows finishing filming, in accordance with the strike.

I'm African-American, and I have three spec scripts under my belt. I don't give a damn about the odds against me. I give a damn about my work, and how I'm going to present to an agent or a producer. I'll probably go the picket lines and convince a writer to get me connected to an agent. That's what you should do. That's what anybody should do because this strike won't be over soon. I stand with my brothers and sisters in prose, no matter what their sex or color.

Nov. 07 2007 11:18 AM
sarah from Manhattan

It's very hard to feel sympathetic for an industry that has, essentially for decades, been an old-boy's club. The TV and movie writing industry has notoriously shut-out women and people of color for years - and the results are reflected in the hackneyed, insulting, and racially stereotypical programming we get today. These writers are almost always white men. While everyone is boo-hooing how bad these guys have it, I'd like to see more dialogue in the media on this aspect of Hollywood writing. I think it's hard for anyone to become a Hollywood writer - the average white man included - but this industry is fraught with connections, nepotism, and Ivy-League connections (à la the Harvard Lampoon) that only help white men get through the door. Go cry me a river.

Nov. 07 2007 11:03 AM
VDOVault from http://vdovault.wordpress.com

Just wondering how close the CI fans are to earning enough money to build the Frances Goren Library.

In answer to the first comment by Chris, check out the following sites (beyond emailing the WGAE.org site). These are all 100% fan initiated and obviously we're all brainstorming how to help:

WGA_Supporters LiveJournal Community (it's a multi-authored blog)
http://community.livejournal.com/wga_supporters/

Fans4Writers (started by Joss Whedon's fans but soon to be populated by other fandoms)
http://fans4writers.org/

Fans For The WGA (which covers 17 different TV show fandoms at this writing)
http://fansforwga.ipbfree.com/index.php?act=idx

Fans For The WGA CI Forum (for Law & Order Criminal Intent fans)
http://fansforwga.ipbfree.com/index.php?showtopic=18

The CI Writers Strike Thread at the USA Network CI Fan Forum (yes we're wasting the network's bandwidth coming up with ways to help you counter their greed and stupidity)
http://forums.usanetwork.com/index.php?showtopic=394870&st=19

Nov. 07 2007 10:57 AM
RJ from Prospect Hts

* The public can go to the WGAEast.org website and get on their list; check for picket sites and show up--give personal support.

I'm curious to know how the studios *stocked up* on scripts all these past months, as the prospects of a strike increased. Why didn't the writers "work to rules" and not work overtime to give them to the studios?

Nov. 07 2007 10:33 AM
jf from ossining

Is Lehrer going to continue to ignore the history making moment in Congress yesterday? Hello? What about the impeachment shenanigans? Is it "off the table " for you too, Brian?

Nov. 07 2007 10:31 AM
Andy from bkln

are there any negotiations currently taking place bw the union and the studios?

Nov. 07 2007 10:25 AM
Chris from New Jersey

I'd like to know what the public can do to help the writers. It seems that the studios and networks just assume that we'll sit on the side and just continue to consume their product--watch TV programs and so on. Would it be useful to get the public involved, maybe targeting some shows for boycotting, especially the reality shows and reruns the networks are going to throw in to make up for the new shows they won't have. Will that cut their ad revenues and make them take notice. Should the writers be reaching out to the public at all?

Nov. 07 2007 10:20 AM

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