Resolve & Fortitude

Nov 10, 2007 | Updated May 25, 2011

Two days ago I posted an open letter to the Governor of California. He has remained silent, thus far. I obviously had misplaced hopes that a deus-ex-machina might emerge out of the blue, but this is not an age of peacemakers, is it? The governor was also sadly only one-third correct when he asserted that the executives and the writers "would be fine," before correctly expressing his concern for the other affected parties, crews and hairdressers, etc, who are caught in the cross-fire. The writers will not be fine, of course, as anyone who has spent even a moment examining the economics of the WGA membership roster could tell him. One would find the names of talented writers who go years between paying jobs.

Who is on strike today?

It is not merely the writers of current TV shows, but also young writers at the start of their careers who are passionate about this fight because not to be would be a betrayal of the self. Not to insist that new rules be written for a new age would be to bet against their own future. And no, it is not just a business: It is a hard and honorable craft, screen writing. Take it from a skilled dabbler who was not born to it. It is the primary well from which all life in film begins.

Who is on strike today?

Old-hands who have written some of the most socially relevant, nuanced scripts ever to be placed in the hands of a director or a studio head. This seems to be a fact the CEOs are not cognizant of. I will remind them they have relied on talents far greater than their own. I will remind them that they are trying to cut-out craftsmen and women who have given more to American film-making than all of them put together in a room at Aspen. The CEOs have been afflicted collectively with both amnesia and with an astounding failure of the imagination (no surprise) in this tendentious struggle for the content they are fighting so desperately to control. I will remind them with a very incomplete list as they blindly stonewall their way into the future of our industry. Here, sirs are a few names, without whom you would only have theme parks and real estate holdings to protect. As you refuse to come back to the table for talks, think about the language of Robert Towne. Alvin Sargent. Walter Bernstein and Elaine May. The craft of David Mamet, and of David Webb Peoples. The delicacy of Horton Foote, and the grace of Anthony Minghella. The slight-of-hand and subversive word-play of Larry Gelbart and the masterful construction of William Goldman or the pitch perfect ear of Nick Pellegi. For those of you CEOs and studio heads who want to talk about television, contemplate a future without David Milch, David Chase, Alan Ball, Matthew Wiener, Aaron Sorkin, or the next Norman Lear. Think of a past without them too, and this weekend, take stock, and then send your man back to the table, but this time with a small trace of humility and a sense of history.

On another note, I wish to reluctantly respond here to a another Huffington Post Blogger, one Lauren Rich Fine, an academic at Kent State and ex-market analyst, with no experience in TV or motion pictures, who has the distinction of having penned the single most asinine paragraph written thus far on the WGA strike. Her ill-informed and chilly little daubing is entitled "Be Afraid, Be very Afraid", which is advice she helpfully gives to the membership. She advises us to quit, really, and to shut up. It is so bloated with ignorance, that it arrives not merely dead, but indeed, cremated, ashen.

For instance, she suggests that the writers are vulnerable to being replaced by the makers of YouTube and viral content. As suppliers, she states vaguely of "alternative story lines to well-known shows". She then bravely goes on, "for no other reason than perhaps a good fight", to declare that while she understands the "historic significance of unions, they serve very little, if any, purpose in the U.S. today."

Quite separate from not at all understanding anything about unions, other than she doesn't like them, I also suspect she is being less than candid about her fondness for a fight, given the fact that my (rather harsh) responses to her meretricious post seem to have been deleted. I must admit that I decided to drop any real charade of civility with her, perhaps for the following reason:

I got sick about twelve years ago, and couldn't do too much of anything, because after the valve in my heart was repaired, I had to climb out a depression of sorts, one that is common after open-heart surgery, and find my way back to writing and life. All in all, a very bad year. Had it not been for my union, and the battle for health care that had been fought before I ever joined -- had it not been for the WGA -- the medical bills would have meant hundreds of thousands of dollars to a young writer, an off-Broadway playwright with a couple of years worth of movie jobs under his belt. I am striking not merely for the reasons stated above, but because of the simple fact that in addition to having been brought up to believe in manners, I was also brought up to believe in reciprocity. And have learned the importance of returning fire. Since I have earned the space here not to be deleted by prim and cool-hearted shills for the money-men, who have somehow earned or bought tenure somewhere, I will say that reading her post reminded me of why I avoid a particular kind of dinner party, where one is seated -- trapped really -- next to someone both ignorant and arrogant, and loaded to the gills with unearned opinions. The only people who should be afraid, I thought, are the parents of young men and women in her classes, who will all need ideological debriefings after she is done with them.

Now it is Saturday afternoon, and I am going to take advantage of the Autumnal weather that has finally arrived, and go run five and a half miles or so, and then have a (turkey) burger and a (diet) coke and think of other things.

Read more about the strike on the Huffington Post's writers' strike page.