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On The Writers' Strike
Monthly Column by Marina Rundell
February 2008

When a movie is nominated for awards, you have certain expectations when you go see that movie.  So there were certain things I expected when I went to see “No Country For Old Men.”  This movie fulfilled my expectation of “not seeing the usual” (blood splattering aside). 

Ask yourself the question, “When can you go see a great movie that doesn’t have a soundtrack?”  I kept waiting for a flute, horn, piano, drums, a few seconds of melody from an orchestra.  What do you get instead?  The howling wind, the rumbling clouds, river splashes, and more wind that mirror the landscape of the western parts of Texas.  You do get a musical break by a Mariachi band.  That’s all the music you’ll get.

This means, the acting cannot hide behind the soundtrack or isn’t glossed over with music, and thus, the acting has to be right on target or it won’t work, and all the actors shine for all of their pure, quality, acting skills.

Tommy Lee Jones and his final words at the end of the movie, “I woke up,” sum up what the title is all about.  The times have gone beyond his capabilities as sheriff and his friend tells him staying on as sheriff will only be out of vanity, no longer out of any real purpose.  That is, the criminals, Bardiem’s character, have outmatched him.

Great details—The sheriff and the psychopath killer drink from the same bottle of milk and look at their reflection on the TV.  The coin toss—to think whether we live or die is based on this—wife, however, rejects it and says she knows, consciously, her fate—she doesn’t need a coin toss.  If only she'd known that the coin toss is how Bardiem's character measures his "moral being."  He has been reduced or lives at this level.  The fact she rejects the coin toss and thus forces him to act based on his conscience, gives the audience hope.  Unfortunately, as in the last scene with Bardiem, his presence (as in the movie, or like in wars, or like in tragedies that the sheriff reads about in the newspaper), it seems, cannot be killed.  Possibly, the movie may also be saying we should all “woke up” to this reality.

While the strong presence of Bardiem’s character is prominent in the movie, for some reason, audiences can take this kind of message.  Why?  Because this is not the only power in this world.  In our “woke up” state, we also see plenty of evidence of this.

This movie is fresh in a “tragic” way, a great change of pace and to think you can enjoy it without a soundtrack!

Finally, in support for writers, this movie was based on a novel and was adapted into a screenplay.  The original idea came from a writer and this idea was then written in movie script format by the screenwriters. 

Without the original idea from the writer, and without the work of the screenwriter to adapt it for the screen, there would have been no movie. 

This is not to diminish the work of the director, actors, crew, costume and set designers.  Without them there would be no movie also. 

But these, no matter how many revisions, cannot even start without the original idea or adapted work of the writer.


Go see a movie (started by the writer's script) based on nominations:

Golden Globes Results

Academy Awards Nominations


Real Time With Bill Maher is back on the air on HBO.  See how he has adjusted his format because of the Writer’s Strike.  When something is gone, such as the “New Rules” segment, you realize how much you appreciated that segment when it was included in the show.  Now, you’ll instead hear the panelists’ reply to the viewers’ questions that were posted online. 

So with shows that are missing parts where Writer’s used to contribute, this is a good reminder to appreciate what you have or did have. 

In any relationship, when one party is made to feel that they are being taken for granted, that party either grins and bears it, such as the case with UK writers as suggested by the article, “London Calling?” below, or they fight back, such as the Writer’s Strike, as written about in “A Newcomer Joins Strikers At The Fox Rally” below.

Both articles are from Creative Screenwriting Magazine, January/February 2008.


“London Calling?  A U.K. Writer Finds Scant Evidence That Jobs Are Crossing The Pond” by Phil Gladwin.

Phil Gladwin is a London-based writer who has written or edited scripts for many genres of TV drama during the past decade.  Visit his website at www.screenwriting-goldmine.com.”

“As of this writing, rumors persist that struck U.S. production companies are making secret approaches to British writers to fill their hiring gaps.  That may or may not be true.  Certainly, the writers I asked denied knowledge of any such attempts.  I’d like to think that our instant and massive solidarity with the American strikers has meant it wasn’t even worth making the approach.”

“After all, Brits know all about strikes.  When the miners walked out in 1973, we passed a winter by candlelight.  Strikes rippled on for the rest of the decade until our dead were left unburied by picketing gravediggers during the 1979 Winter of Discontent.  The way unions were broken in the 1980s still seems a tragedy to many—but not among the management.”

“Many of the mid- to high-ranking drama producers or executives I spoke with were vague on any concrete implications of the strike and would speak only on condition of anonymity.”

“‘C4 (one of our big terrestrial channels) will struggle because a significant chunk of its drama output is American, said one executive.’”

“‘It’s actually going to help us because we can place more of our game shows over there in the vacuum,’ said another.”

“‘We’re not going to be able to sell any of our drama formats while this goes on,’ said one.”

“‘I guess there are implications, I just can’t think what they will be,’ commented an executive.”

“These comments are typical.  This lack of detailed awareness chimes well with modern Britain.”

“Apart from anti-globalization demonstrations, political activism here seems at best chaotic, at worst nonexistent.”

“One site that’s being forwarded among working writers with some delight is www.tvscriptwriter.blogspot.com.  It’s a new, must-visit take on the vulnerability of the British TV writer.  It has an uncannily accurate and darkly comic insider’s eye for the abusive way some producers and execs treat writers.  It focuses and distills many current grievances.  If only it were to comment on contract details, it would be all the more essential.”

“It’s clear we U.K. writers need to get organized.  If all the writers on one of our high-volume shows were to simultaneously down tools, you can bet they would be heard.”

“Our problem would be knowing precisely what to ask for.  We are so far away from having a united voice.  Sadly, we turn away from all organization, limiting ourselves to anonymous comment, crying over our beer or, more feebly, leaving the industry completely.  Surprise, surprise—our situations only gets worse.”

“Is it possible we British writers envy your strike?”


“A Newcomer Joins Strikers At The Fox Rally” by Stacey Collins. 

“Stacey Collins is an aspiring screenwriter, published freelance journalist and Harvard graduate who left a job at the university to pursue a screenwriting career in Los Angeles.  Though she’s not yet a member of the WGA, she joined the picketers at the Nov. 9 rally at Fox Plaza.  Here is her report on that day.”

“How bold of me to think that others might want to know the thoughts on the WGA strike of an aspiring writer in Los Angeles.  I’m not in the guild, but I plan to be some day.  I went to the massive rally at Fox Plaza on day five of the first week.  Even sooner, I had thought about going to support the writers but felt shy about it.  Was I being silly?  Was I daydreaming that I belonged there?  I come from a working-class background, so of course I belong there.  I simply wanted to show support.  A friend who belongs to SAG called me late the night before and urged me to go with her.  And boy, am I glad I did.”

“It had been an interesting week for me.  From the privacy of my bedroom, I forwarded e-mails I received about the strike.  My former boss, screenwriter Peter Rader, helped shoot and spread the word about video coverage of the first few days at unitedhollywood.com and YouTube.  I alerted writer friends to Marshall Herskovitz’s timely Op-Ed piece in The Los Angeles Times.  I signed an online petition.  I was a silent unseen soldier of the strike—and part-time at that.  All my picketing was virtual.”

“But the state of affairs had given me something to think about.  A neighbor asked what the writers strike had to do with me.  I told him that I was still an unemployed screenwriter, only now I had a valid reason.  I never thought of myself as one of those dreamer types who arrives in Tinseltown and romanticizes that she’s going to hit it big.  I’ve always thought the journey would be a series of small breaks that would eventually lead to success.  But when the strike became a reality, and I learned that the 1988 strike lasted five months, it occurred to me that deep down I harbored some belief that my luck could change on dime.  Indeed, it happens all the time in this town.”

“For me, the strike brought the epiphany moment that I’d need to implement my plan B, effective immediately.  But I hadn’t come to L.A. with a plan B.  To my mind, this was not an irresponsible approach, but more of a steely mindset—Hollywood or bust.  Well, Hollywood went bust, at least temporarily.”

“By the time I went to the Fox rally, I was feeling a bit conflicted.  Would I be welcomed?  Should I invest my time in this or use the morning to focus on my freelance journalism gigs?  As it turns out, the electric energy of the strike is such that it would have been hard to have been there and not have had a good time.  I don’t underestimate the seriousness of what is at stake here, but the vigor and liveliness of the strikers became contagious.  Cynics may point out that it’s only the beginning, but there wasn’t an ounce of uncertainty in any face, in any conversation, in any outlook.  I expected to see anxiety; instead I saw hope.”

“A woman offered me a Payday candy bar, and it made me laugh.  A handsome playwright invited me to his play opening in Hollywood, and it made me smile.  When Seth McFarlane spoke, it inspired me.  It gave me a deeper level of understanding about what is really at work.  The big guns aren’t taking the writers seriously.  At all.”

“Maybe this recurring phenomenon happens because writers, as artists, aren’t naturally inclined to crave power the way executives do.  Let them be kings.  Artists are benign sovereigns – when treated fairly.  But give them the property they are due.”

“At the rally the curtain was pulled back a bit, and I got a glimpse of Oz.  WGA President Patric Verrone became more than a name in the headlines.  And when else can you stand in the middle of Santa Monica Blvd. and not get run over by a car?”

“Beneath the sleek glass Fox tower (you’ve seen it in Die Hard), the street was buzzing with excitement.  All the elements stimulated the senses:  the sight of the massive pile of picket signs, the scent of freshly baked churros, the chanting, the sea of red jerseys.  Seeing all those writers out in the sunshine made it all so real.  It wasn’t a pipe dream for me after all – here were actual people just like me.”

“Writers are almost always behind the scenes.  You learn a lot from established writers without ever meeting them by studying their words.  In an odd kind of way it felt empowering to see the faces of so many writers, such a diverse bunch, but all with something to say.  After a week in the shadows, it felt great to be a part of it, even as a friend.”

“I can’t help but point out some of the strangeness in all of this.  As I said to a friend who is a television writer, it’s usually you guys who are writing the drama.  Now this world has been tipped on its head – you folks are the drama.  And this is a conflict in which the Internet is both a cause of the battle and a weapon being used to fight it.  The YouTube coverage, the “Speechless” videos, the online petitions, the flurry of e-mails that precedes a rally.  Isn’t there a story in all of this?”

“I’m hoping for a fair and swift resolution, but if the strike continues, you can count on me to back the writers.  With any luck, it’ll be my future guild I’m supporting.  In the meantime, I’ll dust off that play I’ve been trying to work on.  Who knows, when things turn around, I might even develop it into a television pilot pitch.”


Go to the Writer’s Guild Website for more strike information







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