Sunday, February 10, 2008

Please Do Not Adjust Your Television Set...

Well, cats and kittens, the fun ain't over yet. Josh Olson has some shit to say, and he's going to say it right here. Funny... just in time for yet another dreary "Craig RAWKS!" comment from CraigNonymous...

Without further adieu:


Ditto to all that, and then some. Especially the shout out to Deric and Priya. Those fuckers carry weight in this guild.

Many people will write about the deal in the weeks to come, picking it apart, holding it up to the light, making late-in-the-day realizations that we all missed.... it’s all in the game. I knew from the get-go (I like to think we all did), that none of us would walk out thinking “We won!” We wanted a decent deal. We wanted to eradicate the rollbacks and make some progress, and it’s safe to say we did. It’s also safe to say we could have done better. Sorry. That’ll piss people off, no doubt, but it’s true. We could be a stronger union than we are if we’d all just embrace the fact that we’re the primary source of what this town creates. Always have been, always will be, and never get the credit.

I don’t believe that because I’m a writer. I’m a writer because I believe that. Grasp the difference. My reverence and respect for what we do doesn’t come out of selfishness. My career - my life - is founded on the fact that I recognize that simple truth. I’ve been happily reminded over the last few months that many of my WGA brothers and sisters know that. And I’ve been reminded, as well, that some don’t. C’est la vie. (The DGA recognizes that, too, I suspect. Which is why they didn’t come out with us to support us. If I have to explain that, I will, later.)

The short version is this - I’m so fucking glad it’s over I could shit. I can climb back into my cave, get back to to writing work that matters to me, and guild politics can go back to whatever the hell they are when I’m not paying attention. I don’t care. Horrifying to some, I’m sure. But I don’t. God bless the WGA - we’d be fucked without them, and I send them a warm and fuzzy vibe every time I go to the doctor, but as far as Guild politics go, I am so looking forward to returning to my apathetic state it’s ridiculous.

And you’re right about Craig - he actually started spinning it two days ago. Says his “inside sources” informed him the deal was the DGA deal, basically. Except, of course, it wasn’t. And we all knew that before Craig even posted, cos all you had to do was talk to one of the Neg Com members on the line to find that out. I don’t resent Craig not being there, but I do resent his attempts to portray himself as a position who matters, who knows things the rest of us don’t, when the truth is he doesn’t and he doesn’t.

Craig’s positioning himself to be able to say, “It’s the deal I was pushing you to take.” And, as ever, the droogs will mindlessly chant, “Yes, Craig, it’s the deal you were pushing us to take,” and everyone else will, again, shake their heads at the enormous ego and perfidy of “The Artful Writer.” He will, of course, say some nice things about the committee, and about Patric and maybe even David... he’ll go so far as to say he was wrong about some things. That’s politics, baby.

Bleargh.

Craig has chastised me for suggesting he and Ted are using their site and their little private community to build up for another run at the board. Okay. Maybe they aren’t. But they DO use it for decidedly political purposes, and the goal IS to create a power base for them to influence guild politics. It frustrates them that their vote counts no more and no less than yours. Welcome to democracy, fellas. If it’s any consolation, the rich and powerful always find ways to subvert it, so you’re in good company. And by “good company,” of course, I mean “bad company.”

But here's the thing - in the end, it doesn't fucking matter. We'll go back to work, and everything will be pretty much as it was. People like Craig, who devote ludicrous amounts of time to posturing and politicking and spinning, to gathering and grooming toadies and to networking like demons will carry on as ever. They’ll continue to tell themselves they matter, even though they had less to do with this strike than the average spec writer living in Duluth. People will argue over whether it was the strikers who got us this, or the folks who sat on the sidelines and tsk’d tsk’d over the awful embarrassment of finding themselves perceived as part of the loathsome labor movement in America.

(We are, after all, above such things here in Hollywood. Laborers are poor, and sweaty, and mostly less well-educated than such as we, so it offends our delicate sensibilities to be equated with them. Heh. We storm out of meetings in a pissy huff when anyone dares suggest that we’re just another chapter in the story of the labor movement; that we have anything in common with workers in the field; that, perhaps, the battle for economic justice that Martin Luther King was fighting when he was assassinated could possibly have room in it for such as we. We are not sweatshop laborers, we are what Garth Marenghi calls “dreamweavers.”)

They'll keep meeting on their private message boards and continue to pat each other on the back for perpetrating more mediocrity upon the world. They'll continue to whisper in the dark and to move pieces around and to quietly e-mail each other in conspiratorial manner, in spite of the fact that they're really up to nothing more than ego-burnishing and ball-slurping. Seriously - what’s the end-game for these jackalopes? Do they have a secret lair somewhere with a giant map of the world on it? Maybe I need to take them more seriously...

An aside - lately, I’m very often reminded of some folks I used to run across in the early days of AOL’s screenwriting boards. There were a few folks who fancied themselves very Serious and Important people because they were in the WGA and had projects set up at studios. All well and good - you can definitely learn from pros. But they weren’t there to share experiences with people so much as they were there to be respected and adored. But they were also there for something else. What was never clear, but as time went on, it was discovered that they’d been heavily petitioning AOL for some time to be put in charge of the screenwriting boards. Why was anyone’s guess. The boards worked fine, the community neither wanted nor needed their stewardship. But the sense of entitlement these folks had positively reeked off the screen. One gets the same stench from Craig and Ted and co.

To this date, I don’t get it. Why the need to rule, to lead, to be recognized for something other than just the damn work? [Talking about the ones who CAN do good work, of course. For the others, the answer is obvious.] Is there some prize you get at the end that nobody’s told me about?

My guess is it’s a high school thing. These are people who were painfully aware during high school that the most popular cliques wouldn’t have them. Apparently, that’s a pain that lingers, so they’re using our thing here to make up for that. It happens. Or, Christ, it just dawned on me - they’re something worse. They WERE the popular kids, but unlike most of those kids, they never woke up to what an utterly meaningless accomplishment that is. What drives them is not the need to be part of it, but the rage that comes when other people don’t care at all about being part of it.

An aside to an aside - I remember early on, on another screenwriting board, one of the pros, or semi-pros, posted breathlessly that he had just secured the feature rights to F Troop. He’d managed to get them for next to nothing because of some clever loophole or somesuch, and the crowd went wild. “Brilliant!” they said. “You rock!” they said. “Inspirational!” they said. I posted something to the effect of, “You’re kidding. F Troop: The Movie?” and was instantly pilloried as a snob. The point, you see, is not to get into the business and try to establish a career as an honest to god writer of actual movies of any lasting value. The point is to make as much fucking money as humanly possible, period, end of story.

Anyway....

It’s just sad to see Craig can’t leave it alone for once. Sad he can’t resist the urge to rub his smelly balls on our good day, our good week, our good THING that he really wasn’t part of. You want proof that he’s lost in his own fantasy? He thinks it’s ironic he couldn’t be there Saturday night. Yeah, it’s ironic. Like rain on your wedding day is ironic. Like a free ride when you’ve already paid is ironic.
(Poor Alanis - will she ever live that down? Well.... This helped)

No, Craig. It’s not ironic at all. No more ironic than the fact that my mother couldn’t be there, either. (Although now that I think of it, she DID send cookies to the line one day, which puts her one up on you and some of your pals.)

I don’t mean to be a downer. Thursday was one hell of an experience over at Disney, and last night at the Shrine was impressive. One grand reminder of who and what this Guild is, and why I’m proud to stand with these people. When I go back to my cave and start working again, it’ll be with a renewed sense of community with my fellow writers, even the egomaniacal dickweeds who think they carry more weight than they do. (Yet another shout out to Priya and Deric).

And in the end, I guess I’m a little petty, cos I find myself resentful of the people who sat on their asses and did nothing while the rest of us put up and put out. Not the ones who couldn’t be there, who had jobs to attend to, or families, or lived too far away.... the ones who just couldn’t be bothered to take part, but who will happily be cashing the checks that we got for them with the sweat of our brows, and the ache of our feet.

But fuck it. We DID get it with the sweat of our brows and the ache of our feet. Striking worked. Picketing worked. Setting aside our monstrous egos and standing together worked. And really, in the end, that’s all that matters.

We now return to your regularly scheduled programming....

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

If thinking you've won something sets you off on such a long, loud bout of squealing, how tragic will it be if you think you've lost? If that happens, there better be paramedics on standby for you.

Anonymous said...

My previous comment about the squealing was maybe too smartass to make clear what I meant. You lost. And you're wrong. People don't squeal like this unless they lose and they're wrong.

Anonymous said...

I can't stop. I'm too gleeful. Everyone got what they wanted.

Weinstein Company got a waiver and Mazin got to work. You got extra days on the picket line.

You both got the DGA deal.

Hope you both enjoy it for the next umpteen years.

Hee.

Priya said...

Thank you Kay and Josh for your thank yous. I don't know how it was for Deric (who rocks so much more than I), but for me it was hard coming out that first day, as I was a bit worried I'd encounter the high school mentality. It was easy to come back the next day after I found no high school mentality.

And the day after that.

And the day after that.

You guys are all kinds of awesome.

Actually, the only time I ever encountered that mentality was from people on Craig's blog -- who I believe were not picketing along with Craig -- questioning my motives. Which is fine. I don't need to explain myself to faceless folks on the internets. You guys know why I was there. That's enough.

I'm glad it's [almost] over. I'm glad you guys got some of what you were asking. I'm glad I was able to help out. I do love tasks.

Stay cool this Summer!

Josh Olson said...

And people don't post anonymously if they're actually able to stand behind their comments.

As for getting what we want, as I said pretty clearly - it wasn't what we wanted. Nobody expected that. But it IS a hell of a lot better than the DGA deal, as anyone in the DGA will admit. As for Craig working, bully for him. I was a firm supporter of all the interim deals, in spite of the murky grey surrounding all of them. When one of us wins, we all win. And in his case, it provided him with a much better excuse for not being out there with us than some of you folks had.

What I've "got," I've had from the beginning. I didn't stand with a small group of cowards and weasels who feel they're above the rest of their union. I didn't have to hide my name or face when I expressed myself about the strike. I didn't send creepy emails to leadership behind the scenes while decrying such behavior publicly. I didn't provide the AMPTP with talking points. I didn't undermine the strike.

Unlike some of your pals, I recognized that being a top earner in this union allowed me the luxury of standing by my principles with no downside. Some day, maybe you'll find yourself in that situation, and understand what it is to have character. But you're not there yet, kid.

When it's all said and done, I can look back and say I've done what I set out to do. I gave my best efforts to creating work that mattered, that didn't degrade the art form I've chosen to devote my life to; and I stood by my union when it counted.

I know for a fact you can't say the second, and, based on the company you keep, you probably can't say the first, either.

The strike's over. I go back to working when I want, doing only projects that matter to me, and getting paid handsomely to do them. You go back to toadying people whose only affection for you is based on your ability to provide the maximum nasal/anal satisfaction.

Yok it up.

Jake Hollywood said...

I'm not a top earner in this business. And, for reasons that escape me now, I've always done exactly what I've wanted to do: work only on terms that I find acceptable. Often this has cost me. I've walked from deals based solely on the principle that it wasn't in my best interest or in the interest of my work to compromise, work that matters to me dearly,,,

And as it pertains to "the deal" I'm voting against it because I don't believe it's the best deal we can get. A starting point, a road of improvement, a foothold into the future? Yes. The best deal? No.

But I'll live with whatever way the vote turns out.

And I'll do it with the knowledge that everyday of the strike I stood shoulder to shoulder with my brethren--together we stood up for our principles and our working lives. And except for those who were too cowardly to stand with us, I'm damn proud to say that I cannot think of a better group of people to be associated with.

Brian McCabe said...

I will never understand the necessity to gloat. I've been on the winning side of arguments before and never felt the need. So, to post not once, not twice, but three times seems absolutely ridiculous. Especially in the light that it isn't even true.

Of course, I never get belabouring a point about a certain individual either. You don't like him and what he's doing. Got it. Move along people. Nothing to see here.

I agree that writers are the primary source for what the town creates. I don't think embracing that fact is the problem of recognition though. I think writers need to not be so willing to canibalize each other. The re-write kills the uniqueness of the product and the uniqueness of the service. Directors are rarely replaced. And when they are that is usually the end of the project 9especially of one drops out). Ditto actors. But it is a fact in this town that any writer will do. Any writer not in the top tiers is going to eventually be replaced somewhere along the line (usually by one of those top tier guys).

I know you guys just want to write, but there is plenty of work that can be done within the guild to strengthen it for the next round of negotiations in 3 years.

Josh Olson said...

Brian,

"I think writers need to not be so willing to canibalize each other. The re-write kills the uniqueness of the product and the uniqueness of the service."

I agree entirely.

I've rarely done rewrites, and when I have, they've been page one jobs where it's absolutely clear there's a great idea that's just been missed entirely. We all have our lines, that's mine - I have no interest in getting into that world of fucking around with someone else's work just enough to get the credit.

The nature of filmmaking necessitates rewrites by other writers sometimes. Nowhere near as much as it happens, of course. And our own willingness to jump on board is, indeed, the biggest problem.

As for gloating, I don't know who you're referring to. I certainly don't see anyone here doing it, unless you're referring to the anonymous asshole.

As for "belaboring the point" that's not entirely fair to anyone here. It's not like we keep going back and hammering on some year old post from the dude. When Craig jumps onto his stump and starts pounding on his chest and cranking out his spin, there are people who will point out that he's full of shit. Sorry if that offends you.

Brian McCabe said...

Josh:

Yes, I was referring to anonymous re: gloating.

Not offended. Just gets tiring as nothing new is added (regardless of what Craig does and doesn't do). Just strikes me as a lot of preaching to the converted and accomplishes little. When making arguments, I don't feel the need to bash my opponent. I let the argument stand on its own. I know that's a minority opinion, but it's how I feel just the same.

And finally, kudos to you for not canablizing other's work. I wish more of your brethern felt that way.

Paula said...

Josh,
You're not a very classy guy, are you?

Paula said...

Right, Josh doesn't cannibalize other's work... except when he's throwing it out and starting from scratch. That somehow lessens the insult.

Joshua said...

Brother Olson,

You rock, bro . . . love ya, man.

And Kay, thank you for this rocking and frank blog.

Anonymous said...

Josh and Kay, Kay and Josh. Mazin's two little Salieri's.

Not that Mazin is a Mozartian genius. He's just the guy with the nutjobs after him.

Isn't it time to reimagine that delightful film Amadeus in a Hollywood setting? If Josh and Kay, Kay and Josh can develop any self insight, it should write itself.

There you go, I've given you an idea you can shop around.

Now, because rewrites are so Hollywood, let me paraphrase what Josh wrote in the comments above: SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEAL!!!!!

Josh Olson said...

Paula,

I'd be happy to discuss it with you in person. Just forward your info to Kay, and she'll put us together.

Brian,

The point I was making was that folks who've hindered this strike from within are now spinning the story to make themselves look like its heroes. I'm sure there's a way to make that point without bashing said folks, but it's beyond my ability.

Paula said...

Josh,

Thanks for the offer but, ermmmm... no thanks.

Ick.

Josh Olson said...

Paula,

Exactly.

Have a nice life, jackass.

Greg Luce said...

Josh,

Teamster here. Supported the strike, long time reader/admirer of your opinions/positions on Artful Writer.

Question: Are you taking apps to replace Paula's spot?

I'm thinking, find a quiet pub, pull a couple Guinnesses, and talk a little treason, and Writing.

Kay, you're invited too, of course.

richard said...

Olsen, you're hilarious. Sure, Mazin has a far too high opinion of himself, but so do you. You try and play the humility card, but it would ring truer if you and your cronies weren't so busy continually patting each other on the back. And you can get off your high horse about writing for art's sake. I've taken a look at your credits. Everyone's trying to make a living, here. And if some people want to make a better living than others, more power to 'em. Mazin thinks he's better than everyone else because he makes a lot of money. You think your better than everyone else because you pretend that you have higher standards, then pretend that you're just a man of the people.

And can you please work how you know Harlan Ellison into a conversation again, please? I think I missed it the first thirty times.

Priya said...

From my experience of the two writers: One was out on the line every fucking day. The other sat in his trailer trying to out-Finke Nikki Finke. The first is an Oscar® Nominee, who never (that I can recall) mentions that fact. The second brags about his residual checks ($600K, I believe -- and that was a shared credit).

In my book OlsOn can play the "man of the people" as well as the "humility" as well as the "higher standards" cards anytime, yo.

Erin said...

Hey, anonymous? Based on your nine zillion appearances here, it would certainly appear that Mazin's not the one who's got a problem with persistent "nutjobs".

David said...

Richard,

I don't know what your beef is. Josh doesn't pretend to be anything. He understands this town and this business, and has navigated its waters to get to a place where he gets to do very high quality work that makes him happy. I've never seen or heard him pretend that there's anything wrong with working for a living.

My sense is that he gets how hard you have to work in the shit mines because he's done it. Talking to him made me feel a lot better about the crappy jobs I've had to take to further my own creative goals. Not everyone springs fully formed from the head of Orson Welles.

I've walked with Josh on the picket line. He was completely open and very funny about where he came from, and the things he had to write to put food on his table. The thing I liked the most about him is that he obviously appreciates the benefits of his labor, and is enjoying the hell out of himself professionally. Imagine being able to only do work that you cared about, as a screenwriter in Hollywood.

When it comes to Ellison, he doesn't just know Harlan. He's written with him, been nominated for awards with him, and they are clearly dear, dear friends. He brought Harlan out to the line one day when I was there, and it was obvious that Harlan thinks of Josh as practically a son. If anyone was name dropping, it was Harlan, who kept referring to Josh as his Oscar nominated pal.

I don't hide who my friends are. What is he supposed to do? Not talk about one of his friends when it comes up in conversation because it reminds you of how little you've acheived in your life? This is Hollywood. If you've worked in it very long, you're going to know famous people, and there will always be outsiders who think you're an asshole for mentioning them in conversation.

Most of us don't spend a lot of time on the internet. But you'd be amazed at how much anger people in this guild have for Craig Mazin and the so-called "dirty thirty" and other assholes who felt they were above the rest of us. Josh - and many other A list writers, and top showrunners were out there just like the rest of us ever day, balancing the record. They weren't trying to subvert the union, they weren't trying to shut down the strike, they weren't spreading false rumors about how badly it was all being run. They just did what everyone else did and supported their guild. If some of them think they're better writers than most of us, that's because the world's confirmed it. Art isn't democracy. But people like Josh have proven that just because you're an elite, top of the line writer, you can still be just another joe on the line.

Josh Olson said...

Richard,

I know this is a complicated concept for you, as it entails holding two separate thoughts in your head simultaneously, but believe it or not - it's entirely possible to stand side by side with your brothers and sisters in the union, and STILL be an elitist snob when it comes to the work.

I do not pretend to be a man of the people as a working artist. I'm a self-indulgent egomaniac. That's sort of the definition, although I'm reasonably certain that will fly right over your head. But as a WGA member, I am no better or no worse than our highest and lowest earning members.

As for your credits, I hate to tell you this - but unless you arrive on the scene perfectly formed, and are very lucky, you tend not to get a shot at doing the work that means the most to you right out of the gate. I carry my straight-to-video past with pride. I worked fucking hard to get where I am. You can argue whether or not it paid off, but, personally, I'm not too unhappy with an A list pay-rate and nominations for every major award as a result of my very first studio assignment.

I have no gripe whatsoever with anyone who has to slog through crap to make a living. I've written porn reviews, crappy low budget movies, and "infotainment" videos for kids. Anything and everything I could do to stave off the wolves while I plowed away at getting good at my craft. What I DO have a gripe with is people who get to a place where they can actually do good work and squander it on mindless marketing tools and mediocrity - what Bill Hicks called sucking Satan's cock.

I've never pretended I'm not a whore, but when I fuck for pleasure, I go all night, baby. And right now, I'm in the enviable position of ONLY fucking for pleasure. You'd kill yourself if you saw the projects I turn down.

As for Harlan, sorry it bugs you. The man made me want to be a writer, and today I've not only written with him, but he's one of the best friends I have on the planet. He's also a hero to many people in this union, and his presence on the lines did more to keep people going than anything, I suspect, that you did to help out. I won't apologize for my friends, and I won't refrain from discussing them because it makes you feel like I'm a blowhard.

As my pal Willie Nelson says, it ain't bragging if you're telling the truth.

Schmuck.

PS to Priya and David:

Geez. If I weren't such an egomaniac, I'd be humbled. Thank you.