The Theory of Chaos

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Wait, it's not...is it?

Hello.

When I first pledged to go on strike from blogging, it was because it seemed incumbent upon me to give up
something. Since I wasn’t on any assignments at the moment the strike hit, I didn’t feel like I was demonstrating any solidarity. For the people out there who enjoy reading my work (and there are a few, I’m always amazed to find), it was an effective way to get them to appreciate that voices were being silenced by this strike. A few have even said they miss me, and if I could virtually blush I would.

But a funny thing happened. The writers did what they do best –
they told the story. A rolling snow boulder of forwarded e-mails, blog posts, and viral videos has successfully exploded into the marketplace of ideas, communicating our position and throwing the studios totally off their playbook.

I was proud of my Guild. And I was envious. And when the “negotiations” the studios pretended to rejoin predictably “broke down” last Friday, it was absolutely clear:


I am a writer. I should be writing.


There are smarter, more organized, more connected, more famous people out there banging the drums and singing the strike anthems right now, so I won’t pretend I can give you better information than them, or wittier presentations of it. I mean, Joss Whedon’s blogging, people! I ain’t competing with that.


But I can join the chorus of voices proving that we’re not all spoiled millionaires out here, nor are we jabbering radicals out to bring the movie business to ruin. We LOVE movies. We LOVE television. We couldn’t have ever come out here and done this undignified, unheralded slogging it takes to build a writing career in LA if we didn’t.


So I’m back. Maybe we haven’t been properly introduced:


I’m Nick. I’m a screenwriter, teacher of screenwriters, playwright, snobby Internet film critic, cat-lover, multiple game show contestant, and WGA member. The list of pay-the-bills jobs I’ve had on and off since college is hilariously undignified, and maybe I’ll share it with you someday if you’re nice. I’ve been working in the movie business for eight years now, spent five of those years in feature story development for an independent film producer, got my names buried in the end credits of some mostly-forgettable movies, sold a screenplay and was closing an option agreement on another when the strike hit. I was also interviewing for a re-write job, but who knows if
that will still be waiting for me when I’m allowed to discuss it again.

I don’t have an extraordinary career but I have cashed a couple of checks at this and all signs point to me cashing some more before I crack completely, and that’s a blessing at least 99.9-percent of the people who try screenwriting will never enjoy.


***

I know it’s not very worldly of me to say it, what with my living in America, having a roof over my head and a stable caloric intake, and other bounties, but this year has really sucked for me. I won’t get into the details of my personal life in this unfiltered forum, but in summary the last twelve months have been about the worst in the history of my personal life. These days I’m of a mindset that happiness is just the bright, dangling object that distracts you from the oncoming train.


I’m not advocating this point of view, mind you, just stating it for the record.


Anyway, not far removed from the lowest of this year’s many low points, I up and hit the road in my trusty Kia, Samwise. (See? We’re not all filthy rich.
I drive a Kia.) I traveled 5,000 miles over 18 days, saw sights I’ll never forget, re-connected with some old friends, learned a few things about my forbearers, and saw my late Grandfather to his final resting place in a quiet and wild wood near the shores of Lake Michigan. It’s one of many experiences in recent months that have turned me away from the darkness, and in their own way, saved my life.

On that trip one of the surprises I lucked into was the tiny town of Gateway, Colorado, which is home to a diner (the “141”), that serves American Highway Ambrosia in its most greasy, perfect form. It’s fifty twisting, two-lane miles off the main road and worth every inch. It’s also home to the
Gateway Auto Museum, which wishes to argue that the car can be a work of art, and convinced me.

As part of their history lesson, the museum had an exhibit about the revolutionary assembly-line industrial techniques of the Ford Motor Company. Henry Ford had this radical idea that if you pay your employees a good wage that they can live on, and give them a humane eight-hour work day and benefits, you’ll attract the best quality workers and your business will benefit from their expertise and ease of mind. How did that Ford company turn out, anyway?


This was the foundation of the middle-class dream of mid-20th century America: that a man who put 40 hours a week into a blue-collar job could have a little house, raise his kids, and get them into college. This man’s idea, and the way his assembly-line allowed him to make a car the average American could afford, transformed our country for the better. It was the birth of the strongest middle-class in human history.


But even HE hated unions. I guess he thought the plutocrat’s whim was a strong enough market force, and that workers having power to compel others like him towards similar treatment was just a bridge too far. Lucky for that newly-born middle-class that needed to grow and be nurtured, they didn’t listen to him. It was striking workers, not his reluctant fellow tycoons, who eventually made his ideas flourish.


People who wanted to form unions in this country used to be murdered. So, hooray for progress and all that, but nothing changes one truth: Nobody wants to strike. Strikes are awful. Everybody loses money, the collateral damage scatters for miles, relationships get poisoned for life, egos slow everything down, and in the end no one gets what they asked for. And as time marches on, the strikers will take all the bruises, and the generations that follow will forget that someone had to fight for what they enjoy.
The UAW doesn't even rate a mention in that auto museum.

Every benefit Hollywood writers enjoy, we got it because we went on strike for it.
Nothing has ever been handed to us for free, unless we were Raymond Chandler with a lingering bar tab. We’ve held back on striking for 19 years – 19 years while we watched studios get rich on those home video cassettes they swore were too risky and unpredictable to give us our standard residual percentages on, and then get rich all over again on those DVDs they swore were also too risky and unpredictable. Now they lament to us about the riskiness and unpredictability of the Internet, while on Wall Street they’re tossing around projected dollar amounts not in millions, but in billions.

And I’ve been on the sidelines. That’s over with.

2 Comments:

  • "Raymond Chandler with a lingering bar tab" Delightful and acerbic words, Nick. I hope, with the Clive Owen reboot, you get the opportunity to grant the world a bit of Marlowe, from the perspective of a true fan. And yes, the tossing around of figures by Redstone, coupled with the astronomical sales of outfits like YouTube, render any statements questioning speculative value grossly hypocritical, despite what the Growler(living up to his bearish name) asserts below. The dream of Henry Ford is indeed alive and embodied every day by those on the picket line. After all, it's not the majors who have Tenacious D getting their back. I wish you the best of holidays, Nick. I just wish McFarlane Toys would put out a Chigurh figure with collectable coin. But one can't have everything, I guess.

    By Anonymous Mike De Luca, at 4:34 AM  

  • I would so buy a Chigurh figure, complete with kung-fu cattle piston action.

    Thanks for the support.

    By Blogger Nick, at 11:42 AM  

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