Make My Day: HOW DOES HE FEEL ABOUT STUNT DOUBLES?
by Erik Deckers
American Reporter Humor Writer
SYRACU.S.E, Ind. -- Although I know people have differing views onwri= ters and our so-called contribution to society, I try to stay out ofthe fra= y, except to say that people who don't like writers aremouth-breathing goob= ers who watch too much pro wrestling. Other thanthat, I have no opinion. = But all that has changed thanks to an April 20 opinion column inthe online = edition of The Globe & Mail, a big Canadian newspaper based inToronto (you = can read it athttp://www.globeandmail.ca/gam/Film/20010420/RVSTRI8.html) = In an editorial whine-fest about the pending Hollywood strike bythe Writers=
Guild of America, Doug Saunders has a hissy-fit over theidea that the writ= ers think they're the creators of Hollywood movies.
Saunders says that instead of the writers, it's the directors,producers,= actors, and possibly even the guy who gets the little branmuffins for the = actors between the takes, who actually create the movieswe watch. To Saunde= rs, writers are just the people who crank out a bunchof words so the actors= have something to do while they're prancing aboutin front of the camera.
I have a couple of words for Saunders, but they're notrepeatable unless = you're in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
The big complaint by the WGA is that writers are basically thegum on eve= ryone else's shoe when it comes to movie making. They'reusually allowed on = the set for one or two days, they don't getwell-deserved recognition, there= 's only one Oscar given out forscreenplays, and most moviegoers don't even = realize there was a writerwho created the film in the first place.
Telev= ision writers, on the other hand, are the cat's meow when it comes to show = creation. In tv land, the writers are the ones who wield the true power. Wi= tness "Ally McBeal" creator David E. Kelly, who has never brushed his hair = a day in his life, or gold-and-jewel-encrusted Michael Crichton, who create= d "ER."
So as the contract talks enter the final stretch, the moviewriters = are feeling like the kids who were picked last for kickball, andare threate= ning to strike on May 1. Their issues? Movies should nolonger have "A movie= by ... " or, "A so-and-so film," with the producers'name filling in the bl= anks.
That, the writers say, is because we're the ones whocame up with the mo= vie in the first place, not the director or theproducer. They also want acc= ess to the set, they want to be interviewed,and they want to go to the prem= ieres. After all, if it wasn't for them,there wouldn't be a movie, right? W= ell, mostly.
I'll admit that the producers and directors play a huge part ingett= ing a movie created, and if it weren't for the actors, we'd havenothing to = watch. But Saunders seems to forget that if it weren't forthe writers who p= ut fingers to keyboard, the producers and directorswouldn't have other Holl= ywood phonies to suck up to or anyone to call on their cell phones. And mov= ies would be nothing more than peoplemilling aimlessly about, mumbling inan= ities because they only dialoguethey could come up with would be too lame f= or a porn flick.
Actor #1: Hey.
Actor #2: Uh, hey.
Actor #1: So, uh, how's it goin'?
Actor #2: Oh, not so bad. Uh, what are you doing?
Actor #1: Oh, just stuff. I thought I'd head to the Taco Locker f= or, uh, lunch.
Even if you threw in Tom Hanks and a volleyball, this wouldstill= make for a crappy movie.
Saunders offers the lame argument that since movies are mostlyvisua= l, the dialogue is almost unnecessary, and that's why writers aren't so imp= ortant. That may be true if you watch art films Jackie Chan movies, but it = takes someone other than a run-of-the-mill Canadian newspaper columnist to = churn out something more complex than "Jackie kicks a guy in the privates."=
In an effort to throw the writers a bone, Saunders does reluctantly= agree that writers play a slightly important part in the creative process.= After all, he says, "no film would exist if somewriter, somewhere, hadn't = scratched out a few pages of words."
A few pages of words? Is that like saying Moby Dick is just abig fi= sh? Are Minnesota winters just a little chilly? Is Michael Jordanjust a goo= d athlete? In actuality, a typical movie script is close to120 pages of dia= logue, stage directions, and even scene background. It'sNOT "Jackie kicks a= guy in the privates."
It boils down to this: the actors need the writers more than thewri= ters need the actors. If the actors didn't have writers, there wouldbe a lo= t more movies like "Mission Impossible 2" or "Spice World." Butif the write= rs didn't have actors, we'd have ... books! Which would yourather do, read = a good book, or watch "Rocky XXVII: Rocky vs. the IcyCold Hand of Death?"
If writers really aren't that important because they don't doanythi= ng more than scratch out a few pages of words, then why does everyone go ga-= ga over writers like William Shakespeare, TennesseeWilliams, Samuel Beckett= , or Henrik Ibsen? If they're "just writers,"then why are these men conside= red some of the greatest playwrights inhistory?
Why don't people talk about Edward Rackoflamb, who played anexcellent M= acbeth in 1608? Or why isn't Irving Hassenfeffer considered abig Hollywood = player after his 1976 appearance as Willy Loman in Deathof a Salesman at th= e Grand Dakotan Dinner Theatre in Pierre, SouthDakota?
Why? It's because if it weren't for the writers like ArthurMiller, = Irving Hassenfeffer would have been reduced to sitting on thestage reading = the week's hog report to two truckers, a waitress, andhis mother.
After reading Saunders' misguided diatribe on a writer's actualcont= ribution to Tinseltown, I would humbly ask that he "scratch out" afew more = columns on any topic he would wish to name. I'm trying tohouse train my dog= , and his contribution to my efforts will be dulynoted.
Erik Deckers i= s really famous.