Industry Rant: "The Land of Catch 22"

My system drive is kaput and in the process of being replaced.

In the meantime I'd like to discuss screenwriting- a quirky but vital scrum on the field of entertainment. Yeah, that's a rugby metaphor. Anyways, most people don't understand the craft because they don't need it. Particularly animators and advertisers that just sort of fly straight to boards and play in their films like a big sandbox. Meeting Chen-Yi Chang, lead character artist at Disney for years, I learned Tarzan didn't even have a script. They threw out the latest draft and went straight to boards. In any case, I've had the pleasure of studying basic and advanced Dramatic and Visual Writing under both pros and struggling amateurs. All forms of this training served to give me a great idea of what to expect out of the industry: Nothing. Nobody's going to help you. Nobody wants to read your scripts. Nobody cares. You have to pry your way in with a godsdamn crowbar. [TL;DR see POINT below]

Here's the thing. You can't sell a script without representation. You can't get representation without selling a script. This isn't made up. This is the way the industry works. I've discussed it with agencies, with fellow writers, with speakers at the WGA headquarters and with WGA reps visiting Tisch. It's broken. It's archaic. It's inbuilt exclusivity that has nothing to do with good writing and everything to do with networking. It's literally a catch-22 and the only thing that the system as it stands serves to do is to make it incredibly hard for new talent to enter the industry and to ensure (via "membership") that hacks and frauds with little regard for art become entrenched among other respectable writers.

The WGA does nothing about this because exclusivity ensures a tightly-knit circle of pros and it keeps demand manageable, measurable even. Sadly, I've seen a brainwashed member defending this system. I've seen the face of old whitey* shouting "We all have to go through this! We all pay our dues!" Easy for you to say, old man. You're a fucking member of the WGA.

So, what can one do? One of the most helpful things to keep in mind is the 10% rule. Which is to say, avoid making this specific list of errors and you're already in the upper 10% of screenwriters. Not a bad bump for the first step. Then find agencies that accept unsolicited works for reading and start pinning rejection letters to your wall. After that, for now, your only option is to schmooze your eyes out, make your own films, or to be born into a Hollywood family. Oh, finally, it helps to be good at writing and storytelling. Sort of bass-ackwards but that's the industry for you.

Finally, and this is a personal complaint- for an industry that demands impeccable grammar and tosses out a script with a typo before page 10... Who says they know a damn thing about grammar? What did they major in English before moving to LA to become a skeez? I diagram sentences in my sleep, bitches, and I don't trust these agencies to know the difference between an appositive and a comma splice.

POINT: The Studio System as it pertains to screenwriting is an archaic monopoly perpetuated by obsolete unionized lapdogs and a system of nepotist and/or prejudiced agencies that maintain exclusivity based on a set of arbitrary self-referential requirements that have nothing to do with screenwriting.

I have an idea about this but putting it into action has taken a back seat to my next film or two. More next week.

1 comment:

Jackhalfaprayer said...

Dunno when that 10% rule link went broken, that was a great little tipsheet. I'll see if I can't compile the list either from the WGA website listing or from memory.