I’ve been thinking about the immediate future of this site, lately. I start shooting my movie in about three weeks, and when that happens, I go bye-bye for two and half months.
Well, maybe if I’m not totally dead on the weekends, I can throw an update on, but it’s gonna be a dark stretch…and then there’s post. That’s almost worse.
I’m sort of in denial about it, so rather than try and solve that little problem right now, I think I’ll just answer some questions. Yeah. That will solve everything…
Q: I recently joined a group of writers who wanted to write a script. It started out as an “exercise”. We got along very well….wrote a pilot and are confident it is good enough to sell. We had it copyrighted and registered it with the Writers Guild. I am the “creator” of the idea. Five of us wrote the pilot. Who really owns the pilot? or the “Idea”? All of us? We are now writing a new episode and there are only three of us involved. Do all five continue to benefit if the sitcom is sold? or do we have to copyright each episode? Or do we just sell the idea (if someone wants it) and move on – all benefiting financially?
I get these questions a lot. It’s natural. Writing collaborations are a bit like spontaneous sexual connections. People sort of bang into each other in the heat of the moment, and then try and sort out the responsibilities and ramifications after the deed is done.
In the case described above, the “idea” doesn’t really confer “created by” in any real sense. Ideas aren’t ownable. A story, however, is. If the questioner had written a story, and then he and four other writers cowrote the dramatization (i.e. script) of that story, we’d have something to delineate. That’s not what happened though.
Since five people wrote the pilot script including the story contained therein, then the Five should be considered the “creators” of the “series.”
Any ensuing episodes should be judged as scripts written by those three people, but based on the characters and story created by the Five.
Generally speaking, show creators do benefit from the continued production of episodes of the show they created (via the pilot).
But you know what?
Here’s a nutty wacky thought.
HIRE A LAWYER BEFORE YOU DO STUFF LIKE THIS.
Let’s say you were planning on starting a business selling clothing to people. Four other people wanted to get into business with you.
You’d hire a lawyer.
Hire a freakin’ lawyer.
Folks, all sorts of misery and tears and yelling and ruined friendships can be avoided by being clear up front about what the reality of the arrangement is.
Or, if you really want to protect yourself, do what I do.
Q: So here it is: how are writers how are credited as producers, or supervising producers, or execs, contracted? are they doing separate agreements under WGA jurisidction or does the wga recognize those producer credits?
the reason I’m asking is that the producer association up here (in Canada) is resisting the whole idea of writer-producers; I’m not sure how it’s going to play out but I was hoping someone could give me an idea of how it works in the U.S. where it seems people know how to make television.
A: WGA writing credits are for writing only.
Writers can also produce (I produce my movies, for instance, and many television writers also serve as producers on the shows they write), but the money they are paid for producing is not subject to Guild terms, nor are producing credits determined by the WGA.
There is a producing association here that’s also miffed about the proliferation of producing credits. Amusingly, the quote on their front page (from Hawk Koch) is all about how everything starts with a good story and script…but whatever.
Point is, they don’t like the watering down of their credit, and to an extent, they have a point. Certain producing credits are handed out like bon bons or door prizes. Still, I staunchly defend my right as a writer-producer to hold that title.
Because I actually do produce.
As such, I’m in favor of standards that help define what those credits mean, but I’m against any kind of blanket ban on hyphenates.
Q:I am a full-time newspaper reporter who wrote a story that recently caught the eye of a major studio. I know this because a friend of mine who works at that studio is the one who tipped them to my piece to begin with. So my newspaper obviously owns the story (including the notes, the drafts, etc.) and I am not a character in the article, meaning I can?t benefit from it being optioned (I think). However, is there any other way I can become involved in this project To put the question in the American parlance: Is there anything in it for me? I?d love to write a screenplay based on the article, but seeing as how I?ve never attempted that I highly doubt the studio would tender such, no matter how many decades I?ve been a professional writer. Knowing this general framework, can you suggest what, if any, role there is for me in this? Is there, for example, a job where I help the professional screenwriter craft the script? (If there?s a term for this I apologize.) When screenwriters work together does one perhaps just deal with the narrative structure, details and storyline? (This I could do.)
A: If you want to be a screenwriter, I suggest writing a good screenplay.
Seems like obvious advice, but just like overweight people (and I’m one of ‘em) who just refuse to accept the whole “eat less an exercise” thing, there are loads of people who are positive that there’s a way to game themselves into becoming a screenwriter.
There is not.
First off, your initial premise may be incorrect. If you write a newspaper article overseas (and you imply you’re not American), I suspect that you do retain copyright in some fashion. You may also retain film rights. I don’t know.
If you do, then you can benefit by receiving a fee for the film rights.
If you don’t, then here’s what you can do.
You can ask the studio if you could pretty pretty please write a screenplay adaptation of your article. For the least amount required. And you’ll get it to them really, really fast.
Then write a very good screenplay.
If you do, chances are that you can be a screenwriter.
If you don’t, chances are that you can’t.
No, there aren’t arrangements where one person deals with the stuff in the article, and the other person does all the “easy” stuff like dramatization, characterization, dialogue and scenario.
Dude, that’s the hard stuff. Anyone who has read your article now has everything you’ve offered…so why do they need to carry your weight?
Q: Why do screenwriters (or whoever is holding the gun to their heads) have to overplot movies? This is a common complaint for me, but watching Red Planet is what prompted me to write. It’s not enough to have 4 astronauts stranded on Mars (how will they get home?) or a good mystery ( why is there suddenly oxygen on Mars?). Either one of those could make for a great movie (the first one already did). But on top of all this, they have to add a rogue killer robot. One plot point to many, and it topples over into silliness. A potentially great movie, good cast, etc., and 7 years later it’s late night viewing on cable and a punchline (if anyone thinks of it at all).
A: It happens because it’s easy.
First of all, can I just point out that the state of email writing is pretty bad?
There is a pressure from studios to “raise the stakes.” It’s a phrase every screenwriter has heard a million times. “Raising the stakes” is the dramatic equivalent of monosodium glutamate. It’s a cheap way to goose the audience. Still, lots of people enjoy it. Personally, I’m with you. Endlessly raised stakes can feel empty and silly, particularly when they don’t seem to flow naturally from the central character’s thematic needs and growth.
On top of that, you have the demands of the sequel. One must outdo the movie that came before it, lest the audience feel “cheated.” This is an odd way of looking at sequels, if you ask me. The audience will never feel cheated if they are enjoying an engrossing, well-told story with a fresh narrative and interesting characters tackling engaging themes.
That’s not as easy for a studio to understand, however, as MORE.
This is why superhero movies so frequently fall victim to the “two villains…no, THREE villains…no, FIVE villains!” theory of sequeling.
I was so happy when Spiderman 2 managed to stick with a one villain format. Spiderman 3 definitely suffered from three villains. Overkill to be sure, but it’s all about insecurity.
At some point, these movies become so expensive and so critical to the corporations producing them, security begins to override creative restraint.
Curiously, this often backfires.
Funny world we live in.
Okay, that’s all for now. When I come back up for air, I’ll answer a few more of the backlogged questions.
Upgrading to MT 4 was pretty much a disastrophe. Some comments may have gotten blown out in the upgrade/undo-of-upgrade.
Continue to bear with me…
By and large, our big announcement yesterday was met with support from the writer community (or, at least, the writers who spoke up). Still, there were some criticisms.
The criticisms/questions from various commenters are as follows, with my responses following.
Does this deal make it more difficult for non-deal writers to make a deal with Fox, in the short term at least? Will other writers now feel they should form a similar group?
No to the first question. Remember, Fox is a major studio with multiple divisions (20th Century, Fox Atomic, Fox 2000, New Regency, Fox Searchlight), and they probably develop dozens of, scores of…maybe a hundred?…new projects every year.
We’re going to account for nine scripts over the course of four years. That’s barely a dent. Even if all nine got made and they all got made in 2010, Fox would still need many many more scripts just to fill their pipeline for that year.
I don’t think there’s a necessity to form co-ops simply because we did or the Wells group did. Obviously, I think there’s a tremendous advantage to them, but these things live and die on the market strength of the collectives that form them.
Best advice on that sort of thing comes to me from Michael Eisner, via David Zucker.
“You can get what you can get.”
Now that you A-listers have lowered your up-front price, should I be worried that the majors will no longer want to go out with me?
No. Again, it’s for 9 scripts. Since it’s over four years, and since most of us work on more than one project a year, feel free to assume that we will each be extorting our usual fees from various studios on assignments, production work, page one rewrites, etc. As such, we can’t possibly soak up a significant amount of work.
Furthermore, this is for our original screenplays. You couldn’t get that “job” anyway, because it’s not a job. It’s our script. It’s not like we just cut a deal to adapt every D.C. comic title or something. None of us had a chance at getting that plum “Write the movie Go” assignment, because John August generated it.
Have you really been yearning to write original material all these years but hesitated pending a really insanely lucrative deal?
This is strange. The commenter seems concerned that none of us are big on writing original stuff, i.e. screenplays not based on underlying material (e.g. remakes, book adaptations, rewrites, etc.)
Like how I worked in i.e., e.g. and etc. all in one sentence?
Anyway, this criticism is based on a faulty premise. My first two movies were from original screenplays. The movie I’m shooting this fall is an original screenplay. John broke into the business with “Go,” which is one of the more celebrated specs out there, and just directed “The Nines” from his original screenplay. Terry recently had a humongous spec sale with Deja Vu (along with Bill Marsilii). Stuart Beattie wrote Collateral…another original. Simon Kinberg wrote Mr. & Mrs. Smith…another very successful original.
Oh, and Michael Arndt is the reigning Oscar winner for original screenplay, for Little Miss Sunshine.
Tim Herlihy’s credits are almost entirely originals. Six, count ‘em, six original screenplays starring Adam Sandler.
I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Given the current studio environment with its emphasis on “branded” material–comics, remakes, sequels, etc.–do you really think there’s going to be a serious payoff from untested original material?
Absolutely. Not all brands pre-exist the movies. Matrix, anyone?
There was an article in Variety recently that pointed out what a high percentage of hits actually came from original screenplays. They’re still making Indiana Jones films. They’re still making Rocky and Rambo films. I suspect we haven’t seen the last of The Matrix either. If you look at the top 25 grossing films of 2006, 16 of them are either from original screenplays or are sequels to movies from original screenplays.
What do you think this type of deal means for the (currently on-hold) WGA negotiations? It seems to me these deals have the potential to weaken the WGA by splintering the established A-list writers with all their clout from the rest of the rank and file.
I don’t think this deal will have any effect on WGA negotiations. I don’t see any potential to weaken the Guild at all. How are we splintered from the rest of the rank and file? If the WGA goes on strike, we’re bound by the union to strike with them. We can’t work for Fox during a strike. I don’t see how this deal is any different than any overscale deal I make in terms of its impact on union solidarity.
I have read your blog many times and enjoyed it. I always thought you believed in the solidarity of the WGAw. Now, I see you’re undercutting our collective bargaining position.
That’s obviously not true. “Undercutting” is the act of accepting working conditions lower than those set as a basic minimum for guild members. We’re doing the opposite.
As I said, I’ve read your blog and I know you can weave an intelligent argument to defend your position. But it will now fall on deaf ears for those other guild members who see this for what it is. Can you imagine union workers in other unions negotiating a separate deal for themselves? They would no longer be part of the union.
Well, I have news for ya, pal. I got a congratulatory email expressing appreciation for what we did for writers with this deal from Patric Verrone, the President of the WGAw. You know, the guy I’m always fighting with? As such, I can only assume that he’s not one of those “guild members who see this for what it is.”
Not only does making a “separate deal” not exclude me from my union, but just about every member of the union I know makes a “separate deal.” The MBA has a clause, thank God, that expressly states that any member of the bargaining unit is free to make a deal with “better terms” than those in the MINIMUM basic agreement.
So any time someone writes for more than scale? Separate deal. Oh, how about this one? CREDIT BONUSES? Separate deal. Not in the MBA.
If I’m to follow your logic, then pretty much every single working screenwriter in the WGAw is, um, “no longer part of the union.”
I just don’t think this makes any sense at all.
Do you worry that the “can’t be rewritten” aspect of the deal will hurt you guys in terms of landing top directors (assuming you don’t direct the scripts yourselves, of course)?
No. Part of the criteria for this group was a sense that the writers were viewed as war-tested by the studios. We’ve all been through it with directors and producers and actors. Furthermore, we have every incentive to do what we can to write a movie rather than a screenplay.
Once the movie is greenlit, it ceases to be our movie, and it now becomes the studio’s film. We’re realists. We’re not looking to stand between a director and the shoot. Rather, we’re putting ourselves forward as partners.
Of course, if it’s not going well during development, we hold the gun.
I accept that all members negotiate their own contracts. I was just hoping that these writers would have asked for these “new” benefits for everyone at the negotiating table. I am not against “some getting better terms than others.” But the idea of the guild is for all to get better terms. That the floor goes up from everyone. Creative partnering with the studio would be great for every WGAw writer.
Huh? That’s cloud cuckoo land stuff. Look, this is a really important distinction to make.
The WGA’s job is to raise the floor for writers.
We just raised the ceiling for writers.
Two very different things.
As for the reason we didn’t negotiate on behalf of all writers? That’s easy.
We have no authority to do so. We couldn’t even if we really really wanted to.
The only institution authorized by law to collectively bargain on behalf of screenwriters is the Guild. As such, this criticism holds no water.
Fox steps up…So the wait was pretty short, huh? Man, these stupid internets make news delivery nearly instantaneous.
We’ve gone and put words into action. For a few years, I’ve been preaching a philosophy, a religion. The tune is simple. Screenwriters should be filmmaking partners with their studios.
And what does that mean? Well, in a double nutshell….
I’m happy to announce that we’ve made some huge strides toward these ends today.
John does an excellent job of running down the details, so I won’t get redundant. I will say that I’m thrilled and humbled to be part of this group of writers. The Writing Partners are:
Obviously, this group is exceptional, and none of us could have done this on our own. I do want to single out a few people for special recognition. Ted Elliott and I started talking about this idea a few years ago, so that was the genesis. John Wells broke serious ground at Warner Brothers, and in many ways we’re drafting in his wake.
Finally, John August was a fantastic organizational and pitching partner. That menschy vibe you get off his blog is the real deal.
All of the agents and lawyers did a great job, but our point people were David Kramer at UTA, Todd Feldman at CAA and Ken Richman (John’s attorney). On the Fox side, it was Emma Watts’, Alex Young’s and Tom Rothman’s enthusiasm that differentiated them from our other suitors.
Okay, Oscarish speech over. So…what does this mean?
The way this deal works, both we and Fox are betting on optimism. They’re betting that we’re going to deliver movies they want to make, and we’re betting…well…we’re betting on the same thing.
If our movies don’t get made there, our only guaranteed compensation is an amount much lower than our normal fees. If our movies do get made there, it’s quite likely that we will, as individuals, reap a greater reward as writers than pretty much any writers before us.
For that, I’m thankful to Fox and to the writers with whom I’m sharing this deal. Sure, Writopia may still be a dream, but we (and Fox) just got a little closer.
I was going to write another article about the state (or non-state) of WGA-AMPTP negotiations, but that’s going to be preempted.
We’ve got big news coming.
Not just me.
Someone else you know.
And another person you know.
And maybe some people you’ve heard of.
Watch this space.
No, Brooks. No.So far, the WGA-AMPTP negotiations have gone pretty much how I expected. Both sides started very far apart, and any perceptible motion seems to indicate a widening of the gap. No one seriously expected a deal to be brokered; everyone’s working under the assumption that the WGA will work past expiration, and the AMPTP won’t really start bargaining until they have to face SAG or the DGA.
Still, that doesn’t mean there’s no room for journalists unfamiliar with our industry to lob Molotov cocktails of fiery ignorance into the breach. Ladies and gents, I give you Brooks Barnes and his artitorial on residuals in the New York Times.
Enjoy the slant. It’s delicious.
In Hollywood, a Sacred Cow Lands on the Contract Table
By BROOKS BARNES
Jasper Johns isn’t paid based on the number of years his flag paintings remain popular attractions at museums. Rem Koolhaas doesn’t cash a check every time an architecture fan takes a trip to Seattle to see his space-age public library. So why should the writers, directors and actors responsible for box-office bombs like “Gigli” be able to pocket some cash every time somebody buys the DVD?
It’s a question that cuts to the heart of the biggest fight in Hollywood these days and sums up a fundamental choice the troubled entertainment industry needs to make: whether to cling to old blueprints for running the business or to draft a whole new set.
Brooks couldn’t make it out of the first paragraph without mangling logic, but I let him run on to the second paragraph, because I really enjoyed how he thinks a question he poses out of ignorance is, therefore, a really important question.
When an author creates a work of visual (or, in the case of architecture, “sculptural”) artistry, he holds copyright as well as certain moral rights (yes, even in the United States). That artist can control the display of that work. However, if the artist chooses to freely display his work, so be it.
If you paint a painting on the sidewalk of New York, and I walk by it, my simple act of looking at your artwork doesn’t infringe on your copyright or your authorship in any way. I’m not copying it, I’m not making a derivative work of it, I’m not destroying it and I’m not exhibiting it.
I’m LOOKING at it.
Hey, Brooks….I’m just looking.
That’s not at all analogous to our circumstance as screenwriters. While we do not hold copyright, we are acknowledged by the copyright holders (the studios) in very real ways as part authors of our works. Those copyright holders exploit our authorship for money.
They make copies of our work of authorship. They make derivative works. They exhibit it for money. And yes, they occasionally destroy it.
Just as an author of a book receives royalties for copies that people can possess, so too should we receive residuals for copies that people can own and enjoy.
Or, to please Brooks, if Rem Koolhaas wants to sell little models of his cool library, the manufacturer should pay him a royalty for every item sold.
The spat, as always, is about money.
That’s a nice piece of reductive reportage. It’s a bit like saying, “John Smith awoke to find a strange man in his bedroom, rifling through his wife’s jewelry drawer. The ensuing spat was, as always, about money.”
It’s not about money per se. It’s about our rights and our due as authors of the movies we help birth.
Writers, who started talks with studios last month for a new three year contract, want to be paid the way they always have. Movie script writers get an upfront payment, now at least $1 million for a major film, according to studio executives. Screenwriters then receive a residual whenever one of their titles is put on DVD, shown abroad or otherwise resold. Under the same system, a typical TV series writer may get $30,000 an episode, plus residuals.
If any of you know Brooks, could you please ask him to just call me before he writes about Hollywood again? Movie script writers get “at least $1 million for a major film” now??? Really? Last time I checked, scale was still in the five figures. Yes, there are some of us who get paid over a million dollars for a screenplay…or for all of the drafts required to get a movie made. I’m guessing there are about 150 screenwriters in that club in the entire world. Plenty of movies get made where no writer gets paid more than a million.
The residual payments vary widely, depending on a maze of formulas.
Yes, it’s true. There is a maze of formulas. For instance, in movies, there are two.
The maze is just…arghhh! Can’t find my way out!
A lead writer might earn hundreds of thousands from the DVD sales of a blockbuster movie; a junior member of a writing team for a dud might get a few thousand or less.
Lead writer? Junior member of a writing team? Brooks, sweetheart…please…talk to a screenwriter before your fingers hit the keys. There are no “lead writers” in movies. There are no “junior members.” We’re not grips. We don’t have apprentices. Either you get credit for authorship, or you don’t. Doesn’t matter how old you are, how much you get paid or how long you’ve worked on a project. All that counts toward credit and residuals are the literary contributions you make to the final screenplay.
Studios want to junk the residual payment structure, which dates to the early 1950s, when the fledgling TV business borrowed it from radio. Under their proposal, unveiled with unexpected zest in early July by Barry M. Meyer, chief executive of Warner Brothers Entertainment, so-called creative employees would get residual checks only after the studios have recouped their basic costs.
Have a cookie, Brooks. You made it through a paragraph without getting anything wrong. Except that “so-called creative employees” really are, in actuality, creative employees. Qualifiers not required.
The two groups have reasonable arguments.
This is what I mean by “artitorial.” Is this an article or an editorial? If it’s an article, then what’s with the opinion? And if it’s an editorial…
…you’re totally wrong.
The other side does not have a reasonable argument.
In coming weeks and months, as both sides start huffing and puffing with even more intensity, the writers will declare that they can’t trust Hollywood accounting as to when costs are covered. They’ll also portray the effort to redraw the residual map as a huge rollback in wages. Young writers in particular will be hurt, they say, because they rely most heavily on residual income from failed movies and programs.
Oh, that crazy huffing and puffing! Through huffing and “portrayal” and “they’ll say” arguments, we’ll manipulate the truth!
Except that it is the truth, and no manipulation is required. Anyone whose brain stem is attached knows that Hollywood profit accounting is a joke. No film is ever reported to be in the black. Every film “loses money.” Every…single…one.
This is fact.
Expect studios to battle back with hard facts on finances.
Ah, but see, Brooks thinks that while we engage in huffery and tricks, the studios have “facts” on their side. Unbelievable.
While almost every project turned a profit when the residual structure was enacted, 6 out of 10 movies today will fail to make money even after they are distributed across multiple platforms, according to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. On the TV side, almost 90 percent of modern series fail to make money. Studios argue that it’s ridiculous for a business to pay bonuses before it makes back its initial investment.
I’m going to presume, generously, that the above statistics are absolutely true.
So what? If 10 out of 10 films used to generate an aggregate profit of $100 million, and now only 6 out of 10 films are profitable, generating an aggregate of $900 million, then why should I give a damn? These statistics mask an obvious fact of modern Hollywood: franchises are rarer, but endlessly profitable. In short, you need fewer hits than ever to make a ton of dough.
Oh, and residuals AREN’T BONUSES, Brooks. They’re a negotiated equivalent to royalties. They are compensation for the reuse of works of authorship. They’re not a reward for a job well done. They are a payment for continued exploitation of a property.
Already lost in this tit-for-tat skirmish, say analysts and economists who specialize in Tinseltown’s peculiar business models, is the magnitude of the studios’ decision to simply put the residual structure on the table. The studio bosses probably haven’t figured out the best solution, said Josh Bernoff, a media analyst at Forrester Research, but perhaps for the first time they are insisting that cosmetic tweaks to their way of conducting business won’t work.
Hey, Josh Bernoff…you listening?
You got rooked by a frickin’ press release.
Even the studios don’t believe in this crap. It’s an opening salvo in what will be a very long negotiation. The fact that Forrester is often hired by the media corporations we’re negotiating with (and never by, say, me) may have something to do with their narrow view.
At a time when the likes of Paramount and Warner Brothers are having trouble turning a profit on movies that gross $200 million at the box office and the Internet is rapidly making the concept of intellectual property a quaint notion, the sacred treatment of residuals has an air of unreality, according to some economists.
Ridiculous. Anyone in this business knows enough to know that if you gross $200 million at the box office, you will absolutely be generating profits every single time no matter what the movie is.
“There is a good question about why they even pay residuals in the first place,” said S. Abraham Ravid, a visiting professor of economics at Cornell, who recently studied how studios price screenplays differently, based on writers’ box-office track records.
Oh God. And now a floating quote from that great center of Hollywood, the inheritor of Lew Wasserman’s throne, the mastermind behind the movie business…
…Mr. S. Abraham Ravid.
Where do they GET these people? It’s only a good question about why a company should pay residuals if you are:
Few components of Hollywood’s crumbling business model
Sorry, Brooks, stopped reading after you managed to call one of America’s healthiest business models “crumbling.”
John F. Bowman, chairman of the Writers Guild of America’s negotiating committee, said he disagreed with the sacred part, but that untouchable was fair enough. “These are wages to us,” he said. “They’re not bonuses.” He said he thinks that the studios are using the scary-sounding residual retrenchment to make their real target–using material on the Internet without paying a hefty residual–more palatable.
Arghhh! Bowman, you’re not helping! Residuals are not wages. If they were, then yeah, the companies could argue that “you’re paid too much” and our only argument back would be “no we’re not!”
Residuals are compensation not for labor but for reuse of copyright!
We need to start getting that right…because if we don’t, it’s not likely that the Brooks of the world ever will.
Hey Dad? Wanna read a blog?I know that people read this blog. Lots of people. But beyond my own thoughts and those of the people who comment, it’s all conceptual to me.
That’s probably for the best.
Still, I got an email today that just made me feel all warm and squishy inside. The sender has granted me permission to print it here.
I really don’t do much in my life that anyone can call “good” or “bad.” I live in the neutral, I guess. But every now and then, I guess some good sort of happens.
Not intentional! I swear!
Anyway, here’s the email.
(read the above sentence with Casey Kasem’s “long distance dedication” voice)
I’ve become an avid reader of your blog, which rocks, over the last month. The way in which it indirectly wound up bringing about hitherto unhoped-for levels of familial harmony has blown my mind, and since everyone likes hearing nice things about their work, I felt a kind of karmic imperative to drop you a line.
I saw the film “The Lookout”, which I thought was bloody fantastic, with my dad. Quick relevant background: I’m an actor out here, and reared from the classic middle-class-Jewish-elder-son mold (which it sounds from your blog like you may know something about). I went to Yale: I wanted to go to a conservatory, but my folks wanted me to keep my options open, and Yale’s got the fancy name/quality education/can-brag-about-it-to-neighbors thing, along with a stellar theater program. Despite becoming a theater major and doing well there, and despite achieving some success in my first couple years in LA, my father is still hellbent, titanium in his will, that I need to give it all up and become something respectable and stable, e.g. a dentist, and perhaps resume my long-since-neglected viola lessons in the bargain.
But to the point: We saw this movie The Lookout together, and got into it the way fathers and sons do. For whatever reason, it was a nastier spat than usual; in a nutshell, I was saying it was great, he was saying it was one more dumb thriller. Our fights are very Dawson’s Creek sturm-and-drang, very Oedipal Complex.
We get back to my apartment, and it has come to this. My dad: “Okay, smart guy, if this is so good, let’s see what the CRITICS have to say.” Like that’s going to prove anything. But whatever, we look, and up on the Google screen comes an entry on your blog all about the scene between Luvlee and Lewis, which was the very scene I’d been leaning on in our argument. My dad stops cold.
You see, my dad’s an attorney, and he does labor law, among other things, in Northern California. It turns out he’s read your stuff from Artful Writer and Huffington Post on the Writer’s Guild for the last however many months, and has actually REFERRED CLIENTS to it to help them understand how to discuss labor issues persuasively and with clarity. I’d even heard him mention the site before, but I’d tuned it out.
And he scrolls down the entry, takes a few minutes, and then, for the very first time in recorded history, my father turns to me and says: “Well, you were right.” He got all quiet and reflective for a moment, changed the subject, and then, five or ten minutes later, to my total shock, gave me a hug. First time in years.
Then, just as quick, the moment was over: “So you were right. Sue me for Christ’s sake. Favete linguis.” (that last part is latin for basically “shut your damn trap”, which was a running joke in my fam. Yeah, I know.)
It was actually quite a moment. It seems to’ve opened some kind of door in our relationship. He even apologized for not being more supportive, which was doubly nice because then I was able to apologize for being obnoxious for the majority of my teenage years. I’ve started to read your blog consistently since, because, I mean, clearly the universe was pointing in that direction, and when I recently completed filming on my first lead-sized part in a flick (a truly ridiculous airplane action movie in which I murder a Backstreet Boy), I got in the mail a bootleg copy of The Lookout he’d gotten from some street vendor with the note “Maybe next time you can be in a movie that’s actually good. Congrats! Love, Dad”. Still kind of a sabotaging sentiment, but better than nothing.
Corny, deeply corny, but I felt like I had to send this along, probably to die forever unread in some spam in-box. But I made the effort. Be well, sir, keep up the good work, I hope our paths will cross someday.
Well, as a father with a son, this sort of thing gets me. I’m a sucker for it. And like the writer says, it’s corny…but corny isn’t always bad.
So to the son, I say “Thanks.”
And to the dad, I say “Well done.”