The Farmer And The Cowman
C’mon, love each otherWell, this caught me by surprise…although now that I think about it, it’s sort of obvious.
I expect a certain amount of strife and conflict in the comments section, but I was taken aback by the sudden emergence of an above-the-line vs. below-the-line war that started taking shape.
Below-the-line commenters started bitching about how the writers were soft-soled dandies who don’t know what real work is, and writers started yammering about how below-the-liners wouldn’t have a job, purpose or existence if the scripts went away.
But you know, guys…the farmer and the cowman should be friends.
We’ve got the big bad AMPTP out there as a common enemy. Let’s not turn on each other. Not right now.
Like I said, the reason for this conflict is pretty apparent in hindsight. A writers’ strike digs right into the livelihoods of our below-the-line brothers and sisters. They have it bad enough with runaway production. Now, the remaining jobs are getting pinched by the strike.
And when you damage people’s abilities to put food on the table, clothe their children and fill their tanks, things get emotional.
Let me try and add some perspective here.
I’m a writer. I’m very proud of the fact that first, before all else, comes my mind. If I and my fellow writers stop imagining, then that’s pretty much it. No more movie and television industry.
I’m also a director and producer. I’m there with the crew from sunup to sundown and long after. And I know that without them, it doesn’t matter what I’ve written or imagined. No them, no movie.
Pick your favorite dualism.
The point is that we’re dead without each other. Above and below the line are essential to the process. Yes, some skills are rarer than others. Screenwriting (at least, the kind done well enough to garner work year in and year out) is a rarer talent than, say, location scouting.
I’m not saying location scouting is easy. It’s not. And I’m not saying I’d be any good at it (I wouldn’t).
I’m saying that there are more location scouts working in any given year than writers, because screenwriting talent is just rarer.
And so, you know, supply and demand.
That doesn’t mean location scouts or dolly grips or camera operators or riggers labor any less than writers do.
They sure as hell don’t.
My call time is one of the earlier ones, but it’s not the earliest. I’m due at work tomorrow at 6 AM. People will be working for me and the production at 5 AM or earlier.
When we’re talking about labor unions and labor action, it’s important to remember that we’re all the same in the companies’ eyes.
We’re laborers. Fingers on a hand, okay?
And as a filmmaker, I have to say…I have an enormous love and respect for the work a good crew does. I judge people for their competence at their job and their commitment to doing it well.
I expect the same in return.
When it all comes together, it’s incredibly gratifying and humbling.
So below-the-liners…remember, writers are often intimidated by you and the set, because we’re so often excluded from that world. Don’t confuse unfamiliarity with disinterest or arrogance. Welcome us, and teach us. Don’t laugh when we don’t know the lingo.
Writers, don’t think that the crew owes you their jobs. They don’t. We don’t hire them, and they earn every damn nickel they make. That much I know. Don’t look down on them, respect their working space and honor their labor.
Sure, one man likes to push a dolly, the other likes to write a script…but that’s no reason why they can’t be brothers.
So hug it out, people.
We’ll get through this, but it will be a whole lot easier if we do it together.