I sure hope you like C-SPAN, reruns, and reality shows, because if we the Hollywood proletariat have our way, every writer in town is going on strike, perhaps as soon as this Thursday. If you ask me, it’s not a moment too soon.
Technically, we’re striking against the producers, the studios, and the networks — the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers — who have been trying to screw us out of our fair share of VHS and DVD residuals for years, and whose initial offer was to screw us even harder. With a brave new world of iPhone technology on its way, we want to make sure we don’t get fooled again.
But everyone knows we’re really striking against you, the ungrateful, reactionary, and probably crypto-fascist audience. You’ve let us all down by not going to see our movies.
The Kingdom? A disappointment at $46 million. Rendition? A huge antiwar belly flop for Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, and the guy from Brokeback Mountain playing in 2,250 theaters that hasn’t yet managed $8 million. Elizabeth: The Golden Age? The Catholic-bashing costume party with Cate Blanchett in high dudgeon and higher drag is a flopola at $14 million. In the Valley of Elah, from scribe du jour Paul Haggis? It’ll be lucky to make $7 million. At this rate, you probably won’t even go to see Brian De Palma’s Redacted.
Frankly, we’re tired of throwing our pearls before you swine. So we’re firing you.
I mean, come on: the fourth installment of a torture-porn series, a Steve Carell laugher, a vampire movie set in Alaska and a comedy aimed at the, ahem, “urban audience” are opening up cans of cinematic whup-ass on the finest, most passionate anti-American movies our smartest, snarkiest Harvard grads can think up. And Lions for Lambs hasn’t even opened yet! Heck, The Rock’s family-values comedy The Game Plan has made $77 million, more than all the antiwar movies put together.
It’s so sad: Here we were, on a roll, with Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid in command of Congress, the Clinton Restoration practically a fait accompli, and Al Gore winning the Nobel Peace Prize to use as a doorstop alongside his Oscar — and this is the thanks we get.
Well, I just don’t get it. It’s not like our patriotism is questionable or anything. Like Bonosera the undertaker in The Godfather, we love U.S.-America, we believe in U.S.-America, just not U.S.-America the way she is now: a racist, sexist, homophobic bastion of white male privilege, built on the backs of Africans and Native Americans and exploited immigrants, seeking to export its murderous rage to the Middle East and beyond. And all right-thinking people — by which I mean “left-thinking” people, of course — agree with us. You certainly won’t get any argument on the west side of Los Angeles, and wherever I travel in this great land of ours — to places as diverse as San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, and the Upper West Side — it’s unanimous. America stinks!
So we want to change this country into something new and beautiful and socialist, a liberated America in which we middle-class Hollywood people (for so we like to think of ourselves; we’re not really rich) can live safely in our patrolled communities and send our kids to private schools while making sure your tax money goes to pacify the howling mob beyond the gates. An America, in other words, that looks more like South America or South Africa than Bedford Falls, condemned to eternal punishment for its moral turpitude. Who could possibly object to that?
Another reason we’re striking is that there’s just too much competition these days from journalists. Who does this clown Scott Thomas Beauchamp think he is, pitching anti-war movies in the guise of writing a “Baghdad Diary” for The New Republic? He might have fooled his editors into thinking he was doing straight reporting, but anyone who lives within 50 miles of the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose can smell a scenario when he steps in it. It’s hard enough to make your bones and get into the Writers Guild of America, a closed-shop union that civilians can’t join, without worrying about a bunch of hacks making stuff up that makes America look bad and passing it off as truth in the hopes that some producer will come calling. That’s our job!
So as the days dwindle down to a precious few, it’s looking more and more like we’re going out. The studios have stockpiled all the bad scripts they can get their hands on, the writers’ rooms are going 24/7 to churn out enough episodes to get the networks through Festivus, and nobody’s taking any pitches until this thing is over.
It may be a while. Last Thursday, the producers have told us to forget about upgrading the DVD residuals, or any other residuals. For our part, the Guild membership has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a strike — the last one was in 1988, and lasted five months — and all over town, people are consulting their accountants and business managers over how they’re going to make their $20,000 a month mortgage nut if they’re not working.
Both sides have called in a federal mediator when negotiations resume tomorrow. But unless this stooge of the Bush Administration waterboards us, it’s on to the picket lines at Paramount, ABC, and Warner Bros. We’re going to hit the AMPTP where it hurts, right in the pocketbook, and make ‘em remember that it all starts with the writer and if you think actors can invent stories and ad-lib dialogue, you’re a die-hard Robert Altman fan.
But, even more, we’re going to hit you where you live: on your sofas.
No more Letterman. No more Leno. No more Lost. No more great movies like Rendition to alert you to the evils of the Chimp-in-Chief and the Grand Vizier and their Illegal War in Iraq. The hell with you. We’ve knocked ourselves out for you, and this is how you repay us. Serves you right.
— David Kahane is a nom de cyber for a writer in Hollywood. “David Kahane” is borrowed from a screenwriter character in The Player.