Thursday, September 08, 2005

In praise of screenwriters

I've used the Internet as a tool for years, and my work has long involved some degree of web writing and development. But it's only recently that I've delved into the community of the Internet, through discussion forums and blogging. Not only has it allowed me to discover true friendships, which have evolved beyond the computer screen, but it's been unexpectedly educational about some of my favourite diversions.

I'm not an aspiring screenwriter. I'm not sure I'm an aspiring anything, but screenwriting is down there with astrophysicist and assassin and other intriguing things I know I'd be terrible at. But I'm an avid consumer of the screenwriters' product, and I've learned a lot through perusing various screenwriters' blogs and interviews at Television Without Pity, among other places.

Because what little I know about screenwriting comes from the movie industry, I was surprised to learn that on television, writers are in a much greater position of power. I had no idea what a showrunner was - the writer who, well, runs the show, much like a director on a movie set - or that the various levels of producer credits are designations given to writers.

So I was even more surprised when the Emmys announced several months ago that winning writers and directors would need to pre-record their acceptance speeches, so as not to take valuable screen time away from actors' interminable thanks to publicists, agents, managers, cast and crew, families, friends, neighbours, God, zzzzzzzz, etc.

Last month they reversed that decision, not because they regretted trivializing the function of writers and directors, but because it wasn’t going to save as much time as they thought. (Some pressure from the writers and directors guilds might have helped.)

Years ago, I saw an interview with William Gibson, who was asked about being a highly recognizable writer. He called a writer’s fame "homeopathic" - so diluted as to have no actual essence of fame left.

Fame seems to me a curse more than a reward, but when we’re celebrating the (supposedly) finest television has to offer on September 18, it shouldn't be a chore to give equal time to those who not only put the words in the actors' mouths, but shape the product we see on our screens from creation to completion.

And as fans, it should be just as rewarding to see the writing of our favourite shows acknowledged as the acting.

(Cross posted to Blogcritics)

"Yes, it's hard to write, but it's harder not to."
- Carl Van Doren