How Trust Died in Hollywood. And How to Get it Back
A big Emmy-winning writer on the 'rage that won't go away' after the strike ends
Ed note: The writer of this guest contribution to The Ankler has been granted anonymity due to concerns of professional retaliation.
“There’s always been a struggle between art and commerce, but now I’m telling you art is getting its ass kicked, and it’s making us mean, and it’s making us bitchy, and it’s making us cheap punks and that’s not who we are.”
Aaron Sorkin wrote those words for the pilot of Studio 60 On the Sunset Strip, which premiered back in the comparatively halcyon days of 2006. Mr. Sorkin wasn’t prescient so much as he vastly underestimated commerce’s complete and utter victory over art and the white-hot rage that would engender in the artists.
Consider this: In just the past four years, the writers of television, film, and comedy/variety shows have fired their own agents — going so far as to sue them in federal court and accuse them of being “mobsters” — and gone out on strike for the first time in 15 years. Some may say — and have said — that this is because writers are “crazy” or “spiteful” or that their leadership is “militant.” And all of that may even be true, but such characterizations elide the simpler, far more accurate explanation: Writers are angry AF.
And, unfortunately, even if the WGA strike were to end tomorrow (please, God, let it end tomorrow) with the writers getting absolutely everything they’re asking for (and, God, that wouldn’t be so terrible either), we — the collective “we” of Hollywood — would still be left to contend with that rage because it won’t go away and it won’t go away because the system that engendered it is broken.
Let me let you in on something that the WGA Negotiating Committee prefers you not know: Writers don’t really care about money. I mean, we like money — don’t get me wrong — but we practice our craft for its own sake. And the way you can tell is that, right now, half of television writers are working at guild minimum. We let that happen. Does that sound to you like people who are in it for the money? No, it doesn’t. We’re in it for the love of the game. The problem is... the game is no longer lovable.