Spyglass Entertainment (The Sixth Sense, Shanghai Noon) is the latest studio to make an interim, independent agreement with the Writers Guild of America. Spyglass joins David Letterman's Worldwide Pants, Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner's United Artists, Media Rights Capital, and The Weinstein Company. These interim deals basically mean that the studios will agree to the WGA's demands during the strike, and in exchange they can do business with members of the Writers Guild.
In other strike news, the Academy Awards will be picketed by the WGA if a deal is not reached by the February 24th ceremony. (And since there are currently no negotiations even scheduled, that seems unlikely.) The WGA recently granted a waiver allowing a couple of writers to work on the NAACP Image Awards, but the Academy Awards will receive no such waiver. WGA West President Patric Verrone says, "The Guild examines each request like this individually and no decision is easy. Our ultimate goal is to resolve this strike by achieving a good contract. Because of the historic role the NAACP has played in struggles like ours, we think this decision is appropriate to jointly achieve our goals."
If you have been watching The Daily Show (or as Jon Stewart now calls it, A Daily Show) since its writer-less return, you've likely noticed the show has lost a lot of its zing. Stewart is a very funny man, but he can't do it all by himself. And if he's up there winging it as the host of the Oscars, it could be a mighty awkward evening. Now, there's no way the Oscars will crash and burn like the Golden Globes did. Even stripped down, I don't think anyone could have anticipated the fiery train wreck that is Billy Bush -- the guy makes Ryan Seacrest look like Johnny Carson. But if the threat of a far crappier than usual Academy Awards ceremony -- traditionally Hollywood's biggest night -- doesn't bring the strike to the end, I keep hearing this thing could go on for a very long time.
This is a bummer, man. A big ol' bummer. Let's hit up some Q & A:
You mentioned in a blog post that you're doing a writing program with NBC. Which one is it, and how did you apply? I applied to NBC's DiverseCity Writing Program last year and wasn't accepted (to be fair, they were looking for minority writers, which I'm not). When I tried researching NBC writing programs this year, I couldn't find any, however. Would you say it's helping, either with your writing or with your career?
I was/am in the NBC "Writers on the Verge" program. My writing partner is a minority (Is that PC? Who knows anymore?), although the group was roughly half minority writers and half non-minority writers. That is the only writing program NBC has, but there are programs available (some diversity based, some not) at all of the networks and a lot of the studios. I know Warner Brothers has one, for example. They all have different submission guidelines and time frames, so be sure to read instructions carefully. And be forewarned, my program was cut short by the WGA strike. We wound up missing a lot of great classes and lectures from people who simply couldn't cross the picket lines to talk to us. Odds are a lot of these programs are "on hold" indefinitely.
As for your other question, my program helped me immensely, both as a writer and career-wise. My partner and I were given an executive mentor and a mentor who is a writer on an NBC program, and we totally lucked out on both counts. We met tons of people, made loads of connections, and we've quadrupled the amount of people pulling for us to get jobs. These programs are ideal for those right on the verge of breaking, as well as those who don't have connections and need an agent. Seek them out online.
I've been writing for a while, but mostly only do it because no one will write my ideas for me. Mainly I'm an actor, and end up doing the other things (produce/direct, etc) out of necessity. I'm also currently a company member at the ACME Comedy Theater in L.A., so my focus has shifted towards sketch writing rather than screenplays. Nevertheless, I've got a finger in a dozen projects all over the place (eww... six-fingered hands?), so it'll be nice to read the perspective of someone who's making a living.
And I guess that's the thing I'm most interested in. Assuming writing skill and the ability to be productive on a continuing basis, how to I get to the point where I'm able to make a living at it?
That's the ultimate goal, of course -- to be able to live off of what you love. Basically, the way to get there is to be great at what you do, and to stick with it, even when you are most definitely NOT making a living off of writing. You can't win if you don't try basically. On the other hand, they say Los Angeles is a "7 year town," and if you can't make it in 7 years, it might be time to try another career path. I'd say the reason most people leave "the game" (sometimes I call writing "the game," usually while smoking a cigar and drinking from a snifter of brandy) is because they've got to pay the bills. If I had a wife and children, it would be a lot more difficult for me to keep plugging away, and a lot more tempting to return to my old office job. Writing is highly unstable income, as the strike is proving. It's a big gamble, but I hear stories all the time of writers who were gearing up to throw in the towel and they got The Call. It just takes one person loving what you do. But yeah, writing is very month-to-month until you get to the point where the studios are calling you and begging you to write stuff for them.
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