Movie Magazine International

Whose Film Is It Anyway?

Special Report By Casey McCabe

Every time a professional athlete leaves the team and city he loves because another team offered him grotesque amounts of money, we get a press conference with the athlete insisting it's not about the money. It's about respect. And the proper show of respect, apparently, is to pelt someone with grotesque amounts of money.

To the point where the mere utterance "it's not about the money" is the clearest assurance that it is. But now there's the curious case of the looming Writers Guild strike in Hollywood. Word is it's not about the money. It's about respect.

Weird thing is, they're really not kidding. Oh sure, as with any contract negotiation involving humans the potential strikers would like more money, in this case a representative slice of the pie from the various revenue sources movies generate these days. But the real standoff is expected to be over something called the possessory credit. As in: “whose film is this anyway?” In the all-important positioning of the name above the title, should it be the director's film? Or the writer's film?

Making the director's case: "This is a film. And every decision as to what gets committed to film is the director's. From wrenching the best from a tempestuous actor, to placating the studio bean counters, the director must take ultimate responsibility."

Making the writer's case: "Excuse me? Did you conceive this entire story out of thin air, write every word spoken in the film, and include direction so clear that even a director could follow it? Without a script, you'd be directing nothing but traffic."

If you can see both sides to the argument, just remember the two sides aren't arguing from the same position. Directors already have the possessory credit. Writers do not. Writers don't get much respect at all in Hollywood and they never did. But that doesn't mean the studios don't fear a possible writers strike this spring. They know it's a difficult business to break into. And they've read the screenplays of people desperate to break in. But they will probably resist giving writers their credit because that would upset the directors, not to mention the legion of people with no creative input who are handed a producing credit because it's a cheaper payoff than a Lexus.

You see in Hollywood, a credit means respect. Respect means power. Power means money. And money means respect.

Yet the ultimate irony is that to the rest of the world it means next to nothing. "The Wedding Planner" is not director Adam Shankman's film. It's not writer Pamela Falk's film. To the people who really matter, it's that film with J. Lo and the hottie from "Ed TV."

© 2001 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 2/14/01

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