Monday, December 08, 2008

Writing the Economy

The Cleveland Browns. The weather. Um…

Damn, there really are few things that suck worse than the economy right now. And it’s not exactly the best time for an aspiring screenwriter, for, as we know, our writing is meant to be watched, not read. This, of course, takes millions of dollars. And, sadly, those fortunate members of The Millionaires Club are too busy stuffing their remaining assets into a mattress to finance a movie.

But that’s not entirely true. I mean, movies are still getting greenlit. Hell, The Dark Knight grossed nearly a billion dollars in theatres. There’s clearly money to be made.

Here’s the problem: studio heads are notorious for being cowards. And, frankly, it’s easy for anyone to label them as such. I mean, if my former boss was canned for greenlighting a sixty million dollar flop whose lead actor got DUI, I’m sure I’d be more frugal. And that’s when things were good. Now, the corporations who support these studios have a lot less ammo; the studios will have to be even more careful in selecting targets.

For the next couple of years, I envision a slew of sequels, adaptations, Judd Apatow comedies, and disaster movies. They are the best chances for a studio to make money. And by “best chances”, I mean that these types of movies are continuously validated by box office revenue.

I’m not so sure about the indie world. I know some indies are bankrolled by rich people who like to dabble in the arts. Then again, some are shot with a bunch of no-names on a shoestring budget in Brooklyn. Regardless, there will be less.

Pretty bleak, eh?

I had a high school football coach who, before the start of every season, would punch us linebackers in the stomach. Later, in close games, he’d huddle us up and say, Men, it’s gut check time.

Not many aspiring writers support themselves with their writing. All of us Leaguers have day jobs. Mine is at a hedge fund. I get to see this beast of a stock market leave blood trails. It ain’t pretty.

And I wonder how long I’ll have a job. And I wonder how I’ll react if I lose my job. Will I say, Fuck it, screenwriting was a bad choice; I’m going to med school? Or will I have confidence in my abilities and education, and persevere?

I’m not the only aspiring screenwriter who works for a company that’s losing money. For a lot of people, this will be gut check time. And, frankly, it gives me hope.

I’ve seen a lot of creative endeavors get rewarded. Our former classmates at Derrick comedy had a slew of successful web sketches, and now they have a movie premiering at Sundance. And there’s things like this guy (, a character actor who had one line on The Sopranos and then created a rap about it.

I’m not saying I want to film a YouTube sketch. I’m just saying that this whole mess of an economy has made me want to embrace my creativity. Not just in the hope of getting rewarded financially, but also because it feels good. I never started writing for the money. And if anything else, this experience has reaffirmed my faith that money isn’t everything.


Zombie said...

Great post, Backer. Good to have you back!

We're in a scary time right now - it feels like a week doesn't go by without hearing about friends losing jobs.

I'm just as guilty as anyone - I've certainly been to the movies a lot less the past year than I ever have. Then again, not having much money means I'm staying home and writing more because I can't afford to do much else.

We all just gotta hang in there. Often, the difference between the writers who succeed and those who don't is persistence. Just gotta keep writing.

Onyx said...

Good stuff. In a weird sort of way I'm glad that it's gut check time for much of the country and we get to observe it as young writers. Better now than when we all have kids, mortgages, and stock investments. Because we haven't climbed very high up on the ladder just yet, when all is said and done I don't think we can say that we "survived" the recession. There are some people out there who can say that because they are losing everything they spent much of their life building. But we can say we experienced it and some of us might find ourselves shaped by it. No matter how bad things get, there will always be the young writer/filmmaker who wants to shoot his script with his buddies. The times make the objective tougher, but like Zombie said, the difference between those who make it and don't will be persistence. It's a hell of a stage we've got for an examination of persistence.

Cake Man said...

Yeah, it's not the greatest it's been, and I guess you can say it's 'bad.' But I think if you look at history, you'll find the answer there. Hollywood was in demand during tumultuous times in our country's past - think of Vietnam and WW2. The public sought out motion pictures as opportunities for two hours of reprieve from what was going on in the world around them. Sitting in that dark, sticky theater with all those other people is one of the best ways to forget your problems, at least for a while, and though a $12 ticket is a lot for a movie, those who are going are going for more than just that (at least, they might be). $12 now buys temporary peace of mind. It buys escape. It buys much needed entertainment. And the bigger the blockbuster, the more things blowing up on screen, the better. Not only do we get to live out our frustrations vicariously through whoever is doing the punching and shooting on screen, but the more removed we can be from our own lives (and all the financial worries that might come with them), the better. I think that not only will movies survive, but people need them to.

Leetal said...

I just wrote about these fears in my blog too! A lot of worry going around. Please don't strike SAG. Don't be stupid.

Zombie said...

This was just posted over at Dead Things on Sticks:

"Q: What's the difference between a Canadian screenwriter and a pizza?
A: A Pizza can feed a family of four."

DOA said...

...Is it terrible that my first thought to the Dead Things on Sticks comment is "wait, I'm sure there's enough meat on...oh wait, you mean like, make money..."