Why does Hollywood hate writers?

by Paul William Tenny

It's an easy enough question, one that doesn't hardly even need explaining. When a movie like Iron Man is successful, nobody would think of recasting the lead character unless there were no other options. Fans and entertainment writers got their panties all in a twist at the mere rumor that director Jon Favreau was going to walk after Marvel refused to up his pay after he produced a block buster for them, even though there's no evidence that such a confrontation actually happened.

Why then, is there talk about who the next writer will be as if it were some inevitable law of nature that a screenwriter can never come back no matter how good of a job they did before?
There's no rage that Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Art Marcum, and Matt Holloway wrote one of the highest grossing scripts of the year and launched a franchise -- Marvel's first on its own -- aren't even being considered. Why is this industry still treating feature film directors and actors as irreplaceable national treasures critical to the ongoing success of a franchise while writers, who are equally as responsible for a films success and arguably more so than any other individual, used and quickly discarded like well paid grips?

No offense to grips, who have it much worse than writers do, but I just don't get it.

This business will look at an actor that just gave them a blockbuster performance, and suddenly deem them worth a $15-20 million paycheck from now on without any further considerations, but not only will they only pay screenwriters a quarter of that, they basically aren't asked back as a matter of course.

Some days I swear, it seems like studios want to fail. It's like the collective industry can't exist without replicating our larger society within their own confines. There absolutely must be some sort of permenant underclass to feed the egos and serve as the scape goat when things go wrong, and those are the writers.

And entertainment writers are happily complicit in the affair, too. I'm not ranting for my own personal amusement here, but in reading a speculative story on Cinematical on who the new Iron Man writer(s) will be, I was left astonished and confused as to why people would raise such holy hell at the possibility of Favreau not coming back to do a sequel -- a fight over money which is not exactly the purest of motives here people -- but are nonchalant and flippant when the revolving door of proven writers who pounded out a blockbuster are shoved out the window door, possibly in favor of a rookie coming in that will later be rewritten by five other guys for crying out loud.

Not to digress here, but if you're going to need better writers to come in later and fix the mess the first guy made, and you're 90% sure that'll happen, why did you hire that guy in the first place?

I can't judge the quality of the Iron Man script since I haven't read it, nor the movie itself since I haven't seen it, but if it made the kind of money it did and got the kind of reviews it apparently has earned, then that's an example of writing talent that is indispensable. That's talent you've got to get under contract, wrapped up in a cozy development deal that keeps them working for you instead of writing blockbusters for your competitors.

You know, kind of like how they treat actors and directors.

Or you could go down that road where you throw the writers out and pretend that good scripts don't matter. The world needs another Alien 3, or second and third Starship Troopers sequel  to remind us why we stopped going to the theater.

With few exceptions -- I'm thinking of Batman Begins here -- taking original writers of successful films out of the equation is no different than dropping any other significant piece of the puzzle. As much as I'd like to argue it's so much more than that, I'd be happy if the suits would acknowledge even that much. Imagine how a baseball team would function if, as a result of winning the World Series, they threw out all their pitchers and started over.

Exact same thing here, and that's really a very apt analogy. You can't win without good pitching but you can't with without good hitting, either. Pitchers, writers, actors, hitters, directors, whomever, they all play a crucial role and treating one of them as a spare part is why franchises fail, studios lose money, and we all stop watching after the second sequel.

In this case, maybe it's time to stop watching before the first.
in Feature, Film


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