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Emmys and Beyond: In Praise of Screenwriters

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I’ve used the Internet as a tool for years, and my work has long involved some degree of web writing and development. But it’s only recently that I’ve delved into the community of the Internet, through discussion forums and blogging. Not only has it allowed me to discover true friendships, which have evolved beyond the computer screen, but it’s been unexpectedly educational about some of my favourite diversions.

I’m not an aspiring screenwriter. I’m not sure I’m an aspiring anything, but screenwriting is down there with astrophysicist and assassin and other intriguing things I know I’d be terrible at. But I’m an avid consumer of the screenwriters’ product, and I’ve learned a lot through perusing various screenwriters’ blogs and interviews at Television Without Pity, among other places.

Because what little I know about screenwriting comes from the movie industry, I was surprised to learn that on television, writers are in a much greater position of power. I had no idea what a showrunner was – the writer who, well, runs the show, much like a director on a movie set – or that the various levels of producer credits are designations given to writers.

So I was even more surprised when the Emmys announced several months ago that winning writers and directors would need to pre-record their acceptance speeches, so as not to take valuable screen time away from actors’ interminable thanks to publicists, agents, managers, cast and crew, families, friends, neighbours, God, zzzzzzzz, etc.

Last month they reversed that decision, not because they regretted trivializing the function of writers and directors, but because it wasn’t going to save as much time as they thought. (Some pressure from the writers and directors guilds might have helped.)

Years ago, I saw an interview with William Gibson, who was asked about being a highly recognizable writer. He called a writer’s fame “homeopathic” – so diluted as to have no actual essence of fame left.

Fame seems to me a curse more than a reward, but when we’re celebrating the (supposedly) finest television has to offer on September 18, it shouldn’t be a chore to give equal time to those who not only put the words in the actors’ mouths, but shape the product we see on our screens from creation to completion.

And as fans, it should be just as rewarding to see the writing of our favourite shows acknowledged as the acting.


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About Diane Kristine Wild

Diane travels. She doesn't tan.
  • We need to emphasize good writing to have good television and movies. deekay, why don’t you do a series of interviews and stories about talented screenwriters?

    I believe that the movie industry is committing hari kari by not valuing good writing. It’s going down.

  • alethinos59

    As a screenwriter who is (God please I am BEGGING You!) close to selling my first script – with 3 MAJOR A-List actors looking at even as I write this – as well as a major production company… THANK YOU for recognizing the writer. Let’s face it – if the writer DIDN’T write you’d be staring at a blank screen…

    But as one famous head of a studio once said about writers,(paraphrasing here)

    “Don’t ever let the bastards know how much we need them!”

    thanks again for the post…


  • I’d love to do that, Cerulean, if I can round up some willing interviewees. It’d be great to hear more about the talent behind our favourite shows and movies to balance out the coverage we get on the on-screen talent.

    Good luck Jim! I really think screenwriting must be one of the most difficult forms of writing, partly because so much of the process is out of your hands.

  • Good luck to Jim.

    They are willing deekay. Just figure out who you want to interview and contact them. If you need help, let me know, I’m good at stuff like that. You can get my email off this comment.

    I’d really love to see the power of this forum used to put writers in the spotlight and to exalt talent (of all kinds). That’s what I’d do if I had a forum, I’d call it “Talent” and highlight people who had real talent if any art form even if no one knew about them but their mothers. I wouldn’t care.

  • So, did you contact any screenwriters yet? It’s not that hard to get interviews with people. You just have to be very courteous and gracious and find a way to contact them. Years ago I interviewed a movie star when he came to my area for a film festival. I forgot how I got in contact, but it was probably through the film festival. I was a freelance writer who was published in local magazines at that time. I remember I talked to his manager and then him. The interview was on the phone. Probably for the best, so I didn’t faint.

    Blogcritics is like a magazine.