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Prepare To Be Adapted: Attack Of The Writers

“Without writers, I’m standing here talking to you like a dummy. And as fascinating as that is, no one will watch it.” — Gary Cole ACT I Hello, viewers. Welcome to the second exciting episode of “Prepared To Be Adapted.” This time out, I’m going to touch on a topic that is affecting everyone in […]

“Without writers, I’m standing here talking to you like a dummy. And as fascinating as that is, no one will watch it.” — Gary Cole

ACT I

Hello, viewers. Welcome to the second exciting episode of “Prepared To Be Adapted.”

This time out, I’m going to touch on a topic that is affecting everyone in the film biz … the writers strike. Since this is “Prepare To Be Adapted,” I will talk a little about how this is affecting the comic book world, too.

Since I hope to be a big-shot screen writer/director/producer guy someday and I live up here in Vancouver, B.C., I can’t help but be curious about the strike. So, I plan on giving myself — and you faithful viewers — an introduction to what this whole strike means and how it affects other mediums of storytelling.

Airlock Alpha has been following the strike pretty well, so hopefully I wont repeat too much here.

So, enough blabbering, let us begin.

ACT II

As a fan of TV and film, I have two little folks on my shoulders. On one side, the uber fan that doesnt want my favorite shows to be interrupted. On the other side, the writer that completely understands why a strike is necessary.

Not clear on what TV shows are affected? Check out this handy grid from the Chicago Tribune. Just as I got all goosebumply excited about Joss Whedon returning to television with Dollhouse, a series starring Eliza Dushku, I find out the show as been put on hold because of the strike. But Joss, who has joined the picket line, is OK with it.

“I have no conflict about this,” he told Variety. “Its not hard for me. The issues were talking about are so crucial.

That is only the beginning, though. It has already begun affecting movies, too.

The film studios tried their best to stock up on scripts, but we are already starting to hear of films being delayed. Columbia Pictures has postponed production of “Angels & Demons,” the prequel to the “The Da Vinci Code.” The film adaptation of “Nine” and Oliver Stones Pinkville are also causalities. Recently, The Hollywood Reporter said that production on Justice League of America might be in jeopardy because it doesnt have a shooting script, which is ironic because it was rushed because of the strike. Even Wolverine, Thor, Transformers 2, Superman: The Man of Steel, and Spider-Man 4 are all rumored to be delayed because of the strike. Frak!

OK, Im betting a few of those movies are having other problems and just blaming the strike for the delay, but needless to say, the strike has really hit the film biz hard.

So, what the heck do these pesky writers want? They must be crazy demands, right? Well, most of them sound pretty reasonable. There seem to be two major things the writers want.

First, the Writers Guild of America wants a doubling of the residual rate for DVDs. Or as writer Brian K. Vaughan of “Lost said on his Web site, “Were also asking for a share of about 8 cents — thats eight stinkinpennies — for every DVD of our work sold, as opposed to the criminally insane 4 cents we receive today.

Second, the WGA wants 2.5 percent of distributors gross for all profit from new media. Airlock Alpha recently reported how writers for Battlestar Galactica were not paid or even credited for the Webisodes they wrote, which showcases the problem with the current rules dealing with new media.

How does this affect other media of entertainment? According to The Los Angeles Times, New York book publishers are bracing themselves for a flood of book proposals from out-of-work screenwriters. That is probably good news for the book industry, except that book agents are worried about mass cancellation of option deals.

In the comic world, there are a number of TV and film writers that also write comic books: Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly), Damon Lindelof (Lost), J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5), Allan Heinberg (Greys Anatomy), etc. The strike doesnt cover comic books, because there is no writers guild for comic book writers. So expect to see these writers even more in comics, plus new ones joining. We may finally see the “Ultimate Wolverine/Hulk” miniseries end and possibly a new Young Avengers series from Heinberg, if the rumors are true. But since there is such lead time to create a comic book, it is doubtful we will see much of an impact of new writers until the strike has already ended. Many of those writers probably couldnt write a comic book well anyway. Comic books are a different medium with its own rules. But dont take my word for it. Daniel Knauf (Carnivale) told Comic Book Resources the same thing.

“The truth is, writing even a passable comic book is much harder than writing a television script,” Knauf said. “This is a very unforgiving medium, and requires an ability to crunch story and make each frame convey a lot of information with very little dialogue — virtually the opposite of television, which is 80 to 90 percent talking heads. The vast majority of television writers are not visual storytellers. So the answer is yes, some TV writers might want to turn to comics, but very few will have the talent and craft to pull it off.”

Because of the WGA strike, there has been some talk about a union for comic book writers. Believe it or not, there is no such thing. It has been tried before in the past, but everyone is pretty skeptical of a union ever being created.

I think Vaughan explained it well on his Web site.

When I used the great Cloak and Dagger in Runaways, Bill Mantlo, the man who helped create them, didnt get anything, to the best of my knowledge,” he said. “Not even a credit. And Im not blaming my friends at Marvel (or DC, for that matter), all of whom are good people whove always been beyond fair with me. Its just indicative of the broken system, one that Im very much a part of.

For the record, Bill Mantlo was struck by a hit-and-run driver a few years ago, and now requires expensive daily care thats way beyond what modest means he was left with after dedicating much of his life to our industry. And while things like The Hero Initiative, an absolutely worthwhile cause that I totally support, exist to help comic creators in financial need, Those creators should not be in financial need.

I know the Writers Guild of America isnt a perfect union, but I was afforded more benefits and protections in my first few months with the WGA as a work-for-hire screenwriter than I was ever given in a decade of working in comics. And again, Ive been treated pretty honorably throughout my career, and have made more money than I ever deserved doing this job, but that doesnt mean that I cant still be concerned about the generations of writers and artists before and after me.

ACT III

Up here in Vancouver, the Canadians see two good things out of the strike. First, because the filming isnt in the States where the WGA picket lines are, the filming hasnt been disrupted by noisy strikers. That is a big plus for The CW and others filming in Vancouver. Second, Canadians see this as an opportunity for Canadian writers to have more opportunities to fill in the void. Im not sure how true that is, since American production companies cant really use Canadian writers while WGA writers are on strike.

However, with American shows in reruns, maybe Canadian viewers will be more likely to watch Canadian productions. Actually there has been some talk that American networks may buy Canadian and British shows to fill that void of reruns.

I honestly dont see any good from a strike, except for helping writers get their fair share. I just hope the companies give in a little and the strike ends soon. Sadly it doesnt look like it is.

How long can this strike last? Well, hopefully not as long as the last one. The strike in the 1980s lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry roughly $500 million. This time around, it could go into the billions. I know there are always two sides of a story, but it seems that the WGA isnt really asking for anything too outrageous. Sadly, this strike not only affects the writers, but also means no work for many workers in other departments (grips, camera crew, actors, etc).

Lets hope this ends soon with both sides happy.

Fade To Black

Well, that is enough strike talk for one day. Before I finish this latest journey into the world of adaptations, I want to point a few quick newsbits.

Dwayne Johnson, aka The Rock, confirmed the rumors. He told SciFi Wire that he is playing the villainous Black Adam in Peter Segals version of the Shazam! film. Great, but who is Captain Marvel going to be? Currently Brandon Molale (Dodgeball) is rumored to be up for the part.

Joss Whedon told Publishers Weekly Comics Week that he is planning on writing a second comic book miniseries for Serenity. The title is Better Days and it is about the rather stunning concept of the gang trying to pull a heist that doesnt go completely wrong. And what happens when things go right for them, how thats not going to work at all, said Whedon.

Finally, Im a big Bruce Campbell fan. OK, not every one of his movies is great, but Im still a big fan. So Im really surprised I didnt hear about his new movie. Currently it has only played in film festivals. Dark Horse (who produced it) is releasing the comic book adaptation of the movie in January. It is called My Name is Bruce and is about Bruce Campbell (playing himself) being kidnapped to fight a Chinese demon that has been released.

Well, that about covers it. I hope you enjoyed this episode. Please tune in again for more rambling.

Until then : Marx out.

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