Writing on the screen

SCREENWRITERS are now hard at work again, according to various happy announcements read on TV. Many even editorialize and say it is good news.

When writers first went out on strike the TV news pictures showed thousands of writers milling around, holding up printed signs, evidently to prove they could write. But it was not the signs, it was the large number of people in the scene which shook me.

Up until then I had the impression all the scripts on television were written by one person. Television, I believed, couldn't exist without hundreds of duplicating machines lining the corridors outside of network offices.

Now I think it's possible I was mistaken. Watching reruns more carefully, I could see that in the car-chase scenes on one show cars generally flipped over to destruction turning left, while on another show they tipped over to the right, showing a clear difference in the concept of car crashes.

I also noticed that in comedies the sofa was in a different place on different shows and that the characters did vary as to the balance of color and ethnic origins. Even some of the situations were different.

Sometimes it was the boy bewildered by events, sometimes the girl, and more often than not the adults -- father, mother, neighbor, or whatever. And, of course, the viewers.

No doubt the trouble is with me.

Throughout my early experience I suppose I knew 50 writers, but they were all out of work most of the time. They didn't strike because they couldn't see how they could make any money unless someone wanted what they wrote. They even dreamed of one day being exploited.

Evidently that's all changed.

And I'm glad the screenwriters are back at work again, even though I don't fully understand unions for writers or the tactics of artistic coercion.

I used to think writers were like cooks. If the food didn't taste good nobody ate it. But cooks have unions now, too.

Come to think of it, so do women. So does everybody.

Maybe I'll have to join something soon.

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