Thursday, October 26, 2006

corruption in the wga?

I attended the Screenwriter's Conference & Expo last week and took Jim with me. In addition to the panels that were free with registration, they scheduled a Day of Pixar, which Jim attended, so he had plenty to see and do. I was able to test my iPod voice recorder on a couple classes and seminars, but the battery died after an hour of recording, so all my lecture/seminar recordings are incomplete. Sigh.

On Thursday, there was a special all-day session focused on pitching. The comedic highlight of the day was Dave Johnson's cautionary tale of what not to do on a pitch - specifically, he advised that you go to the bathroom before going into a pitch so that you won't have to pee into an empty Evian bottle while sitting in your MiniCooper in the parking structure. Refraining from doing that means you won't look like a perv holding your penis in your car and you won't accidentally spill urine on your jeans like he did. Yeah, pretty basic stuff, but helpful just the same.

Finally, don't sit/lie on the hood of your car so that the sun will dry the wet spot on your jeans, and certainly don't try to rub it vigorously to dry it, like he did. You never know if the producer you're pitching with will pull up at that exact moment. But if that does happen to you, like it did to Dave, try to wash your hands before the meeting. And if you don't get a chance to wash before your meeting, don't tell the room. But if you do decide to tell the room that you peed into a water bottle in the parking lot and spilled it onto your jeans and didn't wash your hands, tell them after you shake hands, like he did. I'm so glad I was there to get all that down. I'll never pee into an empty water bottle in my car right before a pitch, not anymore.

JF Lawton spoke later that afternoon and got all the paranoid writers in the room riled up. He spoke of the different ways he got ripped off, how other writers he knows got ripped off, and how those in the audience could get ripped off in Hollywood. For those not familiar with his work, this is the guy who wrote Pretty Woman, Under Siege (1 & 2), and the Pamela Anderson TV show, VIP (hey, my sister was a producer on that show!). Lawton was bitter and angry, practically spitting out the incendiary words. The crowd was eating it up.

Then Lawton mentioned that he and eleven (?) other writers are cooperating with the Justice Department and the FBI, testifying against the Writer's Guild on a corruption case. He said that the New York Times is working on a story that tells how elections at the WGA are rigged and that the entire executive board has been stealing from writers, taking bribes in arbitration cases, and dirty dealing with every studio in town. The crowd was working itself into a frenzy. Behind me I heard grumblings, everything from "I knew it, I knew those people would steal my ideas," to "They're out to screw us writers!" He went on to answer questions but kept repeating, "Just wait, the story will be in the New York Times any day now."

Then, just as the crowd was at a fever pitch, it was over. He was gone and the crew scrambled to get the stage ready for the next speaker. The hotel ballroom buzzed with a negative energy. I didn't know how anyone was going to follow that act. Then the next speaker, Robert Kosberg, took the mike and said, shaking his head, "Boy, I thought I was jaded and cynical."

I'm dying to read all about it.


Rick Andreoli said...

What were your thoughts on the JF Lawton session? Do you take him as being just an unhappy, paranoid writer or someone who makes a good case. Just curious. (Oh, and I loved VIP. "Bob and weave! Bob and weave!"

celia said...

i think he's an unhappy, paranoid writer - and he's that way for a good reason. but i think what he was warning us about wasn't anything that most of the writers in the audience will come up against, at least not yet or any time soon. consequently, people were getting riled up about receiving sole writer credit or the nuances of a contract when they should be more concerned with how their second act is coming along, or their next rewrite.

oh and big city bear, i would never accept a cup of urine from anybody, especially in a moving car. i don't need a crystal ball to know it's going to end badly.