Sunday, March 04, 2007

Render Onto Movie Producers What Is Movie Producers’

One of benefits of writing is that I don't have to share credit with anybody for the massive brilliance that is known as my work. It is also unknown brilliance, so it’s not as if people are beating down the door to share credit, but still — all the crap I’ve written is exclusively my crap, exclusively.

I have been thinking a lot about this these days, following a lawsuit involving the 2005 epic “Dodgeball.” It turns out that stealing is the least of Hollywood’s credit-hogging woes.

It seems like movie producers are in a constant scrap over who gets producing “credit” on their work, thus giving eligibility to Academy Awards, payment for royalties, and access to hot babes who would look at these lumps of men and say, “If you didn’t have money and power, I would find you as sexually appealing as Harvey Weinstein in a Speedo.”

Of late, there are incidences of this taking place, but probably the most well-known is a credits fight over the movie “Crash,” which won last year's Academy Award for Best Picture, a fact that makes one ponder the definition of the word “best.” A seriously pissed-off gentleman named Bob Yari has filed suit against the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences and Producers Guild of America, which again makes a guy wonder what “Sciences” they’re talking about, and why someone like Bob Evans needs a union.

The idea that I would want to share credit for my work is about as alien to me as buying the “Weekend at Bernie’s” DVD box set. This is not about, say, stealing ideas or plagiarizing, two loathsome activities that I would probably indulge in if 1) it would make me rich, famous, or unfathomably sexy to women; and 2) I could get away with it.

Protecting credit

Certainly it is not my place to impugn screenwriters, directors and movie producers. Mr. Yari may very well be in the right. However, upon close, careful inspection, and objective, nuanced analysis, I think it is a fair assessment to say that that a certain portion of those involved in the film-making business are amoral, venal whores. So to speak.

Now, I am hardly one to accuse my creative brethren of being amoral, venal whores, because I would love to be an amoral, venal whore, as long as I got all the benefits of such, which would mean money, power, and tons of hot, brainless babes who want to have sex with married, middle-age expectant fathers whose chests have sprouted more than a little hair.

(I realize I am not supposed to admit such longings mere weeks before Wife gives birth to Baby. Set a good example and all that. Let’s just say I’m being honest, and you want your child to learn honesty, right?)

This gets down to my definition of an artist: the public still gives a damn about an artist’s work long after he or she is six feet under. You can be famous during your lifetime, like Dickens, or not-so-famous, like Kafka, but people are still reading their scribbles.

I imagine Mr. Yari wants an Oscar for his work on “Crash,” and I can’t say I blame him. It also reinforces why many fiction writers aren’t filmmakers, screenwriters, playwrights, or other collaborative artists: we don’t play well with others.

Take, for instance, the case of The Ruined Sketch. When I was in grad school, I took a theater class. One assignment called for us to write a five-minute comedic skit, and other students would act it out. I thought I had a sure-fire winner, a Saturday Night Live-SCTV-esque piece of brilliance: Dr. Cindy Hoover, Lesbian Urologist.

Don't mess with Chuckie

This was a perfectly executed piece of comedic genius. Think about it: why do women even bother going to a male gynecologist? Why would a man go to a female urologist, supposing there are any? I mean, what man would want a woman handling his balls?

Ostensibly, my classmates were aspiring actors. But the woman who played Dr. Cindy Hoover, Lesbian Urologist had the charisma of a laundry pile and the acting chops of burnt toast. She read everything in the same monotone, sentences running together, jokes buried under her infintile reading. It took every fiber in my being not to scream, “You talentless bungler! You’ve ruined my skit! You’ve ruined my life!”

As a result, one of the first lessons I’m going to teach my son will involve sharing and giving others’ credit. The lesson will be: once you are older and in the working world, if things go great, it’s because of your hard work, but if things go bad, blame the annoying person in the cubicle next to you.