Happily, we can now carve up our turkeys with the assurance that the writers and producers are returning to the table after the holiday to begin their talks again -- not that this means anything beyond the fact that they'll be talking. But we can always hope.
Some have suggested that one factor in what brought about this turn of events sooner than later is that the writers have done a good job of getting their position across to the general public. The mainstream audience has always loved an underdog story, and once it becomes clear that by "the producers" one is referring to mega-corporations, the archetypal roles in this particular drama are pretty hard to mistake.
Not that the mainstream media has been much help. As Joss Whedon pointed out in an early strike blog post (thank you, Jen), images of what "Hollywood writer" means to some (writers themselves!) are kind of astonishing (somehow, I always forget to don my fancy scarf and arty glasses when I'm dipping my quill into the inkwell for a leisurely morning's work -- and I call myself a writer?!). But then, speaking of caricatures, this amusing YouTube short gets its "studio head fat cat" image across just as broadly.
No, we writers are not all effete eggheads making a quarter of a mil each year, nor are all the producers literally fat folk with five homes to support. But images are what stories thrive on.
Interestingly, words are what get the most attention when people think about what constitutes writing, as this clip illustrates, imagining some famous movie quotes as they might have played without inspired scribes behind them (I'm particularly fond of the "de-written" rewrite given here to Rhett Butler's immortal exit line: "Whatever, Scarlett."). But some of the most powerful movie moments ever created have been wordless, and yes, Virginia -- writers wrote those, too!
That a good storyteller writes in images was brought home to me by the recent release of what's somewhat akin to a spectacular blockbuster feature produced on a series of paper screens between two covers -- i.e. a book. Shaun Tan's amazing graphic novel The Arrival is one of the best movies never made that I've ever seen. And it tells its story without the use of a single word.
What Tan (pictured above) does utilize is the best kind of cinematic storytelling. Whole pages are made up of a series of fluid storyboard-like images, each one serving as a sentence or paragraph, distinguished by an unusually specific point of view. One could almost call the resulting story more well-directed than well-written.
The small-imaged pages often climax in large two-page spreads that are the graphic novel equivalent of big screen set-pieces. They're beautiful, mysterious and at times confounding, in that Tan's mix of the familiar and the wholly imaginary often suspends a reader-viewer between worlds; we've both been here before... and never before seen the likes of where we are.
Rather then blather on about The Arrival, I'll just urge you to give it a look. Especially if you're planning to boycott the multiplex and DVD player till the picket lines are down, the next best thing to seeing a really well-written new movie right now may be this book.