Written By September|October 2012 : Page 2

tHe MAGAzine OF tHe WriterS GuilD OF AMeriCA, WeSt FADe in “obituary time.” Gore Vidal’s label for a chapter in his 2006 memoir Point to Point Naviga-tion . The author then explains: “Those of us whose careers began in the 20th century are rapidly fleeing the 21st, with good reason.” So it would seem. While work-ing on this Written By, we were frequently interrupted by grim tid-ings about yet another fallen Writers Guild star. It felt like a noir summer, with sunlight wilting into omi-nous shadows. This issue contains three tributes, and we could have printed even more. But our trio had to be acknowledged: Nora Ephron. Frank Pierson. Gore Vidal. I met all three of our fallen heroes but unfortunately only had ex-tensive conversational visits with Vidal. I first met him in the 1980s while he was fighting against a director’s cuts in an all-star revival of his political play The Best Man . He won that fight. “Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences.” Vidal understood the addiction of fame and celebrity more astutely than any commentator of his time, including Warhol. Vidal could be our Oscar Wilde, but his tragedy wasn’t “the love that dare not speak its name”—his was becoming a Cassandra speaking the truth to a powerful media grown increasingly fearful of revelations. “It is not enough to succeed,” he said of American capitalism: “Others must fail.” Vidal’s tragedy was that he both succeeded and failed. No wonder then, as we worked on this issue, that our noir sum-mer threatened to orbit despair, to make the magazine into some-thing dark and oppressive. But as a staff—managing editor Christina McBride, creative director Ron Tammariello, and myself—we’ve of-ten been surprised by themes emerging unbidden out of our raw material. With this issue, we discovered that, yes, death is present, but it’s counterbalanced by stories celebrating writers who strive to make a difference. Our cover story showcases Neal Baer, not only a prolific and successful television writer, but a doctor voluntarily offering medi-cal treatments in AIDS-plagued Africa. Want an inspirational story about overcoming impossible odds? Meet Ben Lewin, whose child-hood polio never victimized his writing ambitions. Turn to “Speaking Their Language” and hear how the series Switched at Birth evolved to portray typical deaf high school girls, thanks to Lizzy Weiss and a few courageous ABC Family executives. There’s no such word as a handicap here. These adolescents’ motto could be: Got an obstacle? Good. Let’s use it . W ritten B y © © WGAW OFFiCerS President Chris Keyser Vice President Howard A. Rodman Secretary-treasurer Carl Gottlieb MARK HANA UER WGAW BOArD OF DireCtOrS Alfredo Barrios Jr., John Brancato, Linda Burstyn, Ian Deitchman, Carleton Eastlake, Katherine Fugate, David A. Goodman, David S. Goyer, Mark Gunn, Kathy Kiernan, Aaron Mendelsohn, Billy Ray, Thania St. John, Robin Schiff, David Shore, Dan Wilcox exeCutiVe DireCtOr David Young GenerAl COunSel Tony Segall WGAW PHOne inFOrMAtiOn The Guild (All Departments) 323.951.4000 FAx 323.782.4800 WeBSite: WWW.WGA.OrG WGAW DePArtMentS Administration Agency Awards & elections Claims Contracts Credits Dues Diversity executive Offices Film Society Finance Human resources legal library Member Services Membership Organizing Public Affairs Publications registration residuals Signatories theater Operations Written By Pension & Health 323.951.4000 782.4520 782.4502 782.4569 782.4663 782.4501 782.4528 782.4531 782.4589 951.4000 782.4508 782.4637 782.4615 782.4521 782.4544 782.4747 782.4532 782.4511 782.4574 782.4699 782.4500 782.4700 782.4514 782.4525 782.4699 818.846.1015 800.227.7863 800.890-0288 WritersCare info. Written By welcomes your comments. Send letters to: 7000 W. Third St., L.A., CA 90048 Or E-mail us at writtenby@wga.org continues on page 4 2 • WG A W Written By SEPTEMBER|OCT OBER 20 12

Fade In

Richard Stayton

“obituary time.”

Gore Vidal’s label for a chapter in his 2006 memoir Point to Point Navigation.
The author then explains: “Those of us whose careers began in the 20th century are rapidly fleeing the 21st, with good reason.”

So it would seem. While working on this Written By, we were frequently interrupted by grim tidings about yet another fallen Writers Guild star. It felt like a noir summer, with sunlight wilting into ominous shadows. This issue contains three tributes, and we could have printed even more.

But our trio had to be acknowledged:

Nora Ephron.

Frank Pierson.

Gore Vidal.

I met all three of our fallen heroes but unfortunately only had extensive conversational visits with Vidal. I first met him in the 1980s while he was fighting against a director’s cuts in an all-star revival of his political play The Best Man. He won that fight.

“Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences.” Vidal understood the addiction of fame and celebrity more astutely than any commentator of his time, including Warhol. Vidal could be our Oscar Wilde, but his tragedy wasn’t “the love that dare not speak its name”—his was becoming a Cassandra speaking the truth to a powerful media grown increasingly fearful of revelations. “It is not enough to succeed,” he said of American capitalism: “Others must fail.”

Vidal’s tragedy was that he both succeeded and failed.

No wonder then, as we worked on this issue, that our noir summer threatened to orbit despair, to make the magazine into something dark and oppressive. But as a staff—managing editor Christina McBride, creative director Ron Tammariello, and myself—we’ve often been surprised by themes emerging unbidden out of our raw material. With this issue, we discovered that, yes, death is present, but it’s counterbalanced by stories celebrating writers who strive to make a difference.

Our cover story showcases Neal Baer, not only a prolific and successful television writer, but a doctor voluntarily offering medical treatments in AIDS-plagued Africa. Want an inspirational story about overcoming impossible odds? Meet Ben Lewin, whose childhood polio never victimized his writing ambitions.

Turn to “Speaking Their Language” and hear how the series Switched at Birth evolved to portray typical deaf high school girls, thanks to Lizzy Weiss and a few courageous ABC Family executives.There’s no such word as a handicap here. These adolescents’ motto could be: Got an obstacle? Good. Let’s use it.

Is death and defeatism anywhere more tangible than in the Middle East? What’s to be done? Sharon Elizabeth Doyle’s answer is to teach filmmaking at the Red Sea Institute of Cinematic Arts in Aqaba, Jordan. Her students commute from Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Kuwait, Yemen, Iran, Iraq, the Emirates, the West Bank, Morocco, and Lebanon.Read all about it in her “The Job” column.

But for WGA members, nothing could be more life-embracing and hopeful than Emmy-winning animation writer Stan Berkowitz’s hiring for The 99, a popular comic book about superheroes in the Middle East. When approached to animate the comic book, Berkowitz “asked if they could possibly agree to have the show covered by the WGA, since the show would be animated, and therefore not automatically under the jurisdiction of the WGA. The [London execs and Kuwaiti-born producer] were kind enough to honor my request to make a Guild deal.”

Now for the death and despair part: After The 99 grew phenomenally popular in the Middle East, several “journalists” blocked its planned distribution in the United States, at least for now. Which is why you’ve probably never heard of The 99 cartoon series until our AltScreen column. Would it not have been gratifying to get a quote on such a tale from the late greats we honor with tributes here?

“As I now move, graciously I hope, toward the door marked exit”—Vidal’s opening sentence in Point to Point Navigation, his final book— “it occurs to me that the only thing I ever really liked to do was go to the movies. Naturally, Sex and Art always took precedence over cinema but neither proved to be as dependable as the filtering of present light through that moving strip of celluloid which projects past images and voices onto a screen.”

Amen.

—Richard Stayton, Editor

Oops! Our Bad!

Neely Swanson: When I made the unfortunate mistake of spelling John Markus’ name as Marcus, I was unable to track him down and speak to him for the article “Passing It Forward” [Summer 2012]. Although I had obtained old phone numbers and an email address from the offices of his former cowriters, nothing led me to his door.

John Markus, as I hope the article conveyed, was a major player in the first six seasons of The Cosby Show, having written or co-written more than 67 episodes. Within the first two seasons of the show, he went from Executive Story Editor to Co- Executive Producer/Head Writer, an almost unprecedented rise.

Editor: In that same article, we misspelled Karyl Miller’s name. We deeply regret that error.

Read the full article at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/Fade+In/1152343/123626/article.html.

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