Written By November | December 2012 : Page 2

tHe MAGAzine OF tHe WriterS GuilD OF AMeriCA, WeSt FADe in ALL HAIL PRESIDENT-ELECT ROMNEY! The American people have decided: His party’s narrative is now the nation’s. And so? Nothing’s changed. Get back to politics as usual: writing your own narrative. Get back to work. That’s my original lead to this col-umn, which I concluded writing No-vember 6 at approximately four in the afternoon. How could I be confident that Romney would emerge victori-ous come 8:12 PST? Maybe one too many KPFK talk radio “Back-ground Briefings” with Ian Masters during rush-hour commutes. Or all that People United PAC cash. Plus, those bewitched voting machines. Karl Rove’s Machiavellian brilliance. Wall Street’s sense of entitlement. The American public’s attraction to Ronald Reagan hairstyles. Obviously, such “facts” had made the 2012 race a done deal, as in Woody Allen’s “paranoia is knowing all the facts.” Hours later on election night: still counting Florida but Ohio just in. Every newscaster calling it. On Fox News, Karl Rove refuses to concede the election to Barack Obama, but Rove’s alone. Otherwise, the most expensive and arguably most contentious presidential race in American history is at long last over. All that truth and all those lies—over. Let us hope... No sooner do I write hope than the cultural war resumes. An anti-Obama protest at the University of Mississippi erupts into a student riot over the reelection, with local politicians blaming its cause on social media (i.e., “outside agitators”). Donald Trump tweets in pro-test of the Obama victory: “Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice!” Making relevant the column I wrote before the polls closed: And so we pledge allegiance to a new president. And we zealously resume the culture wars. Ignorant armies clash by night while marching toward the fiscal cliff. Congressional gridlock dictates paralysis. What’s to be done? Who can turn this around, make us one nation, unify us as a people, manufacture consensus? The answer is simple. You. Yes, you can. You do it daily via another word: writing. In a dark theater, your followers—multitudes composed of Conserva-tives, Liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians— laugh in unison at your dialogue, cheer when your characters triumph, cry if hearts get broken. Political persuasion, religious choice, sexual pref-erence—forgotten or forgiven while in the embrace of a story well-told. The ballot box isn’t what matters. It’s the box-office count, the televi-sion ratings, the enthusiastic word-of-mouth gone viral. When a national audience gathers for a final episode of a long-running series— Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Tonight Show, Friends, M.A.S.H.— you’re shap-ing consensus. Politicians can only envy your control of the national nar-rative. When you bring us together, it’s a more perfect union. 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 John Aboud, Scott Alexander, Alfredo Barrios Jr., Linda Burstyn, Marjorie David, Ian Deitchman, Carleton Eastlake, Katherine Fugate, David A. Goodman, David S. Goyer, Chip Johannessen, Kathy Kiernan, Michael Oates Palmer, Billy Ray, Thania St. John, 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 NO VEMBER | DECEMBER 20 12

Fade In

ALL HAIL PRESIDENT-ELECT ROMNEY! The American people have decided: His party’s narrative is now the nation’s. And so? Nothing’s changed. Get back to politics as usual: writing your own narrative. Get back to work.

That’s my original lead to this column, which I concluded writing November 6 at approximately four in the afternoon. How could I be confident that Romney would emerge victorious come 8:12 PST? Maybe one too many KPFK talk radio “Background Briefings” with Ian Masters during rush-hour commutes. Or all that People United PAC cash. Plus, those bewitched voting machines. Karl Rove’s Machiavellian brilliance. Wall Street’s sense of entitlement. The American public’s attraction to Ronald Reagan hairstyles.

Obviously, such “facts” had made the 2012 race a done deal, as in Woody Allen’s “paranoia is knowing all the facts.”

Hours later on election night: still counting Florida but Ohio just in. Every newscaster calling it. On Fox News, Karl Rove refuses to concede the election to Barack Obama, but Rove’s alone. Otherwise, the most expensive and arguably most contentious presidential race in American history is at long last over. All that truth and all those lies—over. Let us hope...

No sooner do I write hope than the cultural war resumes. An anti- Obama protest at the University of Mississippi erupts into a student riot over the reelection, with local politicians blaming its cause on social media (i.e., “outside agitators”). Donald Trump tweets in protest of the Obama victory: “Let’s fight like hell and stop this great and disgusting injustice!”

Making relevant the column I wrote before the polls closed: And so we pledge allegiance to a new president. And we zealously resume the culture wars. Ignorant armies clash by night while marching toward the fiscal cliff. Congressional gridlock dictates paralysis. What’s to be done? Who can turn this around, make us one nation, unify us as a people, manufacture consensus?

The answer is simple. You.

Yes, you can. You do it daily via another word: writing.

In a dark theater, your followers—multitudes composed of Conservatives, Liberals, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians— laugh in unison at your dialogue, cheer when your characters triumph, cry if hearts get broken. Political persuasion, religious choice, sexual preference— forgotten or forgiven while in the embrace of a story well-told.

The ballot box isn’t what matters. It’s the box-office count, the television ratings, the enthusiastic word-of-mouth gone viral. When a national audience gathers for a final episode of a long-running series—Seinfeld, The Sopranos, The Tonight Show, Friends, M.A.S.H.—you’re shaping consensus. Politicians can only envy your control of the national narrative. When you bring us together, it’s a more perfect union.

Election day crazy talk? Maybe. But did you notice this Written By’s Table of Contents? Turn back two pages and you’ll discover text cradled within tattooed forearms. You’ll recognize the tattoo of an ankh, familiar as the ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for eternal life. Another tattoo will probably appear less obvious. It’s the first tattoo that Damien Echols chose upon leaving prison in 2011 after 18 years on death row for a crime he never committed.

Echols, the more prominent of the unjustly convicted West Memphis Three teenagers (“Persistence of Vision,” page 30), selected the line image, titled Hsiao Ch’u—meaning Taming Force, according to the I Ching. For Echols, the tattoo represents patience and an indefatigable spirit. The tattoo reminds Echols that when you’re trying to surmount some huge obstacle, you don’t focus on it or you’ll lose heart and be defeated. You must take small steps to achieve your goal.

Since his release, Echols published a haunting memoir, Life After Death. “The most potent and powerful means I had of entering the Land of Nod was through writing,” he reveals. “Every day I disappeared into the pages of my journal, scribbling from margin to margin, wallowing in the memories of a thousand December afternoons as my hand moved the pen.”

In other words, the act of writing helped keep hope alive in Damien Echols. One word at a time, he kept the faith. While writing courageously, as you’ll learn watching Amy Berg & Billy McMillin’s West of Memphis and reading Life After Death: “The guards spent the day doing their best to destroy everything in my cell. They took my books, my journal, my shoes, and left a pile of destruction behind.” Why? Politicians wanted Echols to change his story.

“You get stronger when you tell your story many times,” says brutalized rape survivor Kori Cioca (“Darkness Made Visible,” page 38).

In his essay for this Written By, former investigative reporter Mark Boal defines the genre of his scripts (notably The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty) as reported screenplays: “I figured that if the news can be colonized by entertainment, then maybe entertainment could also be news.” Above all, Boal adds, what ultimately counts most in both reporting and screenwriting is story.

In our cover feature, screenwriter David Magee discusses his Herculean adaptation of Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi. Despite its awesome special effects, Magee believes the film’s “about storytelling. This is how stories get you through life.”

Politicians are fond of using the word narrative, as in: Romney lost because his narrative didn’t appeal to the majority. So he kept changing it. You understand: His story felt contrived. He lost control of the political narrative.

Echols stuck to his story: “Today I received a letter from Senator John Kerry, asking me for a donation. Much like the one I received last year from Joe Biden, this one also says that if I don’t help the Democrats they won’t be able to stop those evil Republicans from violating my civil rights. After reading it, I could only quote the great Elvis Presley when he said, ‘What the hell, man?’”

Read the full article at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/Fade+In/1238275/135356/article.html.

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