Written By February | March 2013 : Page 2

tHe MAGAzine OF tHe WriterS GuilD OF AMeriCA, WeSt FADe in AWARD & PUNISH— an appro-priate title for a schizophrenic awards season. Annually, it’s the best of times; it’s the craziest of times. But in 2013, it’s threatening to become the worst of times for a few dedicated filmmakers. But first, a few words about the award, obviously the year’s most sig-nificant: ours—Written By’s Gold (first place) Folio Award in the Association/Nonprofit category. Fo-lio is the most comprehensive magazine competition in the country. Wins like this don’t happen often, so please forgive my brief self-referential shout-out. Appropriately, the Written By that brought home the gold was last year’s awards issue. Enough about The Award. Time to Punish. By now you’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty, the gritty, tough, controver-sial, ripped-from-the-news chronicle about the hunt for mass mur-derer Osama bin Laden, written by Mark Boal and directed by Kath-ryn Bigelow. But maybe you didn’t see it for the same reason given by two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer-director Haskell Wexler ( Bound for Glory, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ) during a talk at the Aero Theater about his lifetime achievements. Wexler had heard that Zero Dark Thirty endorses political torture and said he would never see such a movie. Things have indeed gone viral when a liberal activist and creator of Medium Cool, the classic political film on the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, condemns a movie sight unseen. But Wexler is not alone. Voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures, led by actor Ed Asner, have circulated a letter condemning the film, urging members not to grant the film any Oscars. This virus first incubated in Washington, D.C. The Republican chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Peter King of New York, led an investigation while the movie was still be-ing shot, on the assumption that it would portray a heroic President Obama, therefore increasing his reelection prospects. King admitted-ly hoped to find evidence that the Obama administration “pressured special operators to cooperate with Hollywood producers.” Since the reelection, King’s rigorous investigation subsided. “Who cares what Mark Boal says?” King explained. “He doesn’t decide what’s sensitive and what’s classified, so I don’t care what he has to say.” Then the most hostile D.C. assault (thus far) came after the pre-miere: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, and John McCain wrote a letter to Sony Pictures, insisting that the studio change the film so it couldn’t imply “that the CIA’s use of coercive interrogation tech-niques led to the operation against Usama [sic] bin Laden.” Human rights activists all, correct? Yet in a statement last month re-continues on page 4 W ritten B y © © WGAW OFFiCerS President Chris Keyser Vice President Howard A. Rodman Secretary-treasurer Carl Gottlieb 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 2 • WG A W Written By FEBRU AR Y | MARCH 20 13

Fade In

Richard Stayton

AWARD & PUNISH—an appropriate title for a schizophrenic awards season.

Annually, it’s the best of times; it’s the craziest of times. But in 2013, it’s threatening to become the worst of times for a few dedicated filmmakers.

But first, a few words about the award, obviously the year’s most significant: ours—Written By’s Gold (first place) Folio Award in the Association/Nonprofit category. Folio is the most comprehensive magazine competition in the country.Wins like this don’t happen often, so please forgive my brief self referential shout-out. Appropriately, the Written By that brought home the gold was last year’s awards issue.

Enough about The Award. Time to Punish.

By now you’ve seen Zero Dark Thirty, the gritty, tough, controversial, ripped-from-the-news chronicle about the hunt for mass murderer Osama bin Laden, written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow. But maybe you didn’t see it for the same reason given by two-time Oscar-winning cinematographer-director Haskell Wexler (Bound for Glory, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) During a talk at the Aero Theater about his lifetime achievements. Wexler had heard that Zero Dark Thirty endorses political torture and said he would never see such a movie.

Things have indeed gone viral when a liberal activist and creator of Medium Cool, the classic political film on the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, condemns a movie sight unseen.But Wexler is not alone. Voting members of the Academy of Motion Pictures, led by actor Ed Asner, have circulated a letter condemning the film, urging members not to grant the film any Oscars.

This virus first incubated in Washington, D.C. The Republican chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Peter King of New York, led an investigation while the movie was still being shot, on the assumption that it would portray a heroic President Obama, therefore increasing his reelection prospects. King admittedly hoped to find evidence that the Obama administration “pressured special operators to cooperate with Hollywood producers.” Since the reelection, King’s rigorous investigation subsided. “Who cares what Mark Boal says?” King explained. “He doesn’t decide what’s sensitive and what’s classified, so I don’t care what he has to say.”

Then the most hostile D.C. assault (thus far) came after the premiere: Sens. Dianne Feinstein, Carl Levin, and John McCain wrote a letter to Sony Pictures, insisting that the studio change the film so it couldn’t imply “that the CIA’s use of coercive interrogation techniques led to the operation against Usama [sic] bin Laden.”

Human rights activists all, correct? Yet in a statement last month regarding CIA detentions, Feinstein regretted as “terrible mistakes” only long-term, clandestine “black sites.” Authorized interrogation techniques are listed in the Army Field Manual, modified in 2006 to allow “stress positions, sleep deprivation, and isolation”—in other words, the same “enhanced interrogation” depicted in Zero Dark Thirty. And in the New York Times’ 2011 exhaustive investigation into the Bin Laden killing, the reporters noted, “One detainee who apparently was subjected to some tough treatment provided a crucial description of [Bin Laden’s trusted courier], according to current and former officials briefed on the interrogations.”

Then there was that moment in 2008 when Sen. McCain voted against a bill that could have limited the CIA’s interrogation tactics.McCain can explain the seeming contradiction: “When we passed the Military Commissions Act, we said that the CIA should have the ability to use additional techniques. None of those techniques would entail violating the Detainee Treatment Act, which said that cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment are prohibited.”

Got that? In other words, our Capitol Hill Hollywood-visitors find it safer to attack a movie than to seriously change policy.

Who better to judge than scholar/author/screenwriter Lawrence Wright, Pulitzer Prize–winner for The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11. In the midst of the 10-year hunt for Bin Laden, the CIA approached Wright to pitch a script depicting what might result if the CIA captured the 9/11 mastermind. Wright declined but warned against making Osama bin Laden a martyr. The CIA believed that we wouldn’t want to have him on trial or in prison because it would inspire worldwide terrorism against Americans. They wanted him killed, as the final scenes in Zero Dark Thirty reveal: a Navy SEAL kill team tracking down its prey.

What did Lawrence Wright, who’s trekked into Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt, and throughout the Middle East on research missions, think of Zero Dark Thirty? “It’s a terrific piece of movie-making,” Wright declared by phone while on his Scientology book tour. “The film shows that torture can be effective, but you never know what’s of value. What’s true, what’s false? The film doesn’t show that torture led to Osama. It shows that cleverness and deceit produced the lead. I’m not taking the side they endorse torture. That is not the message of their movie. I don’t think the film implied anything except torture is counterproductive. The key clue was overlooked in [CIA] files. But as a storyteller it’s important to show what happened. And torture happened.”

Spoiler Alert: Zero Dark Thirty is not about torture.

It’s about strategies America employed to find and kill those responsible for the 9/11 tragedy. And the film’s clear conclusion: Neither side won; where do we want to go from here?

Politics inevitably play a significant role during awards balloting, but now it appears that actual politicians are jockeying for a share of the klieg lights. No wonder some call this the “season of envy.”

—Richard Stayton, Editor

Read the full article at http://www.bluetoad.com/article/Fade+In/1317566/146948/article.html.

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