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Why don't writers have any power in Hollywood?

By: Mel, Burns, Oregon

A.B. Replies: Have you ever seen a screenwriter? Up close? They're nice folks, but, well, you know, not exactly the kind of people with whom Sharon Stone would want to be seen power-dining at Hamasaku or even grabbing a fair-trade-something-or-other at Urth Café. In a town that values the beautiful and the rich, screenwriters are usually neither; therefore, they are not all that interesting to the people who matter. If you think I exaggerate, read on.

There are two main reasons why power players tend to step all over writers in Hollywood. One is a writer's tendency to not be exciting enough. "In Hollywood," says Uwe Boll, director of the recently released (and not screened for critics) BloodRayne, "It is not fancy to meet a writer. It's nicer to go for dinner with actors."

The other reason is that, once writers sell their scripts, their creative control--the only power they might actually get--tends to fall largely out of their hands.

Yes, Boll concedes, "writers are superimportant for any movie; the script is the foundation of everything.

"But normally," he adds, "writers are treated like garbage. As soon they deliver the script, nobody asks for or calls the writer anymore, and if he delivered without getting paid, he must wait a long time for his paycheck."

Another Hollywood screenwriter points out a possible third reason for writer abuse. Here's the thing to remember," says said scribe, who asks not to be outed by this B!tch. "It takes no special training to be a writer. You don't have many waiters working on their cinematography at night or personal trainers who have an unproduced sound-editing sample in their car waiting for the right client.

"As a result, you have people who can't even diagram a sentence pitching scripts," the screenwriter says. "It's supply and demand. You could paper the Great Wall with all the scripts floating around out there."

There are some exceptionally powerful screenwriters, of course.

"Akiva Goldsman (Cinderella Man, A Beautiful Mind) has power," our anonymous screenwriter notes. "All he had to do was win an Oscar and write a string of big-budget movies. Guys like George Lucas, James Cameron and Oliver Stone all started as screenwriters.

"But again, you know these guys as directors or producers now. Because even though they still write, that's not why people are waiting in their offices, accepting those dinky bottles of water from the D-girl at the desk."

And there might actually be a fourth reason why powerful people step on pencil-necked writers. Think of Nic Cage playing a buff booty-hunting hero in National Treasure. Pleasant, right? Now flash back to when he played the Kaufmanesque twin screenwriters in Adaptation. Brrr. Writers can be bitter and frightening little people. Except when it's me, in which case, I'm just tart and incisive.

The brutal fact is, most writers, no matter what their medium, are some combination of the following: balding, big-eared, sociopathic, rumpled--not in an endearing way--Gollum-eyed or just lacking zazz.

There is a reason why there are full-time coaches who do nothing but teach screenwriters how to be more sociable in meetings. For the beautiful people, writers--unlike, say, that adorable Reese Witherspoon--just aren't good times.

In Hollywood, where actors are royalty and producers are kingmakers, writers are the overworked pastry chefs. Nothing would get done without them. But they don't have to, like, sit at our table. Do they?