7.29.2006

Movie Moment

Being a film lover since early childhood only set me up for a lifetime of disappointment as the big movie moments of my own life played themselves out with scant cinematic flair. I can only describe my first sexual encounter, for example, as poorly staged. It was badly lit and the blocking was awkward. Why didn't the music swell? Why no elegantly timed dissolve to a nice soft focus? Why was Robert Redford not there? If only I'd cleared the set and called for a re-write, not to mention a little chat with that boob of a casting director who'd neglected to secure A-list talent.

An invitation to join the Writers Guild of America after ten long years of trying felt equally underwhelming. When the membership card arrived in the mail, I expected it to be gold or even platinum, embedded with a glittering hologram, the mother of all "credit" cards, pardon the pun. Maybe it would be key-shaped and ancient looking, like a prop from The Davinci Code, when Tom Hanks and that skinny French chick who turns out to be little miss Jesus arrive at the Swiss bank, demanding their rightful admittance.

It was cardboard. The flimsy kind, not even laminated for gloss and durabilty. Here I'd agreed to pay a $2,500 initiation fee and a nice chunk of my lifelong earnings and all I got so far was a welcome letter, a twenty buck subscription to Written By magazine, and an invitation to an upcoming dinner meeting for new members. Damn if I wasn't going to that shindig, if only to claim my rightful plate of sushi and jug wine. I would watch their badly produced video from the eighties about the history of the union--hosted by an older woman in a kooky wig whose most recent credit was a Doris Day movie--and I would like it!

Imagine my surprise when this actually happened. Considering all it took just to become a working screenwriter, I might not have survived being labeled a communist to boot. I never gave much thought to the studios' support of McCarthyism against early screenwriters attempting to organize. I'd only been after the health insurance, and of course the pretty card, knowing full well that my chances of securing either grew painfully longer with each passing year.

Looking around the reception room at the mostly young, mostly male new membership, I experienced a genuine movie moment. I'm not a white guy and I hardly remember my twenties, but there I stood anyway. Having beaten some shamefully long odds, I nonetheless found myself shoulder to shoulder among this closed club's famously fair-haired demographic.

On the way out, I was handed a very nice, boxed silver pen emblazoned with the WGA emblem. It's no Mont Blanc, mind you, but more likely another logo item purchased in bulk from a business gifts catalogue. And yet, I shall treasure it always. If life were indeed a movie, it would fall out of my hand as I wrote my last word, which in my case is unlikely to be "Rosebud," but rather, "Redford."

8 comments:

  1. I remember when your blog first came onto the scene. I was getting my feet wet at the same time! While I haven't kept completly up to date, I am happy you are finally getting somewhere :) Everyone dreams of making their dreams come true, very few actually see it come true! Congrats!

    Just remember my movie idea Wednesdays With Morris. You can play the awe struck student and you can record my cynical view on women's rights. Instead of a living funneral we will have a living insulting session, where everyone will come and say how much they hated me. I think having you as the lead role, director, and writer, the other movie with a similar title will finally be done right!

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  2. Congrats on your union card.

    FWIW, the DGA card is equally unimpressive.

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  3. Well, it's a weak union that routinely fails to get its membership any recognition or further pay even as more and more platforms for the exploitation of the intellectual property created by its membership.

    BUT YOU'RE A WRITER!

    And the health plan is pretty good.

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  4. The WGA card. Wow. Flimsy cardboard? They need you Julie, they need you. In fact, President Julie has a nice ring to it.
    Scribe

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  5. My BAFTA card is great - plastic and with my photo on it. You swipe it to get into the offices and to open up the 'special button' in the lift inside! Awesome. We British love a good card!

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  6. Congrats, Julie. When I pass the hallowed WGA halls, I stare longingly like Holly Golightly at Tiffany's. Sans criossant and fab evening dress but wishing to be in there all the same. Couldn't be more pleased for you, cardboard card or not.

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  7. Awesome. The card means a lot. You can now be officially pissed off when thigns don't go your way. hey, that was so NEGATIVE. It's fantastic, you are part of a very elite group and your hard work is now being reflected back to you as that little plastic card. The minimums in place that we take for granted, were all fought for, for decades, with strikes. A lot of people worked hard to get you the basic protections you just earned. And now I'm sure you'll blow the doors off the minimums with your next quote. I remember when I got my card. A hallowed day indeed! Major hurdel passed - why? If people disagree with you now, they can't just 'dismiss' you.
    http://www.screenwriterbones.blogspot.com

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  8. Long time reader, first time commenter.

    Don't worry about the card...you'll be getting a new one every year. But congrats on that. And hustle hard to stay it, 'cause once you get in, the clock starts ticking and you have 7 years before you get bumped. Not a great cinematic moment either, but gut-wrenching all the same.

    Oh, and you get into movies for free with the card. So, there's that. And seriously, consider getting involved with the WGA...serve on a committee, attend the events and such.

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