Take a deep breath, reader, because I am about to shatter your perception of reality.
Every song, every show, every film, every commercial, and every story was brought to you by one thing and one thing alone: the imagination of a writer.
Many believe that many of the most iconic moments in creative arts were brought to you by spur-of-the-moment genius from an actor or by the vision of the director. Actors will go on podcasts and say, “I improvised that line!” leading audiences to believe that the actor has more agency over the story than the writer does. And I’ll admit that some of cinema’s improvised lines have ended up as iconic as written ones — “Are you talkin’ to me?” comes to mind. While those moments have helped bring the piece to life, they could not exist without the writer.
All Guts, No Glory
There is very little glory in professional writing. Many of us work as contractors or freelance artists, moving from job to job with sometimes painfully long gaps in between. The gig economy affects us all, especially in a world where your only value is how much money you can make for a studio.
All of this has come to a head, and with the age of social media making it easier to communicate, writers have decided as a group that we deserve more. Yes, we deserve better pay, but also we deserve what we’ve never been given by the industry or by audiences: respect.
Some people see writing as more manageable and less glamorous than other aspects of creative arts. We don’t always have the camera shining on us, but without the brain of the writer, there is hardly any need for the camera to turn on at all. Writing is impactful, valid, and one of the most essential forms of art.
Let’s examine ABC’s Abbott Elementary, an Emmy darling that has just finished its sophomore season and is on track for a third. The show has won countless awards and has resonated with audiences all over the world. Some might call this a Cinderella story or say that Brunson’s success materialized overnight — and neither could be further from the truth.
Abbott resulted from several years of development with Warner Brothers and numerous other projects that never saw the light of day. It was due to Brunson’s perseverance and sheer talent that her star rose so explosively. Developing a show is a tremendous amount of effort that often takes years and is sometimes unpaid, especially for writers at the beginning of their careers.
Brunson became the first Black woman to win a solo Emmy for television writing last year, and her career shows no signs of slowing down. However, some will notice that Abbott is not the first time Brunson has been on the world’s radar. She might be most familiar to you as the “Girl Who Has Never Been on A Nice Date” character in a sketch she wrote. Brunson proves that writing is one of the last true meritocracies: if you’re good at it, it will always show.
One Thing In Common
Brunson isn’t the only powerhouse writer that obtained notoriety in recent years due to their own behind-the-camera brilliance. Other great examples of brilliant modern writers are Jordan Peele, Shonda Rimes, and even the late and great Stan Lee. The talent and tenacity of these writers span genre and experience.
Still, they all have one thing in common: they have written something that resonated with people and ultimately impacted the world. This power lies inherently in each writer — we can create new worlds to get lost in and create characters in which people can see themselves.
Knowing all that, is it fair to you that the median wage for television writers has decreased by over 23% in recent years when adjusting for inflation? And while the world of streaming has made it easy for audiences to get their content on-demand, writers rarely see a cent of residuals from streaming. This, combined with the lack of upward mobility and the high price of living in cities, has made it almost impossible to make writing a viable career.
I know what you’re thinking: “Hey, Alex, maybe don’t quit your day job.” There’s only one problem: for many of us, this is the only trade we have.
I’m not saying that writers are always more important than any other profession. However, I believe we have an extreme lack of respect compared to our worth. The worlds we create are valuable and generate millions of dollars for franchises! We can’t make the next Star Wars if we’re worried about where our next meal comes from.
Into The Future
No matter how much we would occasionally like it to slow down, the world spins on, becoming more technologically advanced every day. ChatGPT and other AI bots are slowly learning how to develop stories and characters the same way they can generate a sculpture using a 3D printer. I’m sure that many studios would prefer to have their scripts written this way so that they don’t have to deal with poor, sore, mistreated writers. But there is one thing that writers have that cannot be replaced by AI — well, two things if you count our student loan debt.
The heart of motion pictures and television will always be the script. The soul of the project begins in the mind of the writer, which cannot be replaced by that which has no soul.
I dream of a future when writers receive appropriate payment for their work and, more importantly, can build a career out of the worlds they’ve created.
This article was syndicated and produced by Wealth of Geeks.