Roger L. Simon

Whatever Happened to Jack Kerouac?

My friend Scott Kaufer, a TV writer/producer, asked me last night why I don’t write more frequently about The Industry on here. I think he likes it when I take potshots at people we know. But that’s the point, unfortunately. I’ve made a few too many enemies with this blog (yes, and some friends too, but still… as Willy Loman knew, we all desperately want to be liked.)

Nevertheless, I couldn’t pass up commenting on the latest screwball comedy at the Writers Guild. What most of the world doesn’t know – and why should they? – is that there are two, not one, unions of film and television writers – the Writers Guild of America, east (WGAE) and the Writers Guild of America, west (WGAW). The reasons for this are too complex and, frankly, incomprehensible to me, after thirty-some years in the Guild, to explain; so I won’t attempt to go into them here. But here’s the latest: The two Writers Guilds are now in the process of suing each other!

Again, the terms of these suits are prolix and fraught with seemingly-ageless personal enmities. (In the midst of this, WGA East President Herb Sargent died at 81.) Something about uncollected funds from thirty years ago and whether this should go to court or be arbitrated. It all has little to do with the welfare of writers and lot to do with people’s egos and union jobs. In the old days, the image of the writer was a wild-eyed bohemian. Now it’s a Teamsters-style apparatchik who wants to cling to his position as an officer of the Guild. I was a member of the Board of Directors back in 1990-1992 and when I bother to look at who is running the place now, I see the same members, avoiding term limits in one job by moving to another. Maybe they should spend a little more time writing. [It’s a lot easier to pontificate at board meetings.-ed. No kidding!] In any case, after the multiple disasters at the WGA, you’d think a little housecleaning would be in order.