They’re tired of it: Press kits with little or no info on the writer. Film synopses that don’t credit scribes. Even press junkets that exclude screenwriters but include a film’s dog performers.
Continuing a campaign launched earlier this year to improve the writers’ image, the Writers Guild of America has taken on the outside publicity firm of Clein & White.
The agency will be in addition to the guild’s own inhouse public relations and communications unit, led by Cheryl Rhoden. The PR firm is expected to try to expand the writer’s presence in media stories, especially on the making of feature films, as well as scribes’ involvement in press junkets and press kits.
“It’s about finding new ways of making contacts with the media and other writers,” Harry Clein said. “On some levels we are thinking in esoteric ways, but what we are doing is all very mainstream. It is to get out the word about the writer.”
The guild earlier this year launched a new slogan, “America’s Storytellers.” It is one of several PR efforts that have been under way since the org formed a Writers Image Campaign Committee, charged with bolstering the image of writers “once and for all,” in the words of one of its co-chairs.
The cost of the campaign – and of retaining Clein & White – was not disclosed.
The effort comes after years of irritation among writers of getting left out of everything from film reviews to behind-the-scenes magazine feature stories on the making of a motion picture. In fact, as the spec market bloomed, more scribes have taken on personal publicists and managers.
“There’s been kind of a history of a lack of attention paid to the writer in the creative process,” one guild board member said. “Their story often doesn’t get told.”
It also comes as the Writers Guild tries to make inroads in the area of creative rights, which is expected to once again be a hot topic when the guild negotiates a new contract with producers in 1998. But the Directors Guild of America has traditionally spearheaded creative rights efforts, and writers have occasionally butted heads with helmers as they have tried to make inroads on their own.
The efforts so far include everything from more media events with scribes to even a subcommittee with the mission of taking on the auteur theory, which credits a director for being the author of a film. Under discussion are traveling programs for colleges to emphasize a writer’s contribution. “Film schools continue to teach the lie that directors are the authors of movies,” said a recent guild magazine editorial by Robert King, the co-chair of the Image Campaign Committee.
Meanwhile, the guild’s magazine, the Journal, also was recently revamped under editor Lisa Chambers into the newly named Written By, with less guild news and more info about the writing process.