Two DVDs that I have watched this past week compel me to point out some stark examples of the sort of “lack of respect” issues the Writers Guild has been hoping to address in recent contract negotiations. I don’t think anything reflects the distance between the two sides more than this issue.
The “Erin Brockovich: Behind the Scenes” DVD features interviews with the cast, the director, the executive producer, Erin Brockovich, Ed Masry and the original inhabitants of polluted Hinkley, Calif. — all fascinating. However, if we are to understand the filmmaking process simply from this disc, Erin Brockovich must have dictated her story directly to the talented Mr. Soderbergh. There was no mention of Susannah Grant, who wrote a terrific script, one that was nominated for both an Academy Award and a WGA Award in the category of best original screenplay.
The “filmmakers’ commentary” on the DVD for “What Lies Beneath” consisted of a conversation between the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis, and its two producers, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey. They spent a great deal of time talking about the construction of various story points in the tightly crafted thriller. Yet they only mentioned the screenwriter, Clark Gregg, perhaps once or twice in passing. More than once, the producers addressed Mr. Zemeckis with such language as, “Here is a place where you designed the script so cleverly.” The omission from this conversation of the person who actually had to sit down and write the script was glaring and egregious.
We writers have been criticized for collectively attempting to legislate “respect”; however, examples like these show precisely why we need to discuss and assert these rights. We simply are not included in the public representation of the “filmmakers” behind a film. We have been made invisible.