The opportunities for aging Hollywood may be shrinking, but vet scribes showed off their creative muscle last week at a Writers Guild of America-sponsored new work showcase.
Inside the Court Theater at Hollywood Methodist Church, 10 writers over 40, including Ron Bloomberg (“Empty Nest”), Al Aidekman (“Married … With Children”) and David Harwood Forbes (“Roseanne”), staged scenes from their original TV and film scripts.
Featuring such offbeat characters as a pot-smoking cop and a football-playing ballerina, the forum aimed to remind industryites that these established writers haven’t run out of fresh ideas.
“The business doesn’t understand that if a writer is good, a writer can do anything,” said Bloomberg. “George Bernard Shaw wrote one of his greatest plays at 96, but would never get a meeting with a network today.”
The statistics back up Bloomberg’s claim. According to the WGA, the scribe employment rate jumped from 61% to 73% from 1987 to 1997 for writers 30 and younger, but fell sharply for those over 30 — most drastically for writers in their fifties (from 40% down to 19%).
Top shows “Friends” and “Veronica’s Closet” listed no credited writer over 40 during the 1997-98 season.
Young auds, young scribes
Increasingly courting younger auds with such teen-skewing shows as “Dawson’s Creek” and “Felicity,” industry execs may feel that only writers under 30 can write for youthful stars and their fans.
“The networks say you must be 25 to 30 to write things like ‘Friends,’ ” complains Bloomberg. “It’s like telling a black writer you can only write black.”
But Cleary, who wrote episodes of “The Facts of Life,” admitted that while the business is rough on older writers, “it’s probably equally cruel to everyone.”
Additional featured writers included Mann Rubin (“The Human Shield”), Ben Masselink (“Barnaby Jones”), Steve Brasfield (“The Facts of Life”), Denny Martin Flinn (“Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country”), Peter Gallay (“Empty Nest”) and Tony H. Lawrence (“The Marsha Warfield Show”).