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Strikeblogging #1: "A $100 million Dogma ’95 Film"

in Filmmaking
on Nov 16, 2007

If you’ve been following the WGA strike, you’ve probably realized that a lot of people on the WGA side are blogging it. There is, of course, United Hollywood, a blog that reports from the WGA side. But there are also several blogs run by active screenwriters. One is John August’s blog where the veteran screenwriter (Go, Big Fish, Charlies Angels) is offering a very personal view of life on the picket line. His daily reports are full of humor, well-crafted observation, and even bits of industry news. Here’s an excerpt of his November 15 entry in which he describes meeting Lost creator and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams and learning how the strike is affecting the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

…So when it got around the picket lines that Star Trek would be coming to the lot on Wednesday, I could foresee a situation that got awkward or worse. If you’ve been reading my daily updates, you’ll know that I’m the guy who is always concerned about avoiding stupid car accidents. This felt like a stupid car accident waiting to happen, so I suggested that [Star Trek producer] Damon [Lindelof] and J.J. spend some time walking, talking, and engaging with the picket line.

What I couldn’t have anticipated is that it would be so, well, engaging.

There are a few basic things that should get cleared up first.

Neither J.J. nor Damon are writers on the movie. But they are writers, and WGA members. During a WGA strike, you’re not allowed to write on movies or television shows, period. So they can’t change a word of the script, nor can anyone else. The script they had at 11:59 p.m. November 5th is the script they have to shoot.

To a screenwriter, that might seem kind of awesome. For once, the director can’t change things. But when its your own movie, it’s maddening. J.J. was describing a scene he was shooting the day before. Midway through it, he got a great idea for a new line. Which he couldn’t write. Couldn’t shoot. Couldn’t be in his movie.

Damon described it like having one of your superpowers taken away.

You can absolutely make a movie without changing the script. Big Fish and Charlie were shot just like they were written. But to not even have the option of changing something is a bizarre restriction, like making a Dogme 95 film with a $100 million budget….

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