At the end of December a friend of the blog sent me a big box of books and old DVDs, and I’ve spent the balance of the winter working my way through it. We have similar low taste in movies, my contributor and me, so except for some I already had and some I’d have to be tied down to ever watch all the way through – I’m looking at you, Bad Boys II – no matter how laughable an action flick was I would eventually get to it.
Last night’s contribution was something called Aeon Flux, which I gather was based on a series of MTV short cartoons. I just don’t know where people get the notion that movie producers have run out of original ideas.
One of the things I like to do with DVDs is see who recorded the commentary track, if any. In my never-ending quest to squeeze the most out of a DVD I’ll probably watch six times in spite of myself, I’ve become something of a commentary track connoisseur. If it’s the director it’s bound to be nothing but lens talk and variations on “now this bit of animation coming up was really hard.” If it’s some of the actors it’ll be “I don’t want to be here” mumbling or blathering about some joke he/she heard or what all the commissary was serving that day. I just don’t know where people get the notion that movie actors are brainless eye candy.
But if it’s the writers, I give the track a try and probably listen to it all the way through while doing something else. I’ve spent my whole life, outside the past ten years, as a frustrated fiction writer and never miss an opportunity to eavesdrop while writers gas on about writing. It’s usually pretty standard stuff but this particular track was a special treat. There are two credited writers, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, neither of whom – you’ll be shocked to know – I’ve ever heard of. And at the time they recorded their track they still hadn’t gotten over their disappointment and bitterness over what the producers, director and editor(s) did to their beautiful baby. This is unusual – whoever does the commentary track is supposed to say nice things about the film.
It plopped me square into a slough of despond, sinking under the weight of my own sins as I recalled the one job I had where I was going to stop writing manuals and tech videos and start my climb up the ladder with the giant leap to sales copy and promotional videos – and how vitally important people skills and the ability to kiss yuuuge amounts of ass turned out to be to any hope of success in that endeavor. Oh, it got ugly. There were disasters. I contributed my full share to those disasters.
See, in the visual arts a writer is rarely even considered part of the creative team unless he represents the guy with the checkbook*. The script – which the writer’s massive ego may have fooled him into believing was a epoch-marking masterpiece – is just considered by everyone else a place to start making the actual film. Not a syllable of it is considered sacred by anyone but the writer’s massive ego. The writer’s massive ego is certain to consider the resulting commercial product to be an astonishing disaster. This rarely keeps the writer from cashing the check, but you get the idea. Whining will ensue.
The funny bit was that whoever put the DVD together went ahead and added that commentary track – apparently without even reviewing it – because who was going to ever watch it anyway? Clearly none of the producers did.
*ETA: As a contract writer I have written the scripts for videos and developed the conceptual art for animations which won major industry awards – at banquets to which I was not invited.