by Jordan Evans
El Gato originally published this article in its March 2016 issue.
When Googling the Oscar recipients of any given year, the first winners to appear are those from the Best Picture, Director, Actor, and Actress categories. Farther down the list, which is clearly ranked with the most popular at the top, is that of the Adapted and Original Screenplay. The same is true for Googling Emmy winners; the writers are not a priority. The writing category habitually lies in the middle of an awards show, when most people are biding their time between the red carpet arrival and the “important awards” that come at the end, like Best Actor and Director. What concerns me is that the general public cares more about the actors portraying memorable film characters rather than the writers who create these stories.
Some of the most recognizable names in the film industry are Steven Spielberg, Johnny Depp, Alfred Hitchcock, and Meryl Streep. All of these people are directors, producers, and actors; none of them are writers. You’ve probably never heard of Steven Zaillian, who wrote the heart-wrenching script for Schindler’s List. He created the plot and the characters whom no one can forget, but most never even learn his name.
Behind every great movie is a script that carries the characters through conflicts and resolutions. No matter how talented the director, the actors, or the producers, it is the script of a film that gives it the ability to become a classic; that is where the message lies. A script is the backbone of a movie or television episode because there is nothing without one.
One instance that comes to mind is a plotline from “30 Rock” when Liz Lemon pens the catchphrase “That’s a dealbreaker, ladies!” Automatically, the public catapults Jenna Maroney, the actress on the show who delivers the line, into comedic stardom. Liz receives no credit until she fights to remind people that the famous line is her invention. Although a dramatization, the idea behind this storyline is clear: writers deserve more recognition for their work.
My intention is not to discredit the effort and work that actors pour into their movies, but I think it is unfair that the public recognizes the vessel of a character rather than its creator. To increase the awareness and appreciation of a writer is my ultimate goal, not to lower the status of the more recognized people in the film industry.
To get you started, Charles Randolph and Adam McKay won the award for Adapted Screenplay at this year’s Academy Awards for their movie “The Big Short.” Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy received the Original Screenplay award for “Spotlight.” So next time you watch a movie or a TV show, just stick around to see who wrote it.
(Sources: New York Times, Emmys)