What Is A Writer Anyway/

August 18th, 2006 · No Comments
by Booksquare

The current war in Hollywood about reality shows and writers will not be the stuff of legend…unless you happen to believe that reality shows are off-the-cuff and spontaneous and, well, real. In that case, you’re going to have more than a few illusions shattered. Sorry.

There is scripting on those shows, and the writers are seeking union representation under the auspices of the Writers Guild of America. This action will lead to increased production costs for the shows. Right now, they are management darlings because, relatively speaking, they are cheap to produce. Fair wages and benefits have a nasty habit of of increasing capital outlay. Writers on reality shows function on various levels, as noted in this Los Angeles Times article:

Even though reality shows purport to capture events as they happen, many employ writers to feed lines to participants, plot out story lines and edit interviews. With the “America’s Next Top Model” walkout, the writers guild signaled that it was stepping up its campaign to organize workers in the burgeoning genre.

Possibly one of the more interesting parts of the job is the one buried in the middle: plotting out story lines. Following people around all day and taping what they do isn’t telling a story. While most days follow a predictable arc — you get up, you do morning stuff, lunch serves as a turning point, post-lunch doldrums offer setbacks, dinner!, evening activities either advance your goals or frustrate them, then bed, the ultimate victory — that would make for rather dull viewing. Why watch someone else do exactly what you’re doing, even if they are rich and famous?

The craft and success of reality programming is dependent on the skill of writers and editors who put the pieces together in a coherent manner — in a story. Even if you’re not following a brad-bound script, you’re still writing the story. Rather than focusing on medium, perhaps it’s better to focus on task.

Of course, considering the job would require acknowledge that reality show writers are indeed writing. It is not a mental stretch to believe they’re storyboarding and crafting and plotting.

  • ‘Next Top Model’ Writers Threaten Strike
    They say producers of the reality show, which is a key part of the new CW network lineup, have ignored their request to join a union.
  • CW: Top Model Episodes Not Unfinished
  • [tags]writing, publishing, reality shows, writers guild[/tags]

    File Under: Square Pegs