Our friend John August, the screenwriter with a Web presence who can be relied on to get things horribly wrong at a technical level, has topped himself, you might say. He’s launched a jeremiad against ScriptShadow, a site that reviews screenplays, including unproduced ones. ScriptShadow is merely bringing to a mass audience what was hidden behind closed doors. As August admits:

Aspiring screenwriters have always had access to this material the same way [ScriptShadow] apparently got access to it: By working and interning in the industry. In between answering phones… bright underpaid aspirants have the opportunity to read almost every script in town. Impromptu networks of assistants pass around their favorite screenplays, in the process picking the next generation of hot writers.

The elite screenwriter and producer castes, and their servants, have access to every script in Hollywood. They can say whatever they want about those scripts (short of defamation, I assume), but they can talk only to each other. These critics act like a royal family ensconced in a castle. ScriptShadow has breached the moat and knocked down the front gate.

The elite screenwriter and producer castes and the (not atypically gay) manservants who answer the latter’s phones do not have exclusive access anymore. It’s over, John; the world of limited disclosure among a prescreened clique has crashed into the sun. It’s now a question of learning to adapt to a world of full disclosure to all and sundry, even people who haven’t passed the laughably minimal test of securing an entry-level job on a studio lot. (These people are genuinely more qualified to review screenplays how?)

I don’t see how August can reasonably claim that it’s in a screenwriter’s best interest to read everything, and make sure everybody reads their own work, when “everybody” doesn’t actually mean everybody. And if he’s worried that studios will lock the writing process down, meaning that writers won’t get work for future scripts because nobody will have access to existing scripts, now might be the time to consider the wisdom of labouring in an industry where you never own your own work. It seems that the motion-picture industry is a much worse bargain for writers than the music industry ever was for musicians, since in their case rights eventually reverted to the artists much of the time.

I suppose it makes sense that a man who gets so much wrong about the Web would act surprised and alarmed when that same Web does something it has done all along.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.12.11 11:54. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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None. I quit.

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