#SorkinGate, Or An Open Letter To Those In The Aaron Sorkin Business

UPDATE: I really felt strongly about a couple of bits of news coming of out of the utterly reprehensible Sony hack that the media has been oddly silent about. But, as I was about to hit publish on this post, a non-Sony email hit the news cycle…

Clutch your pearls, girls. To paraphrase the all-time classic Kanye West chestnut: Aaron Sorkin Doesn’t Care About Female People.

Feel free to read the rest of the post or whatever, but…

Aaron Sorkin can go fuck himself.

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It goes without saying I am 100% not OK with anything relating to the hacking of Sony Pictures. I don’t think anyone feels otherwise, really, except the people who did the hacking. Probably.

So it was really, truly odd for an Op-Ed from Aaron Sorkin to hit the New York Times, seemingly to rally a tinny cry for justice. The… what?

If you didn’t know, Aaron Sorkin is very upset about all this hacking activity, but he feels as if he’s standing alone against this tyranny! Why isn’t the media smart and brave enough to stand up to the bad dudes, dudes??

(I’m paraphrasing. My utter lack of interest in being a Sorkinesque writer allows me to distill his missive, er, a bit.)

Admirable, right? Um, Aaron Sorkin taking a stand and fighting for the little guy…? Is he defending his friends at Sony? Is he defending an industry on its knees, or one that has fallen too far from grace to be saved?

Nope. On all counts.

Aaron Sorkin isn’t some innocent bystander chucking his admirable wordsmithing into this complex issue, in altruistic fashion. Aaron Sorkin has a horse in this race.

A straight-up racist horse, as a matter of fact.*

Much hullabaloo has been made about Amy Pascal’s seemingly (and hopefully) singular racist joke. (Granted, it was about a sitting president of the United States of America. Obviously not cool.).

There has been perhaps less emphasis on Scott Rudin’s racist (see president joke above), sexist (Remember, Angelina Jolie is a “minimally talented spoiled brat” and his speculation on Megan Ellison’s mental state? Anyone else spot a trend of Mr. Rudin not liking the powerful ladies so much…?) and downright boorish behaviour, in general.

But it took Aaron Sorkin to put the real cherry on that pile of crap and call it a sundae. (Emphasis is mine.)

“If I turned in a terrific draft of Flash Boys, why would it have a better chance of getting made than Steve Jobs? The protagonist is Asian-American (actually Asian-Canadian) and there aren’t any Asian movie stars. There’s no precedent for stories about high frequency trading creating a stampede to the box office. Aren’t you asking me to spend another year writing a movie you won’t make and sign a contract you may or may not honor?”

Woah, woah, Mr. Sorkin! One issue at a time:

1-Why would Flash Boys have a better chance at becoming a film than Steve Jobs? Hmm… Anyone? A diverse cast leading a story that hasn’t been told, adapted from a solid book versus a bunch of white dudes in a re-imagining of a story already made into a movie starring Ashton Kutcher? Tough call.

2- There aren’t any Asian movie stars? Oh. Then stories involving asian characters should be disregarded by Hollywood entirely? I missed that memo, but that’s a good note. Gotcha.

3- No stampede for films about wall street? Oh gosh, another memo I missed. Darn! (Also, Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio must’ve missed that memo too… I’d bet their faces sure are red today!)

I must have also missed the memo that there is a MASSIVE stampede for films about dickish weirdos from Harvard who invented Facebook by accident, also hot chicks from Colorado who invite Ben Affleck to play poker.**

(And on the topic of dickish dudes and Facebook, I’m far from the first person to point this out, but I think the movie-going public made it pretty clear that they don’t care for Jessie Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield or Armie Hammer as “movie stars”. But, hey, at least they’re not Asian! AMIRITE?)

4-Oh noes! Aaron Sorkin might spend time writing a movie that won’t get made? The injustice! I’d bet that’s never happened to any other screenwriter in the history of ever!

Also 5- Aren’t the creatives supposed to be bringing in the new and wild and fresh ideas, while the grubby and terrible studios are forcing the white male agenda down our collective throats through apathy?

If you’d asked me prior to #SorkinGate, I probably would have agreed with Mark Ruffalo :

 “There’s been a huge disrespect to what the talent brings. Where does the value really lie? In the people making the deals or the people making stories? There’s been a perversion of that with agents and managers and producers.”

But Aaron Sorkin flipped this dynamic, single-handedly! So it’s the reverse now? Damn. I sure am missing a ton of memos. A stampede of memos, if you will…

But the hits just keep on coming. Like this headline and excerpt from The Examiner:

It’s not just ‘The Newsroom’ – Aaron Sorkin really doesn’t understand journalism

“There have been some serious news stories that have come from this hacked info and despite what Sorkin argues, the fact that Jennifer Lawrence makes less money than male counterparts matters. We’d be writing about this if someone inside the studio had merely leaked the news to a lone reporter, so how do we justify ignoring it because it was stolen by some third party?”

Does it matter that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams were each offered 7% in profit participation in American Hustle while Christian Bale AND Bradley Cooper AND Jeremy Renner were at 9% each, though? We already know, like, men are way awesomer than women, even in Hollywood! Right, brah???

Anyhow, I am but a mere woman, worth two full percentage points less than any man who doesn’t have an Oscar, so it’s a real struggle to understand these things. Not to mention getting through books like Flash Boys and Molly’s Game.

Head to head, both books could be seen as varying degrees of dead boring. No matter how you slice it, the only angle to Molly’s Game that could draw more potential movie-goers than a story like Flash Boys would likely be the salacious “This is how the other half lives” telling of celebrity-soaked tales behind the scenes of back-room poker games.

Does that mean Aaron Sorkin would be using his vast writing talents to help in making a film based almost entirely on private business that celebrities and public figures don’t want you knowing about? “Doing it”, as it were, “for a nickel.”

Wait a second! Isn’t Aaron Sorkin against the entire nickel business? Or is he only against those “in the media” making the nickels for telling tales? Makes sense. He’s a real writer. And a dude! That makes him, like, way awesomer than, like, everyone.

OK, deep breath. Let’s start over.

None of the above is fair. All this stolen information and resulting opinion isn’t of interest to the rarefied air of Aaron Sorkin. Back to the Op-Ed, then…

Maybe Mr. Sorkin didn’t have time or space to refute allegations of racism or sexism in his seemingly spacious Op-Ed. Or maybe he did. He sure had time and space to address whispers of a rumoured affair with Molly’s Game author Molly Bloom with this: (I wish.)

HE REALLY SAID THAT. IN PRINT. IT’S THERE.

Le sigh.

Let us set aside both Flash Boys (for aforementioned lack of available Asian-ness, sure) and Molly’s Game (still girl cooties brah- even if the chick who wrote it is a smoking fox, brah! AMIRITE?) for the moment.

Instead, perhaps consider adapting other true stories: Tales of African-American children being murdered in the streets, like Trayvon Martin or Mike Brown or Tamir Rice. You get the idea. There are lots to choose from. You could remake Fruitvale Station instead of Steve Jobs! But maybe there are no young African-American movie stars?

(At least the story would be about an American and not – GASP! – A CANADIAN! NNNNOOOOO! How could anyone even find an actor to say SOORY enough times to pretend to be Canadian anyway? There are no Canadian movie stars! Geez!)

Or, adapt a recent piece from the LA Times about how the tomatoes you spend your hard-earned dollars from writing tone-deaf Sorkinesque scripts on at Whole Foods might be harvested by child labour. Though, there may not be any Mexican-Mexican movie stars, so that may not cause a box office stampede either… Your move, Mr. Sorkin.

Wait, should it be his move? Should anyone get a free pass, not for a solitary transgression, but for what comes across as an utter disregard for women and minorities in Hollywood?

No one is even talking of boycotting Aaron Sorkin, or demanding he never work again? Not even after all this? I like A Few Good Men and The West Wing as much as the next person, but come on!

To anyone who still wants to be in the Aaron Sorkin business, at the risk of sounding like an advice columnist from the 1960s: You deserve better.

We all deserve better.

There are lots of really great screenwriters who do brilliant work. Some of them may even be women, minorities, or others who don’t jump to mind. Many people can write thinky/talky/smart/fun movies. People other than Aaron Sorkin do it every day – even WITH roles for Asian people and women and stuff! (It sounds crazy, but it’s true!)

And for all the innocent, decent and hard-working folk at Sony, this all truly sucks. You deserve so much better. You deserve to work with people who are not racist or sexist or self-serving or cruel. My sincerest wish is that, in our lifetime, that will happen. That, someday, there will be no one left wanting to be in the Aaron Sorkin business.  Not even Kim Jong Un.

 

*This is not an allegation that racist horses exist. I have never met a racist horse, personally.

**#NoDisrespectToBenAffleck

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RIP Harold Ramis

I often wonder if there was a comedy void in the 1970s and 1980s. I don’t know much about that time (I have a bit of an excuse- I wasn’t alive for a bunch of it). But I do know that, as a child, comedies seemed like they really got very good sometime in the early 80s. We had a VCR and VHS tapes were rented and bought with all sorts of funny stories to watch. Aside from old Disney cartoons, we didn’t have a frame of “children’s entertainment” in the house, either.

I remember how much I loved Ghostbusters, in particular. I often had tea parties and silly adventures with my Slimer and Stay Puft toys. Ghostbusters was not very scary and a bit sci-fi and it was really funny. It was perfect. For me, anyway

I saw Ghostbusters again really recently- I remember seeing it pop up on a hotel room TV somewhere. I was exhausted- too tired to even find the remote. So I just left it on. I thought I’d fall asleep, anyway. But I watched it all the way through. And I still loved every frame of it.

I had seen it relatively recently on the big screen as well. The awesome program TIFF ran in Toronto all throughout last summer- TOGA! The Reinvention of American Comedy– featured talks with folks like Ivan Reitman and John Landis. TIFF threw out the welcome mat to everyone, to enjoy the simple beauty and silly slapstickery of these films on the big screen. For me, I was having a lousy summer, and holding those precious admissions in my hand kept me looking forward to the next week, the next talk and screening. It made me feel a little more normal, a little more connected, than I had felt in a while.

There was Animal House and Stripes, Caddyshack and Meatballs. And my beloved Ghostbusters, which didn’t really seem to age all that much, or all that badly. I admit, maybe my big kid heart was still hanging on to it too tightly. But Ghostbusters, and all the other movies on that list, still seem tinged with timelessness to me.

And I admit, because I have to say it out loud, that my first thought when I read the headline about the sudden passing of Harold Ramis early yesterday was “That’s the end of Ghostbusters 3”. Harold Ramis, who I loved as Egon and grew to appreciate as a funny and fearlessly sharp writer and director, was just gone. No long goodbye. No Ghostbusters 3. I’m selfish and horrible for even thinking it, I know, especially because I got so much benefit from this very one-sided relationship already.

Harold Ramis made us laugh. He made me laugh, which was never an easy task. And, as selfish as I am, I don’t just miss him. I miss all the movies I wish he’d made…

Sorry, Venkman. I’m terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.

PS: This was the illustration for last year’s TIFF TOGA! program done by my friend and brilliant artist Deena Pagliarello. Check out her Tumblr for more sketches and concepts from it as well.

 

The Athena List And Why It Matters

Thanks to the brilliant Ava DuVernay, who tweeted this:

That link is to Time Magazine and an article about the inaugural Athena List. In case you haven’t heard of it (which I hadn’t until today), it is a list that has grown out of the Athena Film Festival comprised of 3-5 screenplays that feature a strong female protagonist. All the scripts on the list (at least for the current year) are based on true stories and the lives of real women. I don’t really know of the people or scripts involved, nor the methodology of how these particular screenplays were chosen.

And you know what? I don’t care.

I don’t care who’s on the list or why some great script isn’t on it or my great script isn’t on it. I am just really, very happy that this list exists. And I’m excited to see whatever comes of it.

Megan Ellison And 2013 Spec Script Sales

Sigh.

I started off to post merely some very general observations about spec sales in 2013. But then I saw that tweet and thought to myself, man, if someone who is out there working and making a difference feels like this, the rest of us should feel…?

But we cannot fix the system, can we? No one person can. All we can do is the work. Mini-revolutionaries. Change from the inside. Small steps. Big hearts. Can’t lose. (Did I rip that off from elsewhere…? Ha ha.)

So, let us get the good/bad news out of the way. The good news? Lots of awesome writers sold spec scripts in 2013. Congrats to all.

There is an exhaustive list at Go Into The Story of 2013 spec sales. To be fair, I only did a quick scan of the 100+ title list, so I might have missed some nuances.

The not-so-good news? By my rough count, 15 women are on the list. Keeping in mind, of course, some of the scripts have more than one writer. Working out the percentage of female writers who sold spec scripts in 2013 to be right around 12%.

I really can’t explain this. If anyone can, I’d love to hear it.