For Every DVD Under the Tree, A Writer Starves to Death

You wait until December 23 to start your Christmas shopping. In a panic, you bitch your way through traffic to The Grove, or 3rd Street, or wherever. You have a Post-It with names and possibilities. And a credit card that you’ll hate to look at come January.

You wind up at Borders, or Best Buy. You convince yourself that gift cards are impersonal. Hell, they can exchange this anyway. So, off you go to the register with that random movie you hope they don’t already have, so they can watch it once and forget who bought it for them in the first place.

This Christmas, you might think twice about buying them a DVD.

Emmy-winning television writer Ken Levine has an excellent blog about life as a writer. It’s always a great read. But, it’s even more interesting now to see an established creative professional’s take on the strike.

Ken blogged this week about the new Blade Runner DVD that’s set to hit stores this season. In his post, he comments on the special features of today’s DVDs, like outtakes, trailers, commentary, and deleted scenes.

For every good insightful, revealing director’s track there are a hundred useless ones. They just describe what you’re seeing on the screen. “In that shot I wanted to show the car.” “Okay, here is where I thought you needed a close-up.” Zzzzzzzzz. Put a mike in front of most directors and they become Tim McCarver.

Here’s a wacky idea. Instead of loading these DVD releases with unnecessary and often costly features, how about if the studios used that money instead to pay fair royalties to the writers, directors, and actors responsible for those movies in the first place? Is the “Making of EVAN ALMIGHTY” worth major labor strikes?

Scenes are deleted for a reason. Trailers are meant for theatres. Commentary is meant for HBO specials.

Be honest with yourself. When is the last time Requiem for a Dream made it off the top shelf?

3 Replies to “For Every DVD Under the Tree, A Writer Starves to Death”

  1. I don’t quite see the connection. I refuse to waste money on DVDs unless they have bonus features, including a mandatory commentary track. Certainly, there are some movies where I could care less about BTS features or what the directors were thinking, but these are the DVDs I wouldn’t buy in the first place.

    But it is a shame that more writers aren’t given their own commentary track. They often can expound upon the filmmaking procss in a way that is more acccessible than what the directors or even actors can offer. Their voices may not lend the celebrity novelty, but they often allow for further immersion into the story, as well as the filmmaking process.

    BTS featurettes are, by and large, dull and uninspired. Typically intended for HBO, press packs, and follow a boilerplate structure that keeps all the studio execs content, but are generally useless. Which is a shame – there are talented people out there willing to make more interesting BTS featurettes (ie Constatine Nasr, who does all the Frank Darabont stuff).

    The studios can easily concede a cut to the writers without taking cutting out DVD features.

  2. Be honest with yourself. When is the last time Requiem for a Dream made it off the top shelf?

    I can’t remember. I thought it sucked the first time I saw it.

  3. I don’t quite see the connection. I refuse to waste money on DVDs unless they have bonus features, including a mandatory commentary track. Certainly, there are some movies where I could care less about BTS features or what the directors were thinking, but these are the DVDs I wouldn’t buy in the first place.

    But it is a shame that more writers aren’t given their own commentary track. They often can expound upon the filmmaking procss in a way that is more acccessible than what the directors or even actors can offer. Their voices may not lend the celebrity novelty, but they often allow for further immersion into the story, as well as the filmmaking process.

    BTS featurettes are, by and large, dull and uninspired. Typically intended for HBO, press packs, and follow a boilerplate structure that keeps all the studio execs content, but are generally useless. Which is a shame – there are talented people out there willing to make more interesting BTS featurettes (ie Constatine Nasr, who does all the Frank Darabont stuff).

    The studios can easily concede a cut to the writers without taking cutting out DVD features.

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