Generally speaking, screenwriters aren’t famous. Perhaps we become well known among our colleagues and maybe even within the industry, but the general public tends not to recognise us or even know which of us wrote their favourite films. Not unless the writer also directed or starred in it.
TV is perhaps a little different, but certainly in features the writer’s role is so minimised they’re barely mentioned. I don’t recall ever hearing a writer interviewed on Kermode and Mayo’s Film Review, for example. Except, of course, for the usual caveat of they were also the director or the star.
Scriptwriters are faceless and interchangeable, not worth talking about. The downside of this is the devaluing of perception leads to financial devaluing. Writers get paid less (a lot less) than actors, directors or producers because … well, we’re just not really an important part of the film-making process. We merely invent the whole thing from beginning to end, anyone can do that.
The only upside of not being famous is, well, being famous is a bit shit, isn’t it? Why would you want people pointing at you and whispering to each other and asking for your autograph and generally bothering you every time you pop out for a pint of milk?
Not me. Anonymity is lovely, thank you very much.
And yet …
This Halloween I broke out (busted out?) my Ghostbusters outfit again.†
To serious Ghostheads, the kind who spend around £2000 on building their proton packs, my ramshackle, dirt-cheap homemade equipment looks terrible …
… but most people who haven’t studied the films frame by frame just seem to think it’s amazing. First stop on Halloween was a kid’s disco at Eastbourne’s Tennis in the Park Cafe … and I got mobbed by children.
At one stage they were four-deep around me, trying on my goggles, asking questions about my equipment and generally being in awe. Adults were asking to take my photo, for selfies with me, wanting to know where I got the costume from or just to talk about Ghostbusters in general.
Everyone, it turns out, loves a Ghostbuster.
Trick or treating later that night brought a similar reaction from everyone we passed. People shouted “Who you gonna call?” or “Cool costume!” from across the street, crossed over for photos or just generally wanted to stop and chat … and you know what? It was intoxicating.
It was so intoxicating that when the night was over I put my equipment back on to go to the takeaway up the road. I thought at the time it was an odd thing to do, but fuck it, I wanted to be a Ghostbuster for a little longer.
November the 1st I felt a bit down all day. At first I couldn’t put my finger on it, I just felt flat and deflated, bordering on a little depressed. I couldn’t figure it out until well into the evening, but I think it’s because I was missing the adulation and admiration of everyone I walked past.
This is, of course, ridiculous.
I don’t crave fame. Greater recognition for my writing, perhaps. Greater remuneration*, definitely … but fame? No thank you. And yet, that tiny taste of what it’s like to be universally … not loved. Respected? Admired? Recognised? I’m not sure what the right word is. The point is that tiny taste had a measurable psychological effect on me, so how much of a mind-fuck must it be for people who are actually famous? No wonder they go off the rails or become a bit weird.
So maybe writers not being famous is a good thing? Maybe not being famous is what keeps us such a sane, balanced and well rounded group of individuals?
Yeah … maybe not?
† My daughter made her own costume this year. I think she did an amazing job.
* Wow! I always thought this word was renumeration. Turns out I’ve been using it wrong my entire life. Sort of.