THE INVISIBLE FACES OF HOLLYWOOD
Monday, October 30, 2023
Think of your favorite TV show. Got it? Ok great. Now, think about why this is your favorite show. If you love this show because of the writing or costume design, then congratulations, you are one in a million. Most people’s favorite shows and movies are born out of a love for a specific actor or cast. Acting is almost the only thing we can immediately associate with Hollywood and the film industry. I’m guilty of this as well. I will turn on a series solely to see my celebrity crush or to watch my favorite actress deliver her lines. It is extremely easy to boil down Hollywood and its golden era to the names of actors and directors, but in reality, there are several faces behind Hollywood that are not seen - and deserve to be.
To fully appreciate the glamour and drama that is Hollywood, one must understand the connection between the different facets of the film industry that are the driving force behind the silver screen. I was lucky enough to learn about one of these facets from my dad. As a screenwriter, my dad gave me a front-row seat to the drama of the writer’s strike and a lifetime of watching him write countless scripts and make his way to various studios. While watching my dad and his work, I learned how interconnected each team within the industry is. The writers don’t just hand in a script and leave, they stay with the producers and directors to make sure their writing comes to life.
One underrated partnership in the film industry is the collaboration between screenwriters and costume designers. Clothing plays an intricate role in addressing the character or who they pretend to be. Clothing describes the character’s emotions without using words. Thus, the writers work tirelessly with costume designers to ensure their words are correctly translated into fabric. And I see this collaboration through my dad’s work. For example, my dad described to me a character he wrote who is on her rise to power. She shifts from a nobody, to someone very powerful on screen. To signify this shift, my dad explained how he worked with costume designers. She changes from a silver to gold dress to symbolize the power shift written into her story line. Without the work of these two forces behind the screen, the faces we see when we think of our favorite tv show or movie would be just as invisible.
In addition to exploring the connection between the invisible faces behind Hollywood, one cannot understand the film industry without understanding the writers strike that occurred this past summer. The writer’s strike began in May of 2023 when the contract between the WGA, the guild representing screen and television writers, and the AMPTP, the group representing the major studios and streamers who employ those writers, could not agree on a new three-year contract. Writers felt the issues they faced were ‘existential’ because they threatened the guild's survival and the occupation itself. These included artificial intelligence and its rapidly expanding ability to generate a screenplay based on prior writing, the ability to profit off a successful streaming show that had not been negotiated in prior contracts, the length of employment to develop a streaming show, and the number of writers hired to write those shows. This was an arduous fight that made the invisible, visible.
And the strike of 2023 wasn’t the first. While many know the golden era in Hollywood for its glamour and the faces on the silver screen, without the work of the writers, there would be no golden age - only a silent era. In 1952, The Screen Writers Guild joined the Authors League of America to demand residuals and secure ownership over their work. The unions went on strike for 14 weeks to attain rights over their work when Hollywood’s landscape evolved to include sequels and reruns. This was where the two unions made history by establishing residuals for writers previously overlooked in the film industry. The next strike was in 1960 when the union fought for better healthcare plans and job benefits. This strike established a writers’ pension fund and allowed the industries to agree on an industry healthcare system. These two strikes took place at a time when Hollywood was at a post-film high. Actors were making names for themselves, and many classics were being produced at an exponentially fast rate.
Whether or not we think to remember the people behind the screen, it is important to understand the influence that the various facets of the film industry have had on the way we perceive what we view on the silver screen. From collaborations between costume designers and screenwriters, to the union’s fight during the golden age, it is clear that the entertainment we tirelessly binge is nothing without the invisible faces of Hollywood.