A writer of made-for-TV movies reflects on his middling successes and near-misses from a career of steady but not spectacular work in Hollywood:
On occasion during my 30-year screenwriting career, the amount on these checks has been life-changing, enough money to buy a car or temporarily pay off our credit cards. But I don’t really expect to see that kind of windfall again. I haven’t had a movie made in eight years, and my current career status is somewhere between emeritus and irrelevant. Still, the check that came yesterday was a nice surprise. The total was $2,588.95. Included with the check was an itemized list of movies for which I had received sole or shared screenwriting credit and that had been shown again and again around the world. The biggest amounts were for Cleopatra ($716.41), a lavish and maybe-just-a-little-bit-cheesy ABC miniseries, and for King of Texas ($854.30), a Western retelling of King Lear with Patrick Stewart and Marcia Gay Harden that had originally aired on TNT. A half-dozen other movies were on the list. They included a few boilerplate TV movies like In The Line of Duty: Blaze of Glory (56 cents), an ‘inspired by a true story’ bank heist movie starring those then-titans of the small screen Bruce Campbell and Lori Loughlin; a steamy Lifetime murder mystery called Widow on the Hill ($341.60), which remains the only thing I’ve ever written that my mother implied she would just as soon I hadn’t; andThe Colt ($122.53), a nicely rendered little Civil War movie that aired on the Hallmark Channel that I had adapted from a seven-page short story by Mikhail Sholokov. The Guild statement provided scant information about which parts of the world embraced these movies most fervently, but I doubt that I’m far off the mark in imagining an unwatched TV screen in the back of a kebab stand in Kota Kinabalu.
“I Was an A-List Writer of B-List Productions.” — Stephen Harrigan, Slate
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