A "Suck-Salute" In Honor Of... CANADA - Writer's Digest

A "Suck-Salute" In Honor Of... CANADA

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Hey, screenwriters—

Every once in a while, I like to take a few moments to pay tribute to someone who’s done something so lame, so asinine, so irrefutably SUCKY that they deserve their own reward.

I call this honor a “Suck-Salute,” and I am pleased to announce today's very special winner… CANADA.

Earlier this week, CBS announced it had picked up thirteen episodes of Flashpoint, a new scripted drama about a Strategic Response Team, an elite squad of cops trained to rescue hostages, disarm bombs, fight gangs, and all other kinds of cool cop stuff. What made this announcement so unusual, however… was that Hollywood's TV writers were (and still are, obviously) in the middle of a strike.

And without writers, where could CBS have possibly bought this show? Directors don’t create and write TV shows. Neither do actors. Or production designers. Or construction foremen.

The answer, it turned out, was relatively simple: Canada.

Flashpoint is a Canadian show, written and produced entirely by Canadian writers, producers, and crews at CTV, Canada’s largest television network.

Then, this morning, NBC and ABC announced that they, too, were picking up Canadian shows: two more dramas—The Listener and The Border—and a comedy, Sophie.

Which means that while American writers are striking on the streets, shutting off the content stream to U.S. networks and studios in order to receive fair compensation for the work they produce, Canadian writers have turned around and sold those same companies their work… for less money.

There’s only one word for behavior like that: douchey. (Yeah, I said it. It’s crass, it’s disgusting, it’s probably offensive. But it fits. And it’s French.)

Now, the Writers Guild of Canada has already come out and said that none of these shows are “struck work,” meaning none are owned by companies targeted by the striking WGA.

And they’re right.

But after the incredible support the WGA has received from England and Australia, it’s a bit disappointing—and by “disappointing” I mean “nauseating”—to get stabbed in the back by our “friends” up north. Especially after we have given Canada millions of dollars in production from the countless TV shows and movies we shoot each year in places like Toronto and Vancouver. TV shows and movies that could’ve been shot on U.S. soil, but aren’t, thanks to better tax incentives above the border.

I’ve never seen any of the shows acquired in these new deals. They may be good. They may be brilliant. They may be better than Seinfeld, CSIand I Love Lucy all rolled into one. I do know this, however: these shows’ writers and producers are spineless cowards who should be ashamed of their behavior.

"Canada is ready for the big time,” Stephen Waddell, national executive director of ACTRA, Canada's actors union, told The Hollywood Reporter this morning. “If you look at the (Canadian) programs that are being produced now, they're interesting, they're innovative, they bring a new perspective."

Really? Really, Canada? Because I believe if you were truly ready for the big time, you wouldn’t be leeching off your friends and fellow writers who are fighting for a fair deal that will—eventually and ultimately—benefit you (and all writers) as well.

But if your idea of the “big time” is taking whatever desperate shot at American audiences you can get… while your friends and colleagues are fighting for their livelihood… then you’re right—you’re ready for the big time.

A DISCLAIMER: This Suck-Salute is not necessarily intended for all of Canada… mainly just the gutless folks working at CTV, CBC, and the other companies involved with these shows.

But to the rest of Canada, and especially Canadian writers, I will say this: this is your country. These are your companies, designed to entertain you, that are behaving like this. Americans, Brits, Mexicans, Germans, Africans, Russians, or Spaniards aren’t the ones watching your networks and studios’ shows… generating ad dollars… putting food on your writers and producers’ tables. You are. So if you at all find this behavior despicable, if you at all believe that America’s striking screenwriters aren’t just fighting for their rights and respect, but for the rights and respect of writers and artists everywhere, then it’s your responsibility to let these companies know it.

So write a letter. Organize a strike support rally. Send a letter of support to the striking WGA at UnitedHollywood.com. Post something here! But don’t just sit there. This is your fight as well as ours. And your countrymen have betrayed you.