The Writers Guild has never been at the forefront of technology -- I once remember being at a WGA event and hearing a member say, "If I could write with a quill, I would." (Honestly, he said that, it's not a hyperbolic quip of mine.) I was on the committee that created the Guild's website...and boy, was that an uphill batter. At the time, the Guild's PR director didn't even have an email address. While this was a few years back, it's not like it was ancient history -- websites and email address were very common at that point. But that's how uphill the battle tends to be.
(Dealing with that PR director ultimately got me into quitting the Editorial Board, and stop writing for the website, for which I did two columns and created an online Mentor Program. Happily, that PR director is no longer at the Guild. Among her other many whimsical efforts was when she publicly trashed Larry Gelbart, who's "great crime" was that he was challenging some actors by the Guild officers. Never mind that the PR director is supposed to represent the Guild, not its officers -- but this was Larry freaking Gelbart. Among her slams at him was that it was easier to criticize than serve the Guild. As if Larry Gelbart didn't honor the Guild in most every professional action he took -- but more to the point, in his public response he noted that he had, in fact, severed on the WGA Board. But I digress.)
The point is that getting the WGA to move forward on techie things is always a challenge. To their credit, they've always supported me with my "Writers Workbench" column of tech reviews -- the initial point of which was to explain techie things to a generally non-techie membership.
But they do eventually move. The WGA website is a pretty good one these days. It could do a better job, I think, promoting writers to the public at large, but compared to the other entertainment Guilds, it does a terrific job with that and other things. And now, shockingly, they have begun a podcast.
It's called "3rd and Fairfax" -- which is where the WGA building is located -- a name I have mixed feelings about. There's a sort of charm to it that I quite like, though I'm not quite sure if it's explanatory enough. It is planned to run twice monthly on Thursdays, and each episode will have an interview with a screenwriter or TV writer, as well as someone involved with the Guild in some way. There might also be some Guild news, though I can't tell for sure.
I've embedded the first podcast below. (You can subscribe to them all here.) It features an interview with writer Margaret Nagle (the Guild's Paul Selvin Award-winner, whose credits include the HBO film Warm Springs, that won an Emmy Award and starred Kenneth Branagh as FDR, and the film The Good Lie, that was nominated for the NAACP Image Award. She also wrote for and was supervising producer of HBO's Boardwalk Empire) -- as well as an interview with WGA president Chris Keyser, whose many credits include creating the series, Party of Five.
I quite enjoyed the premiere episode, all the more since for a first episode you're always finding your way, trying to figure out what works. I thought both interviews were good, and the interview with Margaret Neagle, conducted by Bill Taub, was particularly enjoyable. (That he reads these pages here makes him all the impressive, though it would be a terrific interview without it... )
I do think that the podcast has the order backwards. The interview with a professional writer is what’s going to be most interesting, by far. As a result, I think It should be first. The interview with Guild personnel will always be “inside baseball,” good and informative, but mainly of interest to Guild members (and I suspect not even necessarily all of them), so you risk people tuning out
That said, it appears from this first show that the podcast is intended for Guild members though that may not be the case, and if so, I think that short-changes its value, since it holds a lot of interest for those who like following the world of entertainment. Writers may not be Famous, but their works are, and they're natural storytellers -- which comes through here with Ms. Nagle.
(One other quibble. I also think the opening “theme” is much too long. It's only 15 seconds, but felt like endless elevator music. But again, that might change.)
The bottomline is that the podcast was well-done, and most-especially impressive for an Episode 1. Here, it is. It runs a little over an hour, though if you're most interested in the interview with Ms. Nagle, rather than hearing about the Guild (though, in fairness, a lot of that deals with the entertainment industry, too), you can jump to around the 32:30 mark.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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