Out on strike but keeping the day job
I'm officially on strike. That means that as a member of the union that represents all the screenwriters in the country, I won't be able to write for any of those big TV shows that come to shoot in Hawaii but never hire me.
The producers of those shows like, well, "Hawaii" and "North Shore" and "One West Waikiki," love everything about the islands except hiring writers who actually live here. And I'm sure that having no Hawaii writers on staff has nothing to do with the fact that "Hawaii," "North Shore" and "One West Waikiki" aren't here anymore.
"Lost" is still here. But that doesn't count as far as local writers are concerned, because "Lost" isn't about Hawaii. I'm not sure what it's about. I think it might be about a diverse group of people thrown together in a mysterious exotic setting to see which one can be arrested for DUI the most often.
There was a big TV show here that hired a local writer. "Baywatch Hawaii." Just before another threatened writers strike several years ago, "Baywatch" head writer Frank South hired me to join the writing staff. He needed a fast writer from Hawaii to help kick out a bunch of scripts before the strike.
We had finished about 12 episodes of what would have been the third season when God looked down from on high, saw that I was having way too much fun and making way too much money, and He smote "Baywatch Hawaii" to death. Thank you, God.
But before "BW" ("Bye, Windfall," as I like to call it) died, I joined the Writers Guild of America, making me an official professional screenwriter. Following my "BW" gig, I went on to become a writer on "From Hawaii: Destination Stardom," a really fun, entertaining show aired on the Where-the-Hell-Are-We? Network that lasted about 45 minutes. Thank you, God.
I've since written a number of screenplays and pilots for Hawaii-based TV shows, but you know, with the worldwide terrorist situation, peanut allergies and the price of oil ... well, no one has bought one yet. Ironically, comedian Andy Bumatai and I wrote a TV pilot script together called "The Paradise Effect," about a rogue North Korean agent who tries to set off a dirty nuke off Waikiki but is stopped by a crusty old retired Honolulu cop and a gorgeous, sexy blond Secret Service agent (I think Andy was to play the Secret Service agent).
So even though I haven't been paid to write official screenwriting stuff lately, I've still had to pay my union dues. It's weird. Of more than 6,000 members of the writers guild, only 12 are actually working on shows.
But as a union member I get to vote for best screenplay at the Academy Awards every year. This time of year, the studios send me all the first-run movies for free. So, in effect, the guild has sort of become a Movie of the Month Club for me.
But I'm not bitter. Really. God is my co-writer. We might be on strike, but He has a plan for me. And it had better include upfront points and DVD and Internet residuals.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
at any book retailer. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org