My latest lalogo.gif column, Screenwriters In The Shit, examines today’s desperate situation in Hollywood: while Akiva Goldsman fiddles, more accomplished movie scribes burn. It puts into context my exclusive last week about Goldsman (“Keevie” to his childhood pals) receiving a record $4 million for a Dan Brown book adaptation that’ll be Sony/Imagine’s sequel to The Da Vinci Code. Here’s how it begins:

barton.jpg“Every year, one of the major Hollywood talent agencies conducts a running tally of all studio jobs snagged by screenwriters. In 2005, there were 10 percent fewer hires than the year before. So far for 2006, there are 15 percent fewer. That’s a big drop in two years. ‘These jobs,’ said the admittedly depressed literary agent, ‘just disappeared.’ A manager joins the pity party and describes a litany of givebacks by his scribbling clients: free treatments, free rewrites, free polishes and/or free script-doctoring — all done with the hollow hope that the studio will give schmucks with Underwoods a paying gig sooner rather than never. As for those sparse scribes offered real pay for projects, they’re buckling under studio demands by cutting their usual and customary by 30 percent. ‘It’s the bewildering nature of the business right now that nobody has a quote. It’s a quote-free system,’ an agent describes. In a word, it stinks out there for screenwriters, worse even than the fetid stench of the usual shit flung at them in previous years. These aren’t wannabes, either. These are some of the top names in the biz. ‘I am fucking terrified,’ a major scribe tells me about his year of not getting any work. ‘I can’t believe my career is ending like this.’ Laments a manager: ‘I have a giant screenwriter who’s doing everything on spec. Everybody is doing this. They’ve got to get into this mindset.’ This is the reality of the screenwriting trade right now, the antithesis of the ridiculously rosy picture that the Los Angeles Times paints week after week in its ‘Scriptland’ column… Continued