Writing for Hire: Unions, Hollywood, and Madison Avenue

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Separated by both geography and industry norms, Madison Avenue ad agencies and Hollywood screenwriters nevertheless collided in the middle part of the twentieth century as ad executives hired screenwriters to pen radio and television dramas for their corporate clients to sponsor. This collaboration, Catherine Fisk claims in Writing For Hire, illustrated and ultimately sharpened the divide between unionized screenwriters fighting for increased ownership of their work and ad writers who worked anonymously and without public recognition.

Ms. Fisk first explores labor conditions in both Hollywood and Madison Avenue, effectively arguing that issues of copyright ownership can only be fully understood in the context of a labor dispute that required writers to submit to studio control of their work before they were even eligible to unionize. Although writers on both coasts signed away the copyright in their work as a condition of employment, only Hollywood screenwriters unionized, and it’s the screenwriters who receive more of the book’s attention. By analyzing the ways in which the demands of the writers’ union evolved over time, Ms. Fisk succeeds in articulating the central dilemma for Hollywood writers: that they first had to concede their lack of autonomy in order to gain some of it back.


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Author Catherine L. Fisk
Star Count 5/5
Format Hard
Page Count 320 pages
Publisher Harvard University Press
Publish Date 2016-Oct-17
ISBN 9780674971400
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue January 2017
Category History
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