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美剧黄金时代的“费解剧情”
The twist in the golden age of television

来源:FT中文网    2017-05-18 06:12



        Hollywood always unsettled writers, as William Goldman noted. “The amounts you are paid are so staggering, compared to real writing, that it’s bound to make you uneasy,” the scriptwriter wrote in 1983 in Adventures in the Screen Trade.        好莱坞总是让编剧感到不安,威廉•戈德曼(William Goldman)如是指出。这位编剧在1983年出版的著作《银幕春秋》(Adventures in the Screen Trade)中写道:“与真正的写作相比,你收到的酬劳数字是如此惊人,这必定让你感到不安。”
        The money was good but there was little respect. “You do not, except in rare, rare exceptions, get critical recognition. But you do get paid,” he concluded. His chief complaint was that directors were regarded as auteurs — the creative forces of Hollywood films — while writers were treated as hacks for hire.        这一行酬劳不少,但尊重不多。戈德曼总结道:“除非极罕见的例外,你不会得到评论界的认可。不过确实能赚钱。”他主要抱怨的是导演被视为作者导演(auteur)——好莱坞电影的创意源泉——而编剧被视为外雇写手。
        Thirty years later, strange events have occurred. Television has overtaken film as the medium for the most ambitious writers. Some of them have become auteurs, with series such as House of Cards and Game of Thrones run by writer-producers known as showrunners. Yet many are now paid less.        三十年后,奇怪的事发生了。电视超过了电影,成了最有抱负的编剧所钟爱的舞台。其中一些人成了作者导演,以编剧兼制作人的身份——俗称“剧集运作人”(showrunners)——出品了《纸牌屋》(House of Cards)、《权力的游戏》(Game of Thrones)等剧。但许多人的收入却变低了。
        The threat of a Hollywood writers’ strike lifted this week after the Writers Guild of America, their tiny but potent union, agreed a new three-year contract. The strike in 2007-08 shut down film sets, left talk show hosts struggling to write their own jokes and lost California $2.1bn in output.        本月,因规模不大、影响力却不小的美国编剧工会(Writers Guild of America)同意了一份新的三年合约,险些引发好莱坞编剧罢工。2007-08年度那场罢工就曾导致剧组纷纷停拍,脱口秀主持人只得自己奋力写笑话,加州经济也因此蒙受了21亿美元的损失。
        The dispute reveals a curious state of affairs. In some ways, writers have never had it so good. Showrunners, such as Shonda Rhimes of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, and Carlton Cuse of Lost and Bates Motel, wield more power than predecessors. But scribes as a whole are under financial pressure.        这场纠纷揭示了一个令人费解的现状。在某些方面,编剧的日子从没像现在这么好过。剧集运作人,比如《丑闻》(Scandal)、《实习医生格蕾》(Grey’s Anatomy)的雄代•尔希梅什(Shonda Rhimes),以及《迷失》(Lost)、《贝茨旅馆》(Bates Motel)的卡尔顿•库塞(Carlton Cuse),拥有比他们的前辈更大的权力。但剧作者这个群体却背负着经济压力。
        It should not be so, in theory. Higher demand for an individual’s services and recognition ought to bring better wages. It has not worked like that. Writers were paid for repetition — churning out similar films and having shows syndicated. They are now more creative, but creativity is less rewarding.        理论上不该这样。对个人服务的更高需求和认可应该带来更优渥的薪水。但现实却不是。过去编剧的酬劳来自重复——大量炮制雷同剧集,并将节目卖给多个媒体。现在他们更有创意,但创造力不再那么有价值。
        They are clearly needed. The growth of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, along with high-quality programming on US cable networks such as HBO and Showtime, has produced a boom in television production. There were 455 original scripted series last year, compared with fewer than half that figure in 2010.        他们显然是被需要的。Netflix和Amazon Prime等流媒体服务的成长,以及HBO和Showtime等美国有线电视的高品质节目制作,已掀起了电视制作的热潮。去年共诞生了455部原创剧,而2010年还不足该数字的一半。
        The era of “Peak TV”, as it is dubbed by FX Networks, has produced a huge flow of creative work for writers, compared with the formulaic approach in films. While Hollywood is increasingly reliant on action franchises such as Star Wars and Transformers, television is a haven for high-quality drama.        FX Networks戏称这是“电视巅峰”的时代。与满是套路的电影相比,电视剧编剧们出产了大量创作。在好莱坞日益依赖《星球大战》(Star Wars)、《变形金刚》(Transformers)等系列动作片的时候,电视已然成了高品质剧集的港湾。
        The shift has brought dividends, both artistic and financial, for an elite band of writers. Producers and directors have the main co-ordinating role in films and hire writers and other professionals, such as designers and sound technicians, for each production. Television dramas are different because they are long-running franchises.        这一转变为一帮金牌编剧带来了艺术和金钱的双丰收。在电影界,制片人和导演负责主要统筹工作,并为每部影片雇佣编剧及其他专业人士,比如设计师和音响师。电视剧则不同,因为电视剧是长期播放的系列剧。
        This encouraged the rise of showrunners, who oversee the storylines and scripts of series, and work as producers on behalf of studios, hiring the cast and crew for episodes. It is the fulfilment of Mr Goldman’s dream: writers in charge of directors, not the reverse.        这推动了电视剧运作人的兴起。他们负责监督电视剧的故事情节和剧本,并代表制片公司担任制片人,为剧集招聘演员和工作人员。这实现了戈德曼的梦想:由编剧管理导演,而不是倒过来。
        Top showrunners have their own production companies and lucrative studio contracts. For writers down the pecking order, though, Peak TV has been a mixed blessing. It is good for expressing themselves creatively on series such as Breaking Bad, but less secure.        顶级电视剧运作人有自己的制作公司和赚钱的拍摄合同。不过对于底层编剧,“电视巅峰”一直有利有弊。有利的是他们可以在《绝命毒师》(Breaking Bad)这样的剧集里表现自己的创造力,但稳定性降低了。
        The problem is a creative surfeit. US television viewers used to watch mainly long-running drama or comedy series such as Law & Order and Seinfeld, and then watch again in syndication. Their writers would be hired on long, dependable contracts, and paid repeat fees known as residuals.        其问题在于创意泛滥。美国电视观众以往主要看“长寿剧”或喜剧,比如《法律与秩序》(Law & Order)和《宋飞传》(Seinfeld),然后在其他平台再次观看。这些剧的编剧得以拿到可靠的长期合同,并且不断收到重演版权费。
        Series are now shorter: dramas on premium cable or streaming services have 10 to 13 episodes per series compared with the old standard of 22 to 24. They face more competition — there is always something new and original to watch — so residuals are lower.        电视剧现在变短了,付费有线电视台或流媒体服务上播放的电视剧每季为10到13集,而传统为每季22到24集。美剧面临更多竞争,总是有新剧和原创剧可看,因此重播次数也降低了。
        The golden age of television thus hurts writers’ financial interests. The sweet spot was in the early 2000s when a few long-running shows were constantly in syndication, creating wealth for showrunners such as Dick Wolf of Law & Order. Today’s auteurs can only dream of such steady pay-offs.        如此一来,电视的黄金时代伤害了编剧的经济利益。最好的时光在2000年代初期,当时少数几部长寿剧在各大平台不断播放,为像《法律与秩序》制作人迪克•沃尔夫(Dick Wolf)这样的电视剧运作人创造了财富。今天的作者导演只能梦想这样稳定的收益。
        The rewards for writers — even for showrunners without special deals — are lower because they spend longer on each distinctive episode, and receive less per week. More are being paid on the guild’s minimum wage scale, which is not exactly the breadline but equally is not the way to make a fortune.        编剧——甚至一些没有特别合约的电视剧运作人——报酬下降,是因为他们在单集电视剧上花的功夫变长了,而周薪降低了。许多编剧拿着工会最低工资,虽然算不上勉强糊口,但同样不是发财之道。
        Hollywood’s writers made some advances in this week’s agreement with producers. But they should appreciate the irony of their story: having fought for years for artistic control, they discovered there was a twist.        这次好莱坞编剧在与制片人的协议上取得了一些进展。但他们应该意识到自己命运里的讽刺:这么多年自己一直在为艺术上的掌控权而战,如今却发现了剧情反转。
        Richard Caves, professor of economics at Harvard University, once wrote that entertainment employees suffer from an “art for art’s sake” instinct: “Artists may accept wages for creative work that fall short of their opportunity cost in humdrum employment, which means that artists can be viewed as a source of cheap labour.”        哈佛大学(Harvard University)经济学教授理查德•卡夫(Richard Caves)曾写道,娱乐界从业者囿于骨子里的“艺术至上主义”:“艺术家可以接受创作回报低于他们选择其他无聊工作的机会成本,这意味着他们会被视为一种廉价劳动力。”
        The hero always has a fatal flaw.        英雄总是有一个致命缺陷。
                
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