The Writer’s Strike and Guiding Light
Since the writer’s strike began several months ago, lots of viewers have worried about how this would impact on their shows. Could it mean cancellation, could the show be put on hiatus or in repeats and would everyone grow “strike beards” like Conan O’Brien? (Okay, only I wondered about that last one.) But the people behind Guiding Light have insisted all the while that the show will continue as, relatively, normal as possible. They have told us that there is no need to worry about scripts running out and that they have a system set up to deal with this no matter how long it lasts. However, this hasn’t stopped a lot of people around the internet from wondering when we would be seeing a major change in the writing itself. While some networks, like NBC, have been quite straightforward about when this turnaround happened, the people at CBS have been much cagier, which is perfectly reasonable given the situation.
Now, before discussing what is known about the situation at Guiding Light, first, I’m going to explain how the writing team is organized for Procter and Gamble productions. What the different soap writers normally do might help to clarify things.
There are generally three different types of writer for a soap. First, there is the head writer, which is usually one person, like right now with David Kreizman, but at other periods in GL history it has been multiple people at once, as was the case for most of the period between 1990-1995. A head writer thinks out the long term storyline, usually under the influence of the producer and, more controversially, the marketing department. Sometimes these storylines are written weeks or months in advance, though they are not carved in stone. This over-all plot is sometimes referred to as “the book” and it is from this, in various forms, that future developments are drawn. From this base material, the plots for shows are then formulated into a weekly format which summarizes major events, character reactions etc.. This outline is then taken to the breakdown writers who assist the head writers in making day by day episode sketches. These include a scene by scene breakdown of the action and can include character arcs for the week or for an entire multi-week story. The outlines created are then given to the script writers who write the actual dialogue for the episodes. A similar hierarchy was also at work for the recent novel, Jonathan’s Story, for which head writer Kreizman wrote the story and the breakdown while Julia London and Alina Adams wrote the prose. There have been exceptions to this method, as when one or two writers write an entire episode, but that is extremely rare.
Currently, David Kreizman’s name still appears on the list of writers for daily episodes, which means that he is likely still behind the scripts appearing and they were no doubt authored before the strike began. There have been insider reports that the scripts which he worked on ran out around the new year. Because there is a delay between when episodes are shot and shown, Kreizman’s work is still present. Some set side people have suggested that we should be seeing a change coming soon. Although there have been rumors that someone will be taking over as the acting head writer during Kreizman’s strike related absence, this has not been confirmed by network officials and will not change the direction which producers wish to push the show. Rumors have suggested that Lloyd Gold, who currently works as a breakdown or script writer, would take over as head writer. He was head writer for the show from 2001 – 2002 and has remained on staff, appearing at last year’s Daytime Emmy Awards as part of the award winning writing team. These are only rumors though, they have not been confirmed and, given the situation, the chance of confirming this definitively are minimal. Last year, several of the script writers were let go from the show for budgetary reasons. While that did not impact on the storylines, it did cause certain changes in the quality of dialogue.