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November 1, 2000
Virgil was in his late forties when he completed the first draft of his Roman epic, "The Aeneid." As was William Shakespeare, when he penned his classic "Henry VIII."
Now, imagine if these scribes were alive today and writing for Hollywood? If they were lucky enough, they might find a freelance writing gig -- for cable. For a major television network? Fudghetaboutit!
That's the thinking of many "older TV writers" who have filed a $200 million federal civil rights lawsuit against the major networks, talent agencies and entertainment companies. They state that they've been blacklisted by a youth-crazed Hollywood that discriminates against people over 40.
One of the writers involved in the lawsuit spoke to reporters at a press conference last week. He stated he's been rejected by young TV executives who believe he couldnít relate to the 14-25 crowd -- hence a poor choice to write for them. Several of the writers at the press conference were even hesitant to disclose their age and admit of hiding their age when seeking work, believing it would disqualify them.
The 81-page lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claims that Hollywood has practiced this "donít trust anyone over 30" idealogy since the '80s in which some older writers, unable to find work, are driven to financial ruin. The credits for the writers involved include some rather prestigious shows such as "Cheers," "All In The Family," and "Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman." Among those listed as defendants in the complaint are Walt Disney Co., Viacom, DreamWorks, Universal Television, and Time Warner Inc.
The head lawyer of the suit, Paul Sprenger, stated that he plans to get the lawsuit certified as a class-action. By doing so the suit may ultimately represent some 5,000 writers. He went on to comment that NBC, and others in the industry, have a "notorious policy of not allowing older writers on their productions." Evidence for the writer's suit will include a statement by late president of NBC programming, Brandon Tartikoff, who wouldn't hire any writer over the age of 30.
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