Thursday, December 27, 2007

Strike Day 53 - East Coast style

My partner and I signed on to this letter, which was posted on the web a couple days back:

‘Tis the season. Pilot season. We, the pilot writers, feel the loss of our ongoing creative partnership, and in the spirit of the holidays, we wanted to offer our help in getting the ’08-’09 crop of television shows back on track. We’re willing to write silent night after silent night to make up for lost time if your company will only finalize a fair deal with the WGA. To do that, talks must resume. Our guild is ready and eager. We feel that what our guild is asking is more than reasonable, and we believe that you, as our partner in these new shows, know our value and know that what we are asking is not excessive.

We love our new projects. We want to create great television which would put everyone back to work and ensure prosperity for all. We know we would all like to start the new year getting back to doing what we love. If there is any way you can facilitate this process, we would be eternally grateful.

Allison Adler
Justin Adler
Jack Amiel & Michael Begler
Jeff Astrof
Katy Ballard
Alex Barnow & Marc Firek
Edward Allen Bernero
Scott Z. Burns
Cindy Caponera
Cindy Chupack
Dan Cohen & F.J. Pratt
Randy Cohen & Chris Kelly
Brad Copeland
Rick Copp
Matt Corman & Chris Ord
Carter Covington
Mark Cullen & Rob Cullen
Ed Decter
Nastaran Dibai & Jeffrey B. Hodes
J.P. Donahue & Kevin Polay
Chris Downey
Larry Doyle
Aaron Ehasz
Amy Engelberg & Wendy Engelberg
Jacob Epstein
Stephen Falk
David Feige
Michael Feldman
Joel Fields
Christopher Fife
Chad Fiveash & James Stoteraux
Dave Flebotte
R. Lee Fleming, Jr.
Dan Fogelman
Victor Fresco
Michael Frost Beckner
Jonathan Goldstein
Rob Greenberg & Suzy Mamann-Greenberg
Lyn Greene & Richard Levine
Hart Hanson
Zach Helm
William Blake Herron
David Holden
Amy Holden Jones
David Hudgins
Doug Jung
Alexa Junge
Mitchel Katlin & Nat Bernstein
Joe Keenan
Tim Kelleher
Jack Kenny
Moira Kirland
Marc Klein
Jennifer Konner & Alexandra Rushfield
Bill Kunstler
Dave Lampson & Andrew Leeds
Sheila R. Lawrence
Jim Leonard
Christine Levinson
Jeffrey Lieber
Matthew Lieberman
Angel Dean Lopez
Rob Lotterstein
Caryn Lucas
Greg Malins
Patrick Massett & John Zinman
Blake Masters
Dan McDermott
Gregg Mettler
J. Israel Miller & M.A. Fortin
Murray Miller & Judah Miller
Norman Morrill
Kevin Murphy
Bill Oakley & Josh Weinstein
Michael Oates Palmer
Bob Odenkirk
Jan Oxenberg
Mark Palmer
Charles Pratt, Jr.
Rebecca Rand Kirshner
Ethan Reiff & Cyrus Voris
Jeffrey Richman & Suzanne Martin
Julie Rottenberg & Elisa Zuritsky
Paul Ruehl
Dario Scardapane
Robin Schiff
Dana Schmalenberg
Mike Scully & Julie Thacker-Scully
John Scott Shepherd
Mike Sikowitz
Stephanie K. Smith
Jon Steinberg
Joshua Sternin & Jeffrey Ventimilia
Dana Stevens
Francis Stokes
Rob Thomas
Gary Tieche
David Titcher
Stephen Tolkin
Kriss Turner
Mike Werb
Thomas Wheeler
Nicholas Wootton

Something about this touchy-feely, "united front" move hit me yesterday, when I was writing an e-mail to another dad at my children's school whose name was also on the list.

The thing is... all the people whose names are on that list, shoulder-to-shoulder, speaking with one voice... the truth is all of us are usually fighting each other to the death. Not physically, pilot seasons don't work that way, at least not yet -- and what with the way things are going the entire institution of "pilot season" may be very short for this world, so the chances of it evolving into a violent hand-to-hand version of its current self are pretty slim.

But even though it's not physical, the competition is very real.

I can only speak for myself but the truth is when my partner and I are in the midst of writing or producing a pilot... I just don't think about it. I don't think about the 40-50 other writers or writing teams busy typing away so that they can compete with us for the 4-10 (on average, depending what kind of network you are at) slots which will be available for pilot production. Then I don't think about the other 3-9 scripts which also got the "Green Light" to go into production.

When I stop and think about it now, it strikes me that over the past few years my partner and I have missed lots of opportunities to raise the chances for our shows, by attempting to sabotage the competition. I won't even get into the various means and methods which could be employed in such a dastardly task!

During pilot season we are all in direct competition for a very limited supply of resources -- the number of one-hour drama slots and half-hour comedy slots available on network and/or cable television.

Yet here we are, all uniting together so can may speak with one voice -- and quite a warm and tender voice at that -- to the people who decided to bet on our hunches, to take a chance on our "creative voices," as well as betting on our abilities as Executive Producers -- as physical showrunners.

Most of us who have run shows before have at least one or two good friends on the other side of the "great divide" which separates Executive Producers from Executives. They are the ones who helped us get those few extra dollars we needed for the budget of a particular episode in order to do it right (even if that meant taking a little out of the budget of a future episode that didn't even exist yet) and they are the ones who actually sided with us against their colleagues and sometimes even against their own bosses when we were being pushed to go the wrong way with regard to what we considered an all-important creative decision. They are without question our allies. In some cases they could even be said to be our partners. It's true, sometimes we want to kill them -- but hey, that's the way it works with all kinds of partnerships, right?

So to me, the letter above feels touchingly appropriate in a seasonal "Spirit of Christmas" way.

There remains the question of what all us movie and TV writers can do to honor the spirit of the recently-celebrated Jewish festival of Hanukkah...

Well, considering how the whole point of Hanukkah is to remember a desperate campaign waged by a threadbare guerilla army (the Maccabees) against the mighty forces of a military super-power (the Seleucid empire of the Syrian-Greeks) commanded by an absentee-Emperor (Antiochus IV Epiphanes), I'd say we've been doing nothing BUT honoring Hanukkah's spirit since the day this strike began.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS from beautiful and frosty New Jersey!!!

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