Monday, January 7, 2008

Strike Day 62-65 - Back to the Line...

Man am I beat. But I do have some strike-related stuff to talk about so I'll have to stay awake a while longer.

I was sick over the weekend, then returned to the picket line at Warner Bros. this morning and afternoon, which accounts for my exhaustion.

Need to catch up on some things left over from my trip back East:

First, the big "Brooklyn Bowl" football game was a huge success. For everyone involved but especially for my family, since my 10 year-old son played QB on the opposing team, throwing to all grown-up receivers, and did a legitimately good job, while my 7 year-old daughter caught THREE TOUCH-DOWN PASSES thrown by me. These were real passes with a real football. Also, my 5 year-old daughter made one very short but clean reception which she then ran for more than half the distance to the end-zone, simply because she was so short no one on the opposing team could get a hand on her! The final score was 28-21, with myself, my best friend from childhood and 3 little girls winning over my son and 2 halfway-decent grown-up football players. Needless to say, I am very proud!

Second, on the flight back from Newark, I sat next to a Set Dresser from a one-hour network drama who's out of work due to the strike. He's probably got a gig coming up on a feature but no way to be sure. We talked for much if not most of the 5-1/2 hour flight and he didn't have anything bad to say about the WGA or the writers from his show. He lived through the '88 Writers strike and seemed to think it was natural for the companies to do whatever they could in order to not have to share profit derived from new technology, whether it was VHS or the internet. Needless to say, I was happy he got the seat next to my son and I (my wife and daughters were in another row). Of course I know not every out-of-work set dresser shares his opinion but it was good to hear.

Now on to newer developments...

By now we all know about the UA deal, making United Artists the first big production company -- it might be too much to call them a studio -- to agree to a new contract with the WGA.

In my humble opinion this is pretty good news, if only for WGA internal morale reasons and because it directly impacts feature film writers in a positive way. I know chances are only about 4 or 5 screenwriters will actually end up leaving the picket lines and going back to work thanks to this deal, but that's 4 or 5 more than were gainfully employed under a Guild contract yesterday.

The weather behaved as I hoped it would in my last entry, written during the big storm on Friday night. Today was one of if not the single clearest day I have ever seen in greater Los Angeles, with mountains and clouds and blue sky visible for as far as the eye could see in Burbank. In fact it was kinda' beautiful, if you kept your eyes up towards the horizon and away from the buildings below.

On my neck of the picket line at Warners there were some very familiar faces and some fresh ones as well. We actually had a bigger turn out than I was expecting, though I don't know if that was the case at the main gate or any of the other smaller gates.

As often happens at our Gate, we were visited by a college class that was taking the Warner Bros. tour, about 20 kids from Virginia. The teacher and students asked us about the strike and we did our best to tell them what is going on and why. Of course, as far as I'm concerned, it's all about one very simple thing: profit participation in New Media. Always has been, always will.

Later there were some girls from a Yeshiva who were all surprised when one of my fellow picketers read one of their Hebrew names from where it was inscribed on her necklace. They said they wanted their TV shows back -- and when we asked them they said they all watched TV on their computers.

Generally speaking it was a pretty good day as strike days go, what with the official news about the UA deal and the clear blue skies -- true, the wind was pretty blustery but compared to the temperature in NYC, picketing in Gale Force winds would not be all that bad.

But the biggest thing to hit me about the strike didn't hit me until I was talking with a very good friend on the phone earlier this evening. He's a pretty successful actor and his sons are Cub Scouts with my son. He asked me how my New Year was and I told him it was... awesome. Despite the strike, which is keeping me from earning a penny and bleeding me white, it was, inarguably awesome. He said his Holidays had been fantastic as well -- and then he explained why: BECAUSE WE'RE NOT WORKING.

That's right.

Because we're not working.

It gave me a moment's pause and then I realized... he's a genius. He cut right to the heart of the matter.

If I wasn't on strike, this past New Year's I would have been obsessed with what the Network executives who were reading the 2 pilot scripts my partner and I would have delivered thought of them -- and I would have also been obsessed with what the Studio executives at the movie studio that had hired us to write a script for them thought about it. I would have enjoyed my time with my family back East but... not with the same absolute abandon that I did over the past couple of weeks. To be honest, I don't know if I've ever enjoyed a family vacation that much in my entire life. This past Summer I had my first chance to go on Summer vacation with my family in 4 years. I had a great time -- but in the midst of it I caught a cab to the airport and flew back to LA so my partner and I could pitch for a job we had been trying to get for the prior 2 months.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not complaining. I'm an adult and it's my life and it has its upsides and its downsides and I don't want to trade it with anyone. It's just kind of strange to suddenly realize that the reason I had such an absolutely enjoyable trip with my family is that I happen to be in the midst of what many would call the biggest crisis of my professional career.

By the way, that actor dad from the Cub Scouts is also the one who built the storage shed which was too small to handle all the Raingutter Regatta stuff, which is why that stuff is still at the edge of my driveway (that's for the benefit of any loyal readers who have been following since the earliest days of this Blog). He's a great guy and he did a great job building that shed -- but I wish it was BIGGER!

Anyhow, the LONG WALK goes on. We walk until someone gives us a fair deal on New Media profit participation. One step at a time, hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month --

Don't worry. We will not reach "year after year" before July 1st reaches us.

Gotta' go get some sleep, because it's back to the picket line tomorrow...

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