Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Strike Day 72

What a day, what a day -- I barely know where to begin!

I spent a lot of time out on the picket line today, way more than my standard 3-hour shift.

Why? Because there were SO MANY DANG PICKETERS OUT THERE! Every time I decided to pack it in and head home I would run into someone I knew and end up walking back and forth for another half-hour.

I went according to plan, parked on the far side of the freeway and walked to the studio lot.

On a normal day, at my little gate, we get somewhere from 3 to 10 people on the picket line.

Today we had from 30 to 50.

More than a month ago I sent an e-mail to the WGA letting them know that the security guards at Warner Bros. were counting how many people we had on the picket line every hour on the hour, or thereabouts. I thought it was important, not because there was anything nefarious about it but because I saw it as hard and fast proof that the companies -- or at least the company of Warner Bros. -- was paying attention to how many of us actually showed up to walk the picket lines every day.

Today, when the security guard came out, he had a hard time using his hands to communicate back to his colleague in the guard-house exactly how many of us were out there -- in fact he had to use one hand as a multiplier for the other.

And not one incident -- at least at the Avon Gate -- of tension or confrontation of any sort between Warner Bros. studio employees and the picketing writers.

There were two high points of the day for me...

The first involved a family of tourists from Australia, whom I spoke with a little while they were headed in on the studio tour, as I try to speak with any and all tourists headed in on the studio tour. When they came back out an hour or so later they walked over and asked what the strike was about. I did my best to explain it. The dad talked about how he and his family -- he was traveling with a group of 14 -- were kind of shocked by the extreme income disparity here in the USA, by how little some people, like the guy who had driven their stretch golf-cart and given them their studio tour, earned. I said that the USA has always been a somewhat extreme place, with more people at the bottom and more people at the very top, when compared with places like Australia or Western Europe, which have much stronger "labor" or democratic-socialist traditions. I said something about how the issue of internet residuals is about trying to preserve the "vast middle class" of the WGA, small as it may be.

Then the father asked what I wrote. When I talk to the tourists I don't say anything about my own credits unless they ask me. It isn't because I'm humble or shy. It's because -- despite having done a lot of work I consider to be incredibly good -- nothing my partner and I have created for TV or written for the movies has been a commercial triumph. Successful, yes. Blockbusters, no. At least not yet. Chances are the people I'm talking to won't be familiar with the stuff I've created or written. But when someone asks it's impolite not to answer. So I told the dad from Australia that my partner and I had created a show called "Sleeper Cell."

His face lit up like it was "Australia Day" and he started jumping up and down -- turned out "Sleeper Cell" was his favorite TV show ever. He was so happy and excited it was hard to believe. He gave me his phone number in case I ever visit Australia. Needless to say, it made my day.

Then the actress pictured to the right arrived to show her solidarity with we writers and the Warner Bros. employees who may face lay-offs as the week goes on.

I know this strike has caused a great deal of pain and suffering for a great many people -- including myself. But it would be dishonest for me to claim my mind was burdened by any of that during her visit, which comprised highlight number two.

Tomorrow it will be back to the normal scheme of the picket line.

Tomorrow may also bring news of a DGA deal with the AMPTP.

If so, let's hope that deal contains real profit participation for the internet.

But if it doesn't, let's hope we can stick together and leave it on the table. The same way I left the picket line and came home to my beautiful wife.

Temptation is a powerful thing -- but only as powerful as we let it be.

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