Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Strike Day 73

Back to normal.

That's how I would describe today on the picket line at Warner Bros.

We had a decent turn-out, including a couple of game-show writers I'd never met before who had some great stories concerning everything from "Jeopardy" to "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?" Those guys come from an entire world that I know absolutely nothing about except as a fan, so it was kind of cool asking them questions about how those shows work on the inside.

Talked to some tourists from Kansas who had no idea what the strike was about. I tried to explain it in my most simple terms: television is moving to internet delivery and movies are not far behind. The Writers Guild needs to make sure that when stuff we wrote is delivered to an audience over the internet whoever wrote it gets their little piece of the profit pie. I may be an idiot but to me that is all this is about. They wished us luck and said they were happy to be in Southern California waering t-shirts, instead of back home in Kansas, where it was 15 degrees today.

Last night a mom at my older daughter's kung-fu class said something kind of funny. Her husband works for Staples Center, overseeing video broadcasts for all the big sporting events there. She said: "At least they don't need writers" -- in order for him to be able to broadcast all those programs. She wasn't trying to be mean, just relieved at her husband's relative job-security.

"At least they don't need writers."

She's a very nice woman but I said something about getting her a job application for the AMPTP.

The dreaded "Force Majeure" has begun to take out deals at studios and networks across LA. We heard half-a-dozen people with deals at Warner Bros. TV had their contracts "terminated." Hasn't happened to my partner and I yet but it could happen at any time. The downside is very obvious -- when the strike comes to an end we would not go back to receiving a regular weekly paycheck. But there would be an upside as well. We would be free to peddle our television wares all over town, rather than to just one studio. Don't get me wrong -- in this case I don't want to be free. But if I find myself free, I will revel in my freedom. One way or another we will get another TV show on the air. Hopefully it will be with Warner Bros. Television.

In a way I sympathize with the TV executives who we do business with. At least we know we are on the side of truth, justice and the American way -- if you consider enabling the workers who create successful products to share in the profit those products generate to be the American way. At least we have SOMETHING to do -- even if it's just march up and down the sidewalk carrying a picket sign in our hands. What do those executives have to do -- sit in their offices sifting through stacks of old pilot scripts while they wait to find out on whose head(s) the next cost-cutting initiative is going to fall?

True, they're still getting paid and that does count for something. But personally, I wouldn't want to trade places with them. Even more so because they aren't really participants in the decision-making process that brought us to this point. Even though I didn't vote to authorize the strike, I was given the opportunity to vote. Every member of the union -- including John Ridley -- was invited to every meeting, where they were able to say what they thought and be heard by how ever many of their fellow guild members remained in the auditorium. At least we are part of our side's decision-making process, even if we don't agree with the decision that gets made. At least we get to vote. The executives on the other side -- except for a tiny handful of guys at the top of the agenda-setting conglomerates, none of whom to my knowledge reside full-time in the city of Los Angeles -- pretty much have no say at all in the matter.

Of course we all have to live with the consequences, no matter how much or how little we were able to participate in the processes that brought them on.

McCaine came in second behind Romney in Michigan, which I suppose means the Republican nomination is now just as up-for-grabs as the Democratic one is. And there was no announcement today of a DGA deal. But it is coming. I don't want to say something like "and with it will come the temptation to cut and run" because for all I know it may include what we need to get in order to back to work. I'm not counting on it but I'm not counting against it either.

I am simply going to wait and see. And I think it's fair and reasonable to suggest you do the same.

See you tomorrow on the picket line -- where maybe I'll get lucky and meet someone who can educate me about some other writing genre that's totally alien to me, like Daytime Drama...

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