Thursday, January 24, 2008

Strike Day 82 (7 A.D.)

Call me double lucky.

Yesterday my shift ended just as the rain began.

Today I began picketing just after the rain ended.

It was just my partner and I at the Avon Gate.

Actually, despite being a bit of a bummer in terms of membership presence, it was kind of cool.

For something like the past decade up until the day this strike began, we have spent the lion's share of every working day together. There was one stretch while we were co-executive producing our first TV show when we literally didn't take a day off for about two months.

So it was nice to spend some time together.

Of course it would have been nicer if we were sitting at our desks or pacing the floor or yelling at each other on the other side of the Warner Bros. Studios wall, inside our warm and cozy offices, rather than walking back and forth, slightly delaying traffic on its way in and out.

But a writer has to do what a writer has to do.

A family of Australian tourists came by to ask us about the strike and we gave them the usual rap (all facts, little to no hyperbole), explaining that it's all about one thing -- profit participation in internet distribution.

Whenever I tell a tourist about the companies saying they needed three years to study and determine whether or not the internet would be able to sustain a "working business model" for distribution of scripted entertainment, it always gets the same response.

Care to guess what that is...?

The exact wording can vary somewhat but it all boils down to:

"ARE THEY F#@*%ING KIDDING?"

The WGA just announced that Lionsgate and Marvel Studios have signed interim agreements with the WGA.

That brings the total of AMPTP member companies to have signed such deals to something like an even dozen.

And on the other side of the balance sheet, there lies John Ridley and about a dozen (the last time I heard) daytime soap opera writers who have opted to join the "Fi-Corps."

(I'm not even gonna' start musing about possible mottos for that particular elite writing unit. I remember reading an oral history of WWII that included a story told by an American infantryman about how he watched a German tank get blasted by a bazooka team and start belching flame, then saw a sole surviving crew member manage to climb out, apparently unharmed. The American GI watched the German tanker slide down the side of the crippled tank and run back towards the German lines -- and even though he had the German in his sights the whole time he never pulled the trigger but simply let him go. Some targets are just too easy.)

I think objectively speaking you would have to say that in this area of the strike -- the "dueling drop-outs" or "dueling divide and conquer strategems" we are definitely on the up side, at least so far.

On the strictly personal side, my partner and I learned from our agents today that one of the companies which has made those deals wants us to come in and talk about possible projects with them.

Obviously that doesn't mean we're gonna' walk out with a paying gig, chances of that are slim, but it does mean that SOME UNION WRITER OR WRITING TEAM is going to get a gig over there.

I don't know about you but that puts a smile on my face. Sure, it might not be me but it will be someone. I guess I'll add that I hope whoever it is has been out on the picket line as much as they could manage. If not, I hope when they cash their commencement check they will donate a little piece of it to the strike fund in order to assuage their guilty conscience (unless they were unable to picket due to financial distress which required them to take another job or some other personal crisis).

If we actually end up booking a gig while the strike is still on I will talk to my partner about the both of us kicking in a piece of the money to help our less fortunate fellow guild members. Not that he and I are rich -- not by a long-shot -- but thankfully we're not on the verge of losing our homes or cars or being unable to feed our families. If we booked a gig like that we'd have to split our time between writing and picketing -- but hey, that would be a high-class problem.

I hate to say it but when you stop and think, it's pretty messed up that I have never read a single article in a newspaper or magazine which points out the incredible degree of unity and solidarity that has been shown by our membership from day one of this strike straight through to the present day. I'm not asking for the article to praise the WGA membership for staying so united but just to POINT IT OUT as a rather pertinent FACT.

Actually, I did read one article that pointed it out -- the on-line issue of "Socialist Daily" that my quote appeared in (if you're interested see my January 17 blog titled "Strike Day 75"). But that doesn't count as "mainstream media" does it?

Ah, well. Sometimes folks don't live up to your expectations of them.

On a totally separate topic which I've been meaning to address for weeks if not months: doesn't it suck that "www.AMPTP.com" went the way of all flesh -- or all flesh that is threatened by litigation?!

Man, what a tragedy.

I remember the day I first clicked on a "UnitedHollywood.com" link to that site, read through it and nearly fell on the floor laughing. Man that was one helluva funny website -- at least for its target audience, namely us.

The absolute highlight in my humble opinion:

"AMPT to the motherfuckin' P!"

If you visited that url for weeks afterwards it had been taken over by a page for some kind of film/TV industry military technical advisory firm, was was kind of surreal -- but now it hosts a neutral "Why can't the writers and producers stop being babies and settle this thing?" page, which I suppose was put up by the AMPTP.

A painful loss indeed!

Heard something funny today -- considering John Wells' enthusiastic endorsement of the (mostly still-unseen in fine print detail even by him) DGA deal. Turns out the entire writing staff of "ER" showed up for the "Teaching Medical Drama" picket this morning outside the main gate at Warner Bros. My hat's off to 'em. I've seen their current hands-on showrunner walking the picket line several times. Gotta' give that staff their Guild props, despite their superstar boss's arguably ignominious behavior.

Tomorrow we get the day off from picketing, which will be nice. We'll see if it's still raining Monday. Even if it is, it's a lot better picketing in the rain than picketing in the single digit Fahrenheit temperatures or the snow the way they do on a regular basis back in NYC.

Now, onto something VERY SPECIAL...

Earlier today I got an e-mail from an editor who worked on both seasons of "Sleeper Cell."

Apparently he read my partner and my installment of "Why We Write" and was inspired to write something himself.

The individual in question is extremely talented -- but he is also an IATSE member, as well as a Scotsman.

But luckily for us all, I managed to convince him to let me post his missive without having to pay in advance or accuse my own Guild of being a "Strike-Happy House of hate." So here goes:

Why do I edit?

First up: I edit because at heart, I am a storyteller. I grew up watching old b&w movies on our three channel television set. They were mostly cowboy and war films starring John Wayne or William Holden. I never imagined that one day I would be living in California working in an industry that was so foreign to me.

My interests were varied growing up. I attended art school, studied English literature, and worked as a professional photographer. While at the New York University Film school, I discovered a discipline that satisfied all my interests. Editing's palette included photography, design, music and of course, story.

Editing is like doing a 100,000 puzzle. Sure it is nice to collaborate, but finding a home for the most intricate piece by yourself is most satisfying.

I also edit to avoid owning dress socks, working in sales, and interacting with the general public.

And last but not least, I edit in order to afford a large pornography collection.

After all, I am married.


Just goes to show you, we WGA members do not have a corner on good writing!

Now, to all my fellow WGA members, married and unmarried:

A lot happened this week -- and none of it was bad for us.

Stay calm. Stay patient. Stay together.

Have a great weekend and I'll see you on the picket line Monday -- either at the big "WGA/SAG" solidarity get-together at FOX or over at NBC...

2 comments:

Tony said...

Wow, that editor is a great writer. Do you think he would consider being a scab?

Brooklyn scribe said...

You tell me?

Hey, Tony -- when are you coming out to join me on the picket line, even if only for a short time...?