Friday, January 25, 2008

Strike Day 83 (8 A.D.)

Well, today my luck with the rain ran out.

I went out to lunch with a friend -- a dad whose two kids are friends with my two older kids and who works as an accounting/finance executive at Warner Bros. Home Video.

After lunch I realized I was only a few blocks away from where the lone location for this Friday's picketing was going to be -- out in front of NBC, where people line up to see The Tonight Show.

I had heard via e-mail that things were relatively rough for the folks manning the picket lines at NBC. I think they are always asked to show up on Fridays, since the Ellen show and the Leno show both tape every day of the week -- and they are never supposed to take a break from their routine in order to attend any of the big events at various locations all throughout town, like the Martin Luther King, Jr. event at Paramount this past Tuesday or the Union Solidarity event last Monday at Warner Bros. Plus, having picketed at NBC several times in the early days of the strike, I know there's lots of relatively high-speed traffic zipping past on one very busy intersection over there. When I was there I would sometimes worry that a car doing thirty or forty miles per hour would turn too tightly and jump the curb, taking out a handful of WGA picketers.

I usually take Fridays off but since I was so close and the picketing was going to start in less than half-an-hour, I felt I should head over and put in a little overtime on the picket line.

Of course, it was also raining.

The last two days I had missed the rain and missed the hail but not today.

I got there a little early and hardly anyone else had shown up -- but by the time 2:30 hit there must have been at least thirty or forty of us and as the shift wore on even more showed up. I wouldn't be surprised if more than a hundred men and women were on that picket line today, though not all at the exact same time. Considering most of the three-hour shift was in pretty heavy rain and that Friday is our official "day off," that's not too shabby.

I recognized a few people from various picket lines I'd been on before but I didn't really know anyone there, which was kind of different from the usual dynamic with me. I ended up talking with an actor, a young writer who had gotten into the Guild just before the strike began and another young writer who had written for theater in New York City before coming to LA to try to break into television.

Towards the end of the shift I ran into the reporter from the "Socialist Worker" who was at the Scene of the Crime picket in Encino before the holiday break and whose story on the strike included a quote from me. She asked what I thought of the DGA deal. I said in my opinion the most important thing about the DGA deal for us in the WGA is that before our strike began the AMPTP had told us that agreeing to our demands regarding any profit participation in New Media whatsoever would lead to the "death of our industry" -- but now they had somehow found a way to include some element of New Media profit participation (albeit not as much as we would like) in their deal with the DGA.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why that happened -- and it's not just because the DGA brought their two-year study of New Media with them to the negotiating table.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: it's because the WGA has been out on strike for more than two months, grinding our industry to a complete and utter halt.

I told her I thought the biggest story of this strike is the incredibly high degree of solidarity that has been shown by the membership -- at least so far. No, that doesn't mean it will continue forever but from where I'm sitting -- and standing and picketing and listening, I don't see it changing any time soon.

Tonight my family went to dinner at a friends' house. They have two girls who are classmates of our two girls. The husband is a producer and the wife used to work at a studio. The husband's company actually wants to sign an "Interim Agreement" with the WGA. After dinner, while the four girls were all playing together and my son was playing at the foosball table, the husband asked me if I had been writing. I told him no, I was too busy picketing. Maybe if I wasn't married with three children, I could manage picketing every day, then come home and work on a spec script. But in my partner and my positions (he's married with two kids) it just hasn't been feasible.

He said some writers he knew were using this time to work on spec scripts they had always wanted to written but never had the time or opportunity to pursue. He said some other writers he knew were still working on assignments they had booked and started writing before the strike began.

None of this was a surprise to me.

Yes, I know there are writers who sit home and never picket.

And I know there are writers who are working on spec scripts for movies and TV pilots (in my own opinion this isn't a terrible thing to do -- so long as you put in your hours on the picket line FIRST).

And I know there are some writers who are even working on assignments they booked before the strike began.

Hey, there are something like eight-thousand members of our union. No one could expect that each and every one of us would put our individual work aside and head out to the picket lines.

But guess what?

Thousands of us have done exactly that for nearly three months.


And amongst that number are counted some of the most successful people in our industry.

Like everyone else, I want this strike to end as soon as possible.

I just don't want it to end before we get a fair deal.

My guess is the vast majority of my fellow WGA members feel pretty much the same way.

So until we hear that a fair deal has been hammered out, lets keep doing what we've been doing.

Sticking together and walking back and forth, over and over and over again -- a simple physical act which makes it IMPOSSIBLE FOR THE OTHER SIDE IN THIS DISPUTE TO FORGET ABOUT US FOR EVEN ONE DAY.

Trust me, our fellow Guild members who haven't come out to the picket lines are not going to start showing up now.

We who started picketing must continue picketing.

For as long as it takes.

Remember, there is a deadline. July 1st is five months away. I know five months is a very, very long time -- but it is a lot closer than the eight months away which it was back on November 5th, when the strike began.

The media moguls didn't think we could hold out for even one month, let alone three.

They bet on us collapsing. Imploding. Consuming ourselves. But we haven't done that. Lets not start now.

Come out to Fox for the big WGA-SAG "Writer/Actor Togetherness" day on Monday.

If nothing else, you'll get to see some actors you love -- or hate -- and maybe even a few bonafide stars.

Help swell our ranks so the other side can see one more marker pointing to the very real possibility that the bet they made is not going to pan out after all.

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