A few of you have noticed my red t-shirt.
I live just outside of Orlando, Florida, far from the studios and the chanting picketers. Far from the anger and the energy and the unity of the strike.
Since January of this year, I’ve been a full-time screenwriter. I spent a couple weeks on the set of my movie, but aside from that, I spend my days at home, writing. My time has been focused (when my time has been focused) on a spec called THE MIDDLE AGES, that’s made a fan of a producer (who has, likewise, made a fan of me).
If you’ve been following along at home, you know I recently had to file suit against the producers of my movie and that one of them then turned around and filed suit against my reps and me to the tune of ten meeellion dollars.
The bullshit leading up to my lawsuit occupied a lot of headspace since I got home from set and, as a result, this draft of THE MIDDLE AGES is taking longer than it should’ve to finish. In an example of übershitty timing, the script is now, finally, approaching great. Just in time for my way-cool manager to send it nowhere.
And that fucking sucks, but I’ll live. My hubby and daughters and I will continue to make ends meet until the strike ends and the market is ready for new specs.
Thing is, I’m acutely aware of all the people out of work due to the strike, people whose lives – unlike mine – are very different today than they were just a couple weeks ago: writers losing hard-earned feature deals or staff jobs; teamsters honoring our picket lines; television and film crews whose sets are now dark; showrunners abandoning baby shows before they’ve even had a chance to grow legs. Lots of out-of-work parents looking ahead to lean Hanukkahs and Christmases this year.
I ache knowing that the sacrifices these thousands of people are making will ultimately benefit me. Not just me, of course, but you get me, right?
I spent most of last week jumping around the internet (yeah, that new-fangled thing) soaking up every strike-related word, picture and video I could find. I joined every strike-oriented group I stumbled across and emailed articles and videos to everyone in my address book who isn’t already reading every frigging blog in the scribosphere.
But that’s all nothing. I want to DO something. I’m not DOING anything.
I’ve only just barely qualified for membership to the WGA, but my legal battle is kinda like a microcosm of the WGA / AMPTP war. Every picture or video I see of the picketers feels like they’re marching for me. But I’m doing nothing for them and that kills me.
That being the case, one day last week, here in my little Florida town, I decided to wear my red shirt, even if no one I saw knew what it meant. And I figured, long as I had the red shirt on, I might as well take a picture and use it online where the people hang out who do know why I’m wearing it. Then I added the text about supporting the WGA, ‘cause I know how forgetful people can be sometimes about stuff like that…
So, if you came for the shirt, that’s cool, but don’t forget the message, okay? ‘Cause we “schmucks with Underwoods” work hard and deserve to be paid fairly for that work. And we’re done getting jerked around by assholes with God complexes.
In case you haven’t seen this yet, Shawn Ryan, showrunner of The Shield, The Unit, and The Oaks and a member of the WGA Negotiating Committee sent the following note to fellow showrunners and TV writers earlier this week. It’s inspirational as hell — give it a read:
“As you all know by now, we are on Strike. It’s sad that we have arrived here and I don’t know each and every one of your opinions, but I wanted to share my personal plans for what I intend to do until we have a fair contract.
I am currently quoted in today’s Hollywood Reporter as saying that I will do some producing work, but won’t do any editing as I consider that to be writing. While I said something similar to that earlier last week (I’ve learned you can’t trust a word of what these trades report), that was before I went to the Showrunners Meeting yesterday and became very crystalized in what I need to do. Like many of you I have spent the last week contemplating what to do in case of a strike. What are my responsibilities to my writers, my cast, my crew, my network and my contract? How do I balance these various concerns?
At the Showrunners Meeting it became very clear to me that the only thing I can do as a showrunner is to do nothing. I obviously will not write on my shows. But I also will not edit, I will not cast, I will not look at location photos, I will not get on the phone with the network and studio, I will not prep directors, I will not review mixes. These are all acts that are about the writing of the show or protecting the writing of the show, and as such, I will not participate in them. I will also not ask any of my writer/producers to do any of these things for me, so that they get done, but I can save face.
I will not go into the office and I will not do any work at home. I will be on the picket line or I will be working with the Negotiating Committee. I will not have an avid sent to my house, or to a new office so that I can do work on my show and act as if it is all right because I’m not crossing any picket lines.
I truly believe that the best and fastest way to a good contract is to hit these companies early, to hit them hard and to deprive them of ALL the work we do on their behalf.
How do we ask our staff writers to go out on strike as we continue collecting producer checks? How do we ask the Teamsters to respect our picket lines if we won’t ourselves or if we’re sneaking around to do the work off-site?
Just so you all know what I am prepared to give up….
Tomorrow, we begin to film the Series Finale of The Shield. I think it’s the best script our writing staff has ever written. This is the show that made me. This is the show that is my baby. If the strike goes on longer than two weeks, I won’t be able to step on set for the final episode of the show. I won’t have a writer on set, as I have had on every episode since the fourth episode. I won’t be able to edit this final culminating episode. I won’t go to the wrap party that Fox TV and FX are paying for. You can’t tell me that any episode of television is more important than this one is to me, and I am ready to forego all those things in order to strengthen my union.
Tomorrow, we begin filming a new pilot, The Oaks, that I am Executive Producing. It’s an amazing script that David Schulner wrote and I signed up to help him make this show. Until we have a fair deal I cannot do that now and it kills me.
We are currently filming Season 3 of The Unit, a show that does fairly well, but against House and Dancing With The Stars, usually finishes in 3rd place. We have no guarantee that we will back for a 4th season. I just gave a director friend of mine his first TV directing gig. I’d like to see him succeed. He’ll have to finish the show on his own now without a writer on set, or my help in the editing room.
Some people have made the argument that if they don’t do this producing work or this editing, that someone else will do it, and this act won’t hurt the companies. I respectfully disagree. If we ALL stop ALL work tomorrow, the impact of this strike will be felt much more quickly, much more acutely and it most likely will end sooner, putting our writers, our cast and our crews back to work sooner!
I spent nearly 12 hours today in the Negotiation Room with the companies. I watched our side desperately try to make a deal. We gave up our request to increase revenue on DVD’s, something that was very painful to give up, but something we felt we had to in order to get a deal made in new media, which is our future.
I watched as the company’s representatives treated us horrendously, disrespectfully, and then walked out on us at 9:30 and then lied to the trades, claiming we had broken off negotiations.
I can’t in good conscience fight these bastards with one hand, while operating an avid with the other. I am on strike and I am not working for them. PERIOD.
You will use your own instincts and consciences to decide your own actions. But if you would like to follow in my footsteps (and those of many, many others who made this pledge at the showrunner’s meating on Saturday), I encourage you to sign the trade ad that the WGA will be putting out on Tuesday by the dozens and dozens of showrunners who will simply not work at all beginning in the morning.”
~ ~ ~
Me again. I hate not being there, carrying a sign — it’s a real, physical ache. I’m all the way across the country and don’t know what to do, how to help.
To Shawn and everyone else out there walking and sacrificing, supporting the WGA, this “baby writer” thanks you.