Y’all better get used to those “I Love New York” marathons: the Hollywood writers’ strike has shut down production on all scripted TV shows, and there’s no end in sight (somewhat related: news writers are threatening to walk out on CBS).
Angela Nissel, an author, supervising producer on NBC’s “Scrubs” (“Chocolate Bear!“) and one of the aforementioned folks on the picket lines, was gracious enough to let PostBourgie use a letter that she’d sent out detailing the writers’ position.
I’m from a family of union folks so I know the decision to strike is never easy. It’s a decision that affects more than just the people on the picket line. When I checked “yes” on my strike ballot, I did it after much thought… after being sure that it was the only way to have a shot at a fair contract for our work.
A lot of the AMPTP’s news releases seem to assert that the majority of WGA members make six figures and up. That is untrue. The average WGA member makes 42K a year. My first two years, I made under 25K and flipped thrift store clothes on ebay to pay bills until I got staffed on Scrubs. Being on a hit show is a *very* rare thing. It’s much more common to be living three to an apartment, working as a waiter, then getting on your knees in deep, grateful prayer when the occasional freelance job comes through.
Studios and networks are laying people off by the dozens, telling them to blame writers. Why are the writers to blame when the AMPTP has yet to come back to the bargaining table (and we have removed nine requested proposals). What we are asking for is very fair and very simple. When they make money from our work, we would like to be paid a *very* small percentage of that money. They claim the internet is too new to know how profitable it is going to be. Okay, then why not agree to give us the very small percentage and if the profit turns out to be zero, we all get zero?
Instead, they fire people, claim we make huge salaries (which none of us are collecting from them right now), and neglect to admit that they have also proposed to take away residuals entirely which would affect people in more ways than this current strike does: a huge percentage of our residuals fund the health and pension plans of truck drivers, casting agents, and various other non-writing industry workers.
Sorry I’m being so long winded. By all accounts, this is going to be a long strike. It will possibly economically devastate a lot of workers, not just writers. Yesterday a group of us were outside of a studio sucking down a cups of coffee at 6AM when a Teamster approached our group. Tears started streaming down his face. He stuttered out apologies, explaining why he was crossing our picket line – his wife had cancer, they lost their home during the Teamsters last strike, the studios hired scab drivers… He said as soon as they run out of scripts to shoot in two weeks, he’d join the picket line. One of the things we are fighting in this contract is the
right to honor other union’s picket lines. In the past, we *didn’t* honor Teamster picket lines because of our contracts. But still, this man felt so bad about not respecting our line that he cried. Damn.
Okay, I’ll wrap it up now. It’s almost always writers vs studios and networks. When I hear people saying, “With the stuff that Hollywood writers are putting out, I hope they stay on strike forever!” Most Hollywood writers don’t want to write “Jetsons 2009: Elroy vs Robot Maid” or “Laugh Tracked Sitcom with Hot Wife and Washed Up Hacky Male Comedian”…it’s what the networks and studios program because they have researched that Robot Maid and Hacky Male are America wants to see. One day there will be a channel that airs the piles of scripts that were turned down…
Anyhow, I’m off topic. Check out this youtube video if you want a clear understanding of what this strike is about: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ55Ir2jCxk
There’s also a great opinion piece by the creator of Lost:
Thanks for reading (and watching if you have the time). I truly appreciate it. I wouldn’t be supporting this strike if I didn’t think it was 100% fair.
- A really, really well done piece in New York Magazine (again…wtf?) takes a look at the gruff Gerald Boyd, the New York Times’ managing editor who took over just before the Sept. 11 attacks, and whose head was one of those that rolled in the aftermath of the Jayson Blair fiasco. Much of the conversation after the Blair nonsense went down was about whether Boyd had taken Blair under his wing and given him a wider berth because he was black. The piece suggests that while Boyd wasn’t without his faults, he still got done dirty.
- Bob Herbert takes issue with folks who try to whitewash a particularly gross play at the racial fears of Southern voters by Ronald Reagan when he was running for president.
- A new study by the Pew Research Center says that black folks are more pessimistic about racial progress in this country than they’ve been in 20 years. (NPR’s Juan Williams — he of the notorious and inexcusably ass-kissy interview with President Bush — makes an almost comically unrelated point about the study, spending the first few graphs of his analysis crying like a wounded dog. (I actually laughed out loud wondering where he was going with that. Ah, good times.)