(Keep refreshing for latest: I’m also going to update On the Line: Day 3)
–> See my news and analysis: Networks/Studios vs TV Showrunners: Why They’re Now On A Collision Course, which is completed.
—>ABC’s Big Shots is wrapping. I understand production was told today they would not be coming back after the strike. Not surprising because it was stillborn ratings-wise.
–>There’s a widely circulating rumor that a very famous producer is flying in scab writers from the UK to work on his “bloody” TV hourlong. And that, in gratitude, a certain network gave the show a back 9 order. I heard the producer put out blue pages on the show and told crew that the next entirely new
script was forthcoming. Some on the picket line encountered the showrunner who confirmed that non-union people were being hired. I’m trying to confirm so I can name names.
–> Also, a Warner Bros worker arriving on the lot was told by security this morning to take down a sign she had in her car – ”I support the writers in the WGA strike!”. The guard threatened to call Operations. Not sure what that would mean, but it does sound ominous.
–> Reports that Disney has “let go” all the interns in their diversity writer’s program. Help me confirm.
–>A WGAW’er living on the East Coast was handing out leaflets at the Time Warner building protest when approached by an overweight guy with a gym bag:
HIM: “Is Laura here?”
ME: “Who’s Laura?”
HIM: “Your Guild President.”
ME: “I’m Guild West. How do you know Laura?”
HIM: ”I’m a labor attorney for CBS. See you in April.”
–>The WGA is organizing a noisy humongous protest at Fox Plaza in Century City on Friday, with 3,000 pickets expected to walk the line en masse between 10 AM and 12 Noon. Speakers will include: WGAW President Patric M. Verrone, and Screen Actors Guild President Alan Rosenberg. Singer-activist Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, AudioSlave) will also perform an acoustic mini-set.
–>Meanwhile, it’s hilarous how all the strikers buzz that “the really cool people” are picketing Fox. “It’s where it’s happening,” said a writer using a phrase I haven’t heard since J.J. Walker and Good Times went off the air. It’s all because Fox is so geographically desirable Westside. But the questions I’m being most asked by writers with development deals there is, Does this mean that Alex Young is going to stop rewriting scripts? And shouldn’t this co-prez of production be out on the line striking himself?
—> It’s also amusing how the “name” writers are like rock stars on the line. For instance, Jorge Reyes, the creator of Kevin Hill, emailed me that at CBS Television City he saw Matthew Weiner, creator of AMC’s Mad Men.
“In the weeks before the strike began, I was buried in the lab working on a pilot for NBC. As I often do, while writing, I have great television shows playing in the background. It is my half-assed theory that having excellence around you hopefully raises my own watermark of quality. It doesn’t get higher than Mad Men for me. I think it’s brilliant, and in my opinion, the best show on the air. I have seen every episode of this show umpteen times, marveling, SHARING it with people, because it reminds me of why I became a writer in the first place. (It is not the only show I feel this about.) I got out of the car today, saw Matthew, made myself introduce myself. I was actually nervous. Turns out we have a connection — one of the series regulars on his show was on mine. We went on about her amazing talent. And by golly, he’d seen my show too. Then all my cool guy shit went out the window. I told him how much his show meant to me. That his work inspires me. Hopefully I didn’t embarrass him too much. He was so gracious — told me I’d made his day. What I forgot to tell him is that he made mine. It was nice, if only for a moment, to remember not just the rightiousness of what what we’re doing, but the love of what we do.”
–>“I’m talking to the parties that are involved because I think it’s very important that we settle that as quickly as possible, because it has a tremendous economic impact on our state,” backchannelling Schwarzenegger said during a news conference today. “That’s the sad story, because the studio executives are not going to suffer, the union leaders are not going to suffer, the writers that are striking, they are not going to suffer. Those are all people that have money.” Read this open letter to him on HuffPo re the strike.
–> I’m told that the Hollywood/Big Media moguls were pissed as hell that Barack Obama got out in front of the other Democratic presidential candidates and issued what they considered “a totally knee-jerk response” taking the writers’ side. And they let him know it, too. I can’t believe the CEOs are naive enough to think that just because they’ve been hosting political fundraisers and giving donations to him that gives them any clout. UPDATE: Obama’s LA staff and volunteers will be joining the strikers tomorrow.
–> CAA’s turn to visit clients on the picket lines. Agents and trainees left The Mausoleum and brought hot chocolate and cake (let them eat cake!) and also actually walked around and around with the strikers and even held signs. The CAA’ers fanned all over town. Their clients agreed it was pretty awesome. (By the way, I’ll have the results of the Endeavor agent caption contest tomorrow, so stay tuned. Hilarious entries!)
–>Edward Allen Bernero, Executive Producer of Criminal Minds, today gave fans of his show an exclusive letter explaining why he and his writers went on strike. ”The Criminal Minds writers all want to work. We love this show as much as you do and we feel a huge obligation to all of you to keep making it. Other showrunners love their fans and their shows. None of us want this. Not one of us. But, understand, we simply CAN NOT accept this proposal. It kills our industry now and for the future. So, if Criminal Minds runs out of new episodes, we’re sorry. Extremely sorry. We already miss the writing room, already miss playing with the characters, already miss working with the most amazing crew in television. We will miss reading your comments on this site and the others all over the web. We will miss the real feeling of community we have with you all. But being sorry to all of you doesn’t mean a lack of resolve. This choice was made for us but we will see it through.”
–>There’s a fan-generation petition online in support of the WGA writers “stated goals of obtaining just and fair compensation regarding revenues generated through New Media” that already has generated 7,643 signatures since going up around 12 Noon.
–>Soap opera sources tell me that the soaps continue production during a strike even after they’ve run out of Guild-covered scripts by hiring new writers for the duration (and protect their anonymity so there are no repercussions against them). But this time out there seems to be a new wrinkle. Word is ABC, which owns all the soaps it airs, is sending notices to its writers advising them to elect Financial Core status with the Guild and return to work — or their jobs might not be available when the strike is over.
–>Tonight there was a dramatic WGA protest continuing since early today as chanting picketers try to shut down production on a DreamWorks movie. And picketers from radford shut down a Scrubs location shoot today in North Hollywood. No LA exterior shoots will be safe until the strike is over.
The above photo is of Jenny Bicks, creator/showrunner of ABC’s Men In Trees (one of my favorite shows thanks to McFreezy), with fellow writer Cindy Chupack. Apparently, their lemonade stand at Raleigh Studios was a hit: KNBC anchor Paul Moyer just talked about it live on the air…
The DreamWorks movie Hotel For Dogs has been shooting on location on Pico Blvd in West LA. Supposedly, the production didn’t obtain permits for the sidewalks, so picketers are massing steadily on the street, the corner and the alley around the site and can stay as long as they keep moving. The result is that Hotel For Dogs can’t film its scenes inside a pet store there. The production took a break thinking the protesters would leave at 5 PM. But not only have they stayed well past that, their numbers have grown and grown. UPDATE: A Hotel For Dogs picketer there tells me tonight, “Not sure if we impacted the production shooting as much as we would have liked. The teamsters said we weren’t impacting much. I think we annoyed them more than anything. But it made people realize that we aren’t going away, that we’ll target movies shooting, and that we’ll be back to make it worse another day. The police were very cooperative and it was clear that the teamsters were totally on our side.”
From one striker: ”Here’s a fun thing to do on the picket lines. Take a stopwatch with you and begin timing when you hit the line and see how long it takes before you hear a writer say the following: (see below). Then, stand back and enjoy the irony that the writer is wearing one of those “Comedy Writer” shirts. Yes, it didn’t take long for bits to become “hack” on the sidewalks outside studios:
a. Utter “Can we punch up this sign/slogan/contract?”
b. Pretend to get a cellphone call and say, “What’s that?! The strike’s over?! Guess I’d better go home!”
c. Pretend to get a cellphone call and say, “What’s that, Mom? You fell down and are hurt?! Guess I’d better go home!”
d. Make a prank phone call to a nearby writer, pretending to be a strike captain and asking why he’s not there picketing.
e. Attempt a joke lamenting how the strike is going to get in the way of his/her buying a new pool/car/house for his/her nanny.
WGA East picketed Time Warner today sparking probably the biggest turnout yet. Hundreds of writers were so jammed in the stanchions they weren’t able to actually walk. Dozens of A-List talent turned up throughout the day to show support: David Duchovny, Tim Robbins, Robin Williams, Sam Waterston (second day in a row), Griffin Dunne, Julianne Moore, Rachel Dratch, Joan Allen, Richard Belzer, Joy Behar, Susie Essman, Holly Hunter, Chris Meloni, David Hyde Pierce, Oliver Platt, Randy Quaid, Susan Sarandon, Nora Ephron, and the now daily appearances of the Daily Show writers, the Colbert writers, the Law & Order writers, the Letterman writers, the Conan writers. Tomorrow morning, the protest is at Fox on Sixth Avenue.
From the Time Warner picket line: ”Don’t Re-Bewkes! Negotiate!”
Seriously, have you tried having a conversation with anyone at a network or studio this week? Even I can hear the noise from the pickets over the phone. It’s unreal.
At the Paramount main gate, all of the teamsters trucks honk their horns in support of the pickets. But, occasionally, someone in a car goes by giving them the finger and yelling, “Fuck you, assholes.”
The observant Paramount pickets have noticed that the Brinks truck arrive twice a day at 1:30 PM and 4 PM. (I’ll avoid the speculation over whether they’re carrying the cash from the downloaded residuals that the writers aren’t getting.) A few WGA’ers began to plot out aloud The Paramount Job. Of course, there was another school of thought that the trucks are how Brad Grey is getting in and out of the studio every day.
How come the only cartoons I can find are anti-writers?
Production staff at House say they have one more script that they will be shooting next week. After that, the show will slowly shut down production. Actors and most of the crew will be gone by the end of next week. There are a handful of post production people that will have work until the end of January.
I’m told Tom Lennon and Ben Garant showed up at the CBS TV City picket line yesterday dressed as their Reno 911! characters. They drew a lot of attention, although no one seemed to get a bigger kick out of them than the LAPD.
More reports of assistants getting laid off: the ones on WB shows were let go today, and at Innovative.
Tony Guma, WGAw screenwriter of The Suburbans, shows me he made a new friend walking the line at Paramount:
I hear Breakdown Services is waiving the monthly fee for casting info because of the strike. “Although many agent & manager types may disparage their monopoly, Gary Marsh is really stepping up to the plate this time,” a tenpercenter told me.
UPDATE: Bill Lawrence, the showrunner/creator of Scrubs just called me to clarify. I’m filing a separate posting which I’ll incorporate here as well. Here’s what some writers said who’d just come back from picketing Scrubs: “Strikers were making lots of noise and the teamsters on the location were pissed. Shouting back and forth. Finally, after things got more heated, Bill Lawrence [arrives] and told the picketers that all their noise-making was pointless since Scrubs was shooting inside a soundstage. I guess he realized that sounded kind of asshole-ish so he all ‘solidarity-like’ told them he was at the Disney picket and how he supports the strike.”
Photo of Ken Jenkins (“Dr. Kelso”), Zach Braff (“J.D.” and WGA member), Bill Lawrence (creator, executive producer) and Sarah Chalke (“Elliot”) of Scrubs. They were on the line late this morning at the Disney Alameda gate supporting the picketers:
Jon Cryer is on the line at Radford; Laura San Giacomo making Starbucks drops.
Outside of Raleigh, reports of pushing. Many stars from Ugly Betty, including Judith Light, and David Krumholtz of Numb3rs.
Chant there: “‘Don’t be cheap. Don’t be petty. Or you won’t get your Ugly Betty.”
Director and ex-TV showrunner Garry Marshall walked with picketers at Warner Bros today. Chant in his honor: ”It was good enough for Happy Days. It was good enough for Laverne & Shirley. Then it’s good enough for me.”
Medium actors Patricia Arquette & Jake Weber walked the picket line at Raleigh Manhattan Beach. Photo of them with the series’ writing staff:
The executive producer of “Monna Vanna”, the classic stage play which is set to open in Hollywood later this month, has donated a block of tickets to unemployed, striking writers.
Mad TV, despite a walkout from all of their writers who also have been threatened with legal action, is still in production. I’m told it was supposed to shoot a sketch this
afternoon and was confronted by 30 writers picketing. The writers were able to disrupt the filming of the sketch, and the crew went home. No word if they are still considering to go through with shooting episode 300 this Tuesday.
On the line at Sony this morning, two equipment trucks refused to cross the line (at the Overland gate) and unloaded their equipment on the street. Also, the Culver City police keep saying they’ll cite motorists who honk. From an assistant at Sony: “My desk has a window which faces one of the studio gate being picketed behind the Thalberg building on Culver Blvd. Yesterday, I saw the ticketing/honking incident you wrote about. I can tell you that seeing motorists (“innocent bystanders”) getting fines for their show of support seems only to have encouraged the picketers to get more people to honk. There’s more yelling, more chanting, and more honking going on today than there was yesterday. ” And this from a Sony picketer: “What impresses me the most is the number of young, non-WGA writers who are coming out everyday to support the Guild they hope to be a member of someday. We have had these folks every single day at Sony, and is really impressive. I hope they all have long, lucrative careers, at 8 cents a unit.”
Picket sign at Fox: “Honk if you’re horny for fairness.”
When Writers Stop Writing, A Poem by Tony Peyser
The WGA strike concerns many individuals
Concerned about not getting proper residuals.
The studios pout and then yell, “My God!
They want money for shows seen on an iPod?”
The answer to that question I’d have to guess,
Is something along the lines of, “Uh … yes.”
After all, by now it is rather well-known
That people can watch TV on their cell phone.
Besides, these webisodes (which I doubt will be fads)
Often include little things you may know called ads.
Does this fact change the terrain? Yeah, you bet:
They’re already making money on the internet.
The Office staff wrote ten webisodes for gratis
Just plain wrong is the best way to say what that is.
Whoever called these “promotions” didn’t work pro-bono
Asking writers to work for free is your basic no-no.
It’s best to stay out & not let these big issues skate;
They’re what cable & DVDs were back in ‘88.
Editor-in-Chief Nikki Finke - tip her here.