Strike, day 81

Despite the cold and rain, we had a sizable turnout at the Van Ness gate this morning, with four newcomers joining the stalwart crew. The Seattle folks brought coffee (purchased locally; they didn’t bring it with them), while feature scribes Amy and Liz enthusiastically pitched the plotline of Miracle Mile, an LA disaster movie they claim seriously smokes Volcano.

To me, it’s the lack of an urban core which seriously weakens LA’s viability for disaster movies. What is a giant monster supposed to attack? The Hollywood sign? A landmark made of white-painted wood isn’t particularly smash-worthy. If recollection serves, The Day After Tomorrow took it out with twisters, but that was hardly a key plot point.

No, the Cloverfield equivalent of LA would find the monster smashing the Santa Monica Pier, then walking 20 minutes to take out the Getty Center, and subsequently getting lost in the Valley while trying to find the Griffith Park observatory. Our most iconic feature is our vast freeway system, which doesn’t lend itself to cinematic destruction.

What LA needs is an ostentatious, provocative and destroyable landmark. Yes, it would be catnip for terrorists. But think of the movies.

Back at Paramount, we had more traffic than we’d seen in weeks, with many cars and trucks backed up. Completely not our doing — it was the security gate checking IDs. After the 10th truck with barking dogs in back, we started to realize that something other than Star Trek must be shooting on the lot. A friendly teamster gave us the answer: Hotel for Dogs.

Thursday is our Friday, so no picketing until Monday. Over the weekend, I’ll update with any special information.

Strike, day 80

Aspiring screenwriter and reader-of-the-blog Terry came out to walk the picket line this morning. A recent Notre Dame grad, he’s doing SAT1 tutoring as a day job. My friend Amy does the same thing in New York, and it strikes me as a nearly ideal way for a writer to put ramen in the cupboard. It’s decent enough that you won’t hate doing it, but not so rewarding that you’ll forget to write.

Beyond Terry’s visit, it was a completely unremarkable three hours. Angry Cadillac Woman scraped the curb as she raced through, but there was no one remotely in her vicinity. My new theory is that she’s actually just angry at the asphalt, and determined to do it damage through vehicular abuse.

WGA Board Member David Goodman stopped by to visit. No real news — there’s a press blackout. But it was announced yesterday that the WGA will not be picketing the Grammys, which is helpful for me, because I’m actually going this year.2 The last time was fun.

Other topics of conversation: Lucy Liu, India, the Smart car, casting, pilot cutbacks, how nice Notre Dame’s campus is, Malawi, and the “old people school bus” which comes at 8:10 every day.

Tomorrow, same time, same place.

  1. For international readers, the SAT is one of two standardized tests required to get into nearly any U.S. university. There’s a whole industry devoted to getting kids ready to take the test, which of course defeats the reason for the test in the first place.
  2. Longtime blog readers may remember that I became a Grammy member after getting nominated in 2005 for Best Song in the TV/Movie/Visual Media category.

Strike, day 79

This morning was a day of firsts on the picket line. For starters, it was my first day of rain picketing. A clear plastic garbage bag protects the sign, so beyond needing to occasionally wipe off my glasses, it wasn’t a big difference. It was warmer than most mornings, so I’ll gladly take some rain.

paramount mapToday was the first time all the WGA pickets were consolidated at Paramount, so it was weird to see four times as many picketers at six in the morning. While we started out at our normal gates, pretty soon we gathered in big groups to walk around the entire lot.

Paramount is seven blocks wide and four blocks deep, but it backs up against the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, so there’s no way to circle it without including the cemetery, a few strip malls, and the WIC center. So for any confused observers (there were a few), the WGA is not anti-corpse, anti-doughnut, or anti-women-infants-and-children.

Google Maps shows one lap equalling 1.7 miles. I’m surprised; it doesn’t feel that long. As I noted on Day 1 of the strike, the sidewalks on the west side of Paramount are ridiculously unusable: 2 feet wide with a light pole in the middle.

So if you’re tempted to head out for one of the later picketing shifts today, by all means go. It’s a very nice change to be able to walk forward without interruption.

Teaching Thursdays

Some writers from WB Gate 2 are starting an off-the-cuff program called Teaching Thursdays. Priya Hamilton-Wilkes wrote in:

A few of us came up with an idea of “Teaching Thursdays,” where writers of various TV and feature genres would join us on Thursdays, making themselves available to discuss story, structure and everything in between to aspiring writers. Medical drama day will be Thursday, January 24th, from 9-12 at Gate 2 at Warner Bros.

It’s a great idea. One of the frustrating things about picketing is that so often, you feel like you’re not doing anything constructive. That’s why I’ve been happy to have so many readers come out to Paramount. I suspect the WB Gate 2 crew will get at least as much out of it as the aspiring writers who come out to learn.

The elephant in the room

At 6:09 this morning, I was interviewed by a KTLA news crew about my opinions on the DGA deal and what it meant for the informal WGA talks which are now beginning. (The reporter didn’t pick me specifically. The group I was walking with shoved me in front.)

So while I’ve refrained from weighing in officially on the blog for fear of undercutting the off-stage discussions, I can at least repeat what I told the reporter.

I’ve been “cautiously optimistic” too many times during the strike, so I officially refuse to link emotion and prediction. I won’t predict, period.

That said, everyone on every side recognizes why this would be a very good time to get the strike resolved. There are important issues which are unique to writers, ones that don’t really have any equivalent in the DGA deal, so those are going to take careful action to address.

While I won’t predict whether a deal will be reached soon, do I think a deal can be reached? Absolutely.

Tomorrow will be back to normal, with picketing at the Van Ness gate at Paramount starting at 5:45 a.m.

Tabula Rasa

Last night I saw Cloverfield at the Chinese. And loved it. Since the first trailer, I’ve been plugging my ears and shouting “la la la la” whenever someone tried to tell me something about the movie, and I’m glad I did. A blank slate is a movie-goer’s best friend.

I have the opposite situation for two of the trailers that played before Cloverfield: Iron Man and The Eye. I did two week’s work on each — not nearly enough to merit credit, but enough that I know every single plot point. If there’d only been a Hancock trailer, it would have been a trifecta.

Because you’ll ask: I haven’t seen any of the three. The Eye changed studios, directors and stars soon after I worked on it. (Not my fault, I swear.) I took the job because I really wanted to write something scary. Even with all the genres I’ve worked in, I had never done a horror movie.

I feel much more kinship towards Hancock and Iron Man, along with their writers, directors and producers. Both had strong scripts before I got involved, and I enjoyed helping out where I could.

Mysteries of Pittsburgh

The LA Times has a great article about my friend and former assistant Rawson Thurber, whose adaptation of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh debuts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. I’ve seen the movie five times, and am ridiculously proud of Mr. Thurber.

Trivia: If you’re watching The Nines, that’s Rawson’s house which gets burned down at the start of the movie. And if you’re watching The Nines on DVD (ahem), the short film God was shot at my apartment off of Melrose, which Rawson later took over.

I probably need to start paying my location scouts more.