Strike, day four

In the shower yesterday, I was scrubbing my arm and silently wondering, “How did I get so dirty?” Then it hit me — that wasn’t dirt.

I was getting tan.

I’ve been on the afternoon shift all week. While the mornings in Los Angeles have been cool and overcast, the afternoons have been sunny. Very sunny. Far too sunny for a pasty writer like me. Even with 50 spf sunblock, my ears were getting crispy around the edges of my USC ballcap, so on Wednesday I had to break out my wide-brimmed Maui hat, which strikes that awkward balance of Australian Outback individualism and post-vanity not-giving-a-fuck.

Fortunately, yesterday afternoon stayed overcast all day, so I could revert to the ballcap.

coupleI spent the first half of my shift at Paramount’s Van Ness gate, where I spoke with three blog-readers who’d come out specifically to say whassup. David is a recent USC English grad who has a remarkably cool job shooting documentaries for MTV. My advice to him was to keep his job and not brag about it. I then spoke with an Australian couple. She’s an actress; he’s a writer; their future children will be gorgeous.

At 3:15, we were hustled down to the Van Ness gate of Raleigh Studios, where the cast of Ugly Betty would be joining the picket line. Whenever Actual Celebrities show up, news cameras are out in force, so you want to have a lot of picketers on hand.

extendThe problem at the Raleigh gate was that there were too many picketers crammed in too little space, which made it impossible to move. And once a picket line stops moving, it’s just a bunch of people loitering, which is illegal. The obvious solution was to extend the picket line further down the sidewalk. I took responsibility for implementing the obvious, doubling the length of the line.

Today, the protest moves to Fox, with all the picketers headed there at 10 a.m. Which means I need to get moving. Once I know my schedule for next week, I’ll post it here.

Strike, day three

Three blog readers took me up on my offer and joined the picket line at Paramount. In chatting with them about their hopes, fears and immediate plans, I formulated some on-the-fly advice about what I’d do if I were a recent college graduate hoping for a career in Hollywood.

  1. It’s not a great time to move to Los Angeles. The classic entry-level jobs — assistants and PA’s — will be hard to come by in a few weeks as production companies and agencies are forced to lay off people.

  2. If you’re already here, it might be worth looking for a generic job sooner rather than later, since things like Barnes and Noble might fill up quickly. Writers and laid-off assistants will be aiming for those same jobs.

  3. While it’s a bad time to be looking for work in the entertainment industry, election season is ramping up. Recent college graduates are always welcome on political campaigns. It’s an amazing, exhausting experience — and you could do it in any state in the country. (Thanks to Matt for this suggestion.)

  4. You’ll never meet as many writers as you can during the strike. For a change, everyone is out of their office and out of their cars. Get to know some film and TV writers and talk to them about their work. It’s especially good to talk with writers who are at the lowest rungs, to see how they got started and what the challenges are.

I asked all three of the writers I spoke with yesterday to write in and report how the next few months go. If anyone else wants to talk today, I’ll be starting at Paramount at 1 p.m. today.

Other details from Day Three:

  • I wore a pedometer. 13,139 steps, which translates to 4.14 miles.

  • At Paramount, I was delighted to finally meet Gary Whitta. I also spoke with William Mapother, creepy “Ethan” from Lost, who is both a SAG and WGA member. A lot more SAG folks are coming out to the picket line, which is great.

  • I missed seeing Jesse Jackson, because my strike captain and I went over to help out at Prospect Studios, where the cast of Grey’s Anatomy had joined the picket line. Prospect was super-mellow compared to the noise and chaos of Paramount. I got to catch up with Allan Heinberg, who is doing a new Wonder Woman comic, and C.J. Cox, who I know from Outfest labs. I met Jonathan Kimmel and talked Crank Yankers, among other shows.

  • Prospect Studios is also where General Hospital shoots. Writers for daytime serials have an unbelievably daunting job, and never really mingle with other TV and feature writers, so it was good to meet a few.

  • It’s difficult to clean oatmeal vomit from a car seat.

Not a word

Last week, I wrote how much I admired the Pencils Down ad, in which TV’s top showrunners said they would be doing no writing on their shows during a strike. I said that I’d be delighted to sign a similar ad for feature screenwriters. I’m happy to say the WGA took me up on the offer.

This morning’s trades include this ad, signed by nearly every screenwriter you can think of. 1 (Click for a bigger version.)

screenwriter ad

There was a lot of speculation that the flurry of deals made before the strike meant that feature scribes would be busy typing away on assignments between shifts on the picket line. Nope.

Personally, I’m not writing on three big movies: Shazam! for New Line, a Sam Mendes feature for Dreamworks, and my fourth collaboration with a certain director for Warner Bros. Today’s Variety just announced that Prince of Persia signed a director — Mike Newell — but has no writer to work with him.

The blockbusters of 2009 are sitting unwritten. That’s an economic factor I’ve never seen reported in all of this. The next installments of Spider-Man, Harry Potter, and every other movie franchise are unwritten and unproducible until the strike is over.

If I were a theater chain, I’d be worried. If I were Wal-Mart, I’d demand answers. If I were a shareholder, I’d demand blood. The AMPTP’s refusal to return to the bargaining table is costing more than jobs, and will keep hurting the studios well into 2009 unless they get back to negotiating.

  1. **UPDATE:** Note entirely true: If you think hard, you can come up with names of screenwriters not on this list. It was put together over the weekend, and some writers couldn’t be reached in time. So don’t think ill of someone whose name isn’t there. From talking with the organizers, not a single screenwriter said no.

The Monkey is alive

I had a hunch the strike would put Josh Friedman back at the keyboard.

AMPTP: Wow, Ms. Prostitute. That was some great sex we just had.

PROSTITUTE: Thanks, AMPTP John. That’ll be three hundred dollars.

AMPTP: You’re kidding. I’m not paying you.


AMPTP: I paid you three hundred dollars for sex last week. I consider this promotional.

Read the rest here.