The writers' strike: chanting, anxiety, and snacks.

Notes from different corners of the world.
Nov. 9 2007 11:57 AM

Scenes From the Writers' Strike

Chanting, anxiety, camaraderie, and snacks.

(Continued from Page 1)

"It does involve walking up and down a hill for four hours," she said.

"Anything for my union," I said.

I went up the hill with 15 other strikers, and we stood in a circle. The site organizer, a writer for Guiding Light who lives in Sacramento, gave us a pep talk that included a story about a monkey who'd once been on the reality show Meet My Folks. He worked 18 hours a day on that show, he said, but the monkey, by law, had restricted hours. The monkey had more protection than he did. That's one of the many reasons why we need the guild.

Writers on strike at Prospect Studios
Writers on strike at Prospect Studios

Next, we stood in a circle and introduced ourselves. There was one guy who'd been in the guild only since August. He'd been working as a script slave for the now-defunct series of telenovelas, and the guild had gone to bat for him. Now he was writing spec scripts and working as a waiter at the Chateau Marmont. In general, this was a more prole-y group of WGA members than the one at Disney.

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"My name's Neal," I said. "I've written some books and now I have a TV-pilot deal."

There was so much more about myself I wanted to tell my brothers and sisters! But we had a long day. By the end of it, they'd be as tired of my shtick as anyone else who has to spend four hours with me.

The time passed amiably. We stopped the cars of scene-shop workers, handed them fliers, and asked for their support. We booed anyone who didn't roll down the driver-side window of their Lexus. People kept bringing us boxes of doughnuts. A husband-and-wife team went on a Subway run. A car full of UTA assistants came by to offer us cookies. We received friendly honks from fine actresses Glenne Headly and Melissa Leo. I walked up and down a hill for four hours, chanting. This was a more chant-friendly group. "Webcasts, DVDs," we chanted. "You can't have them. Not for free."

The next morning, I woke up and read Deadline Hollywood Daily. Nikki Finke reported that more than 100 TV show runners would be at Disney that morning in a show of solidarity with the proles. That sounded like fun, so I went outside and dumped a cup of water on the windshield of my mom's 1998 Nissan Sentra. We haven't been able to afford to get the wiper-fluid mechanism fixed, and it's getting harder to see out the windshield. The tragedies continue to mount.

In Burbank, the show runners were out in full glory, from all my favorite shows and some I didn't like very much. But they were all writers, my brothers and sisters in the struggle, along with the 48 percent of the guild that isn't currently working and the shmoes like me who're caught somewhere in the middle zone between unemployment and unimaginable success. I went up to a location captain who was holding two sign-up sheets.

"Are you a show runner?" she asked.

"Oh, my God, no!" I said. 

She handed me one sign-up sheet. The other went to Seth MacFarlane, who created Family Guy, and then to Doug Ellin of Entourage. I vowed to myself not to say anything stupid to anyone important. So many people had showed up that the union ran out of picket signs.

I marched for a while, and then the many cameras present all turned toward the east side of the main gate. Sally Field had appeared to offer her support. Also, Shemar Moore rode up, wearing a one-piece red-and-black bike suit that read Criminal Minds, and gave his show runner a hug. Norma Rae was with the union, along with the guy who hosts Soul Train! We couldn't possibly lose now!

Toward the end of my shift, I got the nerve to approach Matthew Weiner, the creator of Mad Men, my current "greatest television show of all time." I knew who he was because he was carrying a sign that read "Mad Men." I said nice things to him, and he thanked me.

"The worst thing about this strike is that it might delay Season 2 of your show," I said. "That will ruin my life."

He shook his head sadly.

"I was going to open the writer's room today," he said.

By noon, most of the show runners had left. Unlike me, they probably had something else to do. The woman who created Hannah Montana was still hanging around. That might solve the strike, I thought. Tell the suits' 8-year-old daughters that their daddies are taking Hannah Montana away from them.

I could finally get a picket sign. The one I hoisted had the word Heroes written on the back.

"That's right," I said aloud, to no one in particular. "I created Heroes."

Actually, I've created nothing since I got here, or at least nothing that anyone's heard about. But I've endorsed some checks, and I do have my health insurance. I'm a union man now. I put the Heroes sign down, picked up a blank one, and marched on in front of The Mouse.

"Hey, man," I said to a passing comrade. "Where'd you get that taco?"

Neal Pollack is the author of Alternadad. He lives in Austin, Texas. 

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