Writers' Strike

November 8, 2007

There’s a great deal of public animosity toward the striking writers, the commentators sounding like so many petulant children fearing they are to be derived of their god-given right to be entertained. Media coverage of the strike can fan the flames of pop cultures image of writers, artists and other creators.

[tag]Joss Whedon[/tag] has some interesting things to say about art as work in the context of the [tag]writers’ strike[/tag].

He has two letters posted at fansite [tag]Whedonesque[/tag], the first is in the comments of a post and the second was given it’s own post. I’m pulling a lengthy bit from the second letter, but think the whole letter is worth a read:


Reporters are funny people. At least, some of the New York Times reporters are. Their story on the strike was the most dispiriting and inaccurate that I read. But it also contained one of my favorite phrases of the month.

“All the trappings of a union protest were there… …But instead of hard hats and work boots, those at the barricades wore arty glasses and fancy scarves.”

Oh my God. Arty glasses and fancy scarves. That is so cute! My head is aflame with images of writers in ruffled collars, silk pantaloons and ribbons upon their buckled shoes. A towering powdered wig upon David Fury’s head, and Drew Goddard in his yellow stockings (cross-gartered, needless to say). Such popinjays, we! The entire writers’ guild as Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Delicious.

Except this is exactly the problem. The easiest tactic is for people to paint writers as namby pamby arty scarfy posers, because it’s what most people think even when we’re not striking. Writing is largely not considered work. Art in general is not considered work. Work is a thing you physically labor at, or at the very least, hate. Art is fun. (And Hollywood writers are overpaid, scarf-wearing dainties.) It’s an easy argument to make. And a hard one to dispute.

[read the whole post]

If you wish to take a look about both of his notes, the first one is here and the second is here.

At the Huffington Post [tag]Robbie Baitz[/tag] has a thoughtful dispatch from the line in New York:

The age-range this morning is wide. An elderly woman, one of the great armies of tough broads in New York, in the tradition of Bella Abzug, et al, is marching — like a peeved water bird — chanting the cry of the day, which seems to be something about “no check, no pay, no write, no…stay”??? I can’t follow the chants, and also, I must point out, the placards lack a certain style. It’s true. We writers of the WGA East are not good at cheap quick jabs, sloganeering, and whatnot. But back to the old lady. New York — smart, funny, angry New York — was built on the chicken-noodle soup and rage that these gals dole out.

There are older men here too, patient, pacing their saunter, men and women who have been here before, a couple of times, in past years. Some of the faces show the lines that are particular to a writer’s face. A combination of worry and humor, weariness and certitude that old pros carry with them. Some jackets bear the logos of TV shows or movies long forgotten, like badges of honor.

I am joined by Ron Rifkin at noon. He is on my show, “Brothers & Sisters”, and is marching in solidarity with the Writers Guild members. All of whom know him. He is greeted warmly, and he and I do a little thing for the press, talking about the issues at hand, trying to explain how many writers earn very little, and how much this battle means in terms of whether you’re gonna have a decent life as a writer or a hard-scrabble one.

So many people dislike writers, it seems. Odd. As though the job were a trick played on all the rest of the workers in America. (Now that I think of it, I can see how that opinion could be arrived at.) But still, looking around here at the March of the Schleppers at Rockefeller Plaza, it seems that for the most part, the motto of these people has been rather more like that of doctors. “First do no harm”. “Then make them laugh.” “Then make them think.” “Then have a sandwich”. Etc.


You can’t earn a living as a playwright anymore. And if we lose this fight, being a TV writer is going to be harder too. So what is the value of narrative in our culture? Do the money guys value the worth of the story tellers in their marketplace enough to have an honest dialogue about paychecks and future income?

[read the whole piece]

In the reader comments at the Huffington Post there’s a lot of anti-writer bile. I always find the contempt towards writers and other creators too dispiriting to dwell upon or give much time and attention to here today, so let’s move on.

The [tag]Writers Guild of America, West[/tag] has a page set up with the latest information on the strike for writers, if you’re interested. The [tag]Writers Guild of America, East[/tag] page won’t load for me today, but contains information as well.

Whedon mentions, in the first letter, watching his dad walk the picket lines during the last big strike, in 1988. The New York Times had a decent summary of that settlement in it’s August 8, 1988 edition. (Yes, I realize it’s a bit ironic to find that the NYTimes has the best summary when Whedon’s second letter was in part a reaction to a NYTimes article – the other decent resources I have are subscription only and can’t be deep linked).

The strike-blog linked from Whedonesque is United Hollywood, which I’ve just started looking at and haven’t got an opinion on. It looks to be interesting, at the least, I’m not sure how informative it will actually be yet.

You can also follow strike news on [tag]Twitter[/tag] via writersstrike if you’re so inclined.

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November 8, 2007 @ 2:23 pm

Adam Felber of Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me also has an informative post about the strike.

November 9, 2007 @ 2:07 am

Hey,I know Adam Felber. If it’s who I think it is anyway. If he’s reading, and if he’s the friend of Liz Kyler and has a red haired sister, I’ve seen them many a time at that late night midtown bar they did their schtick at. Funny, and obviously memorable. If that’s not him, some other guy with a similar name was just as funny.

I read this stuff and as a union advocate (*gasp*) it makes my blood boil. I can’t get myself overly involved, because I save all that for my clients, but really, there is so much fucking money to go around in a lot of these show that it’s just disgusting how the producers hog it all for themselves. Particularly for the every day type shows that rely on quick wit and up-to-date material. That can’t be an easy task. Hell, I can’t get good material on my blog on a daily basis and I do it for free and have an audience of about 3.

November 9, 2007 @ 10:06 am

Thanks for that link, Link. I was going to edit this post and add it but I think it’s worth it’s own post.

November 9, 2007 @ 10:08 am

You and I’ve had this conversation about Adam Felber before if I’m not mistaken – and concluded it was him. Hey, his brother is a rabbi. Find out if he does exorcisms…

November 9, 2007 @ 10:13 am

I don’t think Adam Felber’s brother is a rabbi. I believe I’m insane and delusional because I haven’t had any coffee yet.

November 9, 2007 @ 10:15 am

Yeah, I’m pretty sure some part of my brain made that up entirely on it’s own.

November 9, 2007 @ 7:34 pm

Adam’s sister is on the web with a blog.

Faith, Adam’s on NPR’s Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me periodically.

November 10, 2007 @ 10:28 am

It’s actually Wait, Wait’s host, Peter Sagal, who has a brother who is a rabbi. Why the hell did I know that?

Nevertheless, he’s in your neck of the woods: