Variety Wrong Again

Last week, Variety reporters warned us that we’d be "swift-boated" if we didn’t reply to every ridiculous, inflammatory claim made by the AMPTP. Well, Variety was wrong, as proven by a report in their own pages today that shows the public is solidly behind us.

There’s an image war raging during the WGA strike, and the writers seem to be winning.

Public sympathy sides with the scribes, as a study, released Wednesday, indicates.

[…]The WGA trumpeted a pair of surveys Wednesday showing plenty of
public sympathy with backing of 69% in a Pepperdine poll and 63% in a
SurveyUSA poll, while the companies received a only a smattering of
support with 4% and 8%, respectively.

And the announcement came on the same day that WGA West prexy Patric Verrone and SAG topper Alan Rosenberg huddled with multiple elected officials in Washington, D.C., to explain the guilds’ position.

polls prove that the public understands what’s at stake here," Verrone
said in a statement. "Our fight represents the fight for all American
workers for a fair deal."

Dawn of the Dead

I was back on the picket line a CBS at dawn today, though I moved to the Colfax gate this time. The writers were blowing whistles and encouraging passing cars to lean on their horns (which they did). This irritated the guards who made a show of scowling, counting the number of picketers, and making notations on their clipboards. I’m not sure why they were counting us, but I think we were supposed to be intimidated by it. We weren’t. I also chatted with my friends Bill Freiberger and Rodney Vacarro, which is one of the benefits of picketing. I keep bringing my iPod along but I haven’t listened to it yet.

Finding Middle Ground at MIDDLEMAN

The strike has put my friend Javi in a tough situation.  He was in the midst of producing his pilot THE MIDDLEMAN, a dream-come-true for him, when the strike was called. Now he is in a moral quandry:

i can’t be legally penalized by the guild for doing my duties as a
producer: but the guild would certainly prefer it if the walkout was
complete – if people like myself struck not only as writers but also as
producers…because if the paralyzing effect of the strike is felt
swiftly and across the board, the producers might be more motivated to
settle quickly.

so here i am, given the opportunity to see
through to completion the production of a nine year-old dream into a
pilot…a dream i self-financed as a comic book, seen through to three
volumes and fought to get to this place, into a reality…

on the other hand, there’s a labor union of which i am a member,
mounting picket lines i am required to honor, running a justified
strike against a predatory media cabal that has no qualms about taking
from creators as much as they can possibly get (while laughably
pleading poverty when their entire raison d’etre is to monetize the
work of people such as myself) asking me to walk away completely.

I wouldn’t want to be in his position. It seems like an awfully cruel twist-of-fate for him.

A Kick-Ass Pilot

I just watched TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES and it’s one of the most entertaining pilots I have ever seen. It totally captures the feel of the first two movies on a dramatically lower budget. It picks up where TERMINATOR 2 left off and goes in a new direction that’s consistent with the dramatic line of the movies. It was a fun hour — everything BIONIC WOMAN wants to be and isn’t — but I don’t kn0w what they are going to do week-to-week. I’ll certainly be tuning in to see.

As much as I enjoyed it, there was one false, truly unbearable cliche: apparently Sarah and her son are going to be relentlessly pursued by the FBI agent obsessed with their capture (yet another rehash of Inspector Gerard. Why is it TV can’t resist ripping off THE FUGITIVE again and again and again and again???)

The Upside of a Walking a Picket Line

Back when the WGA struck in 1988, I was a starry-eyed newcomer in television, fresh off having my first couple of freelance scripts produced. Walking the picket line each day was a chance to meet my TV writer idols and enjoy a master class in TV writing.

Nearly twenty years later, I’m pleased to report that it hasn’t changed.

Today I got to CBS Radford at 5:45 am and walked the picket line with legendary writer/producer William Blinn.

We share two social connections…when he started out in TV, his writing partner was Michael Gleason, my mentor…and he produced the TV series  "Our House" with the late Ernie Wallengren, who was one of my closest friends. So I’d heard a lot about Blinn over the years from Micheal and Ernie and, of course, was well aware of his successful career in television.

The congenial Blinn and I spent the whole time talking about TV and, for three hours this morning, I was the happiest writer in Hollywood. He shared anecdotes about his early days writing for "Bonanza," "Maverick," "Gunsmoke," and "Laramie"… about writing the epic miniseries "Roots"…about writing & producing everything from "Starsky & Hutch" to little-known shows like "Lazarus Syndrome" and "Heaven Help Us"… and about working with actors like Wilford Brimley, Broderick Crawford, Michael Landon, Lee Marvin and Lou Gossett Jr.  I was almost sorry when our shift ended, though my aching feet where screaming for a rest.

As far as celeb sights go, KING OF QUEENS star Kevin James showed up on the line for about twenty minutes, bought everyone Egg McMuffins and skee-daddled, but we appreciated the support and the vittles.

I had a late breakfast and caught up with the Los Angeles Times, where I was pleasantly surprised to see a very pro-WGA column from Patrick Goldstein, who noted that:

When Tom Freston was fired from Viacom in 2006 he received $60 million
in severance pay, more than all of the DVD residuals paid to WGA
members that year.

[…]So why are studios playing such hardball? They say they can’t divvy up
online revenue until they have a better idea of how much money is
generated. Of course, when video came along, the studios persuaded
writers to take a tiny cut of the profits, so as not to kill an
emerging technology. But once they were accumulating windfall profits,
did they ever revisit that deal? Not on your life.

And yesterday, the LA Times profiled a soap opera writer living in Sacramento who stands to lose everything if the strike drags on much longer. Perhaps the print media is beginning to finally see our side of the story.

Lee Rae

Maddie and I arrived at the CBS lot in Studio City at 5:30am for the 6 a.m. picket…and we were the only ones there, if you don’t count the news crew from KABC. The newsbabe asked me if I wanted to be interviewed for her live report and I declined.  I figured I could only get myself in trouble.

Other writers started showing up around 6 and picket signs were delivered at about 6:15. We walked for three hours straight, back-and-forth in fr0nt of the CBS studio gates. I chatted with a few folks for a bit, but mostly Maddie and I just walked in circles and talked amongst ourselves. She thought the writers we were way too polite to people coming and going to the studio and that we should have been causing more of a ruckus.  There was one actor who joined the picket line — Julie Bowen from BOSTON LEGAL (that’s her in the striped shirt holding the SAG in Solidarity sign behind my daughter) but that was it for celebrity sightings. Pb110072

We left around 9:30 and headed straight to Subway for an unhealthy breakfast. I must have walked several miles today. My feet and back are killing me, but I figure that picketing is going to be a great way for me to lose some weight and help my fellow writers at the same time.

I’ll be back on the line tomorrow.

UPDATE: You can see Maddie and I picketing on KABC.