Even as we were engaged in this creative struggle, we followed the news breaks on the internet about the last-minute negotiations insisted upon by the federal mediator that were taking place between the two sides. Naturally, we were hoping that the AMPTP would actually offer up a fair deal, we could chalk the whole thing up to a bad dream, and hold on to that script for a few more days of line-by-line polishing. As it turned out, it seems like the producers wanted the writers to continue to negotiate against themselves.
My phone started ringing with a call from Steve Futterman, a CBS Radio News friend, who’d heard that the talks had fallen apart and wanted a comment. I’d ducked the call, not knowing if I was allowed to speak for the WGA or not, as I wasn’t yet clear on what our communication policy was. Steve is someone both my wife and I had known back in our own news days and we’d reconnected following the Thursday night WGA meeting at the LA Convention Center. This had also lead to me being on Fox, NBC, CNN, Telemundo and appearing on the front page of the LA Times Business section.
It was completely unplanned but with the media waiting for any word from the people who left the meeting even a few minutes early, almost inevitable given how many relations I’d formed with the working media when I was chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the days following 9/11 and the two Emmy postponements. Charitably, I was not the most informed guy in the room (or even outside it) but what I lacked in insider knowledge I made up for in passion for our cause.
Anyway, while all this was going on, I ushered in this era of bad feelings by registering the most recent draft of the script with the WGA, e-mailing it to the producers on the project, and going to bed. I love this script but, for the time being, it’s “pencils down” as we are saying these days. When the strike officially began at one minute after midnight, I was watching “Meet the Press” on my TiVO, using technology to skip commercials, something that has only contributed to the current angst between the sides. Our current impasse is about the new media. We (the WGA) think that writers should be cut in on some of the action and they (the AMPTP) pretty much are treating that desire as similar to Oliver asking for “some more” food.
My phone rang this morning (Monday, November 4) at 6:30 am with the request from a morning news producer in my old stomping grounds in Portland, Oregon, asking me if I could do a “live” phone interview in a couple of minutes. I figured the Guild leadership probably would not hunt me down for speaking for 90 seconds to Portland, and said yes. I went on the air with KXL and was introduced as “producer Bryce Zabel” to talk about the WGA strike situation. This gave a moment of pause because I think they thought I would be speaking as a producer about the pandemonium these crazy writers have caused. Instead, I was able to say that, actually, I was both a producer and a writer but, as a writer, I was now on strike, looking forward to hitting the picket lines in the afternoon.
The picket lines, of course, were made for TV and you’ve probably seen them yourself on the news. Lots of writers with signs at most of the major TV network and film studios with red being the dominant strike color. Jackie and I went down to Universal to do our picket today. It was hot and loud. Lots of cars were honking their support and the loudest and longest honks seemed to come from every passing cabbie. Having lived through the 1988 strike and nearly lost my home, I’m very concerned about what’s going on and don’t really see a picket as a potential social networking event, but sometimes there’s an element of that, too.
I met my friend Nan Hagan who once was my assistant at “Life Goes On” but has turned into a damn fine writer herself (and photographer, shooting these blog-shots). Also met Kevin Droney, who’s one of the strike captains. Kevin and I share something special: he wrote the first “Mortal Kombat” movie and I wrote the sequel. We both live in the same area and even work out at the same gym.
We left our picket early, I’m sorry to say, because we had not planned a strike picket into our child-raising duties and had forgotten we needed to give our teenager a lift to his afternoon job at Albertson’s where, as a union member, he is mercifully not on strike like his parents.
After getting home, I came across an article in Daily Varietyexcoriating the WGA for not being forthcoming with the media. I thought, overall, it’s a bum rap but, in these matters, perception is everything so I called my friend Patric Verrone who just happens to be the President of the Writers Guild of America and talked to him for twenty minutes about it. He told me some inside details about those failed negotiations on Sunday but you won’t get them out of me here. In a time and place of our choosing, as they say. In any case, Patric and I discussed the pros and cons of trying to manage rumors and news flow and trying to get out a single coherent message.
Then I hung up and put up a new cartoon on Writers Bloc Comix, a site I started a couple of weeks ago to turn some humor loose on the situation. One of latest additions is a comic strip that is co-created by my high school buddy Scott Leverenz and myself about, yes, a goateed writer and his much lovelier writing partner who happens to be his wife.
Checked my e-mail, and bounced a message or two with Patrick Healy, the KNBC reporter who put me on Channel 4 late last week and who, in the small world department, worked in Portland, Oregon and knows a friend of mine who is one of our reviewers on Movie Smackdown!, Mark Sanchez.
Now, it’s back to the picket lines. Maybe I will go to Disney or Warner Brothers or SONY or CBS or NBC. It’s hard to say because it’s a target-rich environment out there for labor unrest. Maybe NBC, though, because Jay Leno did buy the strikers donuts. On the other hand, some damn decent Joss Whedon fans bought pizza for us over at Universal.
More later… peace, out.
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