I have been asked to post the following press release this morning:
On Thanksgiving Day (November 22), a group of Writers Guild Of America members will begin posting Public Service Announcements featuring A-list Screen Actors Guild talent as part of an independent WGA membership’s “Speechless” campaign conceived by director/writer George Hickenlooper and writer Alan Sereboff. For the first time in the TV and movie industry, high-profile SAG actors will be taking their talents directly and exclusively to the Internet — the very medium which is at the center of the current WGA labor strike against the Alliance Of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
The spots will begin appearing on Thursday morning which will begin posting Thanksgiving Day and run exclusively on DeadlineHollywood.com through Sunday night. Beginning Monday, they can be found on SpeechlessWithoutWriters.com with links on UnitedHollywood.com and every day thereafter during the duration of the strike.
Included are SAG talent such as Sean Penn, Holly Hunter, Laura Linney, Alan Cumming, Jay Leno, Harvey Keitel, Kate Beckinsale, Tina Fey, Tim Robbins, Gary Marshall, David Schwimmer, Patricia Clarkson, James Franco, Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, Martin Sheen, Josh Brolin, Susan Sarandon, Andre 3000, Chazz Palminteri, Jason Bateman, Christine Lahti, Patricia Arquette, Jenna Elfman, Olivia Wilde, Richard Benjamin, Paula Prentiss, Eva Longoria, Justine Bateman, Joshua Jackson, Rosanna Arquette, Diane Ladd, Rebecca Romjin, Minnie Driver, Nicollette Sheridan, Robert Patrick, Matthew Perry, Ed Asner, and America Ferrera and the cast of Ugly Betty. Arrangements have been made to also shoot Woody Allen, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jane Fonda, Marisa Tomei, Ethan Hawke, Jason Alexander, Charlize Therone, Minnie Driver, Philip Seymour Hoffman. Many, many more are also in the works.
Here’s how the PSAs came about: During the first day of the strike, director/writer George Hickenlooper (Factory Girl) and writer Alan Sereboff (The Red House) were struck by the talent surrounding them on the picket line. Hickenlooper suggested to Sereboff that they focus their energies on a creative campaign. That night, they met at WGA Headquarters with writers Ian Deitchman (Life As We Know It), Justin Zakham (The Bucket List) and director Josh Marston (Maria Full of Grace). After conferring, the team came to an agreement: What better way to bring attention to the issues regarding the Internet then to use the Internet itself?
Hickenlooper, evoking the style of Factory Girl, suggested shooting Warhol-esque screen tests of major SAG talent not saying anything on camera, thus showing their solidarity with the WGA. And Sereboff offered the concept “Speechless,” where prominent SAG actors stood silently in front of the camera, ultimately writing and holding up a sign that simply read, “Speechless”. Campaigns combined under one name, Hickenlooper and Sereboff joined with WGA/SAG member Kamala Lopez (I Heart Huckabees) and began reaching out to fellow creatives. Within a few days, Hickenlooper/Sereboff had recruited fellow DGA members Wayne Kramer (The Cooler), Paul Haggis (The Valley of Ellah), Rod Lurie (The Contender), WGA writers Steve Pink (Gross Pointe Blank), Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia), two-time Emmy winning writer Jill Kushner (Ellen), Chic Eglee (Executive Producer, The Shield) in addition to the writing staff of The Tonight Show. SAG board member/actress Justine Bateman became involved and was instrumental in recruiting many of her fellow SAG actors to participate.
The “Speechless” idea quickly took off and, after a single day of filming, the team learned that the support of major A-list SAG talent was so overwhelming that many wanted to do more than just a screen test. After extensive conversations with various actors, it was decided that the screen tests might be expanded to improvisational scene work that would be done to entertain those of the public who might not be aware of the importance of the writer, and at the same time create mystery and intrigue surrounding the UnitedHollywood.com website.
On the second day of filming, the screen tests quickly evolved into actual short moments and sometimes full-fledged scenes. The result is a unique series of PSAs bringing together talent in solidarity. The “Speechless” campaign has thus far stockpiled several dozen very creative and innovative spots in black & white, ranging in length from 15 seconds to 4 minutes long.
The “Speechless” campaign support team includes music composer Anthony Marinelli, who is dedicating his time to scoring the spots; Clint Bennett, sound engineer; Joel Marshall, technical advisor; Jill Kushner production manager; Kamala Lopez and Melissa Cochran, editors; Mical shemesh, editor; Justin Schumacher, production sound; and Ian Deitchman who is putting together the website.
For more information regarding the “Speechless” campaign contact SpeechlessWithoutWriters@gmail.com.
In the interest of fairness and objectivity, I would be more than pleased to announce and initially host a similar campaign conceived by members of AMPTP. But, as a journalist with a journalism outlet, I couldn’t pass up any opportunity to have an exclusive.