Perhaps the Biggest News is that strike captains are exchanging emails claiming WGA president Patric Verrone is privately saying “an ex-President” wants to get involved in the negotiations. Don’t jump to any conclusions. Sure, ex-Screen Actors Guild president Ronald Reagan is still dead. But one of #41 George Bush’s best friends is Jerry Weintraub, the Ocean’s Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen producer based at Warner. (Remember, Verrone didn’t specify which side…) Jimmy Carter owes his presidency to the very early political and financial support of the legendary Lew Wasserman at MCA/Universal. And then Bill Clinton still has a coupla pals in Hollywood. Those same emails quote Verrone as saying that the AMPTP is still refusing to let Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in on the mediation. (Meanwhile, we learned today that Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger is declining to do anything to help. Or else he’s holding out for a stunt double.)
The Big News of WGA Strike Day 2 is actually an announcement of what’s going to happen on Day 3: that the Writers Guild Of America has organized 75 of television’s top showrunners to gather en masse and join their fellow union members walking the picket line between 9 and 11 AM Wednesday at the main gate of Disney/ABC Studios at Burbank’s West Alameda Avenue. Not only is this intended as a photo opp but even more so as a demonstration of strength. After all, WGA is counting on all these striking showrunners to shut down TV primetime production at the studios and networks.
Immediately, the producers’ side gave me this wisecrack from them about the above staged event: “We’re telling the Guinness Book Of World Records to go there for the largest gathering of millionaires on a single street.”
#1 Favorite Picket Line Chant was at Fox: “How much you earnin’, Peter Chernin?”
The above photos of Matt Groening (The Simpsons) and Larry David (Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiam) were taken on the Fox Studios picketing lines. The below photos also taken there show the entire writing staff of House, including creator David Shore behind the gal with the raised fist, and two writers on Bones.
Ellen DeGeneres just came back and taped Friday’s show and here’s how she addressed the writer’s strike. Tonight, I was slipped a mini-transcript of what she says:
“I’ve got to say this is a strange show for me to do. This is weird. Weird. It’s a weird show. Channeling Johnny Carson all of a sudden. [Imitates Carson] “Very Weird. Weird. Weird.” Here’s what the deal is. It’s ‘sweeps’, which is a very important time in television. That’s when you do your best shows, your funniest material, you pull out all the stops and you’re doing everything you can because you want everybody watching. Now at this moment, we’re in the middle of this strike. There’s a writer’s strike going on, and here in Los Angeles it’s a huge story. I don’t know where you live, but it’s a huge story in Los Angeles. I want to say I love my writers. I love them. In honor of them today, I’m not going to do a monologue. I support them and hope that they get everything they’re asking for. And I hope it works out soon. In the meantime, people have traveled across the country. They’ve made plans. They’re here. I want to do everything I can to make your trip enjoyable and give you a show. Otherwise you’d just be wandering around and circling Bob Hope Drive.
At the Fox picketing lines, Endeavor agents Matt Solo and Thomas Wellington arrived to personally deliver cookies to clients and others. (Photos of Endeavor tenpercenter in a suit on the scene.) Also, United Talent Agency trainees fanned out to all 15 strike locations and handed out cookies for the morning and afternoon shifts. Kaplan Stahler agents also handed out Dr. Scholls footpads and survival kits for their clients and others. A striking screenwriter there left a voicemail for me, asking, “I wonder where my CAA agents are?”
At Universal, Steven Spielberg was smiling and waving at picketers as he drove onto the lot. Director Garry Marshall did a walk up and down Lankershim, saying hi to all the picketers and even giving a little speech in support. The “me too” honking was crazed since it’s some kind of corridor for heavy truck traffic. “You really get the feeling that your picket is a touchstone for general frustration with corporate power,” a striking writer stationed there emailed me. “And that’s not just because they stop, lean out their car, and tell us to stick it to ‘those corporate fuckers’ (which they do, a lot).”
I’m told that most of the cast of ER, the show run by John Wells who has been asked by both sides in this walkout to help effect a settlement somehow someday, were slated to picket at 3:30 PM outside the main Gate 2 of Warner Bros Studios. John Stamos, Maura Tierney, Mekhi Phifer, Parminder Nagra, Linda Cardellini, and Scott Grimes were to walk the line alongside the show’s writing staff. “This is a very powerful showing of SAG support,” one of the show’s execs emailed me. Hey, lemme know if it happened.
Jeez, it suddenly occurred to me that the next weeks and months will be a wonderful time for tourists from around the world to travel to Los Angeles and see celebrities in their new natural habitat: the picket line. Maybe an uptick in tourism dollars could make up for the inevitable downturn in the city’s economy as Hollywood production goes increasingly dark. I’m not clever enough to come up with a new slogan. But I bet you are.
I’m told the writers picketing one area are planning trips to Costco “ASAP” to see about buying airhorns in bulk.
ABC’s Desperate Housewives was forced to shut down a location shoot today because the picketers disrupted the location shoot in Toluca Lake today. Teamsters were holding up cell phones so union colleagues on the other end of the calls could hear the shouting. “It was just one shot, but it was from a garage that was to open onto the street and reveal a hearse, and they couldn’t get it done,” a Teamster told me. “The AD [assistant director] appealed to the LAPD, but the cops said the picketers were exercising free speech in a public area.” Meanwhile DH creator Marc Cherry has joined the picket line, very publicly, and production on ABC’s hit show will be shutting down. Ouch.
My #2 favorite picket chant of the day: “We write the story-a / for Eva Longoria”.
Sandra Oh of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy is honoring the picket line. I’m told the show won’t finish Episode 411.
Teamsters brought striking writers Dove bars on one picket line.
Warner Bros security guards are saying that Teamsters on WB productions are crossing the picket lines line in drive because “it’s Christmas” and they say no way are they losing money heading into the holiday season.
I just got this angry email from a an assistant on the Fox lot who “just battled the picketers to enter the lot at the Pico entrance. Do they realize that all Fox assistants, as well as any coordinators who would receive it, lost overtime pay because of this strike? I don’t appreciate being yelled at while I enter where I work when I am already paying for their strike. Another thing, they cost me an extra 15 minutes by doing their best to block the turn-in entrance. So thanks, strikers. Not only did I lose my overtime because of this strike but you also cost me 15 minutes of pay.”
There was a plan outside CBS today to “make studio and network executives drive over the dead bodies of WGA members to go to and from their offices” The chalk outlines of writers were going to line the sidewalks there and other places, like turning the stars on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame into the “Walk Of Shame”. “This is our homage to CSI and all the other shows now halted in the strike,” I’m told. “We won’t give up this fight … not over our dead bodies!”
Strikers are reporting to me that they’re roping in freelance writers and actors and family members to join in picketing.
A straight-from-the-picketing-line video on YouTube featuring the sardonic strikers from The Office: “You’re watching this on the Internet — a thing that pays us zero dollars.”
Entertainment Weekly, owned by Time Warner which also owns Warner Bros and New Line and 1/2 The CW TV network and all the Turner Broadcasting cable properties etc, runs this first-person Diary Of A TV Writer On Strike that — surprise, surprise — doesn’t ditto the views of the WGA.
WGA East strikers picketed outside Silvercup Studios in Queens, the site of shooting for NBC’s 30 Rock and The CW’s Gossip Girl. The guild announced its next three NYC strike locations: Chelsea Piers on Wednesday, Time Warner Studios/Time Warner Center on Thursday, and News Corp headquarters on Friday. Also, WGA East has called a membership meeting for 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in NYC.
More WGA-SAG interactions: Jeff Garlin was at the Paramount front gate picketing early at 9 am. A few hours later Valerie Harper came out, too. John Lithgow on Monday night called up his old writers from Third Rock From the Sun, Mike Schiff and Bill Martin, and asked how he could help — then joined them and the writers of their current show, Cavemen, on the line today.
Showrunner Remi Aubuchon among those who’ve started a strike blog and posts this from the line: “My favorite moment was when a black Mercedes slowed down to our line — I couldn’t recognize the face of the woman inside, but she stretched out her hand toward us and flipped us the bird! My impression was that of a bejeweled raptor’s claw extending itself in frustrated powerlessness — unable to tear at its prey.”
Lily Tomlin and Albert Brooks walked the line at CBS Radford Studios, where the noise level from all the honking is pissing off everyone. A woman from an office building came over to the strike captain and asked if he could stop the cars from honking. ( “We support you guys totally – but we can’t hear ourselves think!”) Lots of support from passing cars, inclduing a Hansen Soda truck that pulled up to Radford and unloaded tons of free soda for the writers. Also, a CBS Channel 9 news truck pulled up at Radford and the driver asked how could he help. He told the strikers that the news writers at Channel 9 were all wearing T-shirts supporting the WGA strike. I’m trying to verify this.
An insider at Culver Studios admits that the noise level from the honking was truly frustrating: it interrupted all business and made them nuts. All phone calls were impossible to hear.
I just heard that some folks on the Disney lot have taken to blaring music from the rooftop of one building to drown out the horns and the rally cries at the Alameda gate.
Strikers at Sony picketed close to an executive building. The line drew honking from passing motorists. I’m told that, around 11:45 a.m., Culver City police appeared without warning and ticketed a car for sounding their horn in support of strikers. The cop car doubled back, parked in front of the Sony gate, then informed picketers “in a blatantly intimidating tone” that there was a complaint about the noise, and that they were going to ticket anyone who honked. “The message was clear — leave the gate or innocent people would be penalized. Before we could even process the shock, another hapless WGA supporter tapped their car horn. True to their threat, the officers took off after the offending vehicle. This time one of our writers had the presence of mind to chase after the cop car, and offered to pay the ticket for the motorist.”
Also at Sony, a teamster parked his truck in the left-hand turn lane of the Sony main gate and just left it there from about 10 AM to 11:30 AM this morning. Here’s the photo that was sent to me as proof:
I’m hearing anecdotes how striking writers all over Hollywood are ratting out higher-ups on their own TV shows to the WGA to the point where the atmosphere of paranoia is getting quite toxic on series still in production. When this walkout is over, it may take a long while (or a lot of group therapy) for the comraderie on some shows to get back to normal.
At Disney today, Greg Berlanti, the showrunner of three Disney-owned ABC one-hours, joined today’s march. So did Sean Cassidy. So did Jay Leno who’s ubiquitous pulling up in that classic motorcycle-with-sidecar and passing out donut holes..
Some dude at the Raleigh Studios gate today was handing out cards to strikers advertising a “unique business opportunity” that would help them earn “residual income.”
Here’s an interview with screenwriter/director/producer/mogul Judd Apatow about the WGA strike as he walked the picket line set up at the Sony gates. “I’ll be out here a fair amount,” he said. “We’re in the final stages of sound mixing Walk Hard. But all the writing work is done and the sound mix is actually done this week, so I have plenty of time to give.”
Several writers walking the line and who have kids at expensive Westside private schools discussed wearing red strike shirts when they drop off and pick up their kids as a means of sending a message to studio execs and moguls who are dropping and picking up their own kids at the same schools.
At CBS on Beverly Boulevard (the Genesee Gate) on the morning shift, Tom Bergeron, the host of Dancing With The Stars, came out to greet picketers and handed out Starbucks gift cards as token of support. Then, a teamster driver for Yellow Transportation pulled his 18-wheeler to a halt and said he would not cross the picket line to deliver to the lot, eliciting cheers from the picketers who gave him their Starbucks gift cards. Below is a photo of two “Red Bull Girls” driving up in their tricked-out Mini and handing out Red Bull to the picketers:
Finally, responding to all you worried commenters, I will now do what I totally forgot: to include an update on that Sunset and Gower picketer nearly run over. In case you didn’t read it elsewhere, Tom Johnson, head writer for Talkshow With Spike Feresten, suffered a broken leg. LAPD is investigating. Once again, here is the photo I ran of his mangled shoe at the crime scene complete with chalk marks that a picketer shot Monday:
Actress/author Jamie Lee Curtis blogs on HuffPo about the WGA strike.
Here’s a round-up of strike action in NYC.