Ashley Gable is co-executive producer of The Mentalist and has been supervising producer on Crossing Jordan, and co-producer on The Division. A former attorney, and a working writer for 10+ years, she was a picket coordinator at Fox during the WGA strike. Last year, she ran for the WGA’s board of directors.
The Conglomerates’ biggest mistake during the strike was, well, forcing us to go on strike. Not because the deal we got was so great. But because of that damn picket line. The Conglomerates have achieved the unthinkable: writers are kind of… united. And… organizing. Writers! The people who spend at least an hour a day arguing about where to order lunch. The people who make that Hurricane Katrina FEMA guy look like a great manager. And yet a year after the strike, writers are strengthening ties with each other, we’re keeping a watchful eye on the Congloms, and we’re reaching out to help organize reality writers. The Conglomerates accidentally taught the cats to self-herd.
What the Congloms didn’t realize is that when you walk in a circle with someone for three hours a day, for one hundred days, you get to know that person. Better even than if you’re in the writers’ room with him on a show. Because in the writers’ room you don’t get to see if a writer’s got your back when that asshole in the green SUV decides he can’t wait 15 seconds to begin his joyful day as a junior executive and tries to run you over by the Galaxy Gate. In the writers’ room you can’t see if the writer’s still going to be funny and helpful and strong when his wife just lost her job and he hasn’t brought in money since two mortgage payments ago and his overall deal just got shitcanned by his “friends” at 20th Television.
But on the picket line we got to know each other and know our collective strength. Strength20to change stuff. And a year later, we’re still doing something about it: I recently asked fifty writers to help with this new Guild diversity program and forty-five said yes. The show captains at my studio (yes, the captains system lives) continue to meet to discuss things like internet residual payments and how to track how the Congloms are failing in their obligations to pay up.
Don’t get me wrong: writers are still arguing – about organizing, where we go from here, and whether three days of cobb salad constitutes a lunch rut. But you know what? On Wednesday, February 18 at 3:30 sharp, some red-shirted writers rallied at the Genesee Gate at CBS TV City near the Grove in support of the shat-upon non-union writers of American Idol and other Fremantle reality shows. We will continue to rock the red shirts with our reality writer siblings and demand that Fremantle treat their writers with respect. (And, not incidentally, give them a WGA contract so that ALL writers on network television can have health care and a pension.)
That wouldn’t have happened in October of 2007.