io9 Picket Line Reports

io9 Picket Line Reports

The scene at 33rd and 10th was anticipated; everyone was ready for it. Earlier this week, in “the canyon” between HBO’s offices and Amazon’s Hell’s Kitchen headquarters in New York City, a massive group of marchers picketed for nearly four hours in support of the Writers Guild of America. io9 was there to talk to union members on the front line.

The WGA is currently involved in negotiations with the AMPTP– the Alliance of Film and TV Producers, whose members include streamers like Netflix and Apple TV+, as well as traditional studios like Warner Bros. and Disney. The WGA has been on strike for two weeks as the AMPTP failed to produce good faith negotiations.

And on Wednesday, May 10, the crowd in New York was a show of union solidarity. Not only was the WGA out in force, but members of SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, United Scenic Artists (Local USA 829) and others joined the picket line. It felt more like a rally; everyone was excited, united, eager to grab signs and start marching. Scabby – the infected rat often seen at labor actions – was there with a half-hundred dollar bill in his mouth. (I tried to ask where the other half was. No one knew. He’s always been that way, apparently.) And pretty soon, celebrities arrived: Lena Dunham was there early, Adam Scott, Bob Odenkirk and Mandy Patinkin arrived soon after. . Michael Emerson, David Cross and John Leguizamo have also been spotted. They weren’t there to pose or do interviews (although they graciously did both); they were there to march with the WGA. THE Saturday Night Live the band showed up within the first hour and stayed there for almost three hours, playing most of the time.

I spoke with people on the picket lines about the WGA’s ways of striking and why they marched – and asked a few sci-fi questions too. Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, a writer and producer for Universal, said she was striking “for fair pay and longevity in her career.” She also said it was important to send this message to studios now because “writers are in an existential crisis.” She explained that there are members who cannot pay rent. “Television and screenwriting used to be a middle-class income for people, but not anymore. We have to settle this. We create products that bring billions of dollars to our employers. And all we’re asking for is a fair share of the pie. (Cullen said she would “kick ass” as ghost hunter.)

Adam Scott, who currently plays the title character in Breakup, an Apple+ TV show about a company that splits its employees’ minds into two personalities — work and home — told me about how it stands “100% behind the WGA.” After a furious honk from traffic, he continued. “I certainly wouldn’t be here on my own without the writers. There are many writers that I have had the good fortune to know in my life. mike schur [Parks and Recreation, The Good Place]John Enbom [Party Down]Adam McKay [Step Brothers]Dan Erickson [Severance]Mark Friedman [Severance]; these people have changed my life and are doing an amazing job. So the least I could do was be here to support them and all the other WGA members.

Photo: Linda Codega/io9

Greg Iwinski, Emmy-winning writer and strike captain for the WGA, who recently wrote an episode of Star Wars: Adventures of the Young Jedi, explained that the writers had no choice but to strike. “We worked until the last night [of our contract] to try to get an agreement. But when time ran out, the options were to accept their bad offer or go on strike. When asked what this strike means for the future of screenwriting, Iwinski had a broader view of the implications of industrial action. “This strike means more than the future of television writing. It means something to achieve for television, to perform for television, for everyone who faces a giant technology company that cuts their salaries and increases their hours. This fight is the same, whether it’s us or an Amazon warehouse or a Starbucks… [Companies] worry about a Wall Street number going up. And it won’t work for us. (Iwiski prefers star wars For star trekand he said his lightsaber would probably be blue.)

Another SAG-AFTRA member, who wished to remain anonymous, said they were marching “in solidarity with the writers. If there is nothing on the page, there is nothing on the screen. I think they are asking for a fair contract, and we have to support them. A writer who is not in the guild, but hopes to become one someday, said this strike is “the last stand to preserve humanity in the industry. The fact that [the AMPTP] were so unwilling to even have a conversation about AI is indicative of the crap they planned. And it really is now or never.

You better call SaulBob Odenkirk, a member of SAG-AFTRA, WGA, DGA and a few other industry guilds, also took the time to talk to me. “The Writers Guild was my first union, and also my first strike. I was a writer on Saturday Night Live in 1987, and I was part of the strike in 1988. This is my third strike. He stressed the need to protect writing as a career. “The industry does this all the time. They take any situation and they work from all angles to lessen the work done. You know, that’s what a company’s machine is built for. It is designed to cut every corner and find every flaw and every contour. And so every two years, or every ten years, we have to stop and go, ‘That’s enough.’ Everything everywhere all at once. “It was a beautiful mix of excitement and ideas of science fiction and human behavior. It was bold and wonderful, and it’s my favorite kind of science fiction.”

Peter Ackerman, who was most recently working on the second season of The diplomat for Netflix, said: “I am here because I am paid less than five years ago and because I work fewer weeks in the year. My contract was only guaranteed for 12 weeks, I can’t live on 12 weeks of work. And I can feel the direction it’s taking. No one will be able to earn a living. (He said he would be too scary to become a Ghostbuster.)

Michael Emerson – currently starring in the Paramount+ horror drama Evil, which was closed after union workers refused to cross a WGA picket line, was in favor of the strike. “I think it’s unfair when star performers in the entertainment industry don’t have as good of a deal as people in the front office. I think it’s upside down right now. Emerson said that he believed writers – and indeed the entire industry – are at a crossroads.”We’re on the cutting edge of technology and culture right now. And things could go wrong in a hurry, technologically , in terms of how things are written or recorded or performed. I think we kind of have to dig in now and keep the human beings working in our industry.

Sean O’Connor, writer on Hulu’s solar opposites and member of WGA West, said he was on the picket line because “I think it all starts with the writing. It’s kind of the fundamental part of entertainment. It all starts on the page. The people who were writing in the 1990s, they all own houses. I’ve been a member for 12 years and I don’t feel closer than in 2011. I feel like it’s becoming a concert. He also mentioned how disappointing it is that AMPTP studios are “trying to bring real sci-fi to life with AI technology and ignoring everything about it.” [the WGA’s] worry about it. It’s devastating. All great science fiction comes from the human mind. It can’t be from the AI.

Image for article titled Writers' strike has the power and determination to continue

Photo: Linda Codega/io9

Coming out of the picket line, I ran into John Leguizamo. He recently appeared on Prime Video’s The power, a show that I really enjoyed. He is part of the WGA, SAG and DGA. “I’m here to support my writers because they are storytellers. This is where it all begins. This is the origin of each project. Nothing that happens in Hollywood and on streaming wouldn’t happen without screenwriters. And not giving them their just due is obscene. Leguizamo added that this is a defining moment for writers, as the industry “tries to find a way to use as few writers as possible, pay them as little as possible, and take away their power. And that’s unconscionable.” (Regarding the question of genre: “I think the best science fiction always holds up a mirror to society, especially society in the time you live in.” )

At the start of the march, a man with silver hair and dressed in a blue suit was on a nearby terrace, watching the picket line. He stayed there for about 15 minutes. I saw him take pictures. I wonder what he thought of us? I wonder if he cared? I know, at the very least, that he heard us. Maybe he matters. But probably not. He’s just a man. The WGA is a union in its own right.

Want more io9 news? Find out when to wait for the last wonder, star warsAnd star trek versions, what’s next for the DC Universe in Film and TVand everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.


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