11.06.2007

Writers Strike FAQs

(Ed. -- I wrote this and sent it into the paper, but they passed, so I'm posting it here.)


WRITERS STRIKE FAQs

So you Hollywood writers are on strike, huh?

Yes. Our demands concern residuals –that is, our share of revenues from the content we create – and how, with the Internet a growing --

Right, right. So, what does a Hollywood writer do during a strike – switch to domestic wine?

Nice try, smartass. Writers Guild members, prepared for the producers’ intransigence, have been stockpiling inexpensive Chilean vintages. More to the point, the producers’ lawyerly definition of “promotional use” –

Seriously, though, some of you guys drive BMWs. How can you go on strike?

Maybe it’s because we’re in BMWs that we’re grateful to our union for having stood up in the past.

Dude, don’t get preachy.

Sorry. It’s just that residuals are a kitchen-table issue to us during times we’re not working. The producers are looking for ways to end that system, so we’re touchy. Go ahead, ask your question again.

Seriously, though, some of you guys drive BMWs. How can you go on strike?

“Until you’ve been on strike in Dolby Surround Sound, you haven’t really been on strike.” Is that better?

Come on, Preachy Q. McRighteous, you admit that millionaires on strike is pretty funny, right?

The standard disclaimer is that the average writer makes far less, but there are some who own one-bedroom fifth-floor walkup apartments in New York City, so yes, some of us are millionaires.

And yes, I know that writers on a picket line is funny and incongruous. It’s like the way politicians look when they’re trying to pretend that they like to kick back on Sunday and enjoy the NFL, when we know they’ve spent every Sunday since high school laying out their clothes for the week and reading about our troubled aquifers. But this is a negotiation, and you don’t have leverage in a negotiation unless you can walk away. In our case, that’s a strike.

You’re not going to try to make a larger point, are you?

I was going to – about how, in an era of gigantic media consolidation, there ought to be some support for Galbraith-style countervailing power, or about how unionization might be a good idea in other incongruous fields (how else are doctors going to stop HMOs pushing them around?) or how the producers’ proposal is symptomatic of the overcompensated managerial class’s contempt for anyone outside of that class. But instead I’ll just write the following jokes:

• My carpal-tunnel wrist brace will come in handy carrying the picket signs.

• I hope the production assistants’ union isn’t on strike, or who will get me coffee?

• We have to picket outside? The “outside” is exactly what I became a writer to avoid!

• To boost morale, there will be a benefit concert performance of NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

• Although we are disgruntled, we are willing to accept a fair deal even if it only offers partial gruntlement.

Well, those are going to be the cleverest picket signs ever, right?

No. In the words of a more famous cranky writer, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

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