Totally Unauthorized

A side of the film industry most people never see.

I fell into a burning ring of fire.

The main topic of conversation on every set as of late has been the impending writers’ strike – since very little real information is forthcoming from anywhere, armchair quarterbacking is rampant – they’ll strike, they won’t strike, they might strike but they’re not sure, they’re having a naked tea party right now, and so on.

For the past few days, though, people have been talking about the massive fires and assorted issues (who we know who needs housing, the related bad traffic, the related bad air, when the hell this is all going to end and what they’re going to do when they catch the people who started a few of them).

The fires just keep getting bigger (pushed by Santa Ana winds – someone emailed me and asked me why the firefighters just can’t “do something” – they can’t really fight 100 foot tall flames which are being driven by 60 mph winds so they just have to wait for a break in the weather), although the light is gorgeous. One of the camera assistants today described it as “perpetual magic hour“, and that’s pretty accurate. The golden orange glow of the sun’s last rays has lasted all day.

It would be enchanting if it didn’t also smell of smoke and rain ash at seemingly random intervals – oh, and it’s really hot and the humidity is about 5%. I have a humidifier at home, but frankly it’s not doing jack shit right now. I suppose I should just be grateful that I’m not one of the approximately 500,000 people who have had to evacuate their homes, and am in not in an area that has any risk of burning.

Today, while standing at craft service perusing the morning snack, the conversation shifted back to the writer’s strike and what, exactly, the hell we’re all going to do if we get put out of work over the holidays.

A passing woman (I don’t know what department she was from – I only saw her a few times throughout the day) stopped, glared and spat “Those fucking assholes – they already make too much money. They can all go to hell.”

I just stood there, my mouth hanging open despite being filled with half-chewed food.

While I should note that some IATSE members do bear some ill will towards SAG, DGA, and WGA* members (many of whom routinely cross our picket lines and some of whom have hurled abuse at us while doing so), most of us, while we desperately hope the writers (and actors and directors) won’t strike, understand why they need to and will support them.

After all, we’re all in the same little boat that’s floating on rough seas and there’s a producer with scuba gear sawing a hole in the bottom and waiting to pick us off one by one if we don’t stick together.

However, even if she was a producer, saying something like that while standing on a set took some serious huevos. I just kind of stared, afraid to say anything because I was just a day player, but wanting to see if someone else was going to say something, but everyone just walked away, leaving just the two of us alone in a weird kind of standoff – her glowering and me with a mouthful of food.

Then, we started lighting so I had to chew what I had, throw out the rest and get the hell back to work.

*IATSE = International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees.

SAG = Screen Actors’ Guild

DGA = Director’s Guild of America

WGA = Writer’s Guild of America

Filed under: life in LA, Work, , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. Charli says:

    I came to LA at a weird time for a writer, yeah, screenwriter here. I’m polishing off my script, already paid a company to take a look at it, now I wish I hadn’t. I can’t take a meet until these issues are resolved (I know people in the industry, so I have a leg up on the competition). As far as the strike is concerned, I’m not a wga member, so I am not involved in these issues, though once a script is sold, these issues become my issues.

    What’s my take on it?

    If you are going to strike, why make waves so far in advance, which allowed studios to protect themselves by starting months earlier than usual on their series and by stockpiling scripts. Oh sure, play your hand, that will get them to shake in their boots. Not a good play at all. Now if they strike, they will have to strike for a good long while for it to any good and that effects a tremendous amount of people.

    Piss poor tactics.

    As far as the fires are concerned, I can see smoke from Santa Monica, actually was really a lot better yesterday over here. When I stepped outside yesterday, it smelled like grass fire. It’s crazy, just crazy.

  2. nezza says:

    I wish I could send you some of the insane rain we had earlier this year. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems this year has been particularly ‘active’ weatherwise around the globe. Loads of floods, loads of droughts. The wrong weather in the wrong place at the wrong time…

  3. Charli says:

    Nezza – we sure could use your rain.

  4. Meg says:

    A high school friend became a sitcom writer, then a writer/producer. He jokes that he has to tell himself to fuck off whenever there are contract negotiations.

  5. patrick says:

    I totally understand that woman’s frustration. As an IATSE member i’m bound to pay lip-service to the needs of the other guilds (who, as you pointed out routinely cross our lines). I know the writers have valid issues and i sympathize with many of them. But the WGA seems to have entered these negotiations with a very intransigent attitude…they seem determine to strike no matter what. They appear ready to strap a suicide bomb to themselves and take everyone with them. And it will be ugly…careers destroyed, homes lost, etc. Just ask anyone who made through the last strike..

  6. Rachel says:

    Charli- the threat of a strike is supposed to catalyze the bargaining process. It’s a good-faith move, so everyone takes it seriously. The studios opened the negotiations with “tell you what, how about we get rid of all residuals and don’t pay you for anything ever.” Which hardly seems good-faith to me.

    Nobody should be spitting or hurling insults at a picket line. That’s not cool. But it’s not like the WGA are expecting the electricians to join their line, or not go to work if they can. And it’s not like the WGA crossed another line so they could go light a set. So I’m not quite sure what’s going on there.

    Of course, I’m not union yet. I’m a PA, so I’ve got a lot to lose with this strike, too. But as an aspiring writer, I want working writers to get the respect and residuals they deserve. The whole thing also touches on a bigger issue- how audiences get counted. Because until studios start catching up with the times and counting their numbers correctly, they’re going to keep canceling popular shows, which hurts all of us.

  7. Kevin says:

    The comment about DGA, SAG and WGA members who “routinely cross our picket lines” is pretty mean and unfair and should not stand.

    Members of IATSE, as well as DGA and SAG and WGA all have “No Strike” clauses enforced in their collective contracts. This means that in the event of a strike, their respective guilds require them to cross the line and report for work.

    As Peggy should know, when the Teamsters last struck, the members of IA 728 were informed by the Local that they would be removed from the union if they stayed out of work to honor the picket line.

    As a member of the DGA, I have received a letter this week specifically telling me that in the event of a strike, I must report for work or face termination. I personally don’t want to do this, but I have no choice. Unless of course, I wish to leave the business and take up another career somewhere else.

    Nobody I have spoken to takes this kind of situation lightly – it’s an extremely difficult moral issue. But the notion that it’s a matter of principle is unfortunately not realistic. Sure, I can choose to honor the picket line, as I personally agree with the people on the line. But the penalty is pretty severe – I would be fired from the current job and face sanctions from my own guild for failing to honor our contract.

    As for people hurling abuse while crossing the line, that sounds like some real jerks, regardless of what guild they represent. And jerkiness is not restricted to guild members – I’ve met jerks in all shapes and sizes in every possible department on a shoot. (On one assignment, the Best Boy Electric proudly told me that he disliked the DGA and all AD’s, and then demonstrated that dislike in a fairly unpleasant manner.)

    Peggy sez: The statement was not mean nor was it unfair. It was a simple fact. DGA, WGA, and SAG members DO routinely cross our picket lines (except on one show, two SAG members refused to cross and told the producer to go ahead and sue them). If they’re being forced to or not wasn’t part of the equation, and note that I didn’t state that ALL members of the guilds were crossing the lines with malice and/or glee. No one crossing the line has ever said to me “Listen – I have to cross or I’ll get sued for breach of contract. Don’t take it personally” and I’ve been on more than a few picket lines.

    Also note that I, personally, did not mention bearing ill will towards any member of the DGA, WGA, or SAG because of this particular situation.

    Also, I was never told by anyone at 728 that I’d face expulsion from the union for refusing to cross a Teamster picket line. I’d be very interested to know where you heard that little gem.

    You are correct, though. Jerks come from all walks of life and are pretty much everywhere. They’re jerks. It’s what they do. Someone should pass a law so we can neuter them to prevent them from making any more jerks.

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