Cool Stuff For Sale at Online WGARAGE Sale
Picture the high school fundraiser or charity auction you’ve been asked to donate at some point in your career. You know, the one with the weekend getaways, the spa experiences, and the rounds of golf.
Now imagine that same type of experience but with a writer-ly flair. That’s what Kit Boss was aiming for when he dreamed up the WGARAGE SALE strike auction, which launches this Friday, June 30. All proceeds will benefit the Entertainment Community Fund (ECF). Check out the auction here.
Now, about that name…yeah, it may not roll easily off the tongue, but it sure grabs attention on a picket sign made to resemble those red-and-white "garage sale" signs that you can purchase at any hardware store. Boss has been promoting the auction, making connections and soliciting donations.
To take the WGARAGE SALE from dream to reality, he assembled a team of both WGA members and non-members to build the fundraiser's website, reach out to potential donors and conduct other research. The team included a member who had applied for and received assistance from the ECF.
“She hadn’t known about the ECF, and she had a great experience when she filled out the application and got herself one of [their] cash grants,” said Boss. “She realized that there are still a lot of people – writers’ assistants, script supervisors, crew, IATSE members, below-the-line people – who don’t know that the ECF exists, and that it is there for them, not necessarily for WGA members, who have their own strike fund and their own financial support system.”
Although he had been considering putting together some sort of a strike auction, Boss’s inspiration for WGARAGE SALE came from a WGAW member: writer-producer Chris Cantwell, who auctioned off the Speak & Spell that played a prominent role in his series Halt and Catch Fire on Twitter for $2,300, which he donated to the ECF.
This got Boss to thinking. Writers have coveted series and film-related memorabilia. Boss himself owned such items.
“I was more interested in the kind of items that a writer would have to think twice about, because it has meaning for them,” Boss said, “And by giving something like that up to auction, I think it sends the clear message that, yeah, we care about our stuff, but we care about the people being affected by the strike a lot more.”
Cantwell praised Boss for taking an idea for helping those in need and bringing it to new heights.
“Direct donations are good, but Kit’s work is groundbreaking in that many of us folks have cool stuff collecting dust in storage from the amazing shows they worked on and helped create,” said Cantwell. “Picketing is important. Rallies are important. But I am often ruminating on what else I can do. Rather than letting myself be stricken and worried, I auctioned off the prop. The response was great."
The auction kicks off this week with a couple of items designed to appeal to fans of a couple of popular ‘verses: a WGA strike sign with original art created by The Simpsons co-creator Matt Groening, and the opportunity to have a character named after you in an upcoming novel by Michael Connelly, along with a signed copy of the book when it comes out.
Participants can also bid on Deep Thoughts cards by Jack Handey or the opportunity to hang out with Casey Wilson and Adam Pally of Happy Endings on Zoom as they give live commentary on their “Spooky Endings” episode. There are varsity jackets from The Simpsons and Veronica Mars, a note from Elvis Costello, and a round of golf with writer-comedian Greg Fitzsimmons and three of his equally funny friends. More items will go up on the site as they come in. The full auction will launch at the end of July.
“I know a lot of TV and movie writers who are into the memorabilia of it, and an object that can embody a whole set of emotions and memories and can connect you to a movie or a TV show,” said Boss. “That Speak & Spell from Halt and Catch Fire sold for $2,300 because a writer got involved and created characters and created a story where that $20 toy became an integral piece of the storytelling. That’s what we do. We turn objects into talismans, we imbue things with meaning, and we make an impression on people.”
Boss thanked his WGARAGE SALE team for helping make the auction possible: Chatauqua Ordway, Mat Harawitz, Caroline Levich, Marina Cockenberg, Laura Hooper Beck, Jonathan Groff, Julianne Turkel, Rob Turbovsky, Dan Levy, Dan Beers, Leila Strachan, and Mona Garcea.
X Marks the (Picket) Spot
A pair of pickets at Universal and Disney both qualified for an X-rating Wednesday.
OK, now that we have your attention, we can regale you about the fans of a group of Marvel comic book mutants and a certain Warrior Princess who turned out in strong numbers to support striking WGA writers.
Disney’s X-Men picket, organized by Netflix strike captain and franchise fan Kris Rehl, brought out WGA writers, comic book artists (some of whom are also WGA writers), and lovers of the characters. Given that they have to go through their lives feeling marginalized and are constantly taking on villainous forms of AI, the X-Men are a group to which writers can easily relate, according to Rehl.
“The entire X-Men lineup has become very political in a way that it hasn’t been in a while, and I felt it would make for an energetic theme for a picket,” said Rehl. “Mutants are fighting for their rights and we’re fighting for fair wages and survival.”
WGAW member and comics writer Gerry Duggan took the comparison even further.
“My eyes are bright red just like Cyclops, although mine come from staring into my monitor all day," said Duggan. “Mutantdom has been standing up to the machines longer than most Guild members have been alive, and like the X-Men, we will win.”
A short distance away at Universal, the “Xenites” brought their costumes, creative signage and nourishment (including a Taco 1986 truck) for the Xena: Warrior Princess picket.
Where WGA strikes are concerned, the Xena picket has a bit of a legacy. Although the show concluded in 2001, the fanbase had already grown so intense that when a Xena convention overlapped with the 2007-08 strike, several of the convention-goers came out to the line. Themed pickets in 2007-08 were not as common as they are this time around, and WGAW member Steven L. Sears said that fans’ interest turned the Xena picket of 15 years ago into one of the largest of the 07-08 strike.
“Xena fans recognize the value of the writers,” said Sears, a writer and co-executive producer on the show. “It’s not just words from them. For the longest time, I would test them on this. Xena fans would say, ‘I could listen to an episode, and I could tell which one of you has written that.’ That’s how unique the voices were.”
A WGAW member since 1984 as well as a member of SAG-AFTRA, Sears has been through multiple WGA strikes and seen how the industry has changed making a career for writers that much more difficult.
“I have watched the middle class of our artistic community being gutted where we’re ending up with either hobbyists or superstars,” said Sears. “But there was a thriving middle class to our community. You weren’t necessarily a huge millionaire or even rich, but you could have a family. You could have a home. Now you have to have two extra jobs, and that’s considered a professional writer. So that’s why we’re here.”
Longtime Guild member and past WGAW Board of Directors member Katherine Fugate organized the picket in part to re-energize the lines at Universal – her usual picketing spot. Her time on Xena’s sixth season, was one of the first staff job for Fugate who went on to write screenplays (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve) and create the drama series Army Wives.
“It’s getting hotter, and the strike is going to go longer, so we have to keep morale up, keep ourselves in the public eye, and remind people that our cause is just,” said Fugate.
Why We Strike
Throughout this negotiating cycle, writers have been speaking up about our personal experiences working over the past several years. These stories highlight precisely why we are on strike and why our proposals are so critical to the future of this profession.
"I’ve been writing in TV comedy-variety for 12 years. Working on cable and network talk shows and sketch shows, plus awards shows and specials, my pay steadily rose until peaking in 2017—when I began writing primarily on shows for streaming services. My annual writing income has declined ever since."
Read this and other stories.