Writers on the Line

On the Line
Hooping It Up On The Line
Plus, Kevin Smith will not be silent, Jury Duty raises funds for ECF, and Act 2 writers strike back
Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Hooping It Up on Jersey Day

Lot Coordinator Brittani Nichols and L.A. Sparks Guard Layshia Clarendon at Jersey Day at Warner Bros. Studios. Photo: Brittany Woodside
Whether they were “sporting” the colors of the Lakers or Eagles, the Dodgers, Rams, or the Shecago Bulls of the LA City Municipal Basketball League, the picketers turned out in force for Jersey Day at Warner Bros.

Among the VIPs who jersey-ed up  was Layshia Clarendon, a guard with the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.

Monday's themed picket was the brainchild of Warner Bros. Lot Coordinator Brittani Nichols, who recognized the simpatico between entertainment and sports and decided to build an event around it.

“Once we saw that pretty much all the professional sports unions signed on to support us, I just reached out to a friend who knew some of the Sparks players,” explained Nichols. “I would compare The Women’s National Basketball Players Association  (WNBPA) with the WGA in terms of how vocal and progressive they are in their sphere of sports. So it’s no surprise that they are out here to support us and out here on the lines with us.”

Clarendon, a former VP with the WNBPA when it ratified its last collective bargaining agreement, was eager to join the striking writers on the picket lines.

“I think we’re at a historic point in our country and globally with labor rights, so this is very near and dear to my heart,” said Clarendon. “I wanted to come out and support and show that solidarity across industries.

See Photos from Monday's Picket Lines

A Writer First and No Longer Silent

Writer-director Kevin Smith (AKA Silent Bob) breaks his silence at Universal.
Well-known as an actor and director, Kevin Smith has been a member of the WGAW for the entirety of his more than 30-year professional career. And for a simple reason.

“I identify most as a writer, more than as a director,” said the writer and director of the Clerks, Mallrats, and Jay and Silent Bob franchises. “I’ve been part of the WGA since early 1995. I’ve used their medical benefits when I’ve had to for me and my family. They’ve always supported me and it feels right to support them right back.”

On the picket line at Universal last week, Smith reflected on his career growing up lower middle class, the son of a postal worker in New Jersey.

“I got to a place in life where I was comfortable, essentially making my living from words and then extending that to beyond the written word,” Smith said. “Honestly, I make most of my living either writing words or saying words while standing on a stage somewhere. It’s rarefied breathing, right? I never had to do backbreaking labor, but I’ve been in this business 30 years now, and I’ve always known whatever I make is nothing compared to what the business makes off you.”

Smith confessed to being disturbed at the prospect of someone inputting a bunch of his scripts into an AI platform and having it kick out “a pretty decent if not better than Kevin Smith script." 

"Being a writer was all I ever dreamed about when I was a kid," he said. "Just because I've always been able to make a living doesn't mean that I can't support a bunch of other fellow writers."

Supporting Each Other on the Line

The Act II Writers on the line at Universal. Photo: Brittany Woodside
”If you’re an Act II writer within the WGA, that means you have a rep and are actively networking within the industry. You may have a day job, but you are out there developing projects and taking pitches and doing all the everyday work of making a living as a professional writer.

“Well, not right now,” adds the group’s founder Tasha Huo.

Huo, a showrunner, spoke from the picket line at Universal where about 15 of the Act II members held down the Citywalk gate Monday. Recognizable in their black-on-white “Act II Writers Strike Back” t-shirts, the Act II-ers were present for both each other and for their union.

Huo founded Act II as a networking and support group in 2017 for writers who consider themselves to be in the second act of their career as professional screenwriters. The group holds a weekly podcast and regularly meets for a “script club.” Made up of about 60 members, they talk about pitches they have encountered – what has sold and why. They frequently kick around questions on topics that they hope the next MBA will address.

“We meet with producers, directors and other writers. It’s kind of a community for us to get out our feelings, concerns and questions,” said Huo.

“People will post questions and respond to something along the lines of, ‘This executive wants me to do a little free work, but they promised me they’ll do something. Will they live up to their word?’” said member Alex Sabeti. “It feels like we’re the kind of group which I think the studios would not want to see coalesce. They would want us just talking to them.”

Act II was starting to come back from the effects of the pandemic when the strike hit. Out on the lines, the camaraderie among the members is strong, even if the circumstances of the meeting aren’t ideal, according to Sabeti.

“I really wish the studios would offer a good deal and that we weren’t here, but I think it’s necessary to come out and show our resolve,” Sabeti said.

Sabeti joined the WGAW in 2006 shortly before the 2007-08 strike.

“This one feels more cohesive, more precise” he said. “I think there’s a greater understanding now. Maybe the internet helps that. People have a better understanding of what’s going on in the industry, and I think the upside for us is everyone feels more aligned. We understand this is a hard thing, but we need to do it.”