An Intergenerational Fight
There was no missing WGAW's Native American Indigenous Writers Committee (NAIWC) Wednesday at Disney Studios. Between the masses of people, many wearing colorful clothing, the live music and hoop dancer, the pointed strike signs and more than a few hats reminding onlookers “You’re on Native Land,” the NAIWC made an impactful statement on the importance of representation as well as solidarity among WGA writers.
These principles are key messages that Native American & Indigenous Peoples (NAIP) have been trying to make throughout their history.
“Everyone is going through a difficult time now, but I like to say that, for many of us, it’s your average Wednesday,” said Aiko Little, a WGAW member, co-chair of the Guild's NAIWC, and one of the organizers of the Native picket. “We have been fighting since Day One, from the generations before us until now, to make sure our voices are heard, to make sure our stories are told with complete agency the way we want to, and in a way that honors the generations before us, and then for the generations after us.”
Sierra Teller Ornelas, showrunner of the series Rutherford Falls, noted that union values are shared by the members of the NAIP community.
“My dad is Mexican-American, and he worked for Phelps Dodge Copper Mine for many years,” said Ornelas. “A lot of us come from union towns. A lot of us have parents who are union people and blue-collar workers, and I think that’s inherent in our identity. We come from a place, not just of community but of also using that community as a way to create cultural change.”
Having already helped put together the Latinx march earlier in the WGA strike, Orenelas helped flex her organizing muscles again for the Native picket, bringing in the taco truck and tapping personal and creative connections to enlist hoop dancer Eric Michael Hernandez and other entertainment.
“Using all of our homegrown connections to create community has been really wonderful,” said Ornelas.
NAIP writers are hoping that the next MBA will help keep their ranks from getting squeezed out. The community is looking to build on the successes of recent shows like Rutherford Falls, Reservation Dogs, Dark Winds and Alaska Daily.
“We haven’t really gotten our foot into the door for a very long time,” said NAIWC Co-Chair Anthony Florez. “So we just started to see those first TV shows on Hulu and Peaccok and AMC, and those are the first ones ever. So the idea of getting rid of the writers room or really hammering those lower-level writers and making it difficult to live in this town, I think it hits our community harder."
“It feels like right when we’re trying to get in, they’re trying to keep us out,” Florez added. “That’s what we’re fighting for.”
Tornante Creatives Take Television City
Horsemen, bird-women, and time-traveling humans picketed along Fairfax Avenue in support of striking writers.
Well, perhaps not the creatures themselves, but certainly their creators, as the writers, producers and a few actors from BoJack Horseman, Tuca & Bertie, and Undone reunited to picket at CBS Television City on Wednesday.
“We’ve got people who are pregnant, people who have twins on the way,” said Undone Co-Creator and showrunner Kate Purdy. “[Cast member] Rosa Salazar has dyed her hair bright pink. It’s all very exciting.”
Over the course of their runs, the three shows produced by Tornante Animation shared many of the same writers as well as creator-showrunner-producer Raphael Bob-Waksberg, who is also a WGAW Board Member.
The three Tornante shows, all covered under WGA contracts, shared more than just writers. All were streaming shows whose staff members experienced the effects of the studio’s devaluation of writers which striking WGA writers are now looking to combat.
“I think we all felt the squeeze of fewer weeks of work, seeing smaller paychecks and smaller residual checks,” said Purdy. “We want to make sure that we can keep doing the job that we love, that it’s sustainable. So that’s why we’re all here together raising our voices with our picket signs.”
Nick Adams, a strike captain assigned to CBS Television City, was the driving force for the Tonante reunion picket. Adams, who worked on both BoJack and Tuca & Bertie, was pleased both to be able to get people back together, but also to do it on Fairfax Avenue in front of a what had previously been a neutral gate. “So we were able to kill two birds with one stone,” he said.
“Those are three animated shows that I’m very proud were covered by the WGA,” said Bob-Waksberg. “I really saw the benefit of WGA coverage on those shows both through the quality of the shows and the quality of the life for the writers.”