Writers on the Line

On the Line
On the Line for 9 to 5
Stars from the 45-year-old comedy inspire solidarity at Netflix, the L Word reunites at WB for Pride, and a writer’s career in Jeopardy
Friday, June 30, 2023

What a Way to Inspire Solidarity!

(L-R) Actress Stephanie J. Block, 9 to 5 co-writer Patricia Resnick, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin at Netflix Striking 9 to 5 picket. Photo by Brittany Woodside. 

Nearly 45 years after it was a box-office hit in theaters, a pro-worker comedy about three women taking revenge on their “sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot” of a boss still has the power to inspire big-time solidarity among any workers who feel abused and undervalued.

With screen writer and WGAW member Patricia Resnick serving as MC and 9 to 5 film stars Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin expressing unity for striking WGA writers, the Striking 9 to 5 rally drew a packed crowd outside Netflix. In addition to special guests from the film and musical versions of 9 to 5, the Netflix picket also featured speeches by members of the L.A. City Council who are on the verge of passing a city resolution in support of the WGA. For good measure, the event included a taco truck and a drag performance.

The Striking 9 to 5 rally was organized by WGAW member Kelly Lynn D’Angelo with WGAW’s LGBTQ+ Writers Committee. The Democratic Socialists of America - Los Angeles' Hollywood Labor division provided the food truck.

Fonda, whose career as an activist is almost as legendary as her work on screen, listed several of the issues within the broken system that writers are striking against, noting that SAG-AFTRA actors–who have authorized their Guild to strike with a nearly 98% vote vote if no deal is made–are experiencing the same situations.

“Let’s get real,” said Fonda. “The economic system in this country is broken, and it has had a catastrophic effect on workers, as we knew it would, and economic inequality is worse today than at any time since the Gilded Age. That’s why there’s a surge in union activity and union organizing all across the country."

“Those in the executive suites are getting bigger and bigger salaries than ever, but actors are getting less and less, just like the writers,” she continued. “They better watch out. If the actors go out with the writers, this industry will be shut down. And we will stand together and hold firm until we all get justice , fairness, and respect.”

Following her longtime friend and frequent film and TV co-star to the mic, Tomlin referenced the famous quote from the late producer- studio executive Irving Thalberg about writers being the most important people in Hollywood – and the importance of making sure they never realize this to be the case.

“I live with a writer and when I don’t tell her every day how important she is, I don’t have a damn word to say,” Tomlin said.

Resnick, who has experienced five strikes, talked about the disparity between studios ability to pay their CEOs $40 million in annual salaries while simultaneously claiming that they are losing money. Although she was able to earn a living as a working writer that allowed her to buy a house and send her children to college, “that’s not the way it is now.”

Councilmember Hugo Soto-Martinez, whose district includes Hollywood, where the Netflix event took place, said that with the continued solidarity demonstrated by other unions and guilds, the strike would continue for “as long as it takes.”

The rally concluded with award-winning Broadway actress Stephanie J. Block – who played Fonda’s role in musical version of 9 to 5 – leading the crowd in a chorus of the #1 hit title song written by Dolly Parton.

Drag performers at the Striking 9 to 5 rally at Netflix. Photo by Brittany Woodside. 

See Photos from the week of June 26-30.

L is the Word at Warner Bros.

(L-R) Stephanie Allyne, Rosanny Zayas, Kate Moennig, Leisha Hailey, Jillian Mercado, Leo Sheng, Baily Benningfield and Ilene Chaiken.

Ilene Chaiken, xo-creator of The L Word, reunited cast and crew members for a special Pride Month celebration of the groundbreaking Showtime series. The original cast was joined by actors from The L Word: Generation Q in a strong showing of solidarity from IATSE and SAG-AFTRA members.

Member's Career is In Jeopardy 

Jeopardy writer and new WGAW member Marcus Brown at Sony.
Even though he landed his dream job writing for the game show Jeopardy, Marcus Brown knew he might not have long to enjoy it.

And sure enough, a few short months after being promoted from researcher to staff writer, and joining the WGAW in 2023, Brown found himself on the picket line with his Guild members. He had worked as a researcher on the show for five years before becoming the newest writer.

“It’s sort of tough not being at work after being on the show for so many years, and kind of getting used to this new job,” said Brown during a recent interview outside Sony Pictures where the game show is filmed. “But I think we’re out here for the right reasons, and I think it’s especially important for younger writers like me to be out here. For us, this is about the streaming residuals and also for the people who are dealing with mini-rooms.”

A native of White Plains, New York, Brown studied film production at Emerson College, but did not take a direct route into the industry. Bouncing around, he worked as an art director, as a process server, and even at a cannery in Alaska before finding his way into game shows. He started his Jeopardy career as production assistant before moving on to becoming a researcher.

Jeopardy was always on at my house growing up,” Brown said. “I was on the academic team in high school. I feel like this was meant to be in a sense.”

Since being on the lines, Brown has received words of encouragement from his 92-year-old grandmother, a former teacher who had walked the lines in the 1960s in New York during the teachers' strike.

“She started telling me about how during the strike, they had four-hour shifts as well, and being out for like a month. She definitely supports us,” Brown said. “That’s kind of the legacy that I’m upholding.”

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 worked on a pretty popular basic cable comedy-variety show. It was so popular that they were selling it in other countries, so our residual checks were pretty nice. This was my first job in TV, and I don't come from money, so those residual checks allowed me to have savings which made me feel a bit more comfortable about working on the 13-week contracts standard in C-V. Then the parent company started a streaming platform and moved the episodes on to it, and our residual checks abruptly went from real money to actual pennies. Since then I've been very lucky to work on a couple of hit, Emmy award winning shows, but the residuals on streaming have never reflected that success.".

Read the full story here.