Recognizing the Early Birds
Writers of all experience levels have been walking the lines together, side by side, since the strike began. Wednesday’s Guild-sponsored Early Career Writers picket at TV City was an opportunity for our entire union to recognize the contributions of those members who are in the early stages of their careers.
“There are many members on this line who became members in March and April and have now been on strike longer than they have been professional writers,” said TV City Lot Coordinator Bill Wolkoff. “It took these writers so long, and they had to work so hard to get into the Guild, and they have been out in force since Day One.”
In addition to much solidarity, Wednesday’s picket included a taco truck and an ice cream truck donated by nearly 48 showrunners.
Eric Phillips worked his way up from production assistant, then to a writers' assistant to a script coordinator before getting his first co-writing credit and ultimately staffing on For All Mankind. Evaluating that career trajectory, Phillips believes that five years ago, that progression would have happened on a single show.
“It took me six shows to do it,” said Phillips. “Even though it seems like I climbed the ladder, I just don’t think that ladder exists for any of us anymore. I don’t even know if it did at that time. I consider myself one of the lucky ones to get staffed.”
Michael Deigh, a staff writer and Netflix lot captain, also feels fortunate to have made it into the Guild, thereby fulfilling a lifelong dream.
“The timing of when I got staffed to when the strike happened has been a little tough,” said Deigh. “But all of the issues that the Guild is fighting for are important. I would go so a far as to say some of them really are existential issues, especially for me as an early writer. I want to be doing this in a decade. I don’t only want to only have a couple of years left on this.”
Screenwriter Emily Siegel joined the Guild in September of 2022. She has no produced credits, something that she admits “feels kind of icky to say sometimes.”
“But we’re in a safe space with writers,” she continued, “and I think anything that we can do to encourage other writers to come out of their shells, get to meet people and hopefully make connections that could propel them to the next step, we should do.”
Also a captain at TV City, Siegel said her devotion to the WGA is absolute. Shortly before joining the WGA, Siegel and her husband paid out of pocket for a cycle of fertility treatment that left them with a $30,000 medical bill. Upon joining the Guild, she learned not only that the treatment was covered under the WGA health plan, but that she would be reimbursed for the cycle even though she was not on the plan when she underwent the treatment.
“So when the strike came, I said, ‘I’m going to be there every single day,’” said Siegel. “I’m a new member, and I haven’t had a chance to be in the Guild and meet a lot of people, but the Guild supported us, and I’ll stand by the Guild until the end of time because I’m going to be able to have a family because of it.”
WGA Honored by Humanitas
In announcing the award, Humanitas cited the WGA's "tireless work over the course of 2023 to protect writers, ensure the viability of writing for the screen as a career path, and safeguard the role of the writer in society as that role is threatened from a variety of angles."
"Humanitas has not historically involved itself with strikes, but this one is different," the announcement continued. "Our mission is to support writers whose work explores the human condition in a nuanced, meaningful way, and our mission can’t be achieved if only a select few from select backgrounds are in a financial position to do it. For too long writers have not been adequately able to participate in the financial success of their work, especially because the measure for success in the streaming era is opaque so long as viewership data remains private, and the WGA’s work in illuminating this is commendable."
Read the announcement.
"For decades, Humanitas has heralded the human spirit and transformational stories at the heart of our craft. Today, we are honored to count Humanitas as an ally in defense of our humanity as writers—not just as creatives, but as working people," said WGAW President Meredith Stiehm. "From its presence on our picket lines and its Groceries for Writers program, to the recognition symbolized by the Voice for Change Award, Humanitas has shown through its actions how essential our economic well-being is to the art of storytelling."
"That we have been chosen by the Humanitas Prizes to recognize us with this award at this particular time is a singular honor," added WGAE President Michael Winship. "With the future of storytelling in danger, our two Writers Guilds have stood up to resist and strike against those who would diminish and even destroy our craft and livelihood. This action could not have been taken without the enormous support of our members, staffs and our colleagues in the many other unions who have stood by our side. On behalf of all of them, we thank Humanitas and proudly accept the Voice of Change Award."
Out of respect for the UNITE HERE Local 11 hotel worker strikes, Humanitas opted to announce this year’s Humanitas Prizes in the Los Angeles Times in lieu of an awards ceremony.
Bossing The Line
WGAW member Laura Moran loves Bruce Springsteen. A lot. So much that some of her fellow union members on the picket lines encouraged her to put her love of the Boss to creative use.
“Other writers kept telling me, ‘You have to throw a Bruce picket, you have to throw a Bruce picket,’” said Moran, a TV writer and 10-year Guild member.
Upon discovering that Guild leadership were also huge Bruce fans, Moran decided to go for it.
“I knew from the start that I wanted to incorporate live music into the picket,” Moran said. “Bruce is famous for his epic concerts, so I wanted to pull off something similarly epic.”
When she learned that political activist and Rage Against the Machine frontman Tom Morello had picketed Radford on his birthday this year, Moran knew who to ask to provide the tunes. On Monday, Moran threw her Bruce Springsteen-themed picket at the Paramount lot, drawing a huge turnout of writers and fans, many of them wearing Bruce concert tees or other regalia.
Moran came up with themed sign ideas using Bruce lyrics, and fellow WGAW member Alston Ramsay donated his Photoshopping skills to bring them to life. Performer Mike Miller played deep cut live Bruce tracks and hyped up the crowd for five hours straight.
“Multiple people told me they showed up at 9 a.m. and stayed until 2 p.m. because they were having so much fun,” said Moran. “That means everything to me.”
Morello rocked the picket line, playing a four-song set that included “Union Town,” “Hold the Line,” “Union Song” and a rousing cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land.”
“He had the entire crowd literally jumping up and down,” Moran said. “What an amazing way to show Paramount that we’re gonna ‘hold the line’ as long as it takes to get a fair contract.”