Writers on the Line

On the Line
Think Pink, Picket Portraits, and Good Bones
The Pink Hat Brigade rides again, a portrait of captain Angela Treviño, and Hart Hanson makes no Bones about why he’s striking
Monday, July 10, 2023

Paint It Pink

(L-R) Pink Hat Brigade members Melody Fox, Lisa Klink, Amy Berg, Alison Lea Bingeman, Shea E . Butler and Gillian Horvath at CBS Radford Studios in 2007.

During the 2007-08 writers strike, WGAW member Gillian Horvath thought it might be fun to walk the picket lines alongside some of her friends who, like her, worked in science fiction. Themed pickets were less common in 07-08 than during the current strike, but Horvath reached out to a bunch of people over email and told them to put out the call to meet up for a female SF writer meet-up.

As a fun way of branding the group, Horvath brought a bunch of pink cowboy hats that she had bought for $1 apiece during a closeout sale at Fred Segal. She handed out the hats to the first eight people who showed up at Radford Studios.

More than a decade before the arrival of the pink pussyhats during the Women’s March of 2017, the Pink Hat Brigade was born.

“It became our trademark,” said Horvath, a writer and executive producer whose credits include Sanctuary, Beauty and the Beast and Primeval: New World. “Anyone else who came out would have to source their own pink hat and join us.”

As word spread, the ranks of the Pink Hat Brigade grew, and as many as 14 PHB picketers might turn up to picket together. Horvath was drawing from an email list of about 25 members. Among those founding members to get the first hats – the “Pink Hat Brigade OG?” – were Melody Fox, Amy Berg, Lisa Klink, Alison Lea Bingeman and Shea E. Butler, many of whom would go on to become showrunners, directors and executive producers.

“Back in 2008, the Pink Hat Brigade would go out to eat after picketing,” recalled Horvath. “We would fit around a table of eight or ten. The number of women working in genre wouldn’t fit in a restaurant today.”

Indeed, they would not.  During a recent Women in Genre picket held at Amazon Studios organized by WGAW writer-producer and lot coordinator Kira Snyder, the number of women who crowded into a group picture – several wearing “Genre Queen” T-shirts supplied by Ann Cofell Saunders – was well into the hundreds. At the event, Horvath posted her photo of the first Pink Hat Brigade members on her strike sign and spoke a few words.

Granted, when they first came together 15 years ago, the members of the Pink Hat Brigade did not know every woman writer who was working in science fiction, but there’s no denying that the ranks have expanded with the proliferation of content.

“And that’s a wonderful thing,” said Horvath. “I’ve always thought that science fiction is a genre that is more welcoming to women. I think it’s because a lot of science fiction writers are really forward thinking. They tend to be progressive rooms where people are really thinking about issues of racism and sexism because it informs the stories. I think it informs the kind of other people in the room.”
Horvath reflected on the PHB origins during an interview at a recent reunion of Xena: Warrior Princess at Universal. Also at that picket was PHB alumni, Maria Elena Rodriguez, a writer and producer who remembered those early days in the industry as being not particularly hospitable to women entering the science fiction writing ranks.

“It has always been a very male-dominated field until recently, and it’s still majority male writers and showrunners,” said Rodriguez. “Hopefully with more women like Melody Cooper and Akela Cooper, there’s going to be room for more women like me now.”

In addition to the camaraderie it provided on the lines, Rodriguez appreciated the ways in which members of the Pink Hat Brigade would try to help each other get work within the industry.

“It started out as a social group before it became about writing careers, and it was never competitive,” Rodriguez said. “You always had someone who would read your drafts of scripts or would tell you if there was a job or if you were going to take a meeting with someone, it was good to check with the gals, ‘Anybody had a meeting with this guy? What’s he like?’ And they’d tell you straight out.”

As the current strike drew on, Horvath went through her email list and considered reuniting the Pink Hat Brigade for a special picket. The Amazon Women Genre Writers picket saved her the trouble. So successful was that picket that a second picket, “Genre Queens 2.0,” will take place July 27 at Fox.

Get your pink hats now.

Pink Hat Brigade founder Gillian Horvath and Maria Elena Rodriguez at Universal.

Portrait of a Captain: Angela Treviño

Universal Strike captain and photographer Angela Treviño. Photo by JW Hendricks.

Like many writers, Angela Treviño is more comfortable working behind the camera, which may be a reason why, in addition to being a strike captain, during the 2023 WGA strike Treviño has been quite literally behind the camera. As in taking people’s pictures and telling their stories through a series of portraits and quotes on Twitter.

“At the beginning of the strike, the Guild asked us if we had any special skills,” recalled Treviño who joined WGAW two and a half years ago. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m decent at taking photos.’ Initially, I was just taking pictures of members that were striking out on the line, but then my rep recommended that I do a series on the captains.”

The series evolved from there. Depending on who she encounters on a given day, Treviño shoots members, captains, WGAW staff, and even celebrities. She asks everybody to explain why they are striking and prints their replies, accompanying the portraits on Twitter.

“I wanted to highlight the individual stories,” she said. “There are so many writers who have been struggling for years, and many are striking because things have affected them on a personal level. When you look at some of the news stories about the strike, I’ve often felt that you just get a shot and you don’t have their individual story. It’s not a personalized approach. People see a tragedy and they don’t connect a face of a story to that tragedy. That’s what I’ve been trying to do through my work.”

She is impressed by the dedication of the entire Guild, members as well as WGA staff who are going above and beyond to help make the strike happen. “We show up for a couple of hours. The staff is here all the time,” she said. “I’ve been trying to highlight the people who have been contributing to the cause.”

On the days she is not at Universal, she makes the rounds to other studio lots, typically shooting between seven and ten portraits per week. The series has become popular on Twitter with huge followings blowing up her numbers when she lands a celebrity photo and quote.

“It’s been really rewarding to see folks that are not a part of this fight, people in middle America, people who will click on a celebrity photo and say, ‘Wait, why is Jason Sudeikis striking?’’ Treviño said. “I’ve seen first-hand how people from all over the country are commenting. Sometimes I’ll have pictures and captions that are translated into Japanese. People all over the world are paying attention to this. Even if you’re not a professional photographer and don’t have a fancy camera, you should be taking pictures of yourself on the line. It gives us more eyeballs, more attention.”

In her May 10 post, Trevino posed with fellow writers from Kung Fu, the last show on which she staffed. Trevino explained in that post why she is striking: “b/c it took me over a decade to get paid to write, only to see my profession devalued over the years.”

Her story goes deeper than that. Treviño is a first-generation immigrant from Mexico who came to the United States when she was 11. Growing up, she and her family viewed America as a place where people could come to make meaningful contributions.

“It was always, ‘The United States is the land of opportunity,’” Treviño said. “I became a citizen in my late 20s, but I always wished that I could vote. I always wanted to try to make a difference in the democratic process because I didn’t have that opportunity until later in life than people who are born citizens. When you have the opportunity to participate in a movement that can make a difference, it’s important to take that opportunity because a lot of people in other countries don’t have those options.”

Treviño notes that she is a staff writer who has had to repeat the staff writer level. She was part of a mini-room experience that resulted in her waiting six months to see whether the project was green-lit. It wasn’t, so Treviño took a staff support position on Kung Fu and was eventually promoted to staff writer.

“My story is definitely not unique,” she said.

WGAW Strike captain Fredrick Leach. Photo by Angela Treviño. 
Hart Hanson and the writers, crew and cast of Bones during the show's reunion picket at Fox.

For 12 seasons, the team on the Fox crime series Bones could count on a steady 24-episode order, and a system that allowed writers to move up the ladder and become showrunners of their own.

Series creator-executive producer Hart Hanson worries that the writer-friendly model established on his series may never come again.

“I sometimes feel like we were the last train out of Dodge, the last chopper out of Saigon,” Hanson said during a Bones Day reunion of writers, actors and crew Friday at Fox. “A ton of people came through Bones and went off to run their own shows. There’s a ton of people who ae out there in the world now because they had the chance to use Bones and other shows as places to learn how to do what they do now. “

“I feel like Bones was one of the last of the old-time models that made sense financially to everybody,” he continued. “Everybody made a bucket of money and now nobody will say if a show is making money or not. Nobody will say what viewership is. Nobody knows what viewership means anymore.”

Hanson and series star and producer Emily Deschanel supplied the food for a picket that was big on good will and camaraderie and fan appreciation. Freshly returned from visiting his grandchildren in San Francisco, Hanson said he planned to be a fixture on the lines.

Between the threat of AI and the dissolution of an apprenticeship system allowing writers to reach new career heights, the stakes of this strike are dire.

“I was around for the 2007-08 strike, and this one is even more important,” he said. “Writing is being turned into a gig economy where people can’t make a middle-class living. It’s a disaster for writers, but also, I think, for the art form.”

Bones creator Hart Hanson.

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 have been a member of the WGA for over 20 years, and have written for, produced, and created shows for just about every broadcast network and streaming entity, most recently on an overall deal with a streaming company. In the past few years, things have drastically changed."

Read the full story here.