TV WAP-ers Unite at TV City
With their name tags proclaiming their class year, proud past honorees of WGAW’s TV Writer Access Project (TV WAP) united to picket Thursday at Television City.
The gathering was an opportunity to reconnect, although, as several past honorees noted, they often make a point of staying in touch both with fellow honorees and with WAP administrators.
A program run by WGAW's Inclusion and Equity Department, the WAP looks to provide increased access to mid-level WGAW members who are from groups that have been historically underrepresented in television. Every year since 2009, a group of 10 to 14 honorees have been selected to receive feedback on their scripts and take a series of workshops designed to help them improve their presentation and better navigate the industry. Members who are women, LGBTQ+, disabled, 55 years or older and BIPOC are eligible to apply. See a list of past honorees.
“The program was invaluable to me,” TV City Lot Captain Juan Carlos Fernandez (class of 2018) recalled of his experience in WAP. “I had gotten staffed. I had that lucky break, but when it came time to take meetings, I was like a deer in the headlights. After the program, I became so much more confident in my meetings. Now I feel like I give great meetings.”
“It’s amazing that this union has created a program that’s diversity-driven and recognizing women, people of color and people with disabilities,” added WGAW member Deborah Swisher (WAP Class of 2016). "As much as our country is falling backwards, it’s amazing that our creative industry is advancing in stellar ways. I was so thrilled to get this fellowship.”
Earlier, Fernandez connected with WGAW Inclusion and Equity Director Tery Lopez, and the two agreed that TV WAP alumni should reconnect for a picket, which Fernandez organized.
At the picket, Glen Mazzara – WGAW Inclusion and Equity Group Co-Chair who oversees the WAP classes – was warmly greeted by past honorees, several of whom called him an influential mentor.
“Before I even got into the TV WAP, he sat down with me, read four of my scripts and gave me feedback,” Swisher said of Mazzara. “That man gives back to writers in our industry so much. If somebody is spending that kind of time on me and believes in me, then I’ve got to get somewhere. I want to make an impact.”
Mazzara’s fondness for the TV WAP and its alumni is equally strong, and he calls his involvement with the program “one of my favorite things I do at the Guild.”
“These are really warm people who just care about people and the business,” Mazzara said. “It’s a program that has a lot of heart.”
Walking the picket line together, 2015 honorees and classmates Chuck Hayward and Dennis Hensley said that WAP honorees share a bond that makes them part of a community. As the only comedy writers in the class of 2015, the self-described “comedy boys” continue to root for each other’s success.
“Whenever I see somebody from the project who has a credit on a show, I’ll reach out to them,” said Hensley. “It feels like you’re part of a team and that they’re doing it for all of us. This business can be very competitive. When you have people who you feel like are on your side, it can be very empowering.”
That unity extends to the picket lines where TV WAP honorees join other WGA members.
“This is history,” said Swisher. “This is catastrophic for many of us, but the fight is real, and it’s about us all continuing to support each other.”
IATSE Solidarity is Universal
IATSE was in the House at NBCUniversal…and in the thick of a hot labor summer, these craft-y supporters kept things cool.
Members from IATSE Locals 44 and 80 spent the morning picketing with WGA writers at NBC Universal before a march up to Citywalk where multiple union members joined a rally in support of IATSE B-192 members, Universal Studios theme park workers who are fighting for a fair contract.
The solidarity picket was organized by representatives of Local 44 which represents property craftspeople within the motion picture and TV industry. Joining the action were the grips, crafts services, marine, first-aid employees, and warehouse workers of Local 80. The two locals had worked together on a previous IATSE solidarity picket in July at Warner Bros.
“We’re trying to have them weekly,” said Local 44 organizer Brett Zzy. “This event was organized and promoted to all IATSE members and members of other unions because it’s not just about this industry. This is part of the greater workers’ rights movement.”
With Local 44 leading the charge, Local 80 was happy to bring their members as well, said Local 80 delegate and grip Brandy Tannahill. Knowing that picketers at NBCUniversal face a lot of San Fernando Valley heat, the Local 80 grips erected a 10-by-20-ft canopy and loaded up with coolers, cold drinks, mist fans, and chairs. Local 80 member Charley Gilleran, who is also a SAG-AFTRA member, donated the usage of his mod truss to build the shade rigs.
“It’s really hot, and I want to make sure that our WGA and SAG-AFTRA picketers are supported and able to keep going without suffering from heat stroke,” said Tannahill. “I know we have some disabled members who want to show support, so we’re trying to provide them an ability to participate as well and not feel excluded.”
IATSE members have been a steady presence on the WGA and SAG-AFTRA picket lines since the beginning of the strike.
“The way that I and a lot of our members see it, this is a struggle for labor,” said Tannahill. “It’s a fight for the future of our industry, and making sure that corporate greed doesn’t overcome the proper treatment and humane working conditions that we all need.”
IATSE Solidarity - Take 2
Now, the two members come out to picket in solidarity with striking writers and actors at least twice a week, usually at Paramount. Sometimes they come with other Local 600 members. The group has had as many as 10 picketers.
“Mary has become a good catalyst for me in my transition into the union,” Del Giorno said. “We’ve made it a weekly thing, and it’s become a routine.”
Brown has a good friend on the picket line, WGAW member Larry Kaplow. She is also a strong believer in solidarity.
“Before I got into the camera department, I worked with [Kaplow] as an assistant years ago, and he really helped me out,” Brown said. “I just feel I want to pay it back and show my support to the writers and the actors.”
During their months spent on the line, the striking Local 600 members have been impressed by the energy on the lines, taking in everything from picket karaoke to marching bands and musical jam sessions on the lines.
“The energy of the strike captains, some of the things they say while we’re walking, it really gets you pumped up,” Brown said. “And of course, when all the cars are beeping, it’s great.”