Servicemen and Supporters on the Line
Plenty of donated food and a marching band playing military and pop songs helped with the celebration part.
“When the marching band came out and did a whole big dance circle, we were jamming,” said Brooke Roberts, a ten-year WGAW member who helped organize the event. “David DiGilio, the showrunner of The Terminal List told me ‘This is the best picket I’ve ever been to!’”
Roberts worked with screenwriter Chris Roessner, showrunner Niceole Levy and Universal Lot Coordinator Judalina Neira to make the event happen. The organizers got additional support from the Writers Guild Foundation, which administers the Veterans Writing Project (VWP) which helps advance the careers of emerging writers with military backgrounds.
Many of the picketers either had service time in the U.S. Armed Forces or had family who served. Others had worked on shows or films with a military theme.
“It’s a good mix,” said Levy, the daughter of two parents in the Navy and co-executive producer of The Recruit. “We know we have a significant number of writers in our Guild who had a prior life in military service, and we wanted to have an event that not only honors them but honors their friends who also served and their families who endured that service.”
Roessner is a screenwriter who served in the Army for eight years. In addition to serving as a strike captain, he also mentors through the VWP. He said that Thursday’s picket was a great occasion for the veteran writing community to reunite and also to stand up for the values and goals that the entire WGA is seeking through this strike.
Writers and military members have similarities, according to Roessner.
“I think if you’re in the military, people outside the military have a hard time understanding what you’ve been through, and I think it’s the same with Hollywood,” said Roessner. “People have an incomplete view of what it means to work in Hollywood. They only see the Oscars and the Emmys, but these are all hard-working people. Nobody here is unreasonable. Nobody is looking for a free ride. Everybody just wants what’s fair.”
During the run of her series Army Wives, series creator and WGAW member Katherine Fugate was gratified to hear from viewers who said they connected with the themes of the show. People would continuously tell her that the show helped them cope with the sacrifices of being part of a military family.
"I created the series because I wanted to shine a light on military families, the spouses and children, and to show that they also serve," said Fugate, "and to show the repercussions of service on military wives."
While not a serviceman himself, actor David Boreanaz (a SAG and DGA member) has played one on TV for seven years on the series SEAL Team and is proud to stand with the WGA writers.
“It’s really about the understanding of common ground,” he said. “I think that it’s important for these people who are in the glass towers in front of us need to come down and understand what’s fair is fair. I applaud all of the writers out here, and I support you in solidarity.”
Solidarity with a Twist
Those are Shappy Pretzels, created with love and solidarity by actor and pretzel maven Adam Shapiro.
“It’s been awesome, getting these pretzels to everyone on the strike lines,” said Shapiro during a drop-off at Netflix Thursday, his third stop of the day. “It’s my way of helping out.”
Shapiro started his company during the pandemic. Then once production ramped back up, he returned to work on the Netflix series, Never Have I Ever. He also works overseas in Hungary on the miniseries The Continental: From the World of John Wick.
As his work has ramped up, the pretzels have remained in demand. So Shapiro now does both.
“The pretzels kept going, and it was amazing,” he said. “Then the WGA strike happened, and I was like, ‘Here we go. We’re going to start doing pretzels for the writers.’ We’re out every day, doing as many drops as we can. It’s my way of striking.”
Signing Off to Motorists
Their faces remained covered to protect their privacy, but the students of Hollywood Elementary School had a great time displaying their custom-made WGA strike signs on the picket lines at Netflix.
Among their messages: "Writers Need Pay," "Wassup Honk!" and "I Love USA and Hollywood."