Writers strike coast to coast

first_imgBURBANK – Carrying red and black signs reading, “Writers Guild of America On Strike,” and chanting, “On strike, shut it down. Hollywood’s a union town,” hundreds picketed outside studios in and around Los Angeles and New York this morning on the first day of the strike. In Burbank, under overcast skies, scores of picketers geared up for what could be days or weeks of a strike. They hauled coolers filled with food and water and staged at Johnny Carson Park in Burbank, before heading out to walk in processions in front of every entrance and exit of all the major studios in Burbank – Disney, Warner Bros., and NBC. Amid the gaggle of news vans, TV crews and reporters, Jay Leno even rode up on his Harley to pass out Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. “The mood among us is good,” said Peter Sears, a writer for “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” “The union is united. The public can sense that we’re all together. It’s for a very just cause.” “I was here for the ’88 strike and I’ve never seen our union more together,” he said. At Sony Pictures in Culver City, Steve Skrovan, a writer for the sitcom, “Til Death,” said that he didn’t expect there to be much sympathy for writers, who he acknowledged do make good livings, with some earning triple digits, but he said he and others were fighting for future generations of writers. “They can make it because others have fought,” said the 50-year-old from La Crescenta. He said he has money saved up and was was prepared to picket for several months. Writers Guild of America members began picketing at 15 large studios from Burbank to Manhattan Beach at 9 today. Writers will reportedly be walking four-hour shifts beginning either at 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. Guild officials have set up a network of strike captains to coordinate picket line activities. It was the first strike by Hollywood writers in nearly 20 years, with noisy pickets on both coasts. The walkout threatens to disrupt everything from late-night talk shows to soap operas. The strike apparently so far has forced the Leno, David Letterman shows into reruns. At the CBS lot in Studio City, about 40 people hoisted signs and applauded when midmorning picketing began. Robert Port, a writer for the TV show “Numb3rs,” said he was as ready as possible for what could be a long walkout. “We live in Los Angeles, your bank account can never really for ready for this,” he said. Only about half of the picketers wore their official red strike T-shirts. “Writers aren’t the easiest cats to coral,” said Don McGill, another writer for “Numb3rs.” Across town at the Paramount Pictures lot on Melrose Avenue, about 50 strikers dressed in jeans, athletic shoes and red strike T-shirts carried signs reading, “Writers Guild of America on Strike.” Drivers honked their horns as they passed the studio’s landmark gate. The strike began after daylong talks Sunday failed to produce an agreement on payment to writers from shows offered on he Internet. The first noisy strikers appeared outside the “Today” show set at Rockefeller Center in New York, where NBC is headquartered. The “Today Show” is not directly affected by the strike because news writers are part of a different union. A giant, inflated rat was displayed, as about 40 people shouted, “No contract, no shows!” “They claim that the new media is still too new to structure a model for compensation,” said Jose Arroyo, a writer for “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” “We say give us a percentage so if they make money, we make money,” Arroyo said. Diana Son, a writer for “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” said she has three children and getting residuals was the only way she could take time off after giving birth. “It’s an extremely volatile industry,” said Son. “There’s no job security. Residuals are an important part of our income. There’s no cushion.” Millie Kapzen of Memphis, Tenn., who watched the New York pickets from across the street, said she was “disgusted. … I really think they should try harder to negotiate.” Kapzen said she sells advertising for radio stations. “We’ve already had cancellations of sweeps weeks ads” by the networks. The strike is the first walkout by writers since 1988. That work stoppage lasted 22 weeks and cost the industry more than $500 million. The first casualties this time around will be late-night talk shows, which are dependent on current events to fuel monologues and other entertainment. “The Tonight Show” on NBC will immediately go into reruns, according to a network official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person lacked authorization to comment publicly. KTLA-TV reported that fans of the “Ellen” talk show were told at the NBC lot in Burbank that there would be no taping on Monday. Comedy Central previously said “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report” would likely go into repeats as well. The strike will not immediately impact production of movies or prime-time TV programs. Most studios have stockpiled dozens of movie scripts, and TV shows have enough scripts or completed shows in hand to last until early next year. Talks began in July and continued after the contract expired Wednesday. Writers and producers gathered for last-minute negotiations Sunday at the request of a federal mediator. They met for nearly 11 hours before East Coast members of the writers union announced on their Web site that the strike had begun for their 4,000 members. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers said writers refused a request to “stop the clock” on the planned strike while talks continued. “It is unfortunate that they choose to take this irresponsible action,” the alliance said in a statement. Producers said writers were not willing to compromise on major issues. Writers said they withdrew a proposal to increase their share of revenue from the sale of DVDs that had been a stumbling block for producers. They also said proposals by producers in the area of Internet reuse of TV episodes and films were unacceptable. “The AMPTP made no response to any of the other proposals that the WGA has made since July,” writers said in a statement. In Los Angeles, writers planned to picket 14 studio locations in four-hour shifts from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day until a new deal is reached. Security was stepped up at the Bob Hope Drive gate, across from Johnny Carson Park, in Burbank. Guards were on duty and Burbank police squad cars cruised past the site. One key factor that could determine the damage caused by the strike is whether members of a powerful Hollywood Teamsters local honor the picket lines. Local 399, which represents truck drivers, casting directors and location managers, had told its members that as a union, it has a legal obligation to honor its contracts with producers. But the clause does not apply to individuals, who are protected by federal law from employer retribution if they decide to honor picket lines, the local said. The battle has broad implications for the way Hollywood does business, since whatever deal is struck by writers will likely be used as a template for talks with actors and directors, whose contracts expire next June. “We’ll get what they get,” Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg told The Associated Press. ————————————— Daily News Wire Services contributed to this report.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre Later, outside the parking lot at NBC, Jim Shaughnessy, 38, a writer on “The Tonight Show,” was non-commital about how the strike was going so far. “I think we’re doing a lot of good out here, but then again I don’t really know,” said the Westlake Village resident. “It’s hard to tell right now. It’s impossible to tell so far but we’ve gotten some good doughnuts,” he joked. “I dont think they’re studio doughnuts. This is all kicking in together to impress them with our walking in circles.” Outside the Disney lot, the creator and executive producer of “Lost,” Damon Lindeloff, 34, of Studio City, was among about 40 picketers at the Alameda Avenue gate. “I think we all feel very strongly about why we’re here and we’re digging in for the marathon, not the sprint,” he said. Screenwriter Larry Karaszewski, 45, of Hollywood, wore a corduroy jacket with a T-shirt bearing a newspaper headline reading, “Viacom’s profits were up 80%.”last_img read more