Friday, November 16, 2007

Not Kvetching.




I was listening to the radio on my drive home from picketing the other day, and the radio lady was interviewing a writer, asking his opinion about the strikeness. "One thing that people say," she said, and I'm totally paraphrasing, "is that writers make a lot of money and they shouldn't complain."

I can say to you, Very Hot Reader, that I am not complaining. Striking ain't kvetching.

And I should know. My people have cultivated the ennumeration of complaint to levels of complexity and sophistication far exceeding my meager blogging abilities. Especially since I don't speak Yiddish, a mighty language when one is inclined to bitch.

Look, I make a nice living as a writer. I'm not a millionaire. (Not even close. More like, "I'm finally outta debt.") I live in a cute apartment, I have a cute dog, I own some cute shoes, I drive a Toyota. Most of the writers I know live comfortably but by no means extravagantly; they live and die by Trader Joe's and Targay same as everybody else in La-La-ville. And a few writers I know have made great successes of themselves. You've watched shows they invented in their massive, labyrinthine brains; you've stood in line to watch their movies. They are to the writing of scripts as those Top Gun fellows were to the flying of fighter jets. Those particular specimens, I must report, are quite well-to-do. They live the life I assume Radio Lady was talking about. They have lovely houses with furniture so velvety you wanna French kiss it; their cars are precision-German; their superfierce shoes are Italian.

Maybe I'll one day make the kind of money they do. Maybe I won't. Who can say? All I know is, I didn't get into the writing racket just to bank. And I'm not striking out of greed.

I recently experienced a chance litmus test that enabled me to take my own true temperature about the money thing. I was at some casino in the desert on the Fourth of July (long story). I was waiting to hear if a network wanted to buy my pilot idea. I passed a flashing neon sign that said
JACKPOT, FOUR MILLION DOLLARS!!!!!!!

I envisioned winning four million dollars. Pretty sweet, right? I asked myself, what would I do? Buy a shiny boat? Shopping spree for purses made of weird exotic leather? Trip to the land of the Euro, which is kicking the American dollar's tuchus ten ways from Sunday? And all I could think was.... GodDAMN I hope I get to write this pilot.

But, Sera, I reminded myself (silently, though I do sometimes talk to myself aloud like a crazy beyotch).... no pilot would ever earn you anywhere near that. In fact, you could successfully produce the subsequent show for a long-ass time and not rack that level of cheddar.

And I realized that someone could walk up to me right at that moment and hand me a check for ten million buckaroos, and I would still just want to write my own TV show. I wouldn't switch careers. I wouldn't quit and live the life of a character on Dirty Sexy Money. I'd write, and I'd write, and I'd blog about writing. I dunno, maybe I'd be writing with like a really expensive pen or something, but otherwise... I'd keep on keeping on. Because I am doing exactly what I want to be doing with my life, and the fact that it affords me a not-too-shabby lifestyle is a thick buttery layer of frosting on an already delicious slice of Fuck Yeah.

This makes me a lucky person. I don't do what I do for the dough. And when I look at my career - in fact, every single time I crack open my paycheck - I feel the same feeling. The feeling is the opposite of kvetchitude. It is gratitude.

So hell no, I am not complaining. Not by a mile. And I am not assuming that any of this is my right. I knew this was a competitive, poodle-eat-Frenchie biz when I jumped into the dogpark. There's no real job security in script writing. Every gig could be your last. Cancellation and bum box office hover in every shadow, staring at you like that evil subway guy in Ghost. That's the real reason the strike isn't freaking me out as much as one might think: I never assume I'll have a job in six months.

That's me in a nutshell: plum whackadooed that I managed to pull a fast one with this script thing and avoid having to go to law school/med school/ acupuncture college. And, on the other... half of the nut, or whatever, aware that with good fortune comes a certain degree of responsibility: when the contract being offered stinks up the joint, I gotta stand up about it. Not just for myself - we've already established I still look around corners waiting for Candid Camera to jump out and go Surprise! We totally fooled you into thinking you could make a living writing scripts about tragically misunderstood werewolves! But for my peeps: the writers of yore who stood up and got me pension, health and residuals. The writers of Tomorrowland, who will be writing snippets to be downloaded directly into your cerebral cortex, and need to be paid for that. The writers of Right About Now, even.

I'm not going to try to convince you that we're in the right here. I'm not here to explain the pie that is Hollywood and why we deserve a slice. There are plenty of hilarious and/or informative youtube videos that do it better. This strike is not fun, and it is not cute. It's serious shit, and it's a damn shame it's come to this. Layoffs. TV shows stalling at the starting gate. Incredibly talented writers holding signs when they should be typing something incredibly incredible. I mean, I was on the line this week with the guy who created one of my fave shows of all time (hint: high school; nerds; cancelled in one season). It took a lot of willpower not to gush about the level of influence his work has had on mine. I can't get over what a waste it is that all of us are standing around getting crispy in the Burbank sun when we could be merrily pulling our hair out over some form of filmed entertainment.

On said picket line, I've heard a lot of worry and guilt about having to fire below-the-line employees. Speculation about the fate of the holiday movie season. Frustration as another day goes by without new negotiations. Forced optimism. Only slightly less forced humor.

The only thing I haven't heard? Complaining. Not from the Emmy winners, not from the Oscar nominees, not from freshly-minted newbie staff writers or plucky middle-management hyphenates (that would be me) or guys whose show just got cancelled (sorry, staff of Viva Laughlin. You seem nice). Hollywood writers, from what I can see, know they're lucky. The (often Very Hot) ones I've met in the past two weeks remind me of no one so much as... me. They work constantly; they take little for granted; they're proud of their work and hope to sustain their careers. Oh, and when they introduce themselves to the man standing next to them and he says he's Peter Filardi, they fall all over themselves like geeky 13-year-olds to tell him how fucking awesome Flatliners was.

And if they are indeed like me, then I can safely say none of this has sprung from a place of egotistical entitlement. It's not about getting a pile more money and rolling around in it Demi Moore style and spending it on stuff that increases our carbon footprint or what have you; it's about protecting ourselves down the line. We - understandably, I think - want a working contract that prevents us from sustaining crippling losses as the industry evolves and the distant future becomes the regular old present. Writers like me want to negotiate. We want to come up with a fair compromise. We just want to get back to work.

You know, so we can settle back in to our comfortable routine of staring at our computers in caffeinated horror, agonizing over our scripts and kvetching.

15 comments:

Spadada said...

I can't wait for you to get back to work! "Fresh Blood" was intense. Scary, dark, high-stakes stuff. And then the sun comes out and Dean teaches Sam how to fix the Impala. You captured so much of what I love about this show in one episode.

And you used Bela so effectively!

I am not surprised to hear you say that even if you won ten million dollars you would still want to write your own TV show. That's why your stories ring so true. As a fan, I look forward to this show.

P.S. Standing up for yourself is nothing like complaining. The lady on the radio has no soul. Or at least she's never had a favorite TV show.

Violet said...

Sera,

I have been reading VHJ for a few weeks, but this is my first time saying "Hello". :)

The AMPTP just announced this evening that they will return to the table November 26th. I will cross my fingers and hope that some progress can be made, and that the AMPTP is feeling pressure from the public to do the right thing by the writers.

As for the lies that those feckless idiots report about the writers, they will not last for too long; even history books need writers.

Also, Fresh Blood was AMAZING! Thank you!

Lucy Arin said...

I'm so proud of you. And how silly is that, I don't know you and probably never will. But I admire your fortitude and I hope that the writers get everything they're asking for.

I am a big fan of your work, and can't wait to see what you will do next.

psychoactive toad said...

I think anyone who believes the writers are being greedy is either very misinformed or has a warped perspective on life. But that's just me.

Fresh Blood was incredible. I'm crossing my fingers that the negotiations go well for you guys and you will soon be writing more fabulous scripts.

brazilian said...

"a thick buttery layer of frosting on an already delicious slice of Fuck Yeah."

Haha! Love it...

I think also that not many people realise that y'all are basically doing the hard work being first to the negotiating table - cause the DGA and the SAG renegotiations come next June will probably not have to even go as far as a strike - they're be worked out prior to the deadline I'm sure.

You guys are paving the path for not just your group, but for all groups/unions of people working in lalaland. That's why so many SAG are out to support the WGA; they understand the precedence that is being set. Not to mean they don't support you guys in and of yourselves, which they do, but I think everyone knows the fully impact this is having for everyone.

And as a former IATSE, don't listen to the few stagehands that are complaining and faulting the WGA; they should look to their own leadership themselves to ask why their own contracts are so shabby.

Annnnyways. I'd totally dig a post about some kvetching though! Maybe a usual circus clown mishap or a grocery store leprechaun shananagan. What, that's not typical fare in your life also?

shadowfax220 said...

Obviously that person on the radio had no idea what she was talking about.

It must be both difficult and rewarding earning a living at something you enjoy so much!

I too enjoy writing, but I'm not willing to actually try and get anything published because I'm afraid it would then become more like work and I'd end up not enjoying it anymore. So I write and post to online sites. That way I still get the satifaction of knowing knowing people are enjoying my stuff as much as I am without all the heartache and worries of trying to publish something.

I want you and all the other writers to know that I support what you are doing 100 percent! I live in Texas so I can't join y'all on the picket lines, but I wish I could. Y'all deserve your slice of the pie!

Yumeno said...

I, and many others are very proud to support you. It seems like everywhere I turn online now, there are new posts, excitedly cheering you guys on.

Wishing you and the guild best of luck at the bargaining table, and also want to mention that Fresh Blood was just fantastic, a real pleasure to watch, and a wonderful contribution to top a list of wonderful contributions you've made to one of my favorite shows. Thank you, so, so much. And good luck.

Lady Mirth said...

Hi. I wended my way over here through a series of obscure links. I think it's a knee-jerk reaction of the corporate masses to say "yeah, yeah, you want more money, greedy guts" at the very word "strike". For what it's worth, we fans who love and appreciate your work are very proud of you for standing up for those who would come after you. We'll miss our our shows for a while, but if you get what you're asking for, it will be more than worth it.

On the subject of work appreciation, "Fresh Blood" is something of a fandom phenomenon. I think it's the only episode that the whole 'kit and boodle' of the Supernatural fandom unanimously liked. Myself, I was so ecstatic that I rewatched it six times. If you are interested in fan reactions, let me point you to this post on Livejournal: http://community.livejournal.com/supernatural_tv/1273893.html?nc=14
Everyone of them are positive.

I really hope that the Writer's Strike will end on a positive note and we will be able to see more work like this from you in future.

Yours with embarrassing fangirliness,
Hasini (Sri Lanka)

yumenoko said...

I never entertained the idea that the writers could even be complaining. When I've watched the YouTube clips (funny, and, man, to the point) and read all the comments from other writers at their blogs, the only thing I hear (in fantabulously blessed high spirited prose) is a strong, unified voice simply stating one word: Share.

Not one writer has said, oh we want kajillions, or anything remotely close to what the directors, producers and slick suited media moguls make. They just want that extra bit that will mean nearly nothing to the overall studio profit, but the difference between "getting paid" and "getting paid what we're worth" to them.

And the funniest thing? When the AMPTP placed a full page add in the LA Times this Thursday, *they* complained about how the writers want money, and how that's not fair since the writers are getting paid. They sorta forgot to mention just how much compared to what the folks who paid for the ad make. Go figure.

Sera, I hope the talks are successful since, my god, we want to see our show up and running and you all typing and happy.

Rem said...

I am not quite sure that the reasons are for this strike, I have to say I am really bad at following news but I guess if that many people are striking, there must be a pretty good reason for it. I just think personally that striking never really resolves anything because in order to change something you need to talk, negotiate and even compromise because even if you don't want to, even if you think (and you could totally be) that you are in the right, that is just how it goes: compromise...
Not saying that this is fair or that is how it should be, just in my opinion this is how it is...Long story short, I hope you all get at least some demands met out of this but I do hope that by continuing to strike you know that lots of other people are affected too (not talking about us viewers here) and that those people could loose their jobs too...so please, keep the talk going and settle this soon because hey, and this is now on my personal note, I love what you guys do on Supernatural and I would hate to see the show suffer because of this...so here is me hoping that this gets sorted soon...and that everyone comes away at least with something...
Hello from Ireland :)

The Minstrel Boy said...

i saw a picture of striking writers walking the line outside paramount. they carried blank signs.

it spoke volumes. it was perfect. i'm a professional musician and i know how lucky i am to find a way to be paid for something i would do everyday if i had some other job. . .

i'm glad that now, at least, talks are scheduled. hang tough. like the kids in one of my favorite good/bad movies said in the legend of billie jean

fair is fair.

the writers aren't asking for the sun the moon and the stars above, merely a fair portion of the profits made from their efforts.

Brande said...

I get it. Someone once said to me, "I don't breathe to write, I write to breathe." I think that's how a lot of the striking writers feel - it's not a job, it's a state of being and it's damn hard to walk away from that part of yourself.

So I support the writers, all the writers. Our favorite actors may make our characters flesh and blood, but it's the writers who give them that initial spark of life and give them purpose and... a skeleton cause what's flesh and blood without that but a big floppy pile... (And that SO did not sound so gross in my head...)

So yeah.... if I wasn't 500 miles away I'd have been there with cookies in hand already. Especially after Fresh Blood cause *THAT* deserves the extra cookie. I was simultaneously going.. "Eww and HELL YES and Oh Sam looks so evil.. and kinda hot...." in that one scene with the razor wire. That rocked! And of course, you had to yank the heart strings a few times before and after that.

I know I'm pulling for some network cave-age on the 26th. Otherwise, I think all the various fandoms are going to go medieval very quickly. Cause we're fans like that and that's how we roll. LOL

And no, big difference between kvetching and fighting for what's right. Them = kvetching. Writers = standing up for themseves. If 60% of Americans can say they support the writers in the strike, I think that says an awful lot.

Brande Ruiz - Fandom Rocks

P.S. Samgirl or Deangirl? *wink*

Wool in Sunshine said...

Long time reader, first time commenter. Just had to say I love reading the posts about the strike (from both of you!) because I spend most of my day reading about the strike, but simply on fandom-based sites and DHD. It's great to hear that the fan support has reached the writer's ears, and hopefully has helped morale. I'm doing my part by heading down to a picket location tomorrow and the rally on Tuesday since I have the week off (my mom's reply: Oh God, what if you get shot?) and I hope that my small presence can actually help the cause.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Awesome. Spot-on.

Simon Glickman and Sera Gamble said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for these fantastic messages of support. You wanna talk about fresh blood? Your understanding and compassion is LIFEblood for the writers.

Rem: You don't have to follow the news to get the gist of why the writers are striking. Just read over the last few posts. It's not as complicated as it sounds, really; the writers OFFERED a compromise and the other side countered with, "Hey, we've got an idea -- how about we give you nothing and you shut the hell up and get back to work?" After careful consideration, this was deemed a non-starter. Now that we've got that sorted, what part of Ireland are you in, and can Simon crash on your couch sometime?

Vikki: Praise from you is especially wonderful, because we love your blog.