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Posted by on Nov 19, 2007 in Arts & Entertainment | 1 comment

Hollywood Writers Strike: Send Pencils To Execs To Support Writers Striking On Big Issues

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If the pen is mightier than the sword, some supporters of the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike feel that the mailed pencil is mightier than the email. And the pencil underlines the picket line.

skippy the bush kangaroo (who writes in lowercase) is a progressive blogger who has a site chock full of links and often witty posts (Jon Stewart once mentioned him in passing).

He’s also a professional picket-line walking writer and has THIS MUST READ POST which gives full details on a way Americans who watch actors and comedians getting the glory for good entertainment writing can now support the content-providing writers — by sending pencils to key Hollywood entertainment bigwigs. There are a slew of other strike-related links as well.

And the strike? It is going full-blast. Some tidbits:

–The strike has forced producers to halt work on the Tom Hanks movie “Angels and Demons,” a prequel to the worldwide blockbuster “The DaVinci Code.”

–skippy and other writers who are out there on the picket lines have some stellar backing. George Clooney has donated $25,000 to an Actors Fund cash drive aimed at helping Hollywood writers (they are NOT all high-profile millionaires) who are grappling with financial problems due to the ongoing strike.

–The strike could last a while, according to McClatchy Newspapers:

As week two of the Writers Guild of America strike came to a close, spirits remained high among TV and film writers on picket lines in Hollywood and New York — even as they acknowledged that their fight for Internet payments might drag into 2008.

With the holiday season approaching and no new talks planned between writers and producers, the work stoppage is guaranteed to last at least two months, barring an unexpected development. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers represents the studios.

In the worst-case scenario, the strike wipes out the 2007-’08 season and is joined by the Screen Actors Guild, whose contract with the studios expires in June. If this sobering realization has dampened spirits on the picket lines, the writers aren’t showing it.

“I think everyone feels we have to be doing this,” said Sarah Fain, one half of the writing team behind the ABC series “Women’s Murder Club.” “We’re optimistic we can get the AMPTP back to the table and hopefully get a fair deal.”

–The strike led to firings of Saturday Night Live writers:

NBC has fired its below-the-line production staff on the long running sketch show Saturday Night Live due to the writers’ strike. According to Variety, the show hasn’t produced a new segment since November 3rd.

The number of people affected remains unclear. Some estimate that fifty workers are now out of a job. NBC says that a handful of staff members remain on the payroll. Cast members have been placed on an unpaid hiatus.

Having no show to do this last Saturday night, most of the cast members preformed sketch comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade theater for twenty dollars a ticket. Proceeds went to the pink-slipped SNL staff members.

Ad schedules are being impacted:

Media buyers, in light of the Writers Guild of America strike, say they may be a month away from asking the broadcast networks to renegotiate their upfront packages or to give them cash back.

“The situation may not become a major problem until after the February sweeps, but we have to start thinking about how we are going to deal with things for the remainder of the season now,” said one major media buyer, who did not want to speak for attribution. “In the next three weeks, if there is no settlement in the writers’ strike, and prime-time ratings continue to fall, we will start looking for serious adjustments and even for cash back. That’s going to be awkward and hard for the networks to deal with.”

Broadcast network sales executives, none of whom would speak for attribution, believe that their networks have enough fresh episodes of scripted shows to take them through the February sweeps (along with the liberal dose of repeats that traditionally runs in December and January), and enough reality programming to take them through the rest of the season.

–Some people think the strike will help the web, but others in essence say “not so faaast…”

–The Hollywood writers are haunted by a 1980s deal on entertainment technology.

–What’s at stake in the strike? Some argue it’s literally the future and believe the web will profit.

A PERSONAL NOTE ABOUT WRITERS:

Americans are the most over-entertained people in all of history. Yet, most Americans give all the credit to the actors, comedians and others who use writers (and even the politicians whose great speeches are penned by others). If you’ve ever seen a great star go from a huge smash hit drama or comedy vehicle and then bomb when he/she moves on it’s often a tip: the second time they don’t have THE GOOD WRITERS.

Good writing is what makes Hollywood executives and “the beautiful people” actors and actresses rich. If you take away the scripts, you have ambitious executives and good-looking actors. You don’t necessarily have a hit.

Read books such as a collection of Seinfeld show scripts or The Sopranos scripts and what comes across? The CONTENT is on the PAGE that the actors/comedians use to create the fantasy that is turned into physical reality by their talents. Just talent means little if you have lousy writing (whether by others or yourself) to showcase it.

On a personal note, even though I do NOT mix this site and the other part of my life:

In my other incarnation I’m on a somewhat-lowly rung of show business but an increasingly-busy one (I will be on the road doing fairs and other venues in at least four states for 6 to 8 weeks this summer). But I have also been BLESSED with working with two superb comedy writers for some 18 years of doing what I do full time.

A lot of my show contains jokes or attitudes jokes I wrote. Some are old jokes I adapted (I NEVER will lift a joke I see another performer do). But some of the best come from a collaboration between me and these two writers, who studied under a comedy writer associated with the late Bob Hope. They write for comedians, ventriloquists and DJs. A lot of the Hollywood comedy writers now on strike wouldn’t write for me or probably agree to write for me (not famous enough and not…yet….on TV). But I KNOW and RESPECT and VALUE the talent of writers.

I also know that not all writers make big bucks. They don’t have a weekly paycheck (I don’t either). They live on their considerable talents.

And, if you take their talents away from movies, TV shows and the DVDs that you rent or buy you’d probably be left with good-looking or “type” actors and comedians doing substandard material that might turn people away from comedy shows, dramas, movies and TV and perhaps force them into doing something else….liked reading books. How horrible that would be!

But the next time you watch a movie, TV show, or a late night comedy show, realize the talent you see may NOT be the talent that CREATED the dramatic moment or the big laugh. And right now those silent heroes of entertainment are trying to get a slice of an increasingly delicious pie that entertainment bigwigs are devouring without giving them what they feel is a deserved piece.

FOOTNOTE: If you’re a fan of entertainment, it’s notable that some of the great, gracious comedians and actors have acknowledged the role of writers over the years. Listen to the old radio shows of Jack Benny (before my time but I study them), who created the sitcom. A running joke is his use of writers…but he was acknowledging their role. James “Tony Soprano” Gandolfini has paid homage to the importance of the scripts he used. Late night titans Jay Leno and David Letterman have as well from time to time.

Take the writers out of the equation, or have them give less than their best efforts, and the most entertained people in the history of civilization would notice.

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