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Los Angeles, California

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WGA Source, con't, and the rumor mill grinds


We have more from our WGA Strike Captain Source, but even as we get ready to post this, it’s hard to keep up with the swirling rumors. Some reports confirm a rumor that Below the Line heard the Friday before the strike officially reported – that California’s own governor Arnie is in fact working behind the scenes to try and get both sides to at least talk to each other (earlier calls to his press secretary received genial denials and general wishes that the strike Wouldn’t Happen At All).

Another rumor, from noted TV journalist Ray Richmond, is that “highly placed sources” claim future First Man Bill Clinton will offer his own brand of shuttle diplomacy to settle the dispute.

Meanwhile, on Variety’s blog, “Buffy” and “Firefly” creator Joss Whedon issued a compelling statement about what was at stake. While over at United Hollywood, WGAer Ed Decter called for Google to take over the entertainment biz.

Back here in the trenches, our WGA Source left us with additional comments. Said Source noted that in the neighborhood where S. lives, most of the “biz connected” neighbors were of the IATSE – i.e. “Below the Line,” or crew – type. Seeing S. emerge on the driveway, they’d ask “What are you gonna do?”

(“You” in this case,” meaning “the writers.”) S. would say S. couldn’t be sure, but there’d probably be a strike. “Well, we’re fucked!” S. reports, by way of the neighbors’ reply.

And indeed, as reports increase about which shows are “shuttering”—closing down – that means less and less work.

At a time of, well, less and less work overall, as the dollar crashes into the cellar, gas prices shoot past the roof (and chimney), and the economy threatens its first king-hell style Depression since the 1930’s.

A letter handed out on the Warner Bros. picket lines last night – and forwarded to Below the Line – signed by a Denise Franks, asks of both sides, “Will you mend homes? Financially support the people who lost everything? Will you restore lives? Most of all will you please explain to my children, why we have to move into grandmas house, and why Santa Clause didn’t bring them any Christmas gifts?”

Franks indicates she works in a crew capacity in Hollywood, and elsewhere in the letter states “Sadly adding insult to injury it has been reported that many of the negotiators from both sides are hoping this strike continues through January! So that they have more leverage over the opposing side, knowing the opposing side will begin to feel the financial effects of the strike. By January!!!! This is no exaggeration “Below the Line” Individuals and Family’s will haveexhausted every avenue and become financially crippled and lives irreparably destroyed by January. Many can’t even survive through Thanksgiving much less through January!!!”

Which more closely reflects fiduciary reality in the teetering, spiritually and economically threadbare America of the early 21st century.

Source noted that there were already young writers leaving the picket lines looking for temp agency work, while Source would have to leave the industry after the holidays to find a paycheck to keep home and hearth in shape.

And while Source noted that perhaps Patric Verrone and the WGA “started to beat the strike drum a little too early,” Source also said that the AMPTP’s chief negotiator, Nick Counter, was “hopelessly out of touch,” having been at that gig for nearly 20 years – perhaps too long, with such a minefield of “new media” to, well, negotiate.

Source also thought that “very few of us of a certain age” would benefit from a positive outcome to these strikes – i.e., that many careers would be finished out before solely digital distribution took over from the current models. But Source acknowledged—much like Whedon said in his manifesto – that it has to be done.

“If the companies were hurting,” on the cusp of switching to “new media,” it might be one thing, Source allowed. But as been noted in Forbes and other publications, most of these companies have enjoyed record profits.

Profits they don’t seem inclined to share, very much, when “the internets” reach their full potential.

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