inbox, part two.

Happy birthday, Anna Beth. I miss you, old lady.

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Keep your fingers crossed for tomorrow’s negotiations… and for tomorrow night’s episode of Samantha Who? — which moves to its brand-new time slot at 9pm (8pm Central)! (Following the season finale of Dancing With the Stars!)

(My life is so very very very weird.)

Want even weirder? “The Hypnotherapist” episode of Samantha Who? is currently number 28 on iTunes. It’s the first time I’ve gone to check over there. This strike is bumming me out. Which is why I decided to plow back through the inbox, to give myself a little pep talk from all y’all. With Oprah’s “Favorite Things” episode playing in the background. And coffee. Yeah, I’m pulling out all the stops before Week Four.

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[readermail]
I’m of mixed feelings here.

I’m a writer. I’ve been a writer since the moment that I first learned that the little squiggles on pages represented words and that those words could go inside of me and come out again, revealing thoughts and emotions and all kinds of things that were filled with magic and passion and life.

I’m also a ghost writer. I’ve ghost written screenplays and novels and non-fiction books. I get paid for my product, and that’s it. After that, someone else gets to do with it what they will. I merely used my talents to get the words out. (Yes, I’ve ghost written some screenplays and television shows that have earned the people who hired me a lot of money, and I didn’t see a dime of that. That’s fine, though — because I got paid for my initial product.)

When someone tells me that forty-eight percent of Guild writers are unemployed at any given time, my immediate response is: “So what?” Take a look at the rest of the country and ask me to shed a tear for the poor, unemployed writer. They’re unemployed because they want to be paid for living out their passion. The rest of the country is working at jobs they hate working at because that’s what you do when you have a family to support. Let’s face it — you think that someone like me enjoys getting next-to-nothing for writing a novel, while I’m also holding down two jobs? Of course not, but that’s what you do when you’re a grown-up.

Seems to me that a lot of the writers out there are babies.

The writers need to be careful here. As it is, more and more people are walking away from television and movies, and turning to the internet. But, they’re not turning to the internet to watch television and movies. They’re turning to the internet to watch “user content,” and some of it is really good. It’s the kind of good that might actually have gotten someone noticed if they had been able to get it into the right hands in the entertainment industry — but because the system is so closed, they couldn’t do it. (By the way, I’m not talking about myself here. That’s not my gig, but I know people who have more talent than the guys who wrote [edited to be kind — p.], that’s for sure.)

Sorry if my thoughts are rambling but I’ve been pulling a double shift and I should be in bed, but I just clicked on a link that was talking about the strike and why writers are doing it and I just wanted to share with you the thoughts of the great unwashed from Texas.

On the other hand, though, I’ll admit that I love SAMANTHA WHO and to let you know that you’ve got a talented team there.

Regards,
Richard
[/readermail]

Hi, Richard. I’ve thought a lot about your letter, and often, and I wanted to make sure to respond to it. I’m doing it publicly to show you that I really do care.

I started writing just as you did. Working on freelance projects, turning in a product and then never seeing it again, nor making any money off of it. I worked in Anime, creating the Americanized dub scripts for several series. Some made it to VHS and later DVD. They still sell them to this day. When you search my name on Amazon, it pulls up series I scripted, but I don’t get a dime off of that. But it helped me when I needed to earn enough money to come out here to Los Angeles and try to make a career out of writing. I wrote my first novel on unemployment, while hustling an assistant job for money under the table. I’ve written for the Internet for almost a decade now, and that’s money you can’t always count on. People used to tease me that I’ve got five jobs at any one time. That’s how you had to do it, to be a full-time freelance writer. To be able to afford the rent, the bills, self-employment health insurance, and all the things that come with the unpredictability of that kind of job. Was I whining that it was too hard, and was I being a baby? Not really. As far as I was concerned, there wasn’t another choice. I walked away from tech jobs. I stopped trying to make my website into an ad-blasting money machine. I didn’t give up performing, either.

But I didn’t start a family. And I had to leave Texas.

You and I made different choices in order to focus on what we had to do. We’ve both made sacrifices. We both went through hardships and financial difficulties. I don’t know you, so I can’t assume anything. I’m only going off of what you wrote here.

But here’s why I’m not being a baby. If your job was suddenly paying you less than you were supposed to earn, trying to roll back your health care and pension, and deciding which of your co-workers to supply health care and pension (namely, your upper management, but not you), and you decided to do something about that? I would fully support you. And it doesn’t matter what your career is, or where you work, or how much you make. You are entitled to a fair share of your business’ revenue.

Let’s go to the other extreme. Some jobs out there are extremely dangerous. To take them means to put your life at risk. You risk injury or even death. Does that mean someone who takes such a risky job shouldn’t complain when they’re injured? When something happens that requires health care or a pension? They knew that job was risky when they took it. Should I not feel for them when their families are struggling? When city ordinances or big business makes it harder for them to do their jobs, should I say if they don’t like it, they should get another job?

As for the Internet, and writers becoming obsolete with more and more people turning to user-created content — that’s why we’re striking. Not to save our jobs, but to protect those who will find themselves generating revenue and creating viable content for the Internet. Or soon you’ll find those same big companies owning those sites you love, and user-created content will turn into the same kind of work you and I used to do — but all of the revenue will be going back to those six companies. Do you really think it makes sense that the writers of the Emmy-award winning webisodes of The Office weren’t paid a single cent, when NBC makes money every time someone watches it?

The little guy needs someone to help them battle the big guy. That’s what the WGA is trying to do. That’s why we’re striking — not for ourselves, but for the writers that are going to be working here in the future. Most of the people walking the picket line won’t ever see the rewards of what we’re striking over. But someone who’s just starting out, hustling her ass off to make ends meet, hoping she can turn her passion into a career, hopefully after this strike is over, when she gets her big break, she’ll be entering an industry that protects her a bit more, and compensates her for the hard work and sacrifices she had to go through to be lucky enough to work.

It seems to me, the only way to be a baby is to complain without doing anything. I promise you, I’m doing everything I can to change what I perceive to be unfair. And the good news is, I’m not the only one doing everything I can. Unlike when I first started out in this business, I’m no longer alone. I’ve got thousands of people just like me, with the same drive and ambitions, all trying to reach the same goal. We’re not whining; we’re fighting.

Continue reading

The Forgotten Writers Strike of ’06.

Dan wrote a piece for the LA Times about the series of mistakes made last year during the America’s Next Top Model strike that left him out on the street, holding a sign, wondering where the hell everybody went.

… I don’t forget, Dan. I never wear my red shirt without thinking of the first time I wore it: for you. I still wear it for you.

inbox. part one.

I just realized I’ve had my underwear on backwards all day. I know I’ve lost some weight in the strike, but shouldn’t I have noticed that?

Also, I’m starting to worry that my skin is going to become a permanent shade of pink from all the red clothing I’m wearing these days.

United Hollywood is asking you to send pencils to show your solidarity.

The “Voice of the Crew” website for Below the Line workers is calling for a rally on December 2nd. Follow the link for more information.

If you’re looking to participate with us this coming Tuesday, we’re having a Labor Solidarity march down Hollywood Boulevard.

[readermail]

OK, so – first off – I don’t know who it was but whomever came up with ” … and I’m a pirate” in last night’s episode should get a raise. or, at least, a dinner or something.

sorry i havent written sooner but I’ve been stymed in my past attempts to watch Samantha. the first couple times i tried, i just ended up watching scary spice or dr. quinn dance. i’ve seen two episodes so far and just wanted you to know how much i’m enjoying it.

so what exactly does a ‘story editor’ do? how will the show be affected by the strike? how many episodes did y’all have in the can (look at me being all inside with the lingo and whatnot)? does it help that y’all were picked up for a full season before the strike? did writers work on episodes with the knowledge that there would prolly be a strike (i.e., w/shorter story archs or whatever)?

also, does the WGA cover all writers or just american writers? if it goes on a long time, can … like … tom stoppard be a scab writer for ugly betty or something? are show runners also writers?

do you just walk the strike lines all day? doesn’t that get dull? or are there like other strike-activites or something?

ok – sorry about all the questions. just curious.

good luck on everything and have fun storming the castle,
dave
[/readermail]

All good questions, Dave, which is why I’m posting your letter and answering it here. Here we go. Continue reading

day eleven. this one’s for allison.

I am so sorry to all of you who have written emails that haven’t seen a response yet. Thank you to all of you who have written words of support or offers to help in any way, and I promise I’ll have time to write back to all of you and post some of them here to share with everyone. And I have to try not to let a week go by again, because… well, because pamie.com readers have a lot to say, and I want to make sure I respond to all of you, either here, or individually, or if I can: both.

Tomorrow I have a 6am picket, and then an afternoon meeting at the Guild. It turns out not working can sometimes have longer hours than working. Could I be any more on strike? (Sorry, I can’t stop saying that one.)

day ten.

Some mornings, when I’m holding my sign and walking in a circle, I realize this is the second time I’ve lost my job because of the Internet. And if you count the giant day of the dot com bust where my 401K was smashed to pennies, I find that while I only have so much control over my career and my destiny, the Internet seems to be what really drives almost all the major decisions in my life. It’s very strange.

Oh, that’s not a flattering picture of my face. But I wanted to talk about Andy.

This is Andy Gordon. He’s very funny. He’s one of the sweetest, funniest guys I’ve ever been lucky enough to work with. He’s a prankster and he’s kind. Everybody loves Andy. But because he has such respect for writers, he’s also not interested in coddling. Therefore, Andy Gordon is the person who taught me what a “clam” is. He taught me by pointing out that I’d written one in my first script that was to be produced for television. He pointed it out by shouting it to everyone in the room.

You see, a clam is not a good thing. Continue reading

dear perez.

This is more than I’ve ever thought about you in my entire life, but I figured out why I’m pissed off you stole from my site.

See, I’m out of work right now. I’m on strike. You might have heard about it. Your website has ads. Ads that generate revenue every time someone goes to look at pictures you’ve Photoshopped jizz onto (sorry, Mom. Also, Mom? DON’T CLICK THAT LINK!). You make money off of every click, and that means you’ve had hundreds, if not thousands of little paychecks off my site since you swiped from me, completely uncredited.

So here’s a way for you to actually be a man and do something right in your life. All the money you’re making off ganked material? Please send it to the WGA strike fund, or our Solidarity Fund (for non-WGA members affected by the strike. That’s not you, obviously). That way, at least someone who’s not making a paycheck these days can be reimbursed in some small way for the “juicy gossip” you’re getting these days because we’re walking the line.

(I’d have emailed this request to you personally, but since you haven’t responded to my last email, and I know you’re a fan of my website, I figured this was the quickest way to get you to read. You do read, don’t you?)

Just Another Saturday Night

Sara Hess would really like me to share this photo. It’s what I looked like seconds after I’d arrived at her apartment, after my multi-hour Guild meeting, before I had my first meal of the day, and not very long before our radio interview.

I didn’t know she was taking the picture. But I do know that right before she took it I said, “This is your strike captain, Ladies and Gentlemen.”

chris alonzo saves the night.

Man, I’m grumpy tonight, even though I think the radio interview went well (and THANK YOU to the Teamster who called in to shout “YOU GO!” and say they were behind us all the way.), and I spent a few hours at the Guild getting ready for next week’s picketing–

(AMPTP! PLEASE COME BACK TO THE TABLE AND NEGOTIATE!)

— and I’ve still got emails to send to my team and blah, blah, blah strike strike strike, and I got all angry at Perez Hilton from my couch, which is just the dumbest temper tantrum I’ve had in a while because come on, so it was a lovely change of pace to read Chris’s post on how God’s been a pretty lame screenwriter with my life these days, and laugh my ass off.

Thanks, Chris. I needed that.

(more updates to come. i just need a mini-break.)