Writers' Strike Leaves Hollywood's Least Powerful Out In The Cold
Amidst whispers that Hollywood's power agents may be brokering a back channel détente to bring media moguls and striking showbiz writers back to the bargaining table, those still working on studio lots in Tinseltown say the mood is growing darker by the day.
"The atmosphere is quite grim," said one veteran producer, who asked to remain anonymous given the sensitivities surrounding the strike. "It went from sixty incredibly anxious crew people getting grimmer and grimmer to maybe ten incredibly anxious crew people." The rest were fired.
While news reports are dominated by photos of marquee celebs joining the picket lines in support of big-name writers, word of impending job cuts has sparked renewed fears among the rank-and-file industry employees who toil under the radar.
The trade magazine Variety reported over the weekend that "early layoffs have already hit the TV sector hard," and would likely spread to other areas of the industry as the strike drags on.
One studio boardroom veteran, who also asked not to be named, told the Huffington Post that among lower-level employees, "everyone is panicked."
One sign of the souring relations inside the entertainment community: an email making the rounds on the industry "tracking boards" -- a sort of private bulletin board system -- featuring an anonymous assistant sarcastically thanking the striking writers for inspiring the assistant to go into show business.
The anonymous assistant closes the email by saying, "just know that the longer you stand out there, more people like me, are left jobless, confused and somewhat let down by their creative motivators."
The entire email is reprinted after the jump:
Dear Writer on Strike:
Hi, it's me Assistant. The faceless voice you used to speak to every week. I'm pretty sure you don't have my name down, but that's ok, I know It's my Evil Studio Executive boss's name that is important. Anyway, I saw you this morning in your red shirt outside my office and it got me thinking about the times we shared together. I mean, even though we have never had a real face to face conversation, you have had a pretty big impact on my career and now, on my life.
I remember the first time I heard your voice, it was your answering machine, but still, it was the voice of a person I professionally admired. I left a message & I remember thinking my favorite writer has my voice on their home machine. When you did call back, I connected you to my boss and I listened on mute as I hung on your every word. Remember when Evil Studio Executive said "Assistant send writer the script" and I replied "Of course" like a voice from the heavens?
Remember how you jumped a little and said you were spooked? You thought you were on that call alone. that was a funny moment wasn't it writer? I'm on all the calls you have with Evil Studio Executive. I take notes, write down dates & numbers and make sure that anything Evil Studio Executive offers to you, you get without him having to ask me. I remember calling you back to get your address so I could send that script to you. At the end of the call you said, "thank you Kassistant." I didn't have the courage to tell you my
name is actually "Assistant", but I didn't mind, I was talking to one of the people who inspired me to be where I am today. So I printed the script, and I bound the script and I drafted a cover letter. I remember bringing the letter to Evil Studio Executive to sign and he called me a "stupid fuck tart" because I forgot to CC your agent. It hurt my ego a little but it was ok, this is what I put up with in order to work with creative genius like you. I called the courier and pulled up the writers list and changed your status from "interested" to "reading."
From then on, you became a bigger part of my working day. Soon I was coordinating meetings with you and the Evil Executive and even some Greedy Producers. I walked you from lobbies, to conference rooms and offices. I brought you water and I brought you coffee.
I ordered your lunch when you had to meet here anytime between the hours of 12:30-2:00pm. I would call and apologize when we had to cancel meeting last minute.
Remember how frustrated I would get when you didn't have a drive-on at the studio gate, after I swore I called it in twice? That was so funny.
Next thing you knew, I threw away the writer list I updated five times a day as you had been the chosen one to work on our project. Boy was I excited. I remember eagerly awaiting your first draft because I wanted to see what you applied. At least 50 hours of my time on the phone was spent discussing some aspect of you. I would listen in on conference calls with you pitching ideas and the evil executive saying it wouldn't work. I was even on calls you weren't a part of (that's right, we know you slipped a copy to greedy producers). I even more fondly remember your agent asking me where your "fucking commencement check" was after I had referred his assistant to business affairs for the third time. I mean, really writer, doesn't he know that I don't cut the check myself silly agent. I won't accumulate that amount of money for at least two years.
Anyway, I remember when the 1st draft of your script was delivered. It was around 9:30pm on a Friday night.
As soon as it hit my inbox, I printed 7 copies (For Evil executives, greedy producers, your agent, your manager, and some extras for you because you don't have that much toner & paper at home). I bound the copies, stuffed them in envelopes, printed out the fancy labels. I personally drove them to everyone's houses because courier costs are more expensive after hours. I don't think I ever told you this, but I was a little bummed that I had to miss a birthday dinner that night. I'm not saying this to make you feel guilty, that was a sacrifice I was willing to make in order to be a proactive member of the studio system. I never did get reimbursed for gas as I don't have an expense account.
Anyway, after that bundle of paper arrived the cycle continued. I arranged meetings, conference call ports, sent your script to other agents for talent to read soon we were on to draft 2.
Only, there is no 2nd draft.
I'm really bummed about that. I was really looking forward to seeing if any of the notes I had given to Evil Studio Executive would be poached and passed off as his own and implemented into your script. (It's fine writer, I don't mind, as long as I know in my heart who was responsible, it doesn't matter who gets the credit). The thing is, I now have a lot more free time to try to read your script. Due to your strike, all my overtime has been
eliminated. This basically translates into about a 50% pay cut. I did the numbers, I will be taking home about $400 a week- I may have to quit or try to find a second job. I guess it's not so bad writer, my friend who just graduated, who works in the story department for $13 an hour, she actually got fired. And I have another friend, who is a reader (I think he did coverage on your script), well, he was also given the axe. It sucks, but, we know how it goes. We are the little guys, the ones at the bottom of the totem pole who suffer. I guess I should be happy that the evil executive is ok right?
Well writer we may not get to speak again so I just wanted to thank you for inspiring me to go to film school, & inspiring me to aggressively fight for a minumim wage assistant job, and inspiring me to put up with demoralizing and abusive people. I really did it all because working with creative and smart people like you, was the real payment- not the crappy paycheck. Don't get me wrong, I am not blaming you for my decision to be an assistant, I just think it's ironic that the writer who inspired me to be proactive in
the business is turning to be the one responsible for my departure. I know you are fighting for what you believe is right, but just know that the longer you stand out there, more people like me, are left jobless, confused, and somewhat let down by their creative motivators. I mean writer, think of all the good times we had together, we can still have those back!
I still respect you, I still admire you and you will always be my favorite writer. I hope you get what you are fighting for and I hope it's worth it.
PS- I saw you chumming it up with Katherine Heigl as I left the lot. That was really sweet of her to bring you Sprinkles. doesn't she make something like 100k an episode?
PSS- I'm the one who ordered and delivered the Fred Segal basket for your first born, just thought you should know since your thank you card was addressed to the Evil one.