Predawn Picket Lines Help Writers Disrupt Studio Productions

At 5 a.m. on a recent weekday, there was a lone figure walking up and down outside the front door of the Fox Studios grounds in Los Angeles. Writer Peter Chiarelli was walking the picket line.

He held up a placard that read, “Thank you 399,” a message to the local chapter of the Teamsters Guild, asking members of the Teamsters Guild to enter the premises where Hulu was filming the series. wanted to turn the truck around without crossing the picket line. ” Deep in Chinatown. “

Chiarelli, the screenwriter for the films Crazy Rich Asians and The Proposal, said he was “passive-aggressive” about his feelings. Honest when the team stars turn back, ironic when they come in.

Since the Hollywood writers’ strike began on May 2, Chiarelli and others have been waking up before the dawn to disrupt works already written.

“We need to stop the pipeline,” he said of the show in production.

The practice didn’t really work in 2007, the last time writers went on strike, but initially caught some studio executives off guard. And many of them, as well as many in the Writers Guild of America, the union that represents writers, are surprised by its moderate success.

show time paused production After the writers gathered outside the gates of the Chicago studio where they were filming for the second day in a row, season 6 of The Chee began filming. Apple TV’s “Loot” has been shut down after writers put up a picket at the Los Angeles mansion where the show was filming. The show’s star, Maya Rudolph, shut herself in her trailer and didn’t want to go back to the set.

More than 20 writers traveled from Los Angeles to Santa Clarita, California to picket the FX drama The Old Man starring Jeff Bridges. Chiarelli said the overnight action left Teamster’s truck stuck inside the Blue Cloud Movie Ranch, making it difficult for the crew to work. The show was quickly put out of production.

The Lionsgate comedy, starring Keanu Reeves and Seth Rogen and making Aziz Ansari’s directorial debut, was shot on locations around Los Angeles as yelling writers put up pickets on all three sets. It was canceled last week after just two and a half days of filming on location. .

A Writers Guild of America spokesperson said in a statement: “While we won’t go into details of our strategy, we are putting pressure on companies to halt production wherever it takes place.”

Veteran author Eric Heywood, a union negotiating commissioner, put it more clearly: “If a movie or TV show is still filming and we haven’t finished yet, hold on,” he said. wrote on social media last week. “We will take care of you.”

A representative for the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, who is negotiating on behalf of the studios, declined to comment.

Both sides privately said there was much more solidarity between the unions than during the last writers strike, making it harder for workers from other unions to cross the picket line. The production has also spread geographically compared to his fifteen years earlier. In addition to the enhanced Los Angeles soundstage, the writers also set up locations in suburban New Jersey, Westchester County, New York, and Chicago. And social media provided a way to alert writers to go to a particular picket line too soon.

Each day, when the writers know when and where to call from production, they make a call to the “rapid response team.”

“Breaking news: They’re shooting Sunday…we’re picketing Sunday,” writer writes Posted on Twittercalled on people to gather immediately in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn to halt production. “Amplify.”

“I think people are behind us because we know that if we come together, we can do great things,” said Mike Royce, who is part of Chiarelli’s book. One Day at a Time”) said. Pre-dawn picket.

The writers also disrupted other events. Netflix canceled a large in-person presentation for advertisers in New York over concerns about the demonstrations. The streaming company also canceled an appearance by one of its co-CEOs, Ted Sarandos, who was due to be honored at the prestigious Penn America Literary Festival. Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav’s Commencement Address at Boston University was interrupted by boos and chants of “Pay the writers!” From demonstrators and students alike.

The makeshift picket line disrupted individual production, but it is not clear whether it had any significant impact on the strike itself. Negotiations have not resumed since they broke down on May 1, and the industry is bracing for months of possible strikes.

Despite the billions of dollars invested in building streaming services by major Hollywood studios in recent years, their wages have stagnated, the authors argue. The Guild put the controversy into harsh terms, stating that “the survival of writing as a profession is at stake.”

But studios aren’t the only ones affected by the production shutdown. Crew members and other workers (drivers, set designers, caterers, etc.) lose their salaries. And as the shutdowns pile up and more people can’t work, some worry the writers will begin to erode the current goodwill from other workers.

Lindsay Dougherty is the lead host of Local 399, the Los Angeles division of Teamsters, with more than 6,000 movie people, from truck drivers to casting directors, location managers to animal trainers, who writers are turning down. represents. Her second generation of teamster, Ms. Doherty is one of the union’s few female leaders. Her plethora of tattoos, including that of former Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa, and her frequently profane remarks made her something of a celebrity to the striking writers.

And her ties with the writers remain strong, she said.

“I think we all agree that streaming has changed the industry dramatically,” Dougherty said in an interview. “And the tech companies we’re negotiating with during the last writers’ strike — Amazon, Apple and Netflix — weren’t even in the conversation.”

When asked if the teamsters were tipping off the writers about the timing and location of production, she countered.

“The Writers Guild gets its cues from all kinds of different places. It’s clearly set,” she said.

In the meantime, Mr. Chiarelli continues to walk outside Fox Studios each day, hoping to turn a few trucks around. Some days I get results. A few other writers joined in on a recent morning, but he said five trucks were turned away.During a nighttime picketing at Fox, the trailer of the fake police car that was supposed to be filming turns tail at 2 a.m.

On other days, the picket line is even sparse, especially if the tip takes the group to another location.

He and Royce reminisce about their second day in the dark. It was pouring rain when two large trucks turned on their turn signals and prepared to enter the parking lot into the right-turn lane. Then they met the writers. The truck stopped on the side of the road and waited about 10 minutes before turning around.

They “walked past the entrance, honked their horns and waved at us,” Royce said. “It was thrilling.”

“I’ve been chasing that height ever since,” Chiarelli added.

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