WGA Strike Update, Soap Writers Join Forces

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Soapdom urges both sides to return to the bargaining table


Kim Zimmer (Reva, GL)December 18, 2997:  WGA Strike Soap Star Participation Update

Yesterday, Monday, December 17th, Sebastian Roche (Jerry) and Leslie Charleson (Monica) from General Hospital, Galen Gering (Luis, Passions) and Patrika Darbo (ex Nancy) Days of Our Lives were among the soap stars supporting the writers on the WGA picket line at CBS Studios in Los Angeles.  In New York City, stars from all the east coast soaps, All My Children, As the World Turns, Guiding Light and One Life to Live, braved the chilling cold to support the WGA East on the picket lines at the Time Warner Center. 

This Monday, December 17th, is being titled "Daytime Day" in the writer's strike continuing saga.  Soap writers, along with actors from soap operas, are scheduled to picket en masse on both coasts.

In New York City, Writers Guild East soap opera scribes are picketing in front of the Time Warner Center between the hours of 12 noon and 2 PM.  According to Daily Variety, thespians from Guiding Light, As the World Turns, One Life to Live and All My Children are slated to appear, along with stars like Kim Zimmer (Reva, Guiding Light).

On the West coast, soap opera writers who are members of the Writers Guild West are planning to picket in front of CBS Television City, where the Bold and the Beautiful and the Young and the Restless tape.  Although plans for the west coast contingent were still being finalized at press time, it's looking like the picketing is to begin at around 10 AM, Monday.

Thankfully for your soaps, producers’ anticipated a strike and commissioned scripts well in advance. Before the strike began, back on November 1 or so, I spoke with every show who either weren't elaborating very much on how they were going to handle a long-term strike, or who simply stated that "we are covered," or that "we have material well into January."  

We are fast approaching January, my cyber friends, and there is no end in sight to the strike.  Producers are remaining steadfast, and writers, from what I have read, are introducing new demands, or rehashing old demands that were already discussed and abandoned, at the eleventh hour.  Ergo, talks have broken down -- again, and both sides have walked away from the bargaining table -- again.

During the last writer's strike back in 1988, the writers were out for five and a half months.  Soaps suffered, as did all television. In fact, I read somewhere that television lost 10% of it's total viewer ship during that strike, and they NEVER came back. Never!  It's also credited for the introduction of news magazine shows like Dateline and 20/20. With so many other outlets to occupy our time these days, like cable, the internet, ipods, DVD rental, computer games and the like, how will the lack of new daytime and primetime programming effect our broadcast viewing habits this time?  Just how many reality shows can we stomach before we turn to other pastimes?

In 1988, soaps continued to air, even without their staff writers creating the material.  Instead, non union production personal, who knew the shows, were recruited to write them.  Something in the translation missed a beat, however, and the shows, although new each day, were severely lacking.  Another reason to tune out.  

Although no one actually admitted such to me, I am betting (and I am talking considerable money here) that soaps are planning a similar tactic should this strike last longer than the banked material.  So, your shows will most likely continue to air, albeit with scripts that could be not quite up to par, eventually turning you off your show.

At least the daytime actors and production crews will still have jobs.

But those who are employed by scripted prime time shows and feature films are not as lucky.  With shows shutting down and new film projects being postponed because there are no writers to write weekly episodes or refine feature scripts, there are thousands of people out of work in both New York and Los Angeles.  People like the hair and make-up department, the art directors, lighting and grip departments, locations, etc.

Although I get what the writer's are demanding, and believe that new media distribution deals must be put in place for all concerned, thousands of other crew members who are not members of the WGA are losing salaries, pension plan contributions, and could be at risk for losing their homes. They are innocent victims of a war between writers and producers. These crew members will NOT see a dime of any of the money that the already well-paid writers are negotiating.  On the other hand, Directors Guild Members and Screen Actors Guild members will benefit by any precedents set by the Writers' new contract, so you can see why actors are so quick to join the picket lines.

Crew members will not benefit, yet they are being the most victimized.

But it's not only them.  A Soapdom source close to the set of Passions revealed that they were the only show still working at CBS Radford Studios.  The commissary there was laying off staffers because there was not enough work. This right at Christmas time.  

With no work, people don't go to the movies.  They don't go out to dinner. They don't get clothes dry cleaned.  All these small business suffer as a result of a shutdown of film/tv production, especially in Los Angeles, which is the epitome of a "one horse town."  Not to mention all the ancillary businesses that work directly with the industry.  Security companies, stages and locations, post production companies, the list goes on.

Writers and producers need to get back to talking, resolve their differences and get the film/television industry working again.  Soon.

There was an excellent poster on the wall of the Writer's Guild East in NYC. It said something like:

"The Producers finance the movie.
The Director makes the movie.
The Actor sells the movie, but...
without the Writer, there'd be no movie."

…or Television show. I totally get that and in spades. Heck. I am a writer, too!  The sentiment of that poster is definitely felt right now, during this writer's strike.  But there are innocent bystanders taking the brunt of these prolonged stalemates.  Please get back to work. We want our soaps to be written by the best writers. We want our crews back to work on all shows and films. We want new scripted programs on at night and in the daytime. We want an equitable end to the strike, with “end” being the operative word.