Thursday, November 15, 2007


One of the most unexpected elements of the current WGA strike has been the reaction of the fans. I think we were all prepared to take some heat from the loyal followers of Prime Time programming as their hours with Dr. House and Jack Bauer were curtailed. The media warned of the wrath of the "Lost" fanatics and reminded us how much of our audience had tuned out in 1988 and never returned.

But the LA and NY picket lines are awash with stories of ordinary viewers delivering coffee and pizzas to strikers, refusing to cross the lines for studio tours and even hiring planes to tow banners supporting the WGA around the monolithic office towers of the Big Media.

It's been a revelation to many writers that the people to whom they've been providing an escape from reality not only understand the real world issues we're facing but want to help us achieve our goals. It's a gift I don't think any of us expected and a gesture that won't soon be forgotten.

Personally, I've been overwhelmed by the response to my list of things you can do to help the WGA and stunned by the passion of people who aren't in this business, yet are going out of their way to make a difference to our struggle.

(Gawd, how often have a preached this -- "It's about the Audience, stupid!")

Anyway, tonight I was linked to a Facebook Group set up by a student at Ryerson University in Toronto named Alyssa Luckhurst. This is what she posted:

"On Saturday, November 10, the 102 members of the "Office" production crew were laid-off. That's 102 hard-working people who have lost their jobs as the WGA (rightfully) fights for a fair deal.

Crew members are arguably the most under-paid and under-appreciated people in the film and television business. They were not protected because their union is not on strike. As Kent Zbornak, co-executive producer, told me, "I had one crew member tell me that he needed to tell his children this weekend that Christmas was going to be tough and they may not get any presents this year."

As fans, I say we help them out! The "Office" crew have given us amazing Christmas episodes, so it's our turn to brighten their holidays."

Ms. Luckhurst's goal is to raise $10,200 by Friday, December 21st ($100/crew member) to make sure the men and women who make her favorite show can celebrate Christmas.

I'd love to see the looks on Jeff Zucker and Ben Silverman's faces when they read that...

Actually, Mr. Zucker may already be wrestling with how badly he wants to get into his Scrooge costume. In a letter to me tonight, Ms. Luckhurst said, "Today I called Jeff Zucker and his secretary was taken aback when I asked to leave my cell number."

I'm starting to think it might not be us writers, but the people on whom Big Media depend for their income and their good corporate image who will settle this thing.

Anyway, if you'd like to help deliver some cheer to the crew of "The Office", you can find out all you need here.

And maybe the rest of us should start thinking about providing a merrier Christmas for the laid off crews of our favorite shows as well. Hey, Diane, how about hanging some mistletoe for the folks at "House". Alex, maybe spiking the punch will help get "Friday Night Lights" back on track.

As for me, I mostly watch Hockey lately, and after tonight's debacle, I think I'll be starting a Facebook Group to buy the Maple Leafs a frickin' goalie!

But seriously -- this kind of compassion is what truly sets us apart from the heartless conglomerates that would run our lives. We keep reminding ourselves that this struggle isn't just about us, but about the Guilds whose negotiations will follow the WGA and the generation of writers that will follow us.

Well, it's about our crews too. We may be the inspiration, but without their execution, we're just a bunch of guys standing around with fistfuls of paper. Taking a tip from our fans and doing right by the people now taking a hit for us is simply the right thing to do.

UPDATE: For those who commune on MySpace rather than Facebook, a seperate site for the "Office Fans Christmas Fund" has been set up here. And as a reminder of the power of the Fans, they've raised 1/3 of their goal in less than 3 days.


wcdixon said...

Well said...

Now about those Leaf!?!

Jill Golick said...

Another brilliant post Jim. Thanks.

CarlyM said...

Thanks for getting the word out. I went ahead and made a donation. Go writers! I hope everyone can scrape together a happy holiday this year.

Diane Kristine said...

For those of us who are paralyzed by the thought of how to collect and distribute money to a group of people who have dispersed, there's also The Actors Fund, which assists anyone in the entertainment industry facing financial difficulty.