Home #Hwoodtimes Walking A Mile (Or 100) in the WGA’s Shoes

Walking A Mile (Or 100) in the WGA’s Shoes

By: Jon Snow

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 7/10/23 – I might be a silly, naive actor. I can accept that.

From many other perspectives, you might call me new here. I accept that too. In many ways, I am.

I’ve been walking a lot lately. I’ve walked the picket line with writers for a little more than half the days they’ve been on strike. I’ve engaged. I’ve made friends. Most importantly, I’ve listened. And I’ve learned from them.

There’s a ton of experience and wisdom out there to be had, just by the simple act of asking poignant, honest questions and then listening carefully to the answers.

I understand why many writers feel pessimistic, cynical, and jaded by all of this. For some I’ve spoken to, this is their second and even third strike of their storied careers.

And like many of the stories they create, this one has a “Big Bad” in it too. That Big Bad is easily identifiable. For the most part, in my direct experience, the writers seem to feel alone in this story. The cavalry, it would appear, is never coming.

They’ve been disappointed and let down by the DGA in the past. They clearly expected nothing less this go around too, and the DGA certainly “DGA’d,” as some have put it.

But then a plucky, unexpected character in the form of SAG-AFTRA, my union, arrived on the scene and surprised everyone with an extremely strong showing in a strike authorization vote. Not only was it an incredible turnout for our historically indifferent membership, but it was an overwhelming shot across the bow with an almost 98% “yes” vote.

Then the A-listers spoke out. A move I don’t think anyone saw coming. And it riled up the rank-and-file members, galvanized us in a way that probably hasn’t been seen since the early days of this industry.

And just when we thought we might get that Big Bad to it’s knees, it felt like SAG-AFTRA balked, that our leadership couldn’t, or maybe wouldn’t, deliver the resounding blow we all wanted and felt we needed, and they extended negotiations. Then they asked us to not see it as a sign of weakness.

When one is strong, truly strong, and confident in that strength, one doesn’t need to ask to not be seen as weak. You simply don’t care about the opinion of those who would view you as weak. But as soon as you ask? Well…

We’ve been asked repeatedly by our union to trust. But that trust has come with a caveat. We’ve been told to trust, to have faith, but largely, we’ve been asked to have blind faith.

The issues aren’t secret. The deadline for our contract wasn’t secret either. The contempt with which the AMPTP has treated the WGA is, and never was, a secret.

If anyone had any doubts about the AMPTP’s shady, underhanded ways, then they need look no further than their attempt to offer ACTRA a “deal” right before the June 30th deadline of SAG-AFTRA’s contract.

And this is where my naïveté comes into sharp focus. So bear with my simple thinking, if you will.

The DGA is lost already. It is what it is. Doc is certainly not coming to save anyone in his DeLorean.

I see what the DGA has done as an unfortunate microcosm of what we already have become, to a large degree, in this country: a selfish, “look out for Number One, the rest be damned” population.

This shortsighted, short-term “what’s in it for me right now?” game only serves to burn the game board when we’re finished playing.

As long as we get to hold onto our little piece, we don’t care what you get to hold onto. We want ours, right now — even if holding out meant that we could have all had a little bit bigger of a piece, a more sustainable piece, a piece that would have benefited not just us, right now in this moment, but all the rest who come after us, too.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but let me be clear: I’m not upset with the DGA. They did what they thought best. But I also heard the impassioned cry of many thoughtful, intelligent members of the DGA begging their leadership to reconsider. I also saw many of those some thoughtful souls being ridiculed and demeaned online. It broke my heart.

As all the talk of “1 Union” would have you believe, we stand in a truly crucial and pivotal moment. A moment where we still have the collective power to do something great. What would happen if we were to lock arms with the WGA? Or is the “1 Union” talk just that? Talk, and nothing else.

My naïveté has a dream scenario for you:

SAG-AFTRA stands strong, and not just for us, but WITH the WGA. SAG-AFTRA agrees to continue negotiations only if the AMPTP brings the WGA back to the table as well. After all, we, the actors, and yes, even the directors, don’t start until the creators finish the written page. Those gorgeous characters we get to bring to life literally don’t exist without the writers.

Collectively, (along with all the other critical, existential issues we’re facing) we could demand transparency on streaming numbers. And we could refuse to budge until hit shows are rewarded properly for the actors and the writers and the creators of those hit shows.

I’ve been told, unequivocally, that the studios will never agree to show their streaming numbers. That if those numbers were exposed, it would destroy the Wall Street shell game they’re playing, and that it will throw the entire industry into chaos and likely destroy it.

Have you looked around? It’s already being destroyed by corporate hacks who are slicing, dicing, and gutting the art to which we’ve all committed our lives and careers.

Maybe it needs to be destroyed in order to be rebuilt in a way that works for all of us, together.

The Big Bad of greed, made manifest through the corporate giants running the studios, is already siphoning the very life from the art we all hold so precious. What stand will we make? Will we make a stand? If we must be our own cavalry, then we must. We also must choose to be.

It’s a frightening scenario to be sure. But is it really any less frightening than what these soulless corporations are trying to do to all of us already? I don’t think so.

This is it. This is the moment to decide how we want to move through this industry, how we want to leave this industry for others after we’re finished. It’s already burning down all around us. I for one, happen to think there’s hope in the midst of the chaos and destruction.

It will be undoubtedly difficult. It will quite possibly take a resolve and fortitude of will and spirit that we have, up until now, never been forced to summon. But this silly, naive actor believes it is, in fact, possible. But only if, and when, we stand together.

We are the magic makers, the conjurors, the visionaries who weave threads from the ether in order to make real the impossible, the fantastical, the divine.

Everything in human history was impossible until someone actually did it. So, I ask my fellow artists, and most pointedly our leaders, what do we want our legacy to be? How do we want this story to end?

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