The Business of Screenwriting: Work stoppages and picket line etiquette


by Scott Myers

As a public service to Guild members, we provide the following reminders and tips on the benefits of good manners in the picket line.

1. Please, no shuffling. When you shuffle, your feet kick up dust, nflame allergies, and foul lenses on those pricey Oliver Peeples sunglasses. Acceptable alternative forms of picketing ambulation: stroll, stride, strut, prance, meander, toddle, or skip. When in doubt, you may skulk — like you do when you cross paths with a director on a movie set.

2. For those follically challenged Guild members, be sure to wear some type of head covering (e.g., cap, bandana, yarmulke.) The glint of the midday sun off the back of your head can momentarily blind those in line behind you, causing sudden lurches into traffic, needless mayhem, and major lawsuits. Note: To date, no Guild member has died on the picket line! Let's keep that safety record spotless!

3. When circling a studio lot, remember: Always move to the left. Every symbolic gesture counts!

4. Arrive early, stay late. This is not a studio or network notes meeting on your script; this is serious business!

5. If you must carry your cell phone when walking the line, it is acceptable to take calls from spouses, mates and family members, but not your stockbroker, real estate agent, or Kaballah instructor.

6. If you are pregnant and showing, we want you! No better visual for the eleven o'clock news than a woman with engorged belly marching with protest sign in hand. If you aren't pregnant, get with child! Come on! Support your Guild!

7. If you happen to find yourself marching behind a hyphenate member who rewrote you, it is not acceptable to grab them by the shorts, give them a wedgie, and yell, "Take that, you heartless, money-grubbing mo-fo!" It is, however, okay to step on the back of their shoe and "accidentally" give them a flat.

8. When dealing with the press, it is best to feed them platitudes. Possible catch phrases:

"Our presence here today demonstrates the Guild's solidarity."

"All we want is a fair deal."

"Writers have families, too."

Avoid the following incendiary comments:

"Hell, yeah, the strike is depressing. Thank God for Zoloft."

"My Lamborghini needs a new clutch. Is Katzenberg gonna cough up the dough for that? I don't think so!"

"I can't wait to get back to work. I really miss craft services."

9. During the last strike, there were complaints about the brazen, even crude nature of some chants Guild members yelled on the picket line. For example:

"We've got style! We've got sass!
Producers you can kiss our a**!

"Green-light this! (grab crotch)
Green-light this! (grab crotch)"

In order to convey a more thoughtful public image, we suggest the following:

"Fade in! Fade out!
We writers want some clout!"

"Two, four, six, eight,
High concepts we do generate!"

"No sit-coms! No dramas!
No movies to see!
Enjoy all the reruns
Of Survivor Twenty Three!"

"Character, dialogue,
Theme and plot!
We do it all
In case you forgot!"

"You want 'A Film By' credit?
Learn how to write and edit!"

"We're literate individuals,
So give us better residuals!"

10. Finally, aside from sitting through lunch with your agent, there is no experience more stultifying than listening to an endless litany of whining and complaints from fellow writers on the picket line. That's why we propose weekly peer counseling sessions. Happy hour. Musso & Franks. First martini on us.

Armed with this information, we hope you have a safe, sound, and pleasant picketing experience. Thank you. And happy skulking.

Here's hoping you never have to go through a work stoppage in your writing career. But if you do, you now know how to skulk your way through it.

The Business of Screenwriting is a weekly series of GITS posts based upon my experiences as a complete Hollywood outsider who sold a spec script for a lot of money, parlayed that into a screenwriting career during which time I've made some good choices, some okay decisions, and some really stupid ones. Hopefully you'll be the wiser for what you learn here.

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