I know this is odd. But I'm going to miss the strike. Yes, I know. Strikes are not good. They wreak havoc on what is already an unstable industry. They cause dire financial straits for thousands of people both in and out of the entertainment community. But I have to confess that when you work in an industry whose unshakable motto is "the show must go on" (and you have seen this motto used as justification for all manner of shitty behavior) it felt sort of nice to finally say "Due to management's complete and utter refusal to negotiate fairly, tonight's show will not be going on after all."
It was also nice to get outside a little more. I can honestly say that prior to the WGA strike, I had never seen the sun rise over Paramount. It was breathtaking. And it was good to meet other writers. I met more writers in the last 90 days than I have in the last 15 years. And we had some terrific conversations out there; dissecting the latest developments with the AMPTP, talking shop, Hillary, Obama, religion, race, sex, you name it. Granted it might have been more fun to have had those conversations sitting in some cozy Coffee Bean instead of walking around in a circle with a stick in your hand, but we were out there for a reason – to reestablish in everyone's head (including our own) that writing has value – great value. There are no terrific TV shows, no iconic films, no stunning directorial debuts and no award-winning performances without great scripts. Scripts matter. And they don't grow on trees. They are written. By writers. Like us.
It was also good for us to have our guts hated a little. Most bad things said about writers are said behind our backs. It was sort of refreshing to have passing drivers give us the finger or scream "Get the fuck back to work!" My all-time favorite epithet was hurled by the guy who sped past the NBC gate one morning and simply screamed "Fuck you, Jews!" (proving yet again that brevity is the soul of wit). It made me want to grab one of those blank signs and write on it "Comedy Writing: It's Not Just for Jews Anymore."
Yes, I'll definitely miss hanging out with such smart (and oddball) people on a daily basis. It reminded me that I'm lucky to be in a business that despite its many headaches is often pretty damn fun. On the last day I picketed at Disney, I saw one of my favorite strike signs. It was one of those blank ones that allowed the writer to express something personal on it. This writer had simply printed two words on his sign: "Something Witty." I instantly laughed. But I wasn't laughing at the joke. There wasn't one. I laughed at the absence of the joke – which was actually funnier. And I felt sort of happy to be one of the 12, 000 WGA members who create all the funny, dramatic, scary, brilliant and mediocre material that keeps America (and the world) entertained day after day, year after year. I know, I know. We can often be a huge pain in the ass, but you gotta admit we do help keep things in balance. We are the ones who keep our eyes open. We know when to make the joke and when not to. And we remind people of the hard, nagging truth that things could always be better. And I think the industry has missed us. Writing is a job, but it's also a calling and it actually has value far beyond anything the AMPTP will ever be able to compensate us for. . Who knows? Maybe someday, the world will recognize its true worth.
Copyright 2008 David Dean Bottrell