Sunday, April 27, 2008

Meet The Scab

I am a member in good standing of the WGA.

I walked the picket lines faithfully until the end.

And I am a scab.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

I’ve been a member of the WGA for seven years. I’m a nobody. Broke in by selling a script that never got made for very little money. Have scraped by and done everything but write while I’ve been trying to make it. I’ve worked as a waiter, a reader, a clerk at Banana Republic, I’ve done temp work, I’ve P.A.ed for free on movies hoping to make contacts. I’m in a group that makes short films on weekends.

And last year, one of my scripts finally got made.

Started shooting in December. During the strike.

I’ve been lucky enough to have a good relationship with the producer. I never got replaced on the movie. He’s included me as much as possible.

But obviously, I couldn’t have anything to do with my movie. My break. My chance.

And then, in January, I get the call. The lead actor rewrote a bunch of stuff. The producer doesn’t think it’s as good as what I had. He sends it to me. I read it.

It’s not just worse, it makes no sense. It screws up the logic of the movie. It screws up the character arc. It will put a bullet in the movie’s head.

So I say so. Is that scabbing? I hope not. But the lead actor won’t budge. He can’t do it the old way. Has trouble with it. If not his way, then what?

So I do a rewrite. During the strike.

Did I take the job of a striking writer? No. I would never do that. They weren’t trying to hire anyone else.

Did I get paid? No. I would never do that. It wasn’t about getting some cash.

Did I prolong the strike by allowing the studio to continue production on something they would have shut down? No. They were going full speed ahead, with or without my pages. That was only too obvious.

Could I have turned in the actor? No. He’s not a WGA member. The WGA has no power over him. Even if they have some over the studio, all of it would have played out long after the strike was over. Not to mention, I would have been killing myself, since I was one of the only people who saw these pages ahead of time.

But I wrote for a studio during the strike. So, according to the strike committee, I’m a scab. Someone turned me in when the pages showed up. I have good reason to believe it was the lead actor. Of course, since it was an anonymous click of a button on the WGA website, I can never prove it.

I appreciate what the guild has done for me. But I didn’t move here and start writing and giving up any other possible future because of the WGA. I came out here because I was a teenager and went and saw Pulp Fiction and it changed the way I looked at the world. I came out here to be a writer. After I sold that first script, the WGA told me to join.

Okay. I did. And I’ve been a good boy. Followed the rules. Went to meetings. Voted. Marched.

Until it came time to pick a rule or my art.

And I chose my art.

Now I’m about to go on trial. And if I tell the truth, and maybe if I don’t, I’ll be out of the guild. I’ll be one of these people that the guild publicizes. I’ll be one of the people the guild urges other members never to hire again. To hold at arm’s length. I’ll be a scab forever. I’ll be on a list on the WGA site. People will be able to find me for all time.

Maybe the studios won’t care. Maybe the producers won’t care. But will a director who loves the DGA care? Probably. Will an actor who loves SAG care? Probably. Will I ever get hired on a television show run by a writer? Probably not. Most of the jobs and opportunities in this industry are about to be out of my reach forever. My friendships, made on the line, are about to die. My life up until this point will probably be wasted. Poured into a career I’ll have to give up on. I don’t know what’s next. Back to school? Start at the bottom of a corporation and work my way up?

And if I had the same choice to make again, I would do it. Because if that’s my only shot at making a movie that I’m proud of, I’m going out protecting it.

Thanks for listening. And try to keep this in mind when the swirling furies of the WGA descend upon the despicable scabs.