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.


Anonymous said...

Scab -- You obviously learned nothing while walking the picket lines with the rest of us writer. You are in a union. You made the choice to join the union. Hollywood is a union town and you made the choice to do union work when you took the writing job. When you join a union, individual interest does not have priority over collective bargaining. You may be ignorant of this knowledge, but that does not excuse or justify your decision to break the union rules.

During a strike, management and labor try to force each side to agree by inflicting financial hardship on the other. The only leverage a union has against management is withholding labor.

You may say you didn't take a writing job from another writer. Or you may say you didn't get paid. That may be true and you are missing the point.

You gave management your labor. You could have not walked the picket lines. You could have told people that you disagreed with the strike and not had a problem But you gave them your labor.

Films were shut down because scripts weren't ready. Actors refused to do lines if WGA writers didn't write the lines. Studios were afraid to move ahead on projects because they were afraid the product would not be good enough if they were not re-written. All of this cost the studio more and more money. As each day went by, and the cost of production went up, the studios questioned how long they could continue to hold out because held up project cost more money without a completed product to release.

You film fitted into the same category. Obviously, they stopped things because the actor wanted to re-write lines. The producers didn't move forward with script while the actor is off writing lines. Filming slowed down and was costing money.

But then they called you and asked your opinion.

Now, this is where the union leverage kicks in. We withhold our labor because that's our power. But you talked about "My Chance, My Art, My Movie, My Script. It became about just you. Not what thousands of your peers were fighting for. Just you. Somehow you found choosing "my art" as the noble and moral thing to do.

Thousands of workers were protesting their work conditions by sacrificing their earnings and withholding their labor and you believed that the noble thing to do was to give management your labor.

Your morals were tested during the strike. You were posed with the question of sacrificing your individual creation for the greater good. Management came to you and asked you to do it. That's what management does during a strike--looks for labor that is weak enough to break from the strike. They convince the workers that the choice is about the individual and not the greater good.

And here was your chance in life, like a character in a movie. You can sacrifice your personal creation for the greater good. Like those before you who were asked to sacrifice when others were protesting unfair labor practices, unfair voting practices, unfair educational policies, unfair gender policies, unfair racial policies, unfair international and environmental policies.

What sacrifice did you make when it was your moment of truth? You chose you. You chose not to sacrifice. You tried to convince yourself that carrying a picket sign was the protest instead of the withholding of labor. Holding the picket sign was only to tell the public we were withholding our labor.

It would be hypocritical to tell the public and our fellow workers we are withholding our labor and then secretly give our labor to management.

If you thought giving your labor to management for the "art" was a noble thing, then you should have done it in public. You should have gone to the WGA and told them, I'm giving my labor to management. That is legal during a strike. You can cross a picket line a work during a strike. The labor laws allow you to do that. That is what financial core is. But those same labor laws allow union to punish those give their labor without informing the union they are going financial core.

The sad thing is, you have learned nothing from this. You claim:

"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."

This is your only chance because you made it your only chance. The sadder thing about this is, you gave your labor to management during the strike and they didn't even have to pay you extra for it.

If this is your argument when you go in for the trial, you might as well pack up and leave town now, because you sound like a selfish and clueless scab.

Jake Oz. said...

That's messed up. I would have done the same thing. Good luck with your witch hunt, bro.


chris said...

no two ways about it.
scabs are bad.

I Am A Scab said...

Yep, the world is black and white, on and off, yes and no.