Space Ramblings

The Office Firings You Won’t Hear About on the Pro-WGA Sites

While the pro-WGA sites have been beating the drums for the poor writers, a number of other emails have been making their rounds from the peons affected by the strike, assistants and grips often facing genuine holes in their income in a city that’s none too generous to people who are out of work.

The latest one quoted on the LA Times blog is from Dane Alexander, the head grip at The Office.

Our show was shut down and we were all laid off this week. I’ve been watching the news since the WGA strike was announced and I have yet to see any coverage dedicated to the effect that this strike will have on the below the line employees. On my show we had 14 writers. There were also 2 cameramen, 2 camera assistants, 4 hair stylists, 4 makeup artists, 7 wardrobe people, 4 grips, 4 electricians, 2 craft service, 4 props people, 6 construction, 1 medic, 3 art department, 5 set dressers, 3 sound men, 3 stand-ins, 2 set PAs, 4 assistant directors, 1 DGA trainee, 1 unit manager, 6 production office personnel, 3 casting people, 4 writers assistants, 1 script supervisor, 2 editors, 2 editors assistants, 3 post production personnel, 1 facilities manager, 8 drivers, 2 location managers, 3 accountants, 4 caterers and a producer who’s not a writer. All 102 of us are now out of work.

The lowest paid writer in television makes roughly twice the salary than the below the line crewmember makes. Everyone should be paid their fair share, but does it have to be at the expense of the other 90% of the crewmembers. Nobody ever recoups from a strike, lost wages are just that, lost.

Now since The Office is WGA all the way to the top, I can imagine that when things get back to normal people like Dane Alexander aren’t exactly going to be applauded. After all he’s only a hardworking guy who wants his job, instead of wearing a pretty red shirt while getting coffee from Jay Leno.

A preview of that can be seen from the WGA backlash in the comments section of the LA times blog post.

What do grips do, anyway? Can’t anybody do that? What’s the big deal?… This is about union busting Mr. Alexander and for all the damage you are worried about now, it will be nothing compared to what you will suffer when these men come to you and ask that your health benefits be rolled back. It’s interesting that Mr. Alexander, who depends on the talents of writers and actors to provide him with employment would be asking them to lay down and just be quiet. We are on the front line fighting for you, Mr. Alexander, whether you want to deal with that or not.

Yeah so the WGA will be going on strike on behalf of the grips? On what planet and in what dimension? The condescension though is lovely. Truly lovely from truly lovely people. But there’s this, which shows just how pervasive the WGA arrogance is to the rest of the people affected by their conduct.

As an Editor on an hour long drama who is about to be laid off, I take great exception to the tenor of Fireboy’s posting. None of us below-the-liners are begrudging the writer’s their due. We are however a bit peeved about the writer’s attitudes towards those of us who stand to lose the most while gaining nothing in return. I’ve heard the writers like Fireboy say that they are on the front line fighting for us, but the truth of the matter is only writers,actors and directors benefit from residuals, the main contention of the strike. It’s very easy for Fireboy to say that the studios are going to come after our benefits next, but the truth of the matter is that after this strike is settled what the studios are going to do is to try to take money away from those below the line to pay for the costs of the strike and for whatever gains the writers get. What I’ve not heard from any of the writers or showrunners is a simple ” We’re sorry you crew members are going to have to suffer during this strike, it’s something that ‘s really important for us, and we’ll have your backs when this is settled.”

However, my point is only that the arrogance being shown by most writers is appalling and insulting to the many crew members who work damn hard to bring these writers words to life. We don’t want to hear “without our words there would be nothing,” because without the rest of us your words would never make it to the screen. Film and television are collaborative endeavors in case you didn’t notice. We also don’t want to hear about how noble youwriters are for striking for the rest of us, because you”re not, you are striking for yourselves.

And this is an argument for showrunners not being writers too on top of that. But then there’s the repeated contention that the shows only exist because of the writers.

I am a writer and exec. producer. The strike is indeed, terribly sad. The strike will cause hardship to countless writers and below the line people. It’s not a decision anyone made lightly. It’s terrible that below the line people will lose their jobs and stability, but this is a fight that must be fought. And please remember, there would be no job to be lost if writers had not written the shows that provided the jobs in the first place

I’m sorry but do you really need ‘writers’ to create Cavemen or Two and a Half Men or The Bachelor or American Idol or for that matter Gilligan’s Island. You need someone to work in a writing capacity, but most shows don’t depend on some kind of unique writing talent. On 90 percent of the shows on TV you can replace the writers with scabs with very little impact or difference.

Of course it is sad people lose their jobs. I know nearly half of the Tonight Show staff, and I don’t wish unemployment on any of them. I also know what a sweet gig it is… it sure beats digging a ditch for a living.

Yes and trying to write another joke about Paris Hilton beats all of the above, if not for cleanliness.

As a former member of IATSE local 80 (14 years) and NABET local 531 ( 11 years) before that, let me tell how this is going to go… Meanwhile, back at the ranch there’s over 25,000 grips, gaffers, and the plethora of skilled crafts-persons losing everything they’ve worked to re-coop sense the last strike shut down production. Come time for the IATSE’s contract to be negotiated all of these people will have been out of work for nearly a year. Do you really think they’ll get a raise? Do you really think there will be a single Writer or Director actively supporting the crafts-persons who bring their “vision” to reality?

Of course there won’t. The upper balconies have always gotten screwed and the WGA elitism is only outdone by their whining and their willingness to dismiss anyone not a writer as a ditch digger.

As the daughter of a Key Grip & Studio Hair Stylist and the wife of another Key Grip, I myself also being an employee of one of the major studios involved……have already felt the impact of the strike first hand. I am appalled that some of the writers in the above posting would even suggest that the rest of us go and find other employment elsewhere. What gives you the right to discount the feelings of the others affected by this strike? If you would take a moment to reread the original letter you would realize that we are all in support of the WGA; however we are asking that they acknowledge the blow the line employees and GET BACK TO NEGOTATIONS before it’s too late and we all lose what we have worked so hard to gain. Not once in any of the postings did anyone ever suggest to you that if you don’t like what is being offered to you, you might want to get out of the business yourself and take up writing children’s books. I personally find some of your words offensive and your attitude toward the rest of us narcissistic. We are all living, breathing, hard working human beings with families and homes just like you.


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