11/12/2007

"Why I Fight": A Writer's Assistant's Perspective

(From Writer's Assistant, Ed Fowler)

Saturday I went to my mailbox and discovered a very plain envelope with the return address of NBC Universal. Inside it held a simple, single page letter. At the very top, centered in some kind of Helvetica or Ariel font (at least it wasn't Comic Sans) was the very business like heading of:


Memorandum

What followed after the “To:” heading contained the name to which I am so often referred:

To: Whom It May Concern

The “From:” labeling was a tad more specific:

From: Jerry DiCanio, Executive Vice President, Production
Luckily for someone as slow witted as I can be, the “Regarding” section left no head scratching:
Re: Services No Longer Needed

The body of the letter was nothing shocking or surprising, simply stating that due to the uncertainty that the recent WGA strike has created my "services are no longer needed, effective immediately." Okay, so I guess if you're working as a Writer's Assistant and the only way you're able to assist the writers is by standing alongside them in a picket line, this really comes as no surprise.

My point in this email is simply to give yet another example of who we are dealing with. These are people who don't have the decency to create a dismissal form letter that, at the very least, pretends to know who exactly they are dismissing. We are at war with people who take no time to personalize those they employ, they take no consideration of the lives they are affecting each and every day. Maybe it's a defense mechanism, maybe it's big business or maybe they didn't get enough hugs as children, but we should not be surprised nor shocked at the pompous, self-centered and delusional lies they spread about writers and this strike. Don't mistake me, I'm not the least offended by the methods they've employed to release me. What I am, is reminded (by their own hand) why this battle is one worth fighting. It is time they understood the power and value of the writer. Fair enough, I'm not in the guild, I'm not yet a working writer -- I'm easy to forget and easy to replace.

I get that.

Trust me.

What I really want, the reason "Why I fight", is for all of my friends who are working writers, or are soon to be, to get a fair deal and to not be taken advantage of by corporate goons who can't write an effective form letter more or less a screenplay. Ultimately, what I hope is that when the sun rises on a new, better contract for all writers I can look each one of you square in the eyes and quote the great Jack Burton at the end of Big Trouble In Little China and say, "We really shook the pillars of heaven, didn't we?"

See you on the battlefield.



Ed Fowler
Writer's Assistant
Eureka

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry about that, that sucks. I'm glad you've been able to keep your perspective and your head in the right place. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

That letter is wonderfully written. For someone to recognize that they are fighter for something bigger than they are (they - "easily forgotten and easily replaced"...so sad) is really remarkable. I hope this is over soon, and in the writer's favor! Keep the spirit high!

Anonymous said...

Ed is somebody who belongs in the WGA.

Contrast his situation to this: Late this afternoon as I made my way home from walking the picket line at CBS, what do I come across but a Paramount movie being filmed just a short block or so from my house.

There were no pickets outside the set of Neverland, (that's the name of the movie; Eddie Murphy is in it), but I did spot a couple of writers using their laptop to update their script (I know this because I asked the security guard who the two guys were at the laptop). They'll be on location for the next couple of days, so lucky me gets to have it rubbed in my face, that while I'm on the picket line struggling to help get a better contract, two jokers will be sitting on their ass, getting paid, and not making any sort of sacrifice at all.

Given the opportunity, I'd welcome Ed into the WGA in a heartbeat and kick those two bums out without even thinking about it.

Signed,
Color Me Really Pissed Off.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, all you got was a letter? I was a writers' assistant for a new Fox show and we at least got phone calls from HR telling us that we were laid off. That so sucks for you!

Anonymous said...

This writer's assistant is learning some rough lessons. But, remain strong...

I am not involved in the writer's strike in any immediate way, but as a consumer and a filmgoer, I am personally boycotting EVERYTHING in favor of the writers: no movie tickets for me this holiday season and beyond, no video purchases, nothing that would give these producers one cent.

I realize how important the new media is for the future of writers, and the fact these producers will not give a decent cut to the writers who CREATE all this new media says a lot about greed in this country.

To the striking writers, I say:

Be brave, stay strong, you are an inspiration to us all.

(And, I am doing my personal best to support you.)

Anonymous said...

Color Me Pissed Off, we're neighbors...I live 2 blocks from the Neverland shoot and have been begging the WGA to get us picketing there. That's unbelievable that the writers are making script changes!

Another Pissed Off SC Resident

PJ McIlvaine said...

Hey Pissed Off,

I hope you report those two bums on the Murphy set to the WGA.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, I'm amazed at all the "company men/women" there are working for the studios.

How could work for and be so loyal to a corporation that cares about NO ONE -- including their employees!!

They are loyal to a machine that could care less about them!! Amazing.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous SC,

I talked with the security guy (who used to work on Deadwood) and he indicated that maybe Tuesday there would be picketers (anyway, he thought they would show up)...

I'm not really surprised about people working during the strike, I know a writer who worked on one of the L&O series and he's yet to find his way to any of the picket locations.

And I know another guy who is getting ready to shoot his film (he's also the producer) soon and he told me that he'll get around the "no write" rule by giving the actors credit for re-writing...

So, why wouldn't some people be working, the odds are in their favor that they won't get busted while doing it.

Maybe we'll get lucky and picket on Maxwellton after all.

Or maybe catch each other at Starbucks or on the line.

Color Me Really Pissed Off

Anonymous said...

Ed:

Sorry you lost your job as a consequence of the strike. My wife is WGA and we do feel for our friends who've been let go or had their lives put in limbo by this situation--and we feel for you.

It's a shame in this computerized age, they couldn't have personalized your dismissal memo, but having been let go from jobs for more reasons--good and bad--than I care to admit, personal isn't any better than impersonal.

However, your perspective towards the writer you worked for and the Guild is appreciated.

Let's just hope that the strike won't be cause for use of my favorite line from "Big Trouble in Little China" (if in a different context):

"You were not put on this earth to 'get it'."

Mark

Milaka said...

I am "just" a stay-at-home mom at this point in my life, but I have friends in the WGA so I've been following the strike. Ed, your post put tears in my eyes. I just can't understand how people can be so thick-skulled as to treat other people this way.

Be encouraged that you have many, many people on your side. As I tell my kids all the time - sometimes it's very hard to do the right thing. Thank you for doing the right thing.

The GladGirl said...

Ed, I also am a WGA wannabe. You're closer to that dream than I am and I applaude you. I will be flying from Ohio this week to NYC to pick up a sign and show support.
As for corporate apathy, trust me, NBC is right in step with the rest of American big biz. My real job is in health care. I've even worked as a staff member of a mega church. Let me tell you, this is attitudeo of Us and Them is pandemic. It's in every field you work in.
Businesses are now small governments who are out of touch with the workers on the front line. More than once I have heard the corporate brass say these following words "it's easier to get new ones than keep the old ones happy."
If you can land one job or opportunity in life where you actually work for a leader rather than a manager, stay put.
It's good to see the writers becoming leaders and taking control of their future. This is the ultimate "take this job and shove it" moment!

Confessions of a T.V. Addict said...

I keep saying it, and I'll say it again. As someone who wants to write, I support this strike. I'd like people to know why, so to understand:

http://tvfandomtalk.blogspot.com/

LAwriter said...

I for one, cannot fight any longer. I am a low on the totem pole writer on a succesful cable series and my family and I can simply no longer afford to see this strike out. I have given my resignation notice to my studio and unfortunately, I am moving with my wife and kids to the midwest to live with some relatives for awhile while we get back on our feet. I simply don't see how the studios will bend before the writers, and I am one of the first casualities of this war.

Anonymous said...

The Eddie Murphy movie is called Nowhereland and the writers on that film are - Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson...

Anonymous said...

My mistake Anonymous 10:11pm, I knew the name of the Paramount production, but for some reason wrote the wrong title...

But, like I said, the somebody was doing the writing on that laptop and the security guy IDed them as "the writers." Whether they are in fact Soloman and Matheson I can't say for sure since I don't know either personally...

But I bet it be easy enough to for the WGA to find out.

Signed,
Color Me Pissed Off

Samantha P. said...

i got that same letter from NBC, i had been wondering all last week when i was going to get a call and then saturday in the mail with my paycheck there it was. i support the WGA and i hope this strike ends soon.

David Grenier said...

GladGirl,

Sadly what you're describing is nothing new. It's the nature of Capitalism. It's not even the result of bad bosses or greedy bosses or whatever, it's simply built into our economic system. A strong labor movement (not just for writers, but for all workers) is the only way to really enjoy the fruits of Capitalism without suffering all of its depredations.

That's why its important not to just support this strike and buy t-shirts or whatever, but to support the whole labor movement. Support other striking workers, be more active in your own union, or get on the phone to the AFL-CIO and ask how you can organize your workplace.

The simple fact is that while in general jobs are better and safer than they were 100 years ago (as a direct result of the labor movement), the fundamental nature of the beast hasn't changed, and if we don't band together and support each other in a real, organized fashion, we'll lose all of the gains our parents and grandparents won.

Anonymous said...

Ed: Truly, you are embracing the suck. The corporates may think they do not have to bend...who knows. Maybe they'll have to break instead.
There's an old saying,'If you do not stand for what you believe in, you may fall for anything.'
And, "No guts...no glory!"
Whatever it takes!

Y'M

Kate said...

Ed, I got a call and the Fox version of that same letter over the weekend: "the assignment that you are currently working ended on November 7th."

http://www.writersdigest.com/scriptnotes/CommentView,guid,d0acc6f3-c8a6-41a5-8059-b7a88ae88118.aspx

Props to you for speaking up and for continuing to picket for what's right. See you on the picket lines.