Editor’s note: One in a series of stories marking the 100th day of the WGA strike.
On day one of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, scribes put their pencils down and hit the pavement at every major studio in Los Angeles. It was May 2 and many were wearing sweaters. Today, 100 days later, they remain as resolute as they began only a little more suntanned as the country faces one of its warmest summers to date.
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Notwithstanding the climate, the writers have been challenged in ways they couldn’t have imagined and yet, they keep showing up on the lines. Deadline spoke to multiple regulars, captains and coordinators from various lots as well as WGA leadership before the media blackout was called.
“I want to say thank you to every person who has come out to a picket line. We wouldn’t be as strong without you,” Goodman told Deadline on August 1 when a petition was submitted to NBCUniversal about increasing safety for picketers on the lot.
At the same picket, WGA negotiating committee member Luvh Rakhe shared how the good days on the line help keep everyone going through the bad ones.
“There are times when you feel alone or when there’s not a lot of people out there, you do feel the isolation. Those are bad days when you need the togetherness until the good days,” Rakhe, a writer and executive producer on FX’s hit series Dave.
“Then there are days like [Aug 1] that are great days when there’s a big gathering of us with a victory for us to celebrate. We feel connected to each other and to our purpose,” he added.
TV writer Santa Sierra, whose credits include Starz’s Power Book III: Raising Kanan and Vida, is a regular picketer who visits various studios throughout the week. She credits the motivation behind her hitting the pavement as often as she can “so we can all get back to work.”
“Obviously, this is exhausting and not the easiest thing to do. But all of us are sacrificing so in the future the writers that come after will have some good ground to stand on,” she said.
Sierra added, “Sometimes I’m really tired but I come in and I have conversations with writers and we give each other energy. I recently spoke to a writer and I encouraged her to write a pilot she’s been thinking about because right now she can get everybody out of her head. We have to watch out for each other.”
WGA negotiations committee member Adam Conover also shared a message of gratitude for writers and actors who continue to support the guild on a regular basis. This includes actors Christopher Gorham (Ugly Betty, The Lincoln Lawyer), Jon Huertas (This Is Us, Castle) and Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project, History of the World Part II); writers Kyra Jones (Woke), Kirk A. Moore (American Crime) and sisters Brittney Jeng (Big Shot) and Heather Jeng Bladt (Mysterious Benedict Society), among many others.
“Thank you. We’re so grateful to [picketers] for coming out every single day. You get to know them and get excited to see them,” said Conover. “There’s this guy Jean, who is a background performer and has been at the Netflix lot every single day. Even before SAG-AFTRA went on strike, he was out there and he’s having the time of his life supporting us. He’s a wonderful guy who adds to our strength and momentum.”
Conover added, “We’re not seeing wins every day but with SAG-AFTRA joining us it changed everything… And you know, our victory is inevitable. It’s just gonna take all the CEOs a second to dust themselves off, pull themselves together, wash all the pants that they soiled, and make a deal. “
Writer and Vice Chair of the WGA’s Latinx Writers Committee Jorge Rivera (Betrayed) and his wife Elena Perez (Chicago P.D.) are mainstays on various lots and can often be found supporting the various diversity committees.
“What keeps me motivated is how awful the AMPTP has behaved and how amazing the members of our unions have been. The studios are being extremely short-sighted and cutting off their noses to spite their faces when they could solve this very easily and we can all move on to live financially stable lives and they can continue to make record profits. But they won’t budge and we won’t back down. I love our resilience and positive energy,” said Rivera.
He added, “Our Latinx Writers Committee was one of the first to put on a themed picket back in the first few weeks of the strike. It was so much fun seeing our community within the community come together. We’re doing another one on Friday, August 18 at Warner Bros. It’s the first-ever collaboration between the Latinx committee of SAG-AFTRA, the WGAE, and the WGAW. It’s gonna be bi-coastal and it’s never been done before. We’re making history.”
Rob Forman, a lot coordinator at NBCUniversal, Co-Chair of the LGBTQ+ Writers Committee and is running for the WGA West’s board of directors, also shared some love for his lot regulars who helped make dealing with the safety issues on Lankershim and Barham much easier to handle.
“They have become a strike family at this point, 100 days in,” Forman said about his regulars. “I want to give a special shout-out to Saroya Whatley, an associate Writers Guild member and she’s also a SAG-AFTRA member. She’s a big chanter who brought the energy needed on down days which helped bring everyone’s spirits up. For her birthday on July 20, we did a special Barbenheimer picket because that’s what she wanted. It was very fun and colorful and costumey and it was just good energy.”
He added, “It’s also great to know that there are regulars who even if they just want to throw a podcast on at their home gate and they know what they’re doing. I can trust them. And if there’s ever a problem, I know they’re not shy about reaching out to me about supplies for water or an aggressive driver or any of the myriad other possible issues that can arise during a picketing day.”
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