KCRW commentator and 17-year WGA vet Rob Long says the most important difference between any impending writers’ strike now and the one that happened in 1988 is Starbucks.
In 1988, when the last WGA strike reached a settlement — and in this context, the phrase “reached a settlement” refers to the moment that the guild membership, exhausted and broke after five months, whimpered its way to an unconditional surrender — a few days later there appeared all over town, like crocuses poking through the snow, an awful lot of spec scripts.
The town was flooded with buddy comedies, cop dramas, blended-family sitcoms, erotic thrillers and cop-partnered-with-orangutan projects. So many, in fact, that it was clear that a lot of striking guild members, when not picketing on Lankershim or brooding about their ill-treatment, had been doing a good deal more than noodling around an idea.
Although they publicly claimed to have spent the five-month strike merely thinking about writing — and the three days after it up in Big Sur, you know, just plowing through it, totally focused — it was hard to deny that some guild members took the strike as an opportunity to hit reset on their careers. So among the foreclosures and the cancellations and the force majeur’ed contracts, there was, apparently, a bright side. Something to look forward to, I guess.
But that was back in 1988, before Starbucks and iPods and Wi-Fi. Back then, most writers wrote at home, so it was easy to sit in the backyard, away from prying eyes, and work on your serial killer spec in between strike meetings. Things are different now. These days, writers sit in public places all over town, earbuds in, laptops out. The strike is going to change all of that.
Long assures, though, that his inherent laziness will keep his scab-tendencies well in check.
For my part, though, I think I’ll find the not writing part of the strike pretty easy to comply with, as it so closely matches my normal daily routine. So if you’re a WGA spy and you see me at the Coffee Bean, laptop open, clicking and typing away merrily, I assure you I won’t be writing. I’ll be frittering away my time, surfing the Web and sending e-mails. You know, business as usual.