So, I’ve never run for anything. Not even Student Council back in the 80’s, when high school was delightfully complicated, like a John Hughes movie. And until the Writers’ Strike in 2007, I had happily enjoyed my health insurance coverage and bemoaned filling out those stupid dues declaration forms that take way too much time. Like most of us, my head has been buried in jobs, raising kids, and dealing with aging parents.
In 2007, I walked in a circle every single day for 14 weeks in front of Paramount, often with my five month-old baby strapped to me. It was horrible, but I am so proud that I did it. We are part of an endangered species – a successful, healthy, and powerful union. If the political tides continue in the direction they have been going, unions will be diminished and ultimately destroyed. But here’s the thing in our industry: they will always need writers. Nothing can happen without us. Nothing. The studios and networks cannot cast something, finance something, market it, and publicize it unless we write it. The agents will have nothing to sell and nothing to “package”. The producers – and even our own agents -- rely on our low self-esteem to keep us second-guessing ourselves into a quiet, compliant hole. We need to remember that we play a very distinguished, significant role in this industry and use that as a compass.
We are at a turning point – a real change in the way people experience entertainment. We need to lead the way in addressing those changes to protect us both now and in the future. I remember so clearly back in the hell of the 2007 strike how the AMPTP pretended they didn’t know what the future of new media would be – or if there would even be a platform for original films and television on the internet. Now, ten years later, we see Netflix spending countless amounts of money from what seems like a bottomless, magical purse.
It’s important we reach out to our younger members to get them more involved, so they can understand the value of our union – their union. Which isn’t run by a bunch of old white guys, but it’s made up of them. Their voices need to be heard to keep us relevant and forward-thinking. I can’t wait until the term “diversity hire” is no longer used because it sounds so cringingly racist and out-of-date. Or when we stop using the terms “writer” and “female writer,” (which implies that it’s normal for a man to be a writer, but not a woman) because a writer’s gender is irrelevant. Actually, I’m done waiting. That time is now. We should be on the vanguard of this change, not needing the studios – of all people – to have to legislate this for us.
In a time where many of us feel so frustrated and powerless, it’s essential to remember that we can make changes within our own union for better health care, parental rights, and worker protections. We can be the vanguard of industry standards. Unlike so many unwieldy institutions in our lives, the Writers’ Guild is not only truly accessible… it is us.