(not the teenage kind)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


I am somewhere in this picture wearing my red University of Wisconsin t-shirt and marching in support of the Writer's Guild of America. I have walked picket lines with the teachers and the farmworkers. I have marched for choice. This felt different. I'll explain why later in this post. But let's just start by saying this was no civil rights march. The median annual salary of a Writer's Guild member is $95,000. And, yes, I understand that's the median and that most of the guild members can go years without working and rely on residuals (of course it also means that many guild members make way more than $95,000. Whatever).

Not that I don't agree with what they are asking for. Except that it is complicated, there may or may not be a lot of misinformation out there, and I have become cynical. They are asking that reality show and animation writers be covered. They should be except that I heard the guild's negotiating team already took this off the table. If this is true, I am not surprised. I have sat in on union negotiations as part of management's bargaining team (here's where the cynicism comes in) and I have seen union negotiating teams throw the rank and file under the bus for their own best interests.

They are asking to double the residuals they receive for DVDs. Because DVDs were so new the last time they negotiated, they are really getting screwed. But, by far, the most important issue is that they want to be compensated for new media - downloads and streaming videos. Since in the very near future we will all be receiving our creative content on the computer, they really did need to go on strike for this. For example, over the summer the writers for The Office wrote a series of "webisodes" for which they won an Emmy. These mini episodes were considered to be "marketing" and the writers did not get paid any extra for them.

But, this whole paying for the internet is complicated. Here's an example. Scrubs is produced by an ABC owned company. NBC has purchased Scrubs and receives revenue from advertising when they air it on their stations and when they show an episode on their website. ABC, the company who produced the show and pays the writers, actors, et. al., does not receive any revenue from advertising from television or from advertising or downloads from the internet because they have sold the show to NBC. So, basically, the writers are asking for something that the people who pay them don't even get. Except that these are smart people and they should be able to work something out, right?

But back to why I had trouble getting my passion up during this march and why it was different. Well, first let's go back to the striking itself. I read everyday how this star or that star walked the line with the writers and brought them pizza or Starbucks. And how the writers were visited by fans of their shows who brought them pizza or Starbucks. It feels somehow pretentious and too much fun. Can you imagine Cesar Chavez being handed a latte by an adoring fan? And at the march itself:

1. There were agents from CAA dressed in suits and ties serving up scones on a platter to the marchers. Scones!
2. Debra Messing was marching next to me in full on make-up. Every once in awhile a fan would come up and ask to take her picture with their cellphone camera. She very sweetly complied.
3. Many years ago anti-choice groups were blocking clinics in Los Angeles so that women could not get in and have abortions. The pro-choice groups mobilized and blocked the blockers and helped the women get in. I participated in one of these and it was scary and intense and I was jostled and there was much screaming but it was important. Yesterday at the march I ended up standing next to a group of writers who were drumming and rapping and getting a lot of attention. In trying to get a picture, one photographer knocked me in the back of the head with his camera and another one shoved me out of the way with his back. It was scary and intense and I was jostled and there was much screaming but it was NOT important.

By the way, I now understand why Britney ran over the toes of those paparazzi. Solidarity, Britney!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My New BFF

Besides showing the abundance of bonding going on between me and my nephew on Halloween (note his handmade Superboy outfit and my orange shirt), I think my hands look really nice in this picture. In case you didn't notice.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Malibou Lake

Maybe you saw the episode of "The Office" a couple of weeks ago where Michael drives his car into the lake because he's following directions from his GPS. Or maybe, like me, you've watched "The Bad Seed" over and over again and maybe as a child you were traumatized when Rhoda got struck by lightening and falls into the lake. Or maybe you've seen "Frankenstein" and were traumatized by the scene when the monster sees the girl at the lake, she offers him flowers, he tosses her into the lake.

All those productions were shot at Malibou Lake which is pictured above. The lake is man-made and the community is exclusive with just three miles of houses. Only residents are allowed on the lake. Well, residents, and film and television productions.

I read about Malibou Lake in the L.A. Times a few weeks ago and they also mentioned that there was going to be a free lecture about its use in the movies. It was a chance to see the lake up close and personal and I am so glad I did. It was a beautiful day and the trees around the lake were changing colors. There was the lake, the mountains, the fall foliage, birds - what an oasis.

We saw a DVD showing footage from the films made on the Lake. I could not begin to list them (this goes back all the way to Charlie Chaplin....) We saw the class picnic scene from "The Bad Seed." We then walked out to the lake.

"Okay, so which of these docks is the one where Rhoda bites it?" I asked the lecturer.

"Actually," he said, "we're pretty sure that was done on a sound stage."

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