Thank. Fucking. God. There’s a meeting. And maybe this time they’ll do more than just talk about talking. Maybe this time, they’ll actually talk!
Of course, you don’t want to get your hopes up. But the Guild sent another email yesterday saying essentially, “Yo. You’re not gonna hear from us for a little while. It’s all right. Don’t freak out. Just be cool.” (In case you couldn’t read the subtext behind their one-liner last Thursday.) As much as we all want second-by-second updates, refreshing the ol’ Twitter (Not X) feed like a meth head trying to sign up for a Sudafed convention, silence is good. Silence is golden.
Not like last week. Talk about a masterclass in drama. It was hard not to get existential vertigo with all the rumors, meetings about meetings, frantic texting with friends who knew someone who knew someone on the negotiating committee. As much as we’re dying for news, you had to tune out just to survive. It was far more relaxing to focus on that diminishing bank account instead: de-stress by figuring out what subscriptions to cut, and signing up for so many digital deals your email becomes a Substack for grocery store e-fliers. Why, I didn’t realize it was Apple Cider donut season, thank you Trader Joe!
Then, when the AMPTP trumpeted that they were “talking about talking again,” crowing that the Writers Guild had come crawling back on its knees for a meeting, everyone tensed up. Waiting for yet another flame war to go down. Because there was clearly an element of face-saving in the AMPTP’s framing. Rumors bounced around the picket lines that there was more to the story, i.e. “it didn’t happen quite like that.” So, everyone waited for pride to rear its ugly head and the Writer’s Guild to snap back. It’s to be expected. Carol Lombardini apparently makes all the union negotiating committees say “Good morning, Carol!” to her every day. She’s basically that 7th grade English teacher whose house got TP’d every Halloween like clockwork.
But the Guild played it cool. Because folks want a deal. (Just not a shitty one. *Cough* DGA). Last week was clearly designed to break us: the studios pounding stomach-churning losses faster than a frat boy at a tequila factory. And daytime talk TV almost turning into the Grand Central of Scabbing. Not that anyone was surprised by Bill Maher: he can’t seem to swallow red pills fast enough these days, and Writer Twitter (Not X) lit up with photos of Maher seated courtside at a Lakers Game with David Zaslav. But the idea of Drew Barrymore scabbing made you sad. Like watching someone return a three-legged puppy to a shelter because it bit their toddler.
Thank God, she changed her mind. Righteous rage at scabbing aside (let David Simon have the final word on that one), it just makes this take longer. And everyone is feeling the pain at this point: living on fumes, burning through savings, going on food stamps. We’re two weeks from this being the longest strike in Hollywood’s history — of course, it’s fucking dark out there. It’s hard not to see “For Sale” signs popping up, wondering, who’s left town and why. The strike captains are becoming de facto therapists, and all my non-industry friends have that same soft lilt of concern in their voices: “It’s still going on?”
It is. We’ve run out of podcasts to listen, the soles are falling off the Hokas we got not two months ago, and those back up jobs are becoming day jobs. Even darker is imagining what Hollywood will be like after this. If anything, this strike has laid bare just how dysfunctional this whole industry is. The scariest revelation wasn’t that the other side was a gaggle of greedy fat cats, but that they didn’t have a clue how to fix the business either.
So, every time the existential vertigo comes, all you can do is take that tattered sign falling off its picket stick, wrap it up in gaffer’s tape, and savor the silence. One of the first and wisest things about Hollywood an old-timey producer once told me was “Everything short of yes, is a no. So, don’t push for an answer until you know it’s a yes.” As long as there’s silence, yes is still possible.