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Enduring the Writer's Strike : Part 1

Unemployment and the Credit Card: Enduring the Writer’s Strike (1.7.08)
By Scott Shapiro (writer’s assistant extraordinaire!)
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Let’s get the formalities out of the way up top, shall we? The “who�? is none other than… me…Scott Shapiro, a 31 year-old, un-produced, non-guild affiliated writer…the “what�? is the blog which will follow…the “when�? is now, the year 2008…the “where�? is Hell A, California…and the “why�? is pretty simple…as of this moment, I’ve got a SHITLOAD of time on my hands and nothing to write.

So, dear reader, let me ask you a question (to which I’m pretty sure I already know the answer to). Was the above awkward/painful to read? You bet your sweet ass it was but you’ll have to forgive me as I haven’t used my brain for the better part of six months. And that’s about where this tale starts. Back in late June of 2007, still at the ripe age of 30, there I was, a writing assistant for my boss Fondue Bonzai (name changed to protect the innocent) who was waiting to find out if his new pilot got picked up and I had just finished writing my first spec Half Hour Single Camera Comedy (I will NOT call it a sitcom) based on the horrific atrocities that make up my every day life. We’re out smoking a couple butts underneath hazy skies in Venice when the phone rings. He answers and as a warm wave of pride washes over his face, I already know who is on the phone and what’s being said… YOU’VE BEEN PICKED UP! Zippidy-doo-daa whistles out of our assholes as he’s finally got a show back in production and I have the opportunity to break that door down that I’ve been knocking on for the better part of seven years. Yeah, this was gonna be a good summer, right before I took that leap into 31!

As I stood on the edge of a monumental precipice, I asked myself what I should do at that point. Do I continue to rewrite my own pilot and get it in the best shape possible so that once Fondue’s show went I could use the connections made during production to sell my own show, allowing me to bathe in a pool of thousand dollar bills? Or do I write a sample that was more in line with the show my boss had just gotten in production, putting myself in the best possible position to be staffed on his show? Or do I do none of the above, blowing a genuinely great opportunity staring me in the face? Well, as of today, I’m penniless, waiting to find out if I qualified for unemployment and a new credit card so you can probably figure it out for yourself.

That’s not to say I became a complete waste of space after we got picked up though. I did whatever my boss needed me to do to as far as the show was concerned, made some contacts, made some good friends and generally made the best of the situation… socially speaking. We went to Chi-town for production and I took it all in…Lou’s deep-dish pizza…hundred dollar dinners on Sony’s tab…old friends…watching my D-Backs sweep the Cubbies, seated in the D-Backs owner’s seats at Wrigley…you know, all the things that really had nothing to do with my career but I had plenty of time to get my shit done during post.

However, upon returning back to this stinking cesspool the town was in a panic with any and every conversation revolving around two ugly little words… THE STRIKE. Questions began bouncing around and no one had any answers. Will we be able to work and finish the pilot? Will we really get this close to the promised land only to have the door smashed closed into our face by a work stoppage? Will we know if we were picked up to go to series if there was a strike?

Well, we were able to finish the pilot but as of yet the answers to other questions are TBD. So, where does that leave my boss and I? In limbo, eating shitburgers with the rest of the Guild and anyone else working in scripted TV.

Now, I’m not gonna detail the craptastic history of the now two-month-plus Writer’s Guild of America Strike. If you don’t know about it, well, you’re probably not reading this and if you do know about it and you’re expecting me to give updates…tough shit. You want today’s pupu platter of lies, half-truths and peanut encrusted horse dung from the top of the WGA and the AMTPT, google Nikki Finke. This here is a tale from the bottom…an Assistant’s view of the strike and how it will affect the truly little people in Hollywood.

And just how has it effected me so far? Well, as of January 1st, I am no longer gainfully employed…HAPPY NEW YEAR! In all seriousness, I can’t and won’t place blame at Fondue’s feet for my current lot in life. It’s not his fault that the powers that be have their heads shoved so far up their collective asses that they can taste each other’s breakfast. No, Fondue is an incredible boss, a great mentor and above all else, a very good friend who kept me employed for a good two months longer than most assistant’s out here.

So, what am I doing now? Turning my brain back on. After returning from a six-day- substance-filled new year’s roadie-RV adventure to Albuquerque and back, the painful process of staring reality in the face has begun. Rumors are swirling through town that this strike is going to last into June…yeah, June…as in five fucking months from now. I can’t wait out a five month lull in my career on unemployment and credit cards alone with no plan. I’ll go even more out of my mind than I already am if I’m to wake up every morning wondering what the fuck I’m going to do and where the fuck I’m going to go so I can kill enough hours to tire myself out enough so I’m not up staring at that infernal box with “Becker�? singing me to sleep at 2:30 in the morning only to wake up the next day to wash and repeat.

No! That will not be the life I live as I wait for the strike to end and this blog will be proof of my journey into a new world and life with little money and even less direction. As I head out the door on the road to nowhere, I am lucky enough to at least have an initial address to stop and check out, courtesy of Mama Heidi: The LA Unified School District. Yup, that’s right. On my mother’s advice, I’m going to apply to be a substitute teacher. Now, anyone who knows me is going to ask: “What the fuck are you talking about?�? And to be honest, I don’t have an answer, but what’s the worst that can happen? I get the job…I probably drop ten f-bombs in front of a blind/mentally retarded PE class on my first day and I’m fired…or not. Only one way to find out, right?

Let’s do away with all those things that have plagued us in the past…fear…gluttony… laziness…IBS! It’s 2008 for shit’s sake! Oprama for the Presidency!

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To read Part 2, click here 

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