Writers strike produces awkward social moments

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECoach Doc Rivers a “fan” from way back of Jazz’s Jordan ClarksonOnly a rarefied circle of writers, of course, has the ability to truly mingle with Hollywood’s corporate royalty. The vast majority of writers are average folks who manage a middle-class existence or are unemployed in their chosen profession at any given moment. The union says the average income for a member is $60,000. But the union also counts as members dozens of creators of hit television shows, who can take home upward of $5 million a year, and writers who command fees of $1 million or more for a screenplay. As the strike enters its ninth week, some of the people from both sides are sunbathing elbow to elbow at the Four Seasons Hualalai pool in Hawaii, one of several luxury resorts where Hollywood’s upper echelons jet for winter vacations. Even attending synagogue is tricky, said Rabbi John L. Rosove of Temple Israel of Hollywood. A dozen striking screenwriters gathered in the bar at the Hotel Bel Air not long ago to decompress after another day on the picket line. Less than 10 feet away sat another strike-weary pair: Peter Chernin, president of the News Corp., and Barry Meyer, chief executive of Warner Bros. Neither group acknowledged the other, although a couple of writers quipped under their breath that the moguls should pick up everyone’s bar tab. Others fretted about being seen hanging out a five-star hotel, an awfully gilded setting for a bunch of guild members complaining about unfair compensation. “My stomach did a flip-flop,” said one writer who was in the room. “Part of me wanted to go yell at these guys for treating us so poorly, and part of me wanted to go hide.” (The moguls did not notice the gathering of writers, according to their respective spokeswomen). Similar scenes play out daily in the giant high school cafeteria that is Hollywood, contributing awkwardness to a labor strike unlike any other. The captains of most industries do not mix socially with the rank and file, but the people on opposite sides of this bargaining table often send their children to the same elite schools, dine at the same fashionable restaurants and attend the same holiday parties. “We have writers and studio people in the congregation who are friends,” he said. “It puts everyone in an awkward position, including me.” Hot tempers dominate the picket lines, and tension among friends is rising as more people in ancillary businesses lose their jobs, and weeks without work stretch into months. The 12,000 members of the Writers Guild of America walked off the job on Nov. 5 over payments for the use of programs and movies on the Internet. But once the strike captains call it a day at the end of the picketing shifts and both sides dispatch their last press releases, the conflict settles into a quiet discomfort. Some on each side of the fence conceded they avoid one another, ducking out of the school concert early or looking the other way at the Grove, a popular shopping mall next door to the soundstages for “American Idol.” Even some restaurant managers are trying to help, taking care to seat rival camps a safe distance from each other. “Of course we pay attention to that kind of thing,” said Jay Perrin, manager of Campanile. “I don’t think a fistfight would break out,” he added. “It is more like people cracking jokes about each other with more bite than normal.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more