Saturday, November 10, 2007

We will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.


That's not just a word to the Broadway theatrical community. For the second time in this decade, we have felt it and lived it. And each time that solidarity is tested, we become stronger for it, individually and as a community. You, the Producer, do this. We rediscover that part of the human spirit that we have been alienated from, the power of the group, the tribe, the union. This is a sense that can only be found during times of mutual trial.

Today started with a sense of solemn commitment. We were beginning a course of action that was not one we chose but rather one that was forced upon us. There were no cheers when the crews walked out of their theatres. There were no cheers when those out on the street refused to pick up their tools and instead picked up picket signs. We had to break our first commandment, “the show must go on.”

It was a trial. As a group, we had to call on those skills most commonly found inside of the theatre, not outside of one. We had to organize ourselves into action, with an aim and a goal. The groundwork had been laid and we had been given our new tools but we had to learn how to really use them. Some started to walk right away and some defiantly stood their ground. Through the long morning and afternoon some of us discovered we had not dressed warmly enough. All of us have worked in the cold, the heat, and the rain so weather is not something we are unaccustomed to. We just need to be prepared. Some of use got foot weary. All of us have spent hours upon hours on our feet, in grids, on trucks, on studio floors. This not something we are unaccustomed to. We just need to be prepared. Now we know what to expect. It will be like any long load-in, hour upon hour on our feet, in the cold. This not something we are unaccustomed to.

The late afternoon was the hardest. We were alone on the line. We were tired, cold, sore and determined.

Then they started to arrive. The other members of our theatrical community joined us on the line and spirits lifted. Where there were a few determined people trudging along, now there were many. Now there was cheering when passing cars honked in support. Matrons of a certain age, union members for decades, carried signs and smiled. House Managers, Box Office Personnel, Chorus Members, Dancers, Actors, Musicians, union members all, walked and carried signs in support of our common struggle. And we did what we knew best. We had a big finish.

You have united us as a community.

We will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes. This not something we are unaccustomed to. We’ve put your shows on. We have worked long hours and not seen home but briefly, for weeks at a time. Sacrifices come with the entrance into this community. Sacrifices you now seem to be unaware of but we know intimately. And now that common strength is united against you and we will not fail.

We will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes.

Friday, November 9, 2007

I are a riter.

Those Left Coast folks sure can go out on strike good. Websites, podcasts, Youtube, so cool.
Actually this dispute is doing a great deal of good for organized labor. These highly creative types are using every available media to get their message out and I think the rest of us can take quite a few lessons from them. As someone who has just started blogging (learning to create a link was a big deal), their use of podcasts to just talk about the reasons for the strike, their use of Youtube to show off the real people behind the dispute and even graphics to reveal arcane financial information is terrific.

To help understand the basics behind the dispute, go to Why We Fight and don't miss the Frank Capra reference in the title.

For information from Hollywood picket lines (and all you favorite stars), go to United Hollywood an unofficial blog started by a group of strike captains from the WGA.

And for a very human look at writing in Hollywood and television, go to the samandjimgotohollywood and listen to the entire podcast Show #35 because they reference the recent rallies, being conservative, scabs, residuals.

Many of my Brothers and Sisters in IATSE are losing quite a bit of work because the strike but I think I speak for any union worker in this country. Any group of people that are risking their livelihoods in order to improve their voice at work, deserve to be supported. There are new ways to help spread the union message and we have to use all of them, all the time.

Thanks WGA, your fight is our fight.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Life Backstage

Here's a blog from a compatriot in the television side of Local One. The Humble Nailbanger is an excellent writer and observer of the human condition.

Here's a blog from a Boston member of IATSE Local 11. The site is primarily photos and video from follow spot perches. If you have a fear of heights, Behind The Beam is not for you. If, on the other hand, you want to see what a lot of us see, check it out.

As more of our members use the Internet, I'll link to them. Every one of us has a voice and deserves to be heard.

Who's Driving This Bus?

According to a Crain's New York article about Charlotte St. Martin the head flack for the League of American Theatres and Producers, she is bewildered and surprised.

“I am surprised that with the number of hours we’ve been at the table together, we haven’t made more progress in really developing a new contract that’s more representative of business conditions today,”

So are the stagehands.

“[We] are trying to improve the future of the health of the industry so Broadway will continue to survive in times that aren’t as healthy as today,” Ms. St. Martin said. “When you fill as many seats as we’re filling and still have losses every night, you have to have new business conditions.”

Now the problem is the new business conditions (don't look at the grosses) and not the lack of quality scripts.

So the PR campaign has taken a new tack. The League of American Theatres and Producers is trying to save the industry from it's own success. Let me see if I can get this straight. Times are good so Local One and the theatrical unions have to tighten our belts so that when times are bad, Local One and the theatrical unions can tighten our belts. And you're surprised that the League hasn't made more progress at the table?

An insight into the lack of awareness that the Producers have about the day to day workings of a theatre can be found in a CNN transcript of an interview with Jonathan Tisch chairman of the Loews Hotel chain and Ms St. Martins former boss.

He spent a couple of days working in one of his hotels for a short lived TLC show called "Now Who's Boss? Should Ms. Martin have been paying attention she might have gotten some insight into the inner working of show business. The show only lasted for 5 episodes. Hello Unemployment. I can only presume they cleared the illegals out of the hotel before the TV crew got there.

"TISCH: One of the reasons I wanted to do the show was to have a better understanding of something that I knew already, which is the concept that our employees are more responsible for our success as a hotel company than in many ways I am. So to go down there, and having done the housekeeping position, and look at the 35 individuals who do this every single day on a particular shift, and also to understand that they're from 12 different nations, they speak six different languages, and somehow every single day this has to come together to turn over an 800-room hotel, and make the beds and clean the bathrooms. So I just wanted to tell them that I appreciate what they do."

I suggest that Ms. St Martin, the investors and the producers jump in on the next load-in. "Hey Charlotte, take off your heels and drop these points from the grid." 'Hey Trust Fund Baby, run these feeders from the basement to the jump and make it neat." "Yo, Max Bialystock, the trucks are here."