2008 is here and the Writers Guild Strike is still not settled.

The first ten days of this year have been filled with calls and emails from friends, co-workers and people I haven’t talked to in years all looking for work. Sure, all the late night shows are back on the air but the employees at Conan, Letterman and Leno were paid for the last couple of months even though their shows weren’t on the air. They weren’t exactly victims of the strike. If you weren’t one the lucky hundreds to work in late night then you are (or soon to be) fucked. There are thousands and thousands of people out of work and in danger of losing their health insurance, their houses and savings.

The thing that has worried me most is that the people I know who always have work and are usually the ones to do all the hiring (Line Producers and UPM’s) are unemployed too! Everyone is still on the side of the writers but the cracks are (behind closed doors) starting to show. I have had many conversations with upper level writers and producers and my personal conclusion is that there are some hard-headed stubborn views on both sides that aren’t leading towards any sign of talks or negotiations. In the meantime multiple thousands of industry professionals (paychecks average $750-$2500 a week) are out of work.

Including my friend and sometime partner in crime Alison Freer.

I thought I’d check in and see how she is holding up. 

bio2 The Alison Strikes Back

My dear Alison, tell me what you do in Hollywood and what your 2007 was like? 

I am a union Costume Designer, Local 892. I, along with a crew of VERY talented ladies (hi Karen, Andrea, Lauren, Jamie!) am responsible for creating the look of the costumes that actors wear. I help bring to life what starts out as mere words written on a page. 2007 was the culmination of everything I have worked for. After years of free/low budget/soul crushing work on shows I disliked, in 2007 I joined the union and worked every day of the year on projects I liked, that were funny or good, with people that either I liked or they at least liked me. 

We all knew the strike was coming, were you able to save some money before the town shut down?  

I was indeed able to squirrel away some cash. I am afraid I was one of the few fortunate ones. But as you know, savings go fast and really, are meant for when I am old and grey. I am lucky, I am just me-no kids in college, needing braces, PS3′s, etc. Please someone write me and explain the difference between PlayStations 1-100. Luckily my father is an accountant and never stops harassing me about my saving money. So, thanks Dad! This Bud’s for you. I hope and pray for a resolution that may come too late for some of my brethren.

How has the strike affected you, your crew and vendors so far?

I for one am considering working again at the retail level-I was always good at selling unnecessary shit to people-isn’t that what TV is?  It’s heartbreaking to not be able to offer a steady paycheck to the chicks (Costumers) that have gotten my ass out of a jam for years. I want to open my wallet and write big checks like Dave Letterman. Many vendors I know that have bent over backwards and made me the Designer I am today are in real danger of losing everything. How can the world be so blind? I live, I breathe, I bleed for my producers, and they are my parents, I shall not ever fail them. I am a warrior, I will die trying, I trust them implicitly, and for that, I am promised that they will take care of me. For them I go face first into battle daily…You can bet that attitude will change once (if?) we are all back to work. Every man for himself?  I am really good at that game too. 

What has been the worst part of 2008?  

Sending emails looking for work sucks. So does seeing people you love having financial hardship when they are the hardest working freaks you know. The uncertainty is what will get me in the end. I truly believe that it will be August before the whole town is back to work. 
The WGA will not back down-and SAG will go out with them come June. 
Writers may not be very likeable, but the George Clooneys of the world are charming like nobody’s business. Ya wanna see the court of public opinion then?  

If the strike goes on forever what would your fantasy career change be? 

Well, ideally a supermodel, race car driver or superhero, but realistically I would love to be a trend forecaster for a large company of suits that needs a hipster on the payroll. I will be 100 years old, still clocking what the rad kids are wearing.  Seeing where they are going.  I’m that good. And I always get what they are trying to say. Hell, I’m 36 years old, still making a statement myself every time I walk out the door. HEAR ME ROAR WORLD. I am coming to get you. And I’m gonna sell it to the masses. Alternatively, my late dog Lucky who died in 2007 makes me want to take every animal out of every shelter in the world and take care of them in the way that they deserve. Lucky taught me to be fearless, forget what other people think about you, have faith, be strong, look for the good in people, and believe in yourself. Not bad for someone weighing 7 lbs and having one eye. 

What does mom and dad think about the strike and your current unemployment?

Lots of curse words.  But I must say it is kinda fabulous to be unemployed thru no fault of your own, you can sleep till noon and visit every happy hour in town and they can’t really say “Don’t you think it’s time you got a job?” Or my personal favorite, “You know, it’s a full time job trying to get a job.” It’s also quite brilliant to be employed in a business that my parents don’t fully understand, so they can suggest possible strategies for me to get hired and then say “But of course I don’t understand how your business works.” AWESOME. It also helps that I am self sufficient 3000 miles away not hitting them up for cash or pillaging their fridge. I am lucky that my parents are understanding, loving and supportive.

Is there anything special you would like to say to the heads of the WGA and AMPTP?  

Get with the program, boys! Don’t make us ladies come in there and straighten this thing out and embarrass the shit out of you. Quite seriously, this is a boondoggle and an affront to thousands of hard working people.  I am not sure the writers are 100% right but I know the studios are 100% wrong. Actually I do know the writers are right, what if 75 years ago radio writers were like “Eh, we’ll roll over on this TV thing, it’s nothing special.” There would be no unions to speak of today. We’d all be soulless corporate wage slaves. Instead I am a respected professional with a dental plan. My good friend Kevin who is a tape operator can afford to care for his child with down syndrome. Did Viacom ever stop to think of her? Her name is Maggie, thanks for asking.

OK, I know you are busy staring at the wall, so I won’t keep you, here is my final question: Do you have any survival tips for the thousands of people in the entertainment business that are out of work? 

I love that you remember that my favorite leisure activity is staring at the wall. I get some of my best thinking done that way!

My advice? For what it’s worth…start thinking NOW about what else it is you are good at. Now is the time for plan B. We live in such a different time than during the 1988 strike. Fuck a bunch of movie studios. Let them rot. We are smarter, stronger, more savvy than those that came before us. I guess what I am really trying to say is to stay positive. This is a fight for the ages, indeed. 

You can visit Alison at alisonfreer.com

One Response to “The Alison Strikes Back”

  1. Téa B says:

    What a great interview.

    I am such a naive optimist… that I hope that it is resolved as soon as possible.

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