As the Writers Guild of America strike entered its second week, attendance appeared to be down at several locations that were particularly overflowing with pickets last week. On Monday afternoon, there were no protesters in front of the Walt Disney Studios and only a few dozen down the street at NBC. But the striking writers said their spirits were not flagging.
Jessica O'Toole, a writer on the ABC Family series "Greek," was pushing a stroller carrying her 9-month-old son, Carter. The front of his T-shirt said "W.G.A. Baby," while the back read, "Will Poop for Contract."
"I'm a worrier," O'Toole said as she marched in front of NBC, "but there is nothing but goodwill and positive feelings out here."
Bobby Gaylor, a writer on the Disney Channel's "Phineas and Ferb," said he was invigorated by last Friday's massive rally at 20th Century Fox, which included a musical set by Rage Against the Machine singer Zack de la Rocha. "I really felt like I was a coal miner listening to Woody Guthrie," Gaylor said. "So far, everyone I have run into today says their spirits are just as strong as last week."
In New York, strikers from WGA East chose Wall Street -- at least as close as they could get -- for Tuesday's picketing. Their message, according to union official Ann B. Toback, was that while big media companies tell the investment community that new media is a growing profit source for them, they tell writers that there isn't yet any revenue to share with them.
The picket line was set up at the edge of Battery Park, a subway stop away from Wall Street, because the union couldn't get a permit to march at the iconic bronze sculpture of a rampant bull, close to the New York Stock Exchange. They planned to conduct leafleting at lunchtime near the NYSE.
Actor-writers Michael Imperioli ("The Sopranos") and Tina Fey ("30 Rock"), playwright Tony Kushner ("Angels in America") and screenwriter Tony Gilroy ("Michael Clayton," the Jason Bourne series) were among about 80 picketers on the line a little before noon on an overcast morning.
The picketers had to compete with the racket of a jackhammer wielded by a nearby street-repair crew. Sample sign: "We can't BEAR studio BULL."
The giant pink inflatable pig, on loan from the Laborers Union International and looking a little worse for wear after several days of strike duty, sagged slightly against a nearby subway entrance.
"Homeless people get 5 cents for turning in bottles," explained Ty Mahar, 7, one of dozens of youngsters brought to the Fox Studio picket lines Monday -- no school -- to support their striking parents. "And writers only get 4 cents," he finished.
"If writers get 4 cents, how much do the studios get for each DVD?" prompted mom.
"Over 19 bucks," chirped Ty's friend, Isaac Pross, also 7, the son of "Simpsons" writer Max Pross.
Ty's mother insisted that he and Isaac had come up with the writers-homeless revenue comparison at the breakfast table, all by themselves.
Someone get these kids a blog!
A group of writers for "The Simpsons" got their close-up in the Fox Studios picket line Thursday, discussing their concerns over DVD and Internet residuals with writer-director Peter Rader ("Waterworld"), a WGA "communications captain" who has been producing short, pithy videos for the "wgaamerica" YouTube page. A crew from ABC's "Nightline" was on hand to shoot it.
The writers -- among them Matt Selman, Mike Scully, Don Payne, Rob LaZebnick and Joel Cohen -- mocked the idea that episodes of their show being aired online are just "promotions" for the shows themselves.
"If you watch 'The Simpsons' on the Fox website Hulu," said Selman, speaking of the online video venture between Fox owner News Corp. and NBC Universal, "there are advertisements that Fox is making a killing off of because they're embedded and you can't skip them."
Holding up his video iPod, writer Daniel Chun gave another example, "I'm watching 'Battlestar Galactica' right now. This episode of 'Battlestar Galactica' is a really good promotion for 'Battlestar Galactica' -- I should really watch the show I'm watching right now!"
Rader is affiliated with "United Hollywood," a group of blogging strike captains that is an unofficial offshoot of the WGA's communications team. He has posted videos featuring "Grey's Anatomy's" Patrick Dempsey and Sandra Oh, as well as last week's modest YouTube hit "The Office Is Closed."
After Rader had rolled tape for 20 minutes or so, a couple of "Simpsons" writers, worried they had been perhaps a bit too vitriolic (e.g. someone had described Fox owner Rupert Murdoch as "sitting on a throne of skulls"), asked Rader to make sure they didn't get into too much trouble.
Chun was unworried. "You can use whatever you want," he said. "I'm young enough to destroy my career and then build it back up."
Rebecca Shubert looked a little young to be on the picket line.