More than two dozen local writers are spending the winter frozen out of the movie and TV business. Here are their stories.
By NEAL JUSTIN, Star Tribune
Last update: January 28, 2008 - 9:36 AM
The writers' strike, now in its 12th week, hasn't hurt only those in Los Angeles and New York. Its impact has been felt by those residing in "flyover land" -- and I'm not just talking about us saps so desperate for original programming that we turned reality garbage like last Thursday's premiere of "Moment of Truth" into a major TV event. I'm referring to those who live in the Twin Cities, yet depend largely on Hollywood work to put food on the table.
For the more than two dozen members of the Writers Guild of America who call Minnesota home, the strike is not just a setback; it could be a career killer. We talked to several creative types about how the work stoppage has affected their lives personally and professionally. Here are their thoughts:
Scott Nimerfro (writer/executive producer, "Pushing Daisies"): "The thing I miss most is the paycheck. I may have had more expenses than other writers, because I was flying back home on the weekends, but we counted on that money. If this goes on until June, I'll be driving a tow truck.
"These days, I'm the house husband to my two daughters, 4 and 2 1/2 years old, while my wife has gone back to freelancing for an ad agency. We wish the situation was flip-flopped. The kids miss their mom.
"This is a show that was critically acclaimed and had some momentum and that was pulled out from under us. I remember that last day on the set, I had to sit there with a stopwatch and at midnight, all the writers had to stop working. I hope we get back on the air soon and have the chance to get our fans back."
Shawn Lawrence Otto (writer, "House of Sand and Fog"): "We are a little out of the loop here because we're not participating in picket lines on a regular basis. Some of us go out there from time to time, but that quickly becomes an expensive proposition and I've been without any kind of income for a number of months.
"We do our part in other ways, like when we held an event in front of the Uptown Theatre in December, just to show people that WGA writers live everywhere.
"I've gotten involved in some other things. I've joined my friend, screenwriter Matthew Chapman, in an effort to try to get the presidential candidates to debate science and technology policies. We've got a lot of college presidents and Nobel Laureates as supporters. That's the danger of a writers' strike. They better put us back to work."
Ali Selim (writer/director, "Sweet Land"): "I've been dying on the vine. I had some spec scripts that I had written that had generated some interest, but that came to a halt. As a director, there is some work that producers are trying to jam through the system, but by and large, those projects aren't ready. They need rewrites. I want to make sure that the projects I work on are fully baked and that they live up to their promise. If movies that have been rammed through get out, I think it's going to turn audiences away. It's bad for the whole business."
David Grant (playwright, "Inter-City Opera"): "I was up for a really interesting, quite incredible project for a cable network. I was really looking forward to getting out to L.A. and interviewing for it when the strike was announced. Bigger projects, like tent pole movies, tend to be on very firm footing, but projects I'm involved with, like this one, tend to be more marginal and more fragile. I'm remaining hopeful that the project hasn't completely lost momentum, but that's what tends to happen. If it did, that would be really tragic for me. It's been two years since I've had studio work. Those of us in theater can do other kinds of writing, but when you get Hollywood work, it's usually so lucrative that it outstrips everything else combined that I've done over two years."