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Joss Whedon - "Writers Guild of America" Strike - Arise and Seize the Pencils...

Saturday 17 November 2007, by Webmaster

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Our Evil(it’s not evil) Master(we’re not masters) Plan is ready to unleash(it’s not a dog).(!)

Well, United Hollywood has fine-tuned the pencil concept into an organized and potentially awesomely visual penstravaganza! Witness the electronic mail messed forth to showrunner types:

This week, United Hollywood (the blog) met with a group of showrunners who have particularly vocal fan bases. We discussed the fans’ eagerness to put their energy to use in a unified campaign, and this is what we came up with:

Several fan sites have suggested sending pencils into the networks and studios, and some of them are already doing it. It’s a great idea, and we’d like to take it a step further – get everyone buying pencils at the same time, from the same vendor, to be delivered in masses (like the peanuts were for Jericho.) All the fandoms working together, in concert. It seems that the conglomerates take it for granted that the fans will always be there to purchase content, that their concerns about the strike don’t matter. This is a chance for the fans to show that they do matter.

The campaign itself is fairly simple. We’d like to start it right away, and it goes like this:

Point the fans to http://unitedhollywood.blogspot.com/, where there will be a banner or button allowing them to click through to buy boxes of pencils. The pencils are plain wooden #2’s, and the company uses sustainable farming for the wood (seriously. They do.) The pricing will be “a buck a box.” (Sustainably harvested wood pencils + PayPal cost per transaction puts us a little higher than the cost of a box if you buy at Office Depot, sorry.) If there’s any money left over, it will be donated to the Union Solidarity Fund, which is a nonprofit for non-WGA members affected by the strike.

When fans click to buy the pencils, they can choose to identify the show they are supporting if they want. (This will generate a database of fans by show – among other things, allowing showrunners to thank fans by group if they want to.)

The pencils will be delivered in bulk, by trucks, like the peanuts were. The deliveries will be to the 6 CEOs of the 6 congloms (Disney, News Corp, Viacom, Time Warner, CBS, GE) one by one – we’ll probably start with GE. If we get enough to pencils to do all 6, then we will. If we don’t, we’ll concentrate on one or two.

If the logistics can be worked out, showrunners who choose to can take part in a “load the pencils” photo op – unpacking the boxes of pencils and shoveling them into bins or boxes for transport to the CEO’s. The visual has the potential to be worth a thousand words – for the fans as well as the general public.

We will suggest that the fans send a message similar to this: “We’re all on the same page. Make a fair deal.”

This has the potential to be a historic moment in fan history – the first time that all fandoms band together to show that they are a force to be reckoned with to the corporate world. Given the passion and commitment the fans are already showing, this seems a good way to both show our appreciation and respect, as well as giving them the direction they’ve been requesting.

We hope you’ll be willing to join us in this effort. It won’t be our last.

Carol Barbee Jericho
John Aboud
United Hollywood

Jane Espenson
Buffy, Battlestar Galactica
Jeffrey Berman
United Hollywood

Rob McElhenney
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Laeta Kalogridis
United Hollywood

Ron Moore
Battlestar Galactica

Marti Noxon
Buffy, Private Practice

Jaime Paglia

Bill Prady
Two and a Half Men

Shonda Rhimes
Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice

Stephanie Savage
Gossip Girl

Joss Whedon
Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse

Pretty offical sounding, huh? Like grown-ups would do. Well, I, as a showrunner... (but with no show... If I have no show, am I a showrunner? What would Jubal Early say?) Anyhoo I’m a tirribly impahtant Hollyville muckity so my opinion counts oodles. And I think this will be very cool. Let’s make our (unsharpened) point. I seriously want to spend a day wading in actual pencils with a big ol’ snowshovel. And I want the Execs to understand that forcing one show off the air can rouse the public to make themselves heard in a fairly dramatic fashion, but forcing ALL of them off the air... well, might just be a tetch more dramatical-er. Now you all kinda got your own Union. And it’s time to strike.

"CBS and Fox, they think were nothin’!
Are we nothin’? NO!
CBS and Fox they think they got us,
Do they got us? NO!
Even though we all wear scarves and glasses,
We’re a union, just by sayin’ so...
And the world will know!"

So here goes.

Yours ever, -j.

Time to address a timely question. Tehabwa asks if this is still worth doing, given that the AMPTP has unexpectedly agreed to return to the table for further negotiations after Thanksgiving. It’s a very good question. The answers is: Absolutely.

It’s exciting as hell that the AMPTP has made a move toward an agreement. But it’s no guarantee that the strike will end, or that the AMPTP will feel real pressure to make an acceptable offer. This fight is not over until it’s over. The Pencil Drive is a statement that the studios need to understand EVEN IF THERE HADN’T BEEN A STRIKE. This is about keeping the pressure on, the spirits high, the voices loud and damn well clear. We’re not going to the table with animosity — we want to work WITH the studios — but we’re not going back as anything other than a powerful union — a union of unions: the WGA, all the unions affected by the strike, the unions like SAG and the DGA that will be affected by whatever precedent the WGA deal sets... and now the Fan Union. That’s the union they’ll be hearing from — one they don’t even know exists.