The last time WGA picket lines formed in 2007, writers didn’t have an efficient way to communicate with fellow strikers about group meet-ups, illegal productions, and all those clever placards. The only place they could turn to for regular information was this very space, in which the late Nikki Finke would post regular missives about strike action, the broken-off negotiations and the financial impact of the 100-day work stoppage.
My, have times changed. Even with the new and so-not-improved platform under Elon Musk, Twitter has become the go-to town square for writers looking for either marching orders or just plain encouragement from their fellow strikers. When writers aren’t trying to boost morale, they are posting selfies from the picket lines and sharing locations where more reinforcements are needed to battle the AMPTP.
“Twitter has turned into an invaluable tool in getting picketers to our lines,” Strike Captain Warren Leight (Law & Order: SVU) tells Deadline. “We get hundreds of fast retweets, and the WGA East Rapid Responders respond rapidly, as do actors, students, and other allies. Just one example: Thursday night in Jersey City we had a picket line that was down to three people — four if you include one writer’s young daughter. I tweeted out an urgent request for reinforcements on Twitter. Nine people got there within half an hour. The show, which had been hoping to reopen once the small line flagged, ended up shutting down for the night.”
It’s a far cry from from the last strike, when any kind of mass communication had to occur via email only. As New Amsterdam creator David Schulner recalled to Deadline four years ago, a number of showrunners felt conflicted in the first days of the 2007-08 strike, torn between their allegiance to their guild and the threat of being sued by their employer if they didn’t perform producing services. An open letter by Shawn Ryan changed that. Going viral before viral existed, his letter was forwarded via email and helped galvanize the writing community, boost the morale and build union solidarity.
Today, social media is taking strike solidarity-building to a whole new level.
“It’s an incredible ally,” adds Mark Blutman (Boy Meets World, Girl Meets World). “What we have ostensibly have is a PR machine with the capability of working 24/7 all across the world and you can’t buy that kind of publicity. So on a day like Sunday, [Warner Bros. Discovery CEO] David Zaslav is told in no uncertain times by the young graduates of Boston University, the next generation of storytellers and filmmakers. When he is told to pay the writers, and those video bites go viral? We can’t buy that kind of publicity. So social media in times like this are our friend and we are overwhelmingly on the side of public opinion, in part, thanks to social media.”
The WGA also used social media to share studio representative AMPTP’s negotiation points — or lack thereof — which no-doubt singlehandedly drove writers to the picket line. As Home Economics co-creator and co-showrunner John Aboud told us on Day One of the strike, “when I saw the counter [by the AMPTP], I was really stunned how many of the [negotiating points] did not receive a response. No counter. I was shocked. Complete failure to engage.” He went on to say that the “WGA has a done much better job of being on message and being very disciplined in terms of getting stories out that reveal the life of the average writer. I don’t think that was the case in ’07. This year has been flawless.”
Not every tweet is a call for action or an attack on the studios’ position. The platform offers a welcome respite for weary writers to blow off some steam and demonstrate what they do best — write. One of the more amusing accounts to emerge is a send up of AMPTP president Carol Lombardini. We don’t know who runs this feed but we’d like to think it’s someone in the Succession writer’s room because each tweet features a tasty, Roman-like burn – like this one that takes a jab at David Zaslav.
And now that SAG members have voted to strike, Twitter users are coming up with clever ways to welcome them — as well as DGA, which is currently negotiating with the AMPRP — to the party. Using memes from movies and, yep, Succession, the writers are envisioning how an actor’s — and potentially director’s — strike will only help their cause.
Here’s a sampling:
Nellie Andreeva contributed to this report.