Picket line moods improve

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The writers strike presented a more diverse public face Monday as disabled writers and actors turned up at Warner Bros. picket lines and film and TV assistants joined those at Fox to lend support to the striking scribes.

The mood among those on both picket lines was more upbeat and optimistic after Friday's news that the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers would resume talks after Thanksgiving weekend. Many picketers said they were encouraged by the scheduled return to bargaining, even though the strike will continue despite the resumption of talks.

"I'm very happy," writer-producer-director Peter Farrelly said as he walked with picketers at Warners. "The producers and studios need to realize we're not asking for much. If what we get turns out to be a lot, it means the studios are going to get more than they ever dreamed of."

Farrelly said he was on hand to support the disabled actors and writers who bolstered the Warners picket line for the day. Most Farrelly brothers films feature at least one character with physical or mental disabilities.

"We're used to fighting to get what we want; we do it 24/7," said Robert David Hall, a disabled actor on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" who joined the picket line in a wheelchair. "Their demands are incredibly reasonable."

At Fox, at least 100 TV and film assistants turned up to walk the picket line, including many who had received pink slips since the strike began. Some of the assistants are associate members of the WGA and said the strike is as much about their future as those of the writers.

"I'm out here because I'm a writer and I want to build a career and get in the union," said writers assistant Angelina Burnett ("New Amsterdam"). "In the future, it's going to be all digital, and I want to get paid for it."

Burnett said she will be laid off shortly.

Allan Rice, a script coordinator for "The New Adventures of Old Christine," has been jobless since the first Friday of the strike.

"I think the important thing for people to know is there are a lot more people involved in this," Rice said. "It's not just the people with the money."

Separately on Monday, AFTRA issued a statement of support for the writers strike and announced the performers' union has formed a "committee to coordinate participation by AFTRA members in strike activities."

"AFTRA members have been on the picket lines and in the streets with the writers ever since the first day of the strike," said Ron Morgan, AFTRA 2nd national vp and Los Angeles Local president. "Our solidarity statement and committee further demonstrate our commitment to our brothers and sisters at the WGA. Their struggle with employers will soon be our struggle — and we must all stand together."

In another strike-related announcement, some striking TV writers said they plan to return to their stand-up comedy roots starting today at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood. They include Neal Brennan, Jordan Rubin, Fred Wolf, Jeff Cohen, Jeff Cesario and Allan Stephens.

Elizabeth Taylor also said she has won WGA West president Patric Verrone's assurance that there will be no picketing Dec. 1 at a theater on the Paramount lot when she is scheduled to give a live stage performance to benefit HIV/AIDS charities.

"The (WGA) takes great pride in the wide-reaching charitable work of our membership and of our associates in the entertainment industry," Verrone said. "Picketing is an essential instrument of our strike, but we are willing to suspend the picketing at this location temporarily to facilitate this fundraiser and the return of a great actress to the stage."

Taylor is scheduled to participate in a single performance of A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" with James Earl Jones.
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