Why I Voted to Authorize a Writers Strike Despite Being "Scared Shitless" (Guest Column)
Marc Bernardin, a former senior editor at THR and other publications, left his day job to become a screenwriter. Now he's terrified of what might happen to him.
I was an entertainment journalist during the most recent Writers Guild of America strike. There were a lot of stories to cover over those 100 days — from Nov. 5, 2007, to Feb. 12, 2008: what a Hollywood without scripted content would look like (and what it would cost); what internet residuals even mean; ranking the various late-night hosts' strike beards …
While I had to remain impartial in print, in person I found myself defending the WGA's decision to strike, both with family who didn't understand and with friends who wanted their favorite shows back. Because I wanted to be a TV writer.
I have, for as long as I can remember, felt a pull toward making up stories for the screen. (OK, that's a lie: I can remember wanting to be a Jedi as if it were yesterday. Fine, it was also yesterday.)
And now, after 25 years spent as a professional journalist — working for THR, the Los Angeles Times and Entertainment Weekly, among others — I am a television writer. In February, I joined the writing staff of Castle Rock, the Stephen King-inspired show that Bad Robot is producing for Warner Bros. Television and Hulu.
It is, in almost every way, the dream I've been working toward for more than half my life.
And yet, I voted to authorize a strike by the WGA, a strike that could take this dream job right off the Bernardin table, the job for which I walked away from a not-shabby career as a magazine and newspaper editor.
I believe the issues facing writers are worth striking for. I believe that our leadership and membership don't actually want a strike. I believe that the studios don't want a strike either, but they are companies not in the business of giving up money unless they have to, so they're testing our resolve. I believe that tomorrow is something worth digging your heels in for today.
None of that belief changes the fact that I am scared shitless.
I am not a 24-year-old kid coming out of film school and sharing an apartment with a gaggle of friends. I have a family that needs health insurance and a mortgage that needs to be paid. I am a grown-ass man who lives in the real world.
I know exactly what a strike will mean for those writers, like myself, who are at the bottom of the ladder and don't have the sacks of cash earned over a long career to cushion themselves.
I know what it will mean for the below-the-line workforce in Hollywood that will sit on the sidelines waiting for the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers to come to terms. I also know that, sometimes, the right thing to do is also the scary thing, that standing up and declaring what you're worth can shake you to the core.
I stand with the WGA, though my knees are a little wobbly. Luckily, I have a guild to lean on.
If it were easy, everyone would do it. Right?
This story first appeared in the April 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.