Rally 'Round the Writers

Local WGA members take part in Day of Action

Local scribes (l-r) Stephen Harrigan, Turk Pipkin, and Tim McCanlies gathered outside the Paramount Theatre last Thursday to protest for writers' rights.
Local scribes (l-r) Stephen Harrigan, Turk Pipkin, and Tim McCanlies gathered outside the Paramount Theatre last Thursday to protest for writers' rights. (Photo by John Anderson)

Boston-based actor Jaime de la Rosa is visiting his family for the holidays. But when the Screen Actors Guild member heard there was a Writers Guild of America rally in Downtown Austin last week, he wanted to show his solidarity. WGA members – television and film writers – have been on strike going on seven weeks. De la Rosa's support was evident, even if difficult to articulate.

"I'm here because as an actor, you know, it's important to support them ... um, as a member of the business, it's important. You know, they're going for something important." After a few more false starts de la Rosa blurted:

"I need my script! I'm an actor!"

De la Rosa joined about 30 others in a Day of Action rally outside the Paramount Theatre last Thursday. The location was chosen for its visibility and to put an Austin face on the WGA strike. Of the estimated 120 WGA members in Texas, approximately 80 live in Austin, according to strike co-captain Chris Mass. The turnout was small when compared to rallies in New York or Los Angeles, but the stakes are the same.

While new media is at the top of the WGA agenda, there are other issues bringing attention to the fact that the old way of doing business is in need of a major overhaul.

"A big issue for me is animation," said Tim McCanlies. The Austin-based screenwriter's credits include Secondhand Lions and the animated feature Iron Giant. A critical success, a huge video hit, and two special-edition DVDs later, Iron Giant has played all over the world. Any writer would be happy with that kind of success except for one thing: McCanlies does not profit from it.

"When the Writers Guild was forming, the cartoonists union ended up handling any writing done for animation," McCanlies explains. "So, though I wrote Iron Giant, I get no residuals for it. You write a script for an animated film just like you do for a movie. There really is no difference."

The last WGA strike in 1988 lasted five months. Though no one wants to be on strike, all were digging in for the long haul. De la Rosa was at no loss for words when it came to explaining why. "Writers are extremely important in the business. They're the backbone of the industry. That's why I'm here."

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WGA strike, Tim McCanlies, Jaime de la Rosa

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