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Single screenwriters hope to 'Strike Up a Romance' on the picket lines

Until the strike, Haley Boston (left) had been developing a horror show for Netflix called <em>Something Very Bad is Going to Happen</em>. Now, she's hoping something very good comes out of their protests. Augustus Schiff and Sam Freedman stand to her right.
Mandalit del Barco
/
NPR
Until the strike, Haley Boston (left) had been developing a horror show for Netflix called Something Very Bad is Going to Happen. Now, she's hoping something very good comes out of their protests. Augustus Schiff and Sam Freedman stand to her right.

TV and film writers are on their second week of striking against major Hollywood studios. Their picket lines have featured more than just protest chants.

This week, the lead singer and the guitarist of the band Imagine Dragons entertained writers striking outside Netflix headquarters in L.A., where actor Pete Davidson brought them boxes of pizza. There were celebrity sightings at picket lines in Los Angles and New York: Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, Jason Sudeikis and Brett Goldstein showed up to support the cause.

And outside Universal Studios on Wednesday, hundreds of writers waved picket signs and flirted during a singles meetup event called "Strike Up a Romance."

"This would be the perfect time to write a rom-com: Love on the Picket Line," quipped Alix Bloom. Before the strike, she was writing for the new comedy series The Pradeeps of Pittsburgh. "I actually was just dumped three weeks ago by my boyfriend. Yes, he randomly dumped me. Then my career randomly dumped me," she said. "So now I'm using all of that energy to strike for what we deserve."

TV writer Alix Bloom says she may or may not be ready to date again, but she is ready to protest.
Mandalit del Barco / NPR
/
NPR
TV writer Alix Bloom says she may or may not be ready to date again, but she is ready to protest.

The Writers Guild of America began striking on May 2, after contract negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers broke down. Writers are demanding higher wages and more residuals, especially when their work repeats on streaming services. They also want guaranteed staffing sizes for writer's rooms, and they want to regulate the use of artificial intelligence in creating content.

At the event outside Universal Studios, Haley Boston carried a sign that read, "Single and ready to be paid fairly." Until the strike, she had been developing a horror show for Netflix called Something Very Bad is Going to Happen. Now, she's hoping something very good comes out of the protests.

"People often caution you against dating another writer," Boston said, "but I think it's bleak times out there, so I would love to find someone who's in the same boat as I am."

The event's organizers, who are members of the WGA, said the work stoppage means writers can no longer say they're "too busy to date." They offered strikers breath mints and advice from a professional matchmaker who's also a TV writer.

Among those out protesting the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers was Augustus Schiff, who wrote for the animated sitcom Big Mouth. "I've been single for four years, so I'm thinking it'd be a very nice side effect of being out here and expressing my distaste for the AMPTP's deal," he said.

Writer Julie Greiner was also there, with her friend Amilia Elizalde, both of them writers for Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News. I asked if they'd heard any good picket line pickup lines.

"Ooh, you know what? I hope that someone will approach me with that," said Greiner, "I feel like that's kinda the idea."

Elizalde said that, so far, she'd just noticed, "a lot of lingering looks, loaded glances. For now it's very Pride and Prejudice."

Some of the writers said they were inspired by one couple protesting with them outside Universal Studios. During the last writers strike, in 2007, Hunter Covington organized a singles event on the picket line in front of Fox Studios. That's where he met Stacy Traub.

"I was on a show called called Notes from the Underbelly," said Traub.
"I was on a show called My Name is Earl," said Covington.
"We were both comedy writers, we were both on strike," she said.
"We bonded about some funny things you hear in the writers' room," he added. "We got each other."

Covington and Traub both became showrunners, raising their four children. They celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary last Friday by picketing once again: They went back to the spot where they met, gave a speech and ran under picket signs their friends held up like an arch.

"The upside of the strike was that we found each other," Traub said. "I think it's all about finding hope during the strike," Covington added.

After picketing all afternoon, the writers moved to a nearby outdoor restaurant, Roadside Taco. They drank margaritas, ate tacos and exchanged numbers. It's unclear how many matches were made, but the event was such a hit, the writers said they may keep mingling throughout the strike.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Writers meet up at Roadside Taco after picketing all afternoon.
Mandalit del Barco / NPR
/
NPR
Writers meet up at Roadside Taco after picketing all afternoon.

Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.