If only bus drivers had writers like these

Via Martine, the WGA, the American writers union which is currently holding us hostage by denying us House-isms on strike for the rights to more than mere pennies from DVD sales and all of nothing from online publishing of TV shows and movies, isn’t lying down or holding useless marches with picket signs. They’re creating media to rally support for their cause.

In essence, it’s a tactic we’ve seen before but on a much larger scale. When CBC employees were locked out in 2005, they started producing blogs and podcasts to keep communication going. After it was over, the blogger for CBC Unlocked, Tod Maffin, was given the job of running Inside the CBC, a decidedly uncorporate, uncensored blog about the inner life of the Mother Corp., with its blessing.

Locked-out journalists at the Journal de Québec are still, since April, putting out a competing daily newspaper as part of their pressure tactics. The move has rallied support among other unions (who have helped them financially) politicians and newsmakers (who refuse to deal with Canoe reporters, a fly-by-night “wire services” and other scabs) and readers (who have cancelled subscriptions and are picking up the competing paper).

With Hollywood, the tactic that’s getting the most play is online video (ironic since the dispute is over how little they get paid for online video). Writers for popular shows like The Office, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have been cracking jokes on YouTube, and the actors are coming out to support them. Some like McDreamy and co. talk calmly about the issues, others like Sarah Silverman make the funny, and then there’s Sandra Oh.

The latest campaign, called “Speechless“, involves short black-and-white clips of actors in a world without scriptwriters. Most of them are of the actor-stands-blank-faced-and-says-nothing variety. Others are pretty funny. There’s a new one every day.

Some of my favourites below:

Episode 1: Holly Hunter tries to get some input on a script written by an outsourced Indian company.
Episode 6: Kate Beckinsale and David Schwimmer. (Do I need a reason beyond Kate Beckinsale to post this video?)

Episode 8: An adorable whistling duet by Filliam H. Muffman. It makes no sense in this context, but they’re just so cute together.

Episode 10: An otherwise forgettable talking-but-no-words-come-out number by Desperate Housewives Eva Longoria and Nicolette Sheridan ad-libs into hilarity.

Episode 11: Laura Linney tries some writing of her own, with disastrous results.

Episode 12: Rapid-fire clips of a bunch of actors holding signs that say “speechless”. And not D-list ones either: William H. Macy, Kate Beckinsale, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry, Susan Sarandon, Eva Longoria, Holly Hunter, Gary Dourdan, Bill Hader, Joshua Jackson and a bunch of other people you know by face but not by name.You can see all the videos here.

Of course, campaigns like this only work if you have the public’s support. Writers and journalists have it because they’re grossly underpaid professions and the rights they’re demanding are hardly unreasonable in the face of megacorporations with huge profits. Support for the WGA is almost universal, even among some of those people who stand to lose from a prolonged labour conflict.

Unfortunately, groups like STM bus drivers don’t have that kind of public support. They’re seen as overpaid whiners with too much power who don’t care about the public. (An informal CTV News poll had 91% of about 1,000 respondents saying public transit workers should not be allowed to strike.)

Maybe if Susan Sarandon did a video for them they’d get more public support.

Then again maybe not.

UPDATE (Nov. 28): For those who want more low-brow late night writers strike videos, check out LateShowWritersOnStrike.com.

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