As one of reality TV’s royal families crossed the line, notable film and television writers joined forces in New York City on Wednesday with another group of culture workers involved in a pay dispute: musicians.
As a five-piece band played swinging brass and percussion music, members of the Writers Guild of America united in their fifth week of strike in solidarity with musicians, music industry workers and their supporters in Midtown Manhattan.
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Their curbside meeting point was outside the headquarters of Penske Media Corporation, owner of Austin set South by Southwest, aka SXSW. The conference is criticized for the way bands are compensated. (PMC also owns Deadline and other media and culture-focused publications, including Rolling stone And Billboard.)
Musicians reciprocated the gesture by joining the writers at another gathering Wednesday afternoon outside Paramount Global headquarters.
Outside of Paramount, a queen of stage and screen was on the line. Here’s why SAG-AFTRA member Alfre Woodard supports standout writers:
Earlier today, WGA strike captain Warren Leight called out Kardashian for crossing the picket line for Ryan Murphy’s American horror story.
“Sad to report Kim Kardashian crossed our downtown picket line today,” said the former Under treatment showrunner tweeted. Went past us into a freight elevator in her Chauffeured Escalade. Writers don’t keep up, but Kim Krossed Our Line.”
light tweeted a poignant clarification later: “Again: Working actors must cross our boundaries until their contracts expire on June 30. It’s not a scab,” he wrote. “Many are brooding over that, marching with us on other days, sending messages of support. She has more influence than others in her position. She didn’t use it.”
For her part, a seemingly unblushing Kardashian posted this photo to her Instagram story today:
With the support of the WGA on Wednesday, the earlier protest outside Penske headquarters was attended by more than 100 protesters. Their anger was the business model of SXSW, the potentially career-making music industry confab, artist showcase, and media festival that draws thousands of band members, solo artists, and other attendees to Austin each March.
Members of two actors’ unions — SAG-AFTRA and Broadway’s Actors’ Equity Association — demanded better compensation for bands playing at the Texas party, along with uniformed New York musicians in the American Federation of Musicians Local 802.
The message for SXSW as summarized by a speaker on Wednesday was simple: “Pay your [expletive] bands,” says Sajeev Rau, who is a member of a recently certified union for employees of a group of independent record labels. The protesters say SXSW makes millions of dollars every year from a musical event that pays the real musicians a pittance.
SXSW 2023, with more than 1,500 group or solo artists in mid-March, offered any band or solo artist booked to play one of SXSW’s coveted showcases the choice of a stipend – $250 per band or $100 per solo artist – or a wristband for free entry to festival events. It’s a deal that hasn’t changed in over a decade, as the application fee for festival slots has increased from $40 to $55, the Austin American statesman reported in February.
Representatives from Penske and SXSW did not respond to requests for comment from Deadline.
A WGA member, comedian and writer Sasha Stewart, repeated a recurring theme on Wednesday, that writers and musicians are engaged in this battle together.
“So when we learned that musicians who make SXSW millions of dollars every year are only paid with a wristband or $100, we were shocked a
nd outraged, but not surprised,” said Stewart. “Corporate media like Penske and the TV movie studios will always ask the most of artists and pay the least possible.”
Phillip Golub, a member of the Musicians Workers Alliance, said striking writers standing up for musicians in their labor struggles was “incredibly powerful” for him.
“As independent musicians, it can often feel like we’re all on our own, and we’re largely disorganized,” said Golub. “And so as we reached out to several of these other unions and organizations that are here, their support is incredibly meaningful to us. It makes sense for them too, because our struggles are intertwined.”
After speeches and a round of “We’ll be back” chants, dozens of picketers marched several blocks across Manhattan to a rally outside Paramount’s offices in Times Square, where New York musician Marc Ribot marched with more than 130 others while playing the English Horn.
On the west coast, it was horror day outside Warner Bros. Todd Spence tweeted a photo of some unhappy-looking fellow picketers who seemed to us for blood, Ryan Shovey’s board summed up the chaos of the past four-plus weeks, and a critter eyed Bobby Miller and others:
For those who would eschew horror while humming “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” there was a rally outside Amazon’s LA headquarters today:
And there was more for the enthusiasts:
If all that dark and light just made people hungry, food was back in the spotlight on Wednesday. Big mouth creator star Nick Kroll sent the Yeastie Boys bagel truck to the lines. No sleep until Netflix!
And speaking of toons, a group of Animation Guild picketers drank some “solidarity juice,” courtesy of the teams of Gray’s Anatomy And Station 19:
Elsewhere in LA, some former CSI writers got their fingerprints on picket boards:
Looking ahead to Thursday, a Pride Picket we set up outside Warner Bros. for noon, followed by an after party.
Katie Campione, Rosy Cordero, Matt Grobar, Natalie Sitek, Pete White, and Dominic Patten contributed to this report.
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