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Daily Digest: What Is a Neutral Gate and How Do Picketers Flip It?
➕ WGA West HQ gets picketed by the AMPTP...? (Not really)
Late-night talk shows may have shut down during the strike, but that hasn’t stopped writers from taking their comedy to the picket lines. Jimmy Kimmel Live! writers Tony Barbieri and Jesse McLaren were part of a small group doing an extended bit in L.A. today, donning suits and pretending to be studio execs chanting “We should be golfing!” outside the WGA West office.
Just down the street at CBS Television City — probably the most low-profile picket in L.A. according to The Ankler’s Picket Power Rankings (coming soon!) — strikers were diligently keeping watch on the studio where several soap operas are filmed.
I was told that picketers had just last week “flipped” a neutral gate, so I spoke to local strike captain Bill Wolkoff (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds) about what that means, exactly:
Bill, first, tell me what a neutral gate is?
Wolkoff: A neutral gate is a gate that is not supposed to be trafficked by any productions affiliated with the WGA. Sometimes there’s other companies that are delivering things for commercial shoots or events. The idea is that those companies that are unaffiliated with the strike should be able go through the gate and not have to cross the picket line.
What does it mean to flip a neutral gate?
What’s happening is: the productions are now sending their trucks and employees that are working on their productions through the neutral gates, and we have observers that don’t have picket signs — not a picket, but are lawfully entitled to observe those gates — and if we can prove that a production inside the studio we’re picketing is sending their trucks and actors and other employees through the neutral gate, that means it’s not a neutral gate. [NOTE: Once a neutral gate is flipped, a picket line can be formed across it to prevent access to the studio.]
What’s the governing body that decides on that switch?
The Guild has a team of lawyers that weighs the evidence that neutral gate observers provide — and it really does need to be rock solid — because if it actually is a neutral gate and we start to picket that neutral gate, it’s my understanding that the studios could launch an argument that we’re creating a secondary strike, which is in violation of the National Labor Relations Act.
And you guys flipped a neutral gate over on Fairfax, right?
We did. It took some time. First we had to prove we knew which production was happening down here. We got lucky because one of the actors from a production that’s happening here crossed our picket line and told us he was working a production here. So we knew that that production was happening in here. It took another week or two in order for us to find actors from that production crossing through the neutral gate on Fairfax, and that was the evidence that the WGA determined proved it was no longer neutral.
In tomorrow’s digest, look for a chat with a multi-generational WGA family on strike, and a Q&A with Better Things actor Rebecca Metz.
Today’s Strike News
Marvel Studios has suspended production in Atlanta on the film Thunderbolts until after the strike is over. (Deadline)
No Television Academy Honors reception this year, “out of deference to those impacted by the ongoing labor dispute,” said the Academy. (Deadline)
In a live-streamed interview with Ira Glass to promote his Netflix doc Working, former President Barack Obama voiced his support for the WGA. “As somebody who’s really supportive of the Writers Guild and as someone who just believes in storytelling and the craft of it, I’m hoping that they will be compensated and the importance of what they do will be reflected in whatever settlement’s arrived at.” (The Hollywood Reporter)
The Merc with a Mouth is going to have to keep his trap shut during the Deadpool 3 shoot, which began recently. Ryan Reynolds, known for his raunchy one-liners in the role, will be forced to follow the script verbatim as a result of the strike’s restriction on ad-libbed dialogue. (IGN)
With the end of Ted Lasso’s third season — and likely series — on the near horizon, the Paley Center was set to host a finale screening and panel on May 30. In large part due to the strike, however, the event’s been called off. (The Hollywood Reporter)
Attention all actors! All Elite Wrestling (AEW) wrestler Jay Lethal has thrown down the gauntlet for any thespians really desperate — like getting-their-asses-kicked desperate — for work: “There’s a bunch of writers on strike for a bunch of shows. … So any actor who is just taking a break right now because the writers are on strike, come on! Come on down. AEW has got the door open.” (WrestlingNews.co)
Picket Sign of the Day
Not another Spirit Halloween.
Additional reporting by Matthew Frank.