Overheard in Toluca
I was hungry after walking the picket line. Although there were was a taco truck on the side, there was also a long line. I wanted to write while I ate so I texted Ally Dixon, who I'd run into earlier and is a treasure trove of information.
“Where is there a good place around here to have lunch that has wifi?”
“Formans is the best,” she answered almost immediately.
From the outside, Forman’s Whiskey Tavern looks like a dive bar, with pistachio colored shutters on the front; I imagined crusty sailor types drooling over their beers. Inside was a true neighborhood eatery. A stranger who noticed me looking around said, "Order at the bar and take your number to a table; the blue cheese burger is great."
"Thank you," I smiled and gave the order to the bartender. I went to the corner, opened my laptop and began to write. Two bearded men were seated at the next table. It was impossible not to hear snippets of their conversation.
"It’s a low budget show; as long as I get my money… I have one show there."
'I originally wrote it in 2009 and I just got it made.' Writers, who hadn’t been able to do their main job since the strike started on May 2nd.
Ten minutes, later while typing and grabbing intermittent bites from the scrumptious burger before me, I overheard an English accent.
'If an actor gets too uppity…'
'Streamers should get together…'
My seat mates had been replaced by a blonde, curly-haired guy speaking to an attractive woman. He probably wasn't an actor. I saved my work and started googling.
According to an Indiewire article from May 16th, 'estimates from the Writers Guild of America, agreeing to the guild’s proposals for a new deal would cost the studios less than one percent of each studio’s annual revenue. With the strike now two weeks in, the WGA argues that extending the strike will cost the studios much more.'
What is warner brothers studios revenue I googled. 12.15 billion USD. It’s worth repeating. 12.15 billion USD. Then I went for Disney: Disney revenue for the twelve months ending June 30, 2023 was $87.807B, a 8.26% increase year-over-year. Yep, even google recognizes when the dollar figure needs to be in bold.
Google's entry, how much less are screenwriters getting paid compared to how much they used to jumped out at me. An article from March 4, 2021 on Reddit said: ‘Take out 10% for an agent, maybe 15% for a manager, and maybe 5% for a lawyer, plus 1.5% for WGA dues. You're down to $73,500…’ (that's before rent)
More than 85% of SAG-AFTRA actors make less than the $26,000 minimum required to *buy* health insurance (it’s not given). Another post mentioned 'everyone else who works has 'at least one alternate means of earning income. That’s code for they have 'regular jobs.' So why does everyone who is not in this industry think that actors and writers make a ton of money in Tinseltown?
Oscar night is like going to mecca for the performing arts world. It's talked about on the news, late night, and magazines. You name the platform, they're talking about who will go home with a statuette. With 24 categories of Oscars, 120 nominees get to bring one or two of their nearest and dearest. The Dolby Theatre seats 1,460 people so it makes sense that the rest must be filled with producers, producers' friends, and so on.
Twenty nominees, a combination of the four actor categories (.625% of SAG actors), are sitting in their seats the night of the Oscars waiting to see if their names are called. Unless they’re working on a film in another country or don’t think they’ll win, they will show up. If you watch the Oscars, you’re seeing the Dolby Theatre filled to capacity with industry people, many wearing borrowed jewels and dresses. Is it possible that what the public sees on television and streaming, they just automatically believe? Maybe the executives sitting on top of their salaries should try going to Forman’s to get a dose of reality.
I savored the last bite of my burger and walked up to pay. It had become busy; the middle table full of people talking Hollywood shop. The English guy was waiting as well. The bartender turned to me but I said “I think he was first." English guy smiled and ordered two margaritas. “Thank you,” he said as he walked back to the table. As my mother would say, ‘lo cortes no quita lo valiente," courtesy doesn’t take away from strength, even if I am indirectly being referred to as 'uppity.'
Studios heads need to get off their entitled high horses and re-examine their companies' structures. WGA and SAG-AFTRA are asking for fairness and equality; their work is an intrinsic part of those billions of dollars listed above. Perception is everything.