The writers’ strike has entered its third month, so now it’s time for…Ryan Murphy strike drama! Most productions in the US have shut down as part of the WGA strike, but four high-profile productions are still rolling cameras on the east coast, including three under Murphy’s aegis: American Horror Story, American Sports Story, and the anthology spin-off, American Horror Stories. (Starz’s Power Book 2: Ghost is also still rolling.) Murphy is a member of the WGA, but he is also a director and producer, and is continuing to work on his shows in those capacities, and not as a writer, which is the technicality that allows him to keep working when most of his peers, even jackhole Taylor Sheridan, have ceased.
One problem with this is that writing never stops on a set, and many hyphenate writer-producers and writer-directors and writer-producer-directors have clarified that they are not crossing the WGA picket line in their capacities as producers and/or directors because it’s virtually impossible to separate the work. Katori Hall, showrunner of P Valley, put it most succinctly:
“Inextricably linked”, those are her words about the work of writing and producing on a set. Sure, the studios “demanded” the hyphenate class continue working after the strike outside their capacity as writers, but most of them aren’t, Ryan Murphy is a huge, glaring exception. (And don’t think people haven’t noticed WGA member Ryan Reynolds continuing to work on Deadpool 3 over in the UK on the same technicality.)
The other problem is that Murphy was accused of threatening to “blackball” crewmembers if they DIDN’T cross the WGA picket line for his shows. Warren Leight, a former Law & Order showrunner and a strike captain for WGA East, tweeted that he was told this, though he has since deleted the tweet and issued an apology to Murphy:
Murphy’s lawyer issued a letter to the WGA leadership threatening a lawsuit against Leight, who has since been removed from his position as a strike captain, and as co-chair of the guild’s Strike Rules Compliance Committee, as well as issuing that public apology to Murphy.
Let’s back up for a second. The reason the WGA strike is succeeding in shutting down productions is not because the writers themselves are not on set. It’s because other unions, such as IATSE and Teamsters like Hollywood 399, are honoring the WGA picket line and not crossing it. IATSE and the Teamsters cover pretty much all the below-the-line crew like camera operators, electricians, drivers, prop crew, basically all the people who actually make a set run. Without IATSE and the Teamsters, productions can’t function, and thus, shut down. So, it IS notable that these crew members are working on Murphy’s shows. They’re the exception, not the rule. Do they just love their jobs that much, or…?
But let’s not speculate. Let’s just review the facts. Fact one: Ryan Murphy is entitled to keep working on his shows as a producer and director. Fact two: Most of his fellow showrunners are not crossing the picket line because they view writing as inseparable from their other work, especially as producers. Fact three: IATSE and the Teamsters are, generally, honoring the WGA picket line across the country. Fact four: Murphy’s shows continuing to roll cameras are a prominent exception to this.
So, why ARE the crews on Murphy’s shows crossing the picket line? It’s a mystery for the ages.
Live long and gossip,