Striking Writers Mentor Aspiring Writers on Picket Line

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Hollywood writers on strike and studios are still talking informally about whether it's worthwhile to start negotiating formally. But Writers Guild members continue to picket outside studios after 11 weeks. Thursday, some strikers outside Warner Brothers in Burbank applied a twist to the informational picket. KPCC's Brian Watt went over to see what he could learn.

Brian Watt: No bullhorns or loud rousing chants. On Olive Avenue, the talk was just loud enough to hear over periodic car horns. It was all about writing. Not just the craft, but:

Jennifer Glickman: Getting along in this business. Just even, how to be a productive member of a staff. Whether it is a drama or a comedy.

Watt: Jennifer Glickman is a staff writer on the CBS comedy, "The Big Bang Theory." She and a few other writers initiated "Teaching Thursdays" outside Gate 2 at Warner Brothers. Aspiring screenwriters, even if they're not in the Guild, can picket as they pick the brains of veterans like Glickman.

Glickman: I've been on 12 different shows in 13 years, so I feel like I have, you know, a wealth of information to share. Maybe mostly about what not to do.
Watt: What should you not do?
Glickman: Um, let's see. This is not based only on my experience. (laughter) It's one thing to believe in your idea, it's another to say it 12 times until somebody wants to remove you from the premises.
David Zabel: That's very true. That's very true. If it didn't work the first time, and it didn't work the second time, you know, then it's definitely not gonna work the third time, so let it go.

Watt: The guy chiming in is David Zabel. He's a showrunner for NBC's medical drama, "ER." This "Teaching Thursday" focused on writing for medical dramas.

Zabel: Not just storylines within episodes, but maybe arcs over many episodes. And the interaction between what's going on in the real world of health care and medicine, and the drama of the show.

[Car horn honks]

Watt: Twenty-year-old Geoff Tock isn't a guild member yet, but he wants to be. He got an opportunity to learn from Dr. Zoanne Clack, a physician, consultant, and writer-producer on ABC's "Grey's Anatomy."

Geoff Tock: Do you start with, "We have this diagnosis, we have this disease we want to go to," and then break a story out of that, or do you guys have a story, and then you find an ailment to go along with it?
Dr. Zoanne Clack: It can be either one. Sometimes we'll have a very specific disease that we want to track. Sometimes we'll have a story and we need to find the medicine to back up the story.

Watt: It's only been three months since Geoff Tock packed his belongings and drove to Tinsel Town from Michigan. Until he heard about the walking seminars, he'd been reluctant to join the picketing.

Tock: Just because I don't want to be guy on the line who's trying to network. I don't. Because this is important. I mean, this, what they're doing here, what we're doing here, is important. And so I didn't want to network, but if it's an opportunity where like, "OK, you come down and we'll teach you," and if that's what it is, then I don't feel weird about like, "Hey, how you doing," and elbowing and hobnobbing.

Watt: If the strike continues through next Thursday, Tock can show up then and find out about writing for multi-camera sitcoms.