Showbiz Employees Found Various Ways to Survive the Strike

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Members of the Writers' Guild vote today on whether to continue or end their strike against Hollywood studios. Some writers could be back at work as early as Wednesday. KPCC's Brian Watt checked in with two people in the business to see how the strike affected them personally and professionally.

Brian Watt: During the second week of the strike, I met Anthony Farrell on a picket line. He called himself a "baby" writer on NBC's sitcom "The Office." His baby daughter Avery had fallen asleep on her stroller. He joked that they were both old hands at union activity.

Anthony Farrell: She's been striking for years. Not just for the writers, but for people everywhere.

Watt: Avery was actually only six months old then. Farrell now says the strike has given him a lot more time to watch her grow.

Farrell: I think she's starting to learn how to be embarrassed by her parents a little bit. So when you see your kid actively pick something up, that's the stuff that parenthood is made of, you know.

Watt: Avery was born about a month before Farrell got the job on "The Office," his first television writing gig. Before that, to pay the bills, he'd worked in a real office, as an administrative assistant at Countrywide Financial. As the strike continued, he was reluctant to apply for other office jobs.

Farrell: 'Cause you know, you tell somebody that you're a writer, they're gonna go, "Oh, so you're just gonna leave when the strike ends? No thank you!"

Watt: So during the strike, Farrell says, his wife's income as a bank office manager has paid the rent on their two bedroom apartment in North Hollywood. The family has resisted the urge to move to a roomier apartment and has tried not to eat out much.

[Sounds of construction]

This organic tea room "Sip Tea" is still under construction in the 9th and Broadway building in downtown Los Angeles. But when the place opens, owner Laura Stewart plans to start serving 30 kinds of tea along with soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Laura Stewart: And there will also be tea tastings in the evening where you can get like a flight of green tea and compare and contrast different green teas. Or, you know, have a flight of oolongs where you get to compare and contrast them.

Watt: For more than 12 years, Stewart's been hanging and adjusting lights on the sets of movies like "Armageddon" and TV shows like "Heroes." She likes the work, but she knew it would go dark once the writers strike started. She also finds lighting sets too sleep-depriving to think about doing it forever.

Stewart: So I'd taken out a loan for opening the business, so I probably was a little better off than most people, because I actually had a cushion. And what it did for me is it made me then focus all my attention on trying to get this open as quickly as possible.

Watt: She's hoping that'll happen next month. During the strike Stewart collected unemployment and dipped into her savings. Now that it's over, she hopes to return to lighting sets at least a few days a week until her tea shop turns a profit.