Writers’ walkout strikes Baltimore

Ben Nuckols reports for The Washington Times:

Members of Baltimore's tight-knit film and television community have a message: The Hollywood writers' strike affects people outside New York and Los Angeles.

The final season of "The Wire," David Simon's gritty HBO drama about cops, crooks and corruption has been completed – it debuts Jan. 6. But for people who worked on the show, shot entirely in and around Baltimore, employment has been scarce since then.

That's why several "Wire" cast members joined a demonstration at the Inner Harbor yesterday organized by Rafael Alvarez, a former writer for the show.

"I came out to support the writers," said Sonja Sohn, who stars as city police detective Kima Greggs. "Their fight is our fight."

After "The Wire" wrapped, Miss Sohn moved on to a recurring role on CBS' "Cold Case." She's been in five episodes, and she hoped to do more, "but they were not written, so here I am," she said.

The Writers Guild of America went on strike Nov. 5, and talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are at a standstill. Writers are demanding more money from TV shows and films distributed over the Internet. Unions representing actors and directors could strike next year over the same issue.

Studios "say they don't know if new media is going to be a major revenue source," said Delaney Williams, who plays the witty Sgt. Jay Landsman. "But that's not what they're telling their stockholders."

Late-night talk shows have been shut down since the strike began, and popular series such as "Desperate Housewives" and "The Office" have gone into reruns. Upcoming awards shows, including the Golden Globes and the Oscars, could be gloomy affairs without scripted one-liners.

But for people on the margins of the film industry, the pain hits closer to home.

Joy Lusco Kecken, a writer on three previous seasons of "The Wire," was overjoyed to get a chance to co-direct an episode in the upcoming season with her husband, Scott Kecken. They haven't worked since.

"I have a family to support. The amount of money I get up front may seem extreme, but it's supposed to last me for the entire year," Mrs. Kecken said. "We got this great break to direct on a show, and when will we be able to capitalize on it?"

Mr. Alvarez, a Baltimore native who now writes for the NBC drama "Life," said the demonstration reflected the strength of the city's film industry – and the need for its workers to be compensated accordingly.

"Baltimore in the last 20 years or so has a rich film and television history," Mr. Alvarez said. "Barry Levinson, John Waters and David Simon are all members of the Writers Guild of America. We've made some fabulous entertainment right here."


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