The scene outside Silvercup Studios on Thursday was the same as it has been for weeks.
Dozens of members of the Writers Guild, SAG-AFTRA and other supporters circled loading bays and doors across the Long Island City, NY, property, where Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story has continued work on its 12th season despite efforts by the Writers Guild of America East to slow or halt production on one of the few shows still running on the East Coast.
Permits For New York City Film & TV Production Continued To Fall In June Amid Labor Uncertainty
“We’ve shut down a sh*t-ton of shows and that’s why you see us out today,” T Cooper, a WGAE strike captain and, pre-strike, an executive producer on NBC’s hit series The Blacklist, said today. “We’re here at one of the few remaining shows that are being produced still, and how does it feel? It’s like honestly we’re going to be out here as long as it takes to get what we feel is a fair contract to honor our work.”
The WGA rapid response teams have become quite effective at shutting down productions across the U.S., but Murphy’s series have been tough to crack. American Horror Story is one of very few productions still up and running as the writers strike closes out its 10th week. As for why Murphy, a WGA West member as well as a director and producer, hasn’t budged, Cooper shrugged.
“Who really knows?” he said. “But I will say that just from our perspective, I think what’s hard about seeing people like Kim Kardashian cross [the picket line] and seeing Ryan Murphy keep his production running is that these are folks who could have tremendous impact.”
While picketers were applying pressure to Murphyland from the outside, tensions were bubbling over on the inside as news surfaced that Murphy had threatened litigation against Warren Leight, a former WGA East strike captain and co-chair of the Strike Rules Compliance Committee.
It all started last month when Leight requested support on the picket lines to try to shut down AHS, claiming that crewmembers had told him “they’ll be blackballed in Murphy-land” if they honor the WGA’s picket line. Lawyers for Murphy contacted the guild last month to refute those claims and asked for an apology from Leight, we have confirmed.
Leight eventually deleted the accusation and issued an apology, writing that he was caught “in the heat of the moment” and his claims about Murphy were “completely false and inaccurate.” Since then, he has been largely silent about the strike on social media. Today, Deadline confirmed the WGAE relieved Leight of his strike leadership duties as a result of the initial tweets and their inaccuracies.
Leight has been instrumental in organizing what the WGA has coined its “rapid response teams,” which have picketed and successfully halted productions since the strike began in early May. He did so primarily through Twitter, which has become the go-to platform for striking writers to encourage each other and share locations where more reinforcements are needed to battle studios represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.
He previously told Deadline that he used Twitter to “get hundreds of fast retweets, and the WGA East Rapid Responders respond rapidly, as do actors, students and other allies.” As an example, he cited a May picket in Jersey City that had begun to dwindle but was revived after he tweeted an urgent request for reinforcements, ultimately forcing the production there to call it quits.
Leight’s last call to action was June 21, when he boosted another tweet looking for help picketing a location near Moonachie, NJ. It’s unclear what production they were looking to shut down. The day before, he promised the writers were “every f’cking where” alongside a story about how a group had halted production on Netflix’s The Perfect Couple.
As a director and producer, Murphy is allowed by the WGA to perform duties on set as long as he isn’t writing. However, even though Murphy has not been present on the sets in question since the strike began, we hear, other WGA members have expressed frustration that his productions have continued, considering the influence powerful creators such as himself hold.
Cooper, whose wife Allison Glock-Cooper is also his writing partner, said Thursday that writer households have sacrificed work and financial security to go on strike, and with no certainty about what awaits them afterward. He says the sooner filming of shows such AHS stop, the sooner the content pipeline dries up and forces the studios back to the negotiating table.
“We all want to get back to work, believe me,” Cooper said. “We would love to be doing what we’re supposed to be doing.”
Dominic Patten contributed to this report.
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