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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 23, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

Student internships disrupted by writers’ strike

When senior Scott Berg began the semester at the Ithaca College Los Angeles Program, he was anxious to pursue a career in screenwriting as an intern at both CBS Interactive and DirecTV’s “Passions.” He never imagined he would find himself in the middle of one of the entertainment industry’s biggest upsets in recent years — a writers’ strike.

“I have to cross picket lines at both [of my internships],” Berg said. “I feel uncomfortable crossing because I’m here … to pursue a writing career in television, and I am 100 percent on [the writers’] side.”

The Writers Guild of America has been on strike since Nov. 5. More than 12,000 of the guild’s members are challenging the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, demanding that they receive more money accrued from sales of television shows and films on DVD.

Guild members also want to receive payment for their work that gets streamed online or sold through programs like iTunes. The WGA has gone on strike twice before: once for five months in 1960 and again for six months in 1988.

Stephen Tropiano, director of ICLA, said students interning at “Last Call with Carson Daly” and “Ellen” are finally resuming their duties, as those shows are among the few back in production. Students interning for scripted dramas and sitcoms, he said, had a more difficult adjustment because only a limited number of scripts had been finalized when the strike began.

“There are some students who were working on television shows that continued for a while once the strike started,” he said. “[But once their show ran out of scripts] the internship basically ended early.”

Tropiano said serious problems were avoided because most students were juggling two internships. When one of their internships ended, they were able to shift their time to the second. He said no students are in danger of failing to earn enough internship credits as a result of the strike.

Like Berg, senior Sara Pleskow said she is also conflicted when she comes across the protestors on the way to her internship at FOX Atomic. Making her way across picket lines has become one of her daily tasks.

“There is a light right before I have to turn into the studio, and … the writers come up to my window and pass out sheets,” Pleskow said. “I always want to be able to tell them, ‘I am on your side, and I wouldn’t normally cross the picket line, but I kind of need to graduate.’”

Junior A.J. Mizes is interning at PMK/HBH, a public relations firm. Mizes said people don’t have to be working on television shows in order to feel the effects of the strike. He sees a heightened level of anxiety from people all over Hollywood.

“Everybody is nervous about this strike, especially with the [1988] strike lasting for six months,” Mizes said. “You can just see the effect it has. Writers are literally the building blocks and foundation of the entertainment industry.”

Jon Bassinger-Flores, programs and services coordinator for ICLA, arrived on campus Nov. 11 to meet with students going to Los Angeles in the spring. He said several concerned individuals approached him asking if it would be possible to defer their trip for a semester. Bassinger-Flores said he encouraged them to continue with their original plans.

Tropiano said it’s important for worried students to remain optimistic, since no one can predict how long the strike is going to last.

“There are still many internships available that aren’t necessarily impacted directly because of the writers’ strike,” he said.

Bassinger-Flores said while it’s understandable that some students are discouraged by the situation, they should appreciate experiencing such a historical event first-hand.

“It’s an interesting time to be out here,” he said. “It’s an aspect of the business that students aren’t normally exposed to. … This is real stuff that affects not just the stars, but everyone across the board.”