The runway is looking bumpy this season.
Twelve writers from America's Next Top Model went on strike Friday after the show's producers denied their request to join the Writers Guild of America, West.
The writing crew walked off the job for about an hour Thursday to engage in a peaceful protest outside its West Los Angeles office, where they were joined by a group of sympathetic WGA members as well as Screen Actors Guild president Alan Rosenberg. Protesters wore red "United We Stand" T-shirts printed with the WGA logo and handed out fliers featuring a play on the CW network slogan, "Free to Be":
"Free to Be Union? Not at the CW's America's Next Top Model.
Membership in the WGA certainly has its benefits--health insurance, pensions, payment standards, residuals and actual credit for being a writer. (The Top Model writers currently hold other titles, like "story producer," it being a reality show and all, and don't see any of the money that comes from the rampant repeats on VH1.)
America's Next Top Model heads to the CW in the fall, which, along with a handful of new shows, will basically be airing a collection of favorites from UPN and the WB, including Top Model, Gilmore Girls, Veronica Mars and 7th Heaven.
"We have no interest in jeopardizing our positive working relationship," the strikers said in a joint statement. "But what we are asking for isn't unreasonable. There is a double standard being applied as our peers in dramatic television work under the protections of a WGA contract. We should too."
In the case of an unscripted series like Top Model, writers hammer out story outlines, edit footage into workable plots and, yes, even feed people lines sometimes. Much like writing a script, only without the good actors.
"If you shoot hundreds of hours of footage, if you didn't edit it into something, you'd have something" nobody would want to watch, WGA spokesman Gabriel Scott said. "That's all storytelling."
"We are the overwhelming majority of those in the story department," the Top Model writers said. "While we are all very committed to this show, and we are proud of the work we do, we are taking a stand to get basic benefits and protections."
This being the stuff books are made of, fellow writers were certainly pleased with the group's actions.
"These writers merely want what other writers in this industry already have?They have taken the brave step that no writer should ever be forced to do: they put their pens down and picked up picket signs," WGAw President Patric Verrone said in a statement.
So far the Top Model producers are supporting the writers' freedom to be.
"There is absolutely no ill will or rancor from anyone in America's Next Top Model toward the employees in their activities with their WGA," Anisa Productions Inc. President Ken Mok said in a statement. "All of us respect their legal rights to pursue a path that they feel best serves them."
Of course, it's only been one day. Just a few episodes of season seven, which premieres Sept. 20, have been completed, so those writers are going to be needed back on task, pronto. The series has also been renewed for an eighth cycle.