Strikers now striving to be creatively frugal

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREPettersson scores another winner, Canucks beat KingsShelby, who became a registered securities broker after her writing career dried up, has sharp advice for striking writers: “Cut back because this is a crazy business. This is a Nantucket sleigh ride of careers.” One advantage writer couples have is they are inured to severe downturns. Another couple might not be prepared if one of them loses their steady job. “Someone whose spouse is in another business, they have an advantage immediately, which is that they have a second income,” said Karen Harris, who writes for daytime dramas like “General Hospital.” Her husband, Bruce Cervi, is also a television writer. Harris, who sits on two Guild committees, lives in Studio City with Cervi and their two cats. The couple started to save and cut back months ago, when many people predicted disagreements about how writers should be paid for content viewed online would lead to a strike. The couple does not have a second source of income besides residuals, which are just enough to cover a sushi dinner every Monday. To get by, Harris and Cervi increased the equity loan on their home by about 25 percent and toned down their vacations. Instead of two weeks in Italy they drove through Arizona and New Mexico, staying with relatives or at low-budget hotels. Cervi, who does the grocery shopping, now heads to Trader Joe’s instead of Gelson’s. Harris canceled her gym membership, singing lessons and no longer goes to the spa for facials and massages. “There are certainly the luxuries I allow myself because I work hard,” Harris said. “Now I don’t because I’m not working.” Be prepared for the worst Shelby, once a writer for “Growing Pains,” now specializes in helping those with erratic incomes as founder of Shelby Financial Services and Insurance with offices in mid-Wilshire. If you have two years or more in savings, no need to worry, said Shelby, who is finishing a book about how to survive a strike. If you have two months worth of expenses saved up, it’s time to brush off your r sum and job hunt. Those with savings in between two months and two years should cut back with an eye to when there is only two months left. That’s about how long it takes a writer to find an acceptable job, Shelby said. Separate savings into two funds. Have a grapes of wrath emergency fund that runs deep and is at a separate bank so it’s hard to access. Shelby advises to constantly replenish what she calls a $1,000 “oy vey” fund. “Every month something happens,” Shelby said. “Oy vey my dental co-pay. Oy vey I need new car tires. That oy vey fund is constantly being attacked.” David and Julie Chambers, Hollywood writers from Sherman Oaks, learned these lessons over the years. When asked how they were managing through the strike, David Chambers said, “just the same way we are getting through everything else.” Often Guild work does not sustain the couple and their two daughters. Years ago the family downsized their home and sought out cheap restaurants. They teach at the University of Southern California and Julie Chambers substitutes a few times a week at Campbell Hall in North Hollywood, where one of their daughters is a student. “It’s not as much of an adjustment because you’ve already adjusted,” Chambers said. “If you’re working on a show and you’re used to getting a nice paycheck every week, it’s hard to just stop.” Emotional toll can be costly A financial crisis that can be brought on by a strike may also bring up emotional issues previously kept in check. Psychotherapist Dennis Palumbo of Sherman Oaks knows this well. Since the strike began the former “My Favorite Year” writer has been fielding more calls from former and new clients, on top of his regulars. Palumbo specializes in creative types like writers, directors, novelists and journalists. Dealing with newfound rejection is a common issue he sees among clients now. “We all know it intellectually,” Palumbo said, “but it can still be stunning when you find out at a psychological level that they would rather work without you.” The proliferation of reality shows is a case in point. Striking writers also have to deal with renewed pressure from parents and spouses about their field of choice. A common refrain may be that it’s time to get a straight job with a regular paycheck. Times like this it’s best to keep the lines of communication open. Consider going into other fields, but also consider the cost of not doing what you want. Understand the value of standing up for what you believe in and sticking it to the man, Palumbo said. He advises untangling issues that pre-date the strike from the picket lines and be wary of self-medicating with alcohol, sleep and food. [email protected] 818-713-3735160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! In their best year, Carolyn Shelby and her husband, Chris Ames, raked in $600,000 writing Hollywood scripts. In their worst, the couple made just $30,000 between the two of them. Making due with feast or famine paychecks is nothing new to movie and television writers. But the swift financial swings that are a hallmark of the industry can leave couples who both write even more vulnerable – a weakness that has come into sharp focus during the Writers Guild of America strike. The first negotiations since the 12,000 members of the Writers Guild launched a strike against movie studios and television networks on Nov. 5 resumed Monday. last_img read more