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Writers rejoice over drinks while celebrating WGA deal at L.A. bars


On the heels of a tentative deal between the major Hollywood studios and the Writers Guild of America, writers were overjoyed to finally be able to sit down and kick back over drinks at Neat, a Westside bar, on Sunday night, after marching and chanting for the last 146 days on the picket lines.

At the local rally on Sunday, just after 8 p.m., a group of about 50 writers at the small bar on Pico Boulevard happily lined up for drinks and gathered together for group hugs and selfies, with some of the writers dressed in WGA T-shirts. Some received texts from colleagues who were at synagogue for Yom Kippur services and couldn’t be there. The decorative roses on the dimly-lit bar’s ceiling seemed fitting for the celebration happening inside the bar.

Writers told The Times they were relieved that a deal was struck Sunday evening. They also expressed gratitude for the friendships they formed on the picket lines over the last 4 1/2 months.

“I saw the same people for the last 145 or so days and these people are some of my closest friends now, so it’s nice being here with everyone,” said Ben Smith, a writer and co-executive producer of the television show “Only Murders in the Building.”

As to the tentative deal, Smith, who was a strike captain and coordinator on the Fox lot, notes the importance of writers and unions sticking together. “This would not have happened if not for the solidarity of the writers and the solidarity of the other unions and the leadership who shouldered all of our anxieties and stress and were strong enough to hold the line.”

“More than anything,” he added, “I feel a great love for the fellow writers, the other unions, and our leadership. It’s been an eye-opening, transformative experience.”

Hollywood workers celebrate a tentative contract agreement.

Hollywood workers celebrate the tentative contract agreement outside the North Hollywod bar Idle Hour on Sunday night.

(Jen Yamato / Los Angeles Times)

Olga Exell, a writer on television show “Cobra Kai,” had just joined the WGA in February before going on strike in May and becoming a strike captain. “It’s the most surreal feeling in the entire world. I was in the [writers] room for 13 weeks and we’ve been on strike for 21 or 22. It’s wild,” she said as her cellphone blew up with friends sending cash through the Venmo app to treat her to congratulatory drinks.

Though the mood was celebratory, the writers have not lost sight of SAG-AFTRA members who are still on strike but expressed optimism that they will soon reach a deal too.

“We were carefully negotiating a lot of things that will set a pathway for SAG-AFTRA. …The heavy lifting was done. I don’t anticipate that SAG-AFTRA will be out much longer,” Mark Blutman, who was a showrunner for television shows “Boy Meets World” and “Girl Meets World,” said. “And I don’t think I’m being optimistic. I think I’m being realistic. I‘m hoping it will be two or three weeks, maybe four, they’ll make their deal. But we will be out there with them. From the day we walked out on May 2, there were SAG-AFTRA members with us and we will show that same solidarity with them.”

Dan Ewen, showrunner for television show “Clean Slate,” echoed Blutman’s sentiments. “In one aspect it’s done, but we also have our SAG brothers and sisters out there, and it’s important to get this entire industry up and going again,” he said. “The general idea is that this was a harder nut to crack. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s what I have heard. I think in a general momentum sense, it’s a giant step. But without them, there’s nothing in front of the camera.”

In the meantime, Ewen is happy to spend the night celebrating with his peers. “It’s a big exhale. I have gone through three pairs of shoes, and sweated through seven hats that need to be burned in the morning. It’s really exciting,” he said.

At several other area bars, including Idle Hour in North Hollywood and Fox Fire Room in Valley Village, writers rejoiced over the end of an elongated hot labor summer.

Shortly before 9:30 p.m., chants of “WGA! WGA!” erupted from the packed patio of Idle Hour, where hundreds of ecstatic writers steadily poured in to celebrate the deal.

Foisting fists and drinks in the air, , they cheered and hugged, snapping group photos to commemorate the night awash in victory, relief and more cheering. One of the first group chants to break out was: “Thank you Neg Comm!” acknowledging the work of the WGA negotiating committee.

The spur-of-the-moment gathering at Idle Hour was driven by word of mouth, initially coordinated by strike captains who had run picket lines at nearby CBS Radford, and included strike captain groups from Universal, WB and Netflix. Writer producer Mark Rozeman, a strike captain at the NBC Universal lot whose credits include “The Good Doctor,” was among the first to arrive at Idle Hour as word of celebrations across the city swiftly spread.

Looking around with a grin, he described the feeling: “Euphoric.” He had been driving when his Bluetooth read aloud the email alerting strike captains that the official announcement was imminent.

“I pulled over to the side of the road to read it and make sure that was right. … It was like a weight got lifted,” he said.

Nearby, someone entered the crowd with a shout that was quickly greeted with whoops and cheers: “We won! We won!”

“It’s been a long time coming and we knew it would come eventually, but to see it in writing feels very surreal and we’re all just incredibly happy,” said Rozeman.

Times staff writer Jen Yamato contributed to this report.

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