I'm a television writers assistant, and I love my job. I love going to the office every morning and working with creative people. I love being part of a team dedicated to putting together a TV show that (hopefully) millions of people watch. I love working with actors, writers, directors, producers, even studio executives, and learning how all of their jobs fit into the process of turning an idea into an actual television broadcast.
But when the WGA went on strike, the love affair turned into more of a long-distance relationship—the kind in which you never see each other and which is only kept alive through memories of better times.
Like thousands of my colleagues, this strike has taken away the job I counted on to put gas in my car, food in my stomach, and chips on Vegas craps tables. Like my fellow assistants, it's also slammed the brakes on my career. An assistant position is a great opportunity to learn your chosen craft from the pros, make contacts, and prove yourself to people in a position to promote you out of assistantdom. Many of us were on the verge of taking that next big step, but now we're frozen in place.
So how do I feel about the strike that has taken away my fun, livelihood, and prospects of career advancement? I support it 100 percent.
Why do I march on the picket lines for a union I'm not in? Because most WGA writers aren't striking for themselves; they're striking for my generation of writers, directors, actors, and craftsmen. I've seen writers in their 60s, 70s, and 80s picketing and asked why they put themselves through all this near the end of their careers when they might not even enjoy the contract improvements they're fighting for. They said they're doing what they wished the previous generation had been able to do for them, when home video was the new "uncertain market" studios wanted to pay cut-rate residuals on.
I figure if all these brave people are willing to risk their jobs, income, and career momentum for my future, I should damn well support them. Even if it means not having full-time work for a while and slashing my budget to get by.
So in an attempt to support my fellow striking assistants, I'm offering up my recipe for Cheap Homemade Burritos. I know it doesn't sound like much, but when you're watching every dollar, stuff like this goes a long way. Out-of-work actors, feel free to use this too. (Prices are approximate.)
1 can black beans (60¢)
1 can whole-kernel corn (60¢)
1 can diced tomatoes ($1.20)
1 cup rice ($2.50 per box)
Burrito-size tortilla wraps ($5 per eight-pack)
Salsa ($2 per jar)
Shredded cheddar cheese ($2.50 per pack)
Cumin ($3.50 per jar)
Cayenne pepper ($2.50 per jar)
1. Drain beans, corn, and tomatoes, and mix them all in a frying pan on medium heat. Season to taste with cumin and cayenne pepper. Heat until most of the liquid burns off.
2. While the above is simmering, cook the rice in a pot or in the microwave.
3. Moisten burrito wraps with water and microwave for 20 seconds to soften.
4. Put everything in burrito wraps, then add salsa and shredded cheddar. Close up wraps inside aluminum foil. Makes about six burritos that keep well in the fridge. You'll also have plenty of leftover ingredients for future batches.
Just like TV writers do, I'll address notes on my work. Maybe you'd like to add chicken or beef. Maybe you're into guacamole or sour cream. This is the way I like it, but at the end of the day, you're the one financing this burrito, and you're the one with final cut.
So stay strong, fellow assistants. Remember that this strike is for all our benefit even though it's tough on everyone. And if I ever run into one of you while you're eating one of my Cheap Homemade Burritos, you don't have to say a word. Just raise it up slightly, nod your head, and we'll both know what's up. Solidarity, brother.
Tim Saccardo is a writers assistant for TBS's 10 Items or Less and can't wait to go back to work there.