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Writers' strike's wide ripples

The strike, now in Week 2, reverberates through the broader Los Angeles economy.

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An air of excited solidarity surrounds the picketing writers as they walk and pivot in front of CBS Studio Center here in the heart of the entertainment industry. But the mood also has an undertone of caution: Everyone knows that Hollywood strikes are never neat, and that the ripple effect will be wide in a county where entertainment generates some $30 billion in business a year.

One week into the strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA), it's hard to find someone who isn't touched in some way, particularly near the studio production centers.

"I'm here striking for myself, obviously," says Barbie Kligman, a scribe on CBS's "CSI: NY." "But I'm also here hoping to get things going because I worry about our crew and all the other people who depend on us for work."

That would be people such as Judi Bell, owner of Cinema Paper Rentals and Graphics in North Hollywood, who relies 100 percent on movie and TV business for her livelihood. Her six-person shop provides the sort of "official" paperwork that doctors, lawyers, and everyday characters on shows such as "Law & Order" or "ER" paw through, slam down, and file. In the past week, says Ms. Bell, several top TV shows have canceled major orders or postponed them indefinitely ("that's the same as canceling," she says). Her business has already plummeted to about 20 percent of its regular volume. She's laid off one worker and warned the others to expect cuts in their hours.

"I guess I should have been prepared," says Bell, "but I just kept crossing my fingers and hoping they'd get it worked out."

But at the largest rally in WGA history this past Friday, while some called for the producers to negotiate, rankand-file union members affirmed their determination to strike as long as necessary. No formal negotiations were being reported as of press time Monday.


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