A few years ago, Kevin Collins was a writer on the Showtime series Soul Food.
He started out as the assistant to the Executive Producer and
transitioned to Writer’s Assistant, which led to a freelance job (and subsequent membership in the WGA) and then to a position as a Staff Writer.
Right now, there is nothing that Kevin would like more than to grab a picket sign and join the ranks of his fellow screenwriters in Los Angeles. But he is physically drained.
And there is nothing that Kevin would like to do more than network with the other writers on strike. But he is mentally exhausted.
Because right now, Kevin is battling a rare form of thyroid cancer. He just completed week 5 of radiation therapy, and has 2 more weeks to endure.
His pencil is down, but his medical bills are on the rise.
though Kevin is undergoing treatment as we speak, he very kindly took the time to
answer a few questions to provide his perspective about the
current writer’s strike.
Jo: What are the benefits of being a member of the Writer’s Guild of America?
Being a writer is much like being an independent contractor. The Guild
is out there negotiating to make sure you are handled in a professional
manner. This ranges from pay to health and retirement benefits. The
Guild is also responsible for tremendous programming of seminars and
events for writers who want to grow creatively and professionally.
Jo: Do you receive residuals from the many episodes of shows that you’ve written?
Kevin: Yes, residuals are great, in particular for most writers who work on and off.
Jo: Is your medical insurance being covered by the WGA?
The WGA covers medical insurance for writers who are working. When I
was employed as a writer, I was covered, and my coverage spanned for a little more
than a year after my last job.
Jo: What is your overall opinion about this strike?
Kevin: I see our strike as the canary in the mineshaft that is the entertainment business. The ‘industry’ is and has been rapidly changing, but the business models are not keeping up. There is a great need for reform throughout and writers are simply trying to push that along.
Jo: Do you see the potential for a quick resolution?
Kevin: For the potential to be there, all involved parties must have some common ground. So far, that doesn’t seem apparent.
Jo: How do you feel about the digital distribution of TV and film?
Kevin: In recent years, we have seen Netflix grow into a great business model, mostly due to the convenience. It’s no longer necessary to go out and wait in line at a store. The future of that business is on the demand/downloading ability. What would be easier than coming home and having it already on your TV?
Jo: How has the writer’s strike affected your career?
Kevin: It has affected
every aspect of my life, not just my career. Certainly, getting treated
(surgery to remove the thyroid and 22 lymph nodes, followed by radiation) has required an almost complete interruption of
everything I was doing. At the same time, this kind of event is
inspirational, in that it makes you reflect on all aspects of your
life. I am sure there will be evidence of this in my future projects. But you can’t work during the strike. Even if you have the greatest idea, you just have to sit on it.
Jo: So you are honoring the Pencils Down Means Pencils Down credo that Writer’s Guild members are encouraging/enforcing?
Kevin: Absolutely. It is strange that the strike is coinciding with my radiation treatment, because it truly has been a reflective period for me to “think.”
Jo: What were you working on before the writer’s strike began?
Kevin: I was working on several scripted TV show concepts and a screenplay.
Jo: After the strike is resolved, what will be your first move?
Kevin: To go out and begin pitching my ideas.
I only met Kevin once, several years ago through a very good mutual friend. I find his positive outlook and spirit, in the face of illness, mounting bills and an industry on strike, to be quite inspiring. And I wish him great health and recovery.
So keep your eye out for the name Kevin Collins on future small and big screen endeavors, because he is one of the many thousands who are responsible for the entertainment that we take for granted, and he deserves our support. While you’re at it, add some Soul Food to your Netflix queue, my friends.