On May 2, 2023, the Screenwriters Guild of America said enough is enough and brought Hollywood to a halt, demanding improved working conditions and limits on artificial intelligence. The strike, which was subsequently joined by actors represented by the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), has halted the production of countless films and television series, generating a climate of instability for thousands of people who make a living from the sector and now find themselves in a complicated financial situation. Behind every visible face of the film and television industry are many screenwriters and other workers, the vast majority of whom are neither rich nor famous. Numerous ways to bridge this economic gap have emerged, such as donations from celebrities including George and Amal Clooney, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively, Leonardo DiCaprio, Nicole Kidman, and Julia Roberts, among many others, totaling at least $12 million.
However, no formula has yet been as ingenious and eye-catching as that of The Union Solidarity Coalition (TUSC), whose online auction offers bizarre lots such as Lena Dunham painting a mural in your house (current bidding stands at $5,100), a West Hollywood bar crawl with Dolly de Leon ($610), having Adam Scott walk your dog for $3,050 (or John Lithgow produce a watercolor painting of it for $4,450) and completing The New York Times crossword with the help of Natasha Lyonne ($6,100). The auction, which contains a total of 58 lots, ends on September 22 at 4 p.m. PT.
Founded during the summer by a group of Hollywood screenwriters and directors, The Union Solidarity Coalition is an organization to financially support the strike and its eBay auction is proving a success, both in terms of uptake and raising awareness of the strike on social media. While the majority of lots are clearly designed to be eye-catching — an exquisite corpse drawing Zoom with Charlie Day and Mary Elizabeth Ellis is currently going for a little over $2,000 — some of them do come with stipulations: Dunham, the creator of Girls, will only apply her artistic talents to a home in New York, Los Angeles or London, while Orange is the New Black star Lyonne will whittle through The New York Times crossword via Zoom and inside 15 minutes. Parks and Recreation star Scott’s dog-walking will last an hour, but will have to be for a Los Angeles-based pet. Stars including Nicole Kidman and Bob Odendirk will have a Zoom chat or come around for dinner as part of the initiative.
Other lots are more attainable for the wider film and television fan, with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Sarah Silverman offering 20 questions in 20 minutes online for $2,025 and $1,975 respectively at the current bidding. There is also memorabilia, such an original apron from The Bear, signed by the show’s star Jeremy Allen White ($2,225), a fedora owned and signed by Tom Waits ($6,720) or the original Lost Boys screenplay signed by Kiefer Sutherland, Jason Patric and Alex Winter ($1,775).
“TUSC as an organization has two missions,” writer, director and producer Susanna Fogel told the Hollywood Reporter. “The first is fundraising to directly help crew who are suffering; the second is community-building events that can help give us that family feeling we experience on set when we’re working together. This auction is an encapsulation of both: It’s a way to raise money, but it’s also a way to demonstrate that we take care of each other.”
The auction soon attracted attention on social media, generating a series of copycat memes in which, for example, the director of Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks, David Lynch, will help you varnish a cabinet for $10,000. Other users joked about paying $10,000 so that Toni Colette will scream at you non-stop during dinner or having Danny DeVito legally become your father for just over $2,000.
“We did not anticipate this,” said Fogel. “You can never predict what will go viral or catch fire online, but seeing the memes that have been generated is endlessly entertaining and so encouraging. It’s also so insane and wild. Hopefully, that translates into money raised, but it’s also just kind of giving us a nice boost of adrenaline.”
Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition