The Union Solidarity Coalition — founded over the summer by a group of writer-directors who moved in during the strike to support crew members — launched an eBay auction last week with lots so unique they look like they were invented in the writers’ room. And the offers came in thick and fast.
Sample offer a current offers (at time of publication) include dinner with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross ($10,200); cast Bob’s Burgers singing your own song ($7,200); Natasha Lyonne helps solve New York Times Sunday Crossword via Zoom ($6,100); Lena Dunham Paints a Mural in Your Home ($5,100); John Lithgow paints a watercolor portrait of your dog ($4,450); a ceramics class with Busy Philipps in New York ($3,500); Adam Scott walks your dog in LA for one hour ($2,500); Zoom with Barry Jenkins and Nicholas Britell ($1,250); and a relationship dispute over Zoom with Rosemarie Dewitt and Ron Livingston ($1,136).
The above items served to introduce the initiative, and due to popular demand and creative offers from other celebrity volunteers, TUSC updated the eBay page on Friday with another batch. The latest round features Zoom with Nicole Kidman and Lulu Wang; “Zoom’s Beautiful Corpse Drawing” with Charlie Day and Mary Elizabeth Ellis ($2,025); with a gay bar in LA Triangle of sadness star Dolly De Leon ($610); personal serenade by David Krumholtz via Zoom ($510); and one hour Mortal Kombat gaming session with Kumail Nanjiani while his wife and creative partner Emily V. Gordon adds commentary ($1,025). “The crew work harder than any other actor on set, so we want to support them during this time they can’t work. We also like to play video games,” Nanjiani offers.
“People started coming out of the woodwork and being really creative because it’s a strike,” writer-producer Liz Benjamin, one of TUSC’s founding members, explained during a Zoom interview alongside cohorts Amy Seimetz and Susanna Fogel. “People didn’t want to promote a movie or a project they were involved in, they wanted to do something different, so it forced people to think outside the box.” Once they did, the offers started pouring in. “It kind of snowballed, like everything in Hollywood, once you get the train going,” adds Seimetz. “Everybody wants to get involved.”
The auction is TUSC’s latest push to raise funds and crew support during Hollywood’s WGA-SAG-AFTRA double whammy. The organization previously hosted Solidarity Night! in Los Angeles on July 15. The event, along with other efforts, raised an initial $315,000, and the next batch of funds from the auction will go to the same cause – helping crew members through the TUSC Motion Picture & Television Fund who have lost or are at risk of losing health care by covering premiums to be guaranteed access to quality healthcare. (TUSC is also a partner of Entertainment Health Insurance Solutions.)
As the story goes, the idea for the organization began as a brainstorm in a WGA-DGA WhatsApp thread. The full list of TUSC founding members includes Benjamin, Fogel, Seimetz, Dunham, Rachel Lee Goldenberg, Tara Miele, Alex Winter, Frankie Shaw, Josh Locy, Justine Bateman, Antonio Campos, Malik Vitthal, Paul Scheer, Zoe Lister-Jones, Andrea Savage, Tony Phelan, Julie Plec, Crystal Moselle and Sarah Adina Smith. Many of them signed up to contact friends, peers and former co-workers to see if and what they could contribute to the auction.
“TUSC as an organization has two missions,” says Fogel, a writer, director and producer. “The first is to raise funds to directly help the crew who are suffering; the second is community-building events that can help give us the family feeling we experience on set when we work together. This auction encapsulates both: It’s a way to raise money, but it’s also a way to show that we care about each other. Our plan is to continue this type of outreach and fundraising not only until the strikes end, but beyond. Crew unions have their own negotiations and the more we can stand together the better as we fight together for fair contracts – whatever that means for our individual unions.”
The auction — now live through Friday, Sept. 22 at 4 p.m. PT — garnered so much attention out of the gate that countless social media users borrowed the unique items as inspiration to create faux lots. On X (formerly Twitter), a user teased “paint a closet with David Lynch for $10,000,” and it even caught Lyonne’s eye when she replied, “If it was real, I’d bid on it all day.” Other posts offered how you Toni Collette screams across the $10,000 dinner table; “degradation session” p Sequence star J. Smith-Cameron; Jesse Williams saves you from a home invasion for $620; a five-hour ASMR session with Patrick Stewart impersonating Borat for $6,350; and Steve Zahn to help you remember what you saw him in without getting impatient for $9,128,083 to name a few.
The TUSC auction is part of a broader trend of creative fundraising amid a double strike in Hollywood. Insiders launched the WGA Garage Sale, which benefited the Entertainment Community Fund and featured items such as a crystal consultation with Spencer Pratt, a custom speech written by WGA Negotiating Committee Co-Chair Chris Keyser, and a “spoof” by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog via a custom video. Pay Up Hollywood sells lawn signs to support WGA and SAG members. Lately, Better things creator Pamela Adlon took to Instagram to show off the contents of the storage locker, which she plans to sell through her own website to benefit ECF.
Next month, a team of collaborators that includes Martha Kauffman, Paul McCrane and Paul Scheer is gearing up for a live telethon-style fundraiser at LA’s Orpheum Theater called “The Give Back-ular Spectacular.” The event is scheduled to take place on October 25 as a benefit designed “to raise awareness that this strike is adversely affecting not only writers and actors, but the entire community of artists, craftsmen, technicians, production assistants and support staff.” It will raise funds to cover COBRA premiums and health care for members of the International Alliance of Theatrical Employees (IATSE), Teamsters, Laborers’ International Union of North America and other workers who are financially affected by the work stoppage.
TUSC insiders say it’s no surprise how their colleagues have reacted. “We’re a bunch of up-and-comers who love working in film and TV, which is all about collaboration and creativity. We (still asking ourselves): “OK, how can we expand this and go on and on?” Seimetz explained. “We keep growing because we have so many people who are willing to get involved, like in this auction, Liz jumped in and said she knew how to do it, and then people just take the lead and others help. It’s a really inspiring thing to be a part of in this time where she feels divided.”
Benjamin said Seimetz “hit the nail on the head” with that statement. “(THUSC) is a leaderless organization. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It’s a group of people who are all willing to jump in and say, ‘Yes, how can I help?’ It brings a lot of positivity to a very scary time for people during the endless strike. We’re all about lifting each other up.”
As for their reaction to the increase in their auction online and in dozens of news stories, Fogel says it’s been both shocking and exciting. “We didn’t expect this. It’s wild and so much fun. You can never predict what’s going to go viral or catch fire online, but seeing the memes created is endlessly fun and so encouraging. It’s also crazy and wild. Hopefully that translates into the selected money, but it also gives us a bit of adrenaline.”