‘Pay the Writers You AI-Holes!’ How an Instagram Joke Became a Plane Message Over Hollywood’s Studios

Within two days, TV director Jacob Reed got enough money from Hollywood workers to fly a message of support to writers on strike

On Monday, Hollywood writers on strike looked up to the skies and saw a message of support flying above the studio lots: a plane carrying a banner that read: “Pay the writers, you AI-Holes!”

That plane sign was made possible thanks to a crowdfunded campaign launched and completed in just two days by Jacob Reed, a writer and director whose credits include dozens of episodes of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”

In an interview with TheWrap, Reed said the sign started as a “half-joke” on his private Instagram page, where he posted a picture of the plane sign and asked if any of his friends would be willing to chip in to make the sign a reality.

“The response was so strong that I published it to my public Instagram account with a link to my Venmo page saying ‘If anyone wants to make this real, you can donate here,’” Reed said.

Reed got a quote from a plane company on how much it would cost to fly the plane over all the studios, and the price came out to $1,862. Thanks to more than 100 donors, that goal was reached in less than 48 hours. Reed says that the donations not only came from WGA members, but also from members of SAG-AFTRA, DGA, and eight different IATSE locals. Support even came from members of non-Hollywood unions like United Domestic Workers and California Teachers Association as well as talent agents and managers.

“I had a friend who was in IATSE Local 44, and they did a sky banner when they were doing a strike authorization vote a couple years ago, and she said ‘I have our flight plan from when we did it if you want it,’” she said. “It started as something that was my idea and then snowballed into something that a bunch of people were onboard to support.”

The donations came in so fast that Reed had over $200 left over after commissioning the plane message. He donated that cash to the Entertainment Community Fund, which is providing financial support to Hollywood workers cash-strapped by the production shutdowns caused by the strike.

Though the campaign was done for a silly joke, Reed says that he’s been heartened by how much support the WGA has received from labor unions both inside and outside of the entertainment industry and how much in turn WGA members have supported other unions in their efforts to improve wages and working conditions.

While Reed, a member of the Directors Guild of America, is awaiting word from his union of the results of ongoing negotiations on a new labor contract, major strikes are also happening in other parts of the country, including a teachers strike in Oakland and airport picket lines by United Airlines pilots.

“It’s not just something I’ve seen in the last two weeks, it’s something I’ve seen build in the last few years,” he said. “Billionaires and CEOs are exploiting workers for their own financial benefit at a rate that is not only faster than before but also leading to greater exploitation,” he said. “People are just sick of it, so I think that people are just trying to help each other in any way they can. I was the point person for this sign, but I don’t see it as my project. I see it as something all of us did together.”

For all of TheWrap’s WGA Strike coverage, click here.