Shawna Benson Explains How the Benson Sisters' Twitch Page is Bringing Fans Into the Picketing Process—and Helping the Entertainment Community Fund - Give Me My Remote : Give Me My Remote

Shawna Benson Explains How the Benson Sisters’ Twitch Page is Bringing Fans Into the Picketing Process—and Helping the Entertainment Community Fund

September 22, 2023 by  

Benson Sisters Twitch picket streaming

Shawna Benson (Photo credit: Shawna Benson/Twitter)

For nearly five months, WGA writers have been on strike, with scribes in Los Angeles and New York regularly hitting picket lines to show their solidarity and support for their guild. The pickets have ranged from routine to specialized—with show reunions, themed days, and events highlighting marginalized communities occurring almost daily.

With so much going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed…or like you’re missing out. Enter sisters—and writing partners—Shawna and Julie Benson (THE 100 and STAR TREK: PRODIGY).

The duo launched a Twitch account, and have regularly streamed live from the picket lines, bringing fans into the thick of things since the early days of the WGA strike.

Here, Shawna Benson reflects on how the duo’s unexpected strike gig came to be, some of their craziest picketing moments, and how fans can help support workers impacted by the strike (for free!)…

What led to you deciding to livestream these pickets?
I’ve been watching people’s streams for a long time on Twitch and other platforms. Twitch became the target simply because Amazon owns it—we knew that we could leverage the fact that they would basically have to give us $2 every time someone used an Amazon Prime subscription, and then we could donate that back to the Entertainment Community Fund. So we felt like it was Amazon inadvertently or indirectly supporting our efforts. 

It’s not probably the best platform to use; we probably should have done YouTube. But we’re writers—we like poetic justice. 

Honestly, we started just because we felt like, unlike what happened in 2007, where, unfortunately, social media was not as large as it is now, it was much easier for people to believe a lot of the news that was coming out of the mainstream press. And it was difficult to combat a lot of those stories by showing what’s actually going on, hearing people’s stories of what they’re dealing with in their work, and what has changed about our industry. So we wanted to make sure we had a way to get that word out some way. 

And it was also a way for us to connect people who are members of the guild, but aren’t local or don’t live in New York, and don’t have a picket line to walk. It was a way to give them a feeling of [being here]. And a lot of our streams have just been us walking in circles. The special pickets have been great, because it gives us something to look at in a way: “Look, there’s some actors, we can talk to some other people.” But most of the time, it’s like an hour, hour and a half of us just walking in circles, talking about the issues and talking about the strike.

As basic as it sounds, what have you learned about having to walk, talk, and film at the same time?
I’m really bad at it, is what I’ve learned. [Laughs.] And initially, it was just looking at people’s backs right when I first started. And I got better software that I was using, and I was able to do a picture-in-picture thing, where I’m in the corner and I’m like looking out, so you see my face a little bit. I don’t know why anyone wants to look at that, but that seems to help. 

But I noticed a lot that I’m so busy looking around me to see if there’s something I need to shoot that I fall out of the frame all the time. I’ve tripped a few times, no doubt. Very embarrassing when that happens. But for the most part, I think I’ve gotten better at it. It used to be that when we showed up people thought it was really strange, and they would run away. And now they just go, “Oh they’re there with their camera again. Okay.” They don’t run away quite as fast.

Are you looking at the numbers and actively trying to grow the channel? Or is that something you try to avoid looking at/thinking about?
A little bit of both. On the one hand, we did this thinking it was just something we did for the strike. But as we talked about the changes that our industry is going through, we recognize that a lot of the eyeballs are in these other places. They’re not on traditional television, or even the streaming services. On any given night, you can look at Twitch alone and see that there’s hundreds of thousands of people watching streams. I forgot the number—it’s like seven million streamers, or something, just on the one service. It’s crazy, crazy times. 

Of course, we’re a little older than the main bulk of the audience, who are millennial or Gen Z; as an Xer, I definitely feel the age. That being said, I was also a total computer junkie when I was a kid and also worked at IT for 13 years before I became a writer, so still a thing that I liked doing. 

We’ve talked about how can we use this platform after the strike? And that’s the conversation we have now. We think it’s a good way to maybe get engagement with people and connect with people to talk about ‘What does it take to actually write television or film in this day and age?’ And ongoing, after the strike, what are the issues that we still encounter? 

One of the things we noticed is that during COVID, things really started to change dramatically. The rules that we used to rely upon—when staffing would happen to get on a show, how long a show would be, how many weeks you might be working—that all changed. Even to the point that most people weren’t even in the physical space; you were doing it from home, from Zoom. So those are all considerations that lead us to thinking, “This is fun, we like doing this, it’s a nice outlet.”

The crass version, of course, is that it’s a platform for us to get our name out there, in a way, but at the same time, we’re also just okay with people finding us. We’re not going to put together huge campaigns for people to come and find us. And that’s how it’s been from the start.

What has been your favorite thing you’ve intentionally or unintentionally captured during the strike so far?
Honestly, the earliest thing, within the first or the second week that we were streaming, we heard Imagine Dragons was going to be playing at Netflix. I couldn’t get there in time, but my sister was already there, and she had a camera and I said, “Go do it!” We had it on our channel and it got thousands of views because we had the whole five-song set that they did. It was just serendipitous.

Then we did start getting information from some of the WGA captains about upcoming pickets before they were announced so that we could kind of plan for them. And that was helpful to sort of know, okay, this is gonna happen this week, and we need to make sure we go to that, because we know it’s gonna be a big deal. But catching the concert was kind of hilarious and awesome at the same time. 

SUPERNATURAL was the other one. We had a lot of Brazilians in our feed that day, and it was amazing. I enjoyed it so much. I know no Portuguese. Those fans are very dedicated and they gave us huge numbers on the viewing for that video.

That was an absolutely intense day.
My phone overheated twice that day. That was a day we did a triad: We went to Disney for the disability picket. We went to the SUPERNATURAL picket at Warner Brothers. And then we drove all the way over to Amazon for THE 100 reunion picket, because we were on THE 100. So that was an exhausting day. The only time we’ve done that; hopefully we’ll never have to do that again.

It’s been a near-historically long strike. What has having this Twitch community literally at your fingertips meant to you?
It’s hugely helpful. My mom is there. I know it sounds ridiculous. My mom shows up sometimes and reminds me to hydrate. The “regulars,” they’re great people. They’re very supportive. It makes the time go a lot faster, especially on days that aren’t [like the BATTLESTAR GALACTICA reunion, where this interview was done] where it’s a big well-attended picket, and it’s twenty people walking in a circle—it can feel like an eternity. Having those people to have a conversation with—not even just talking about the strike, you can talk about anything—has been really helpful. For me, I’m not a natural public speaker, so I’m definitely going against the grain. And I say that as someone who competed in speech at the college level, but, again, that was pushing myself constantly to go out and do those kinds of things.

Is there anything else you want to share about this experience or the strike?
If people are looking for a way to kind of stick in the eye of Amazon, they can subscribe to our stream. All of the money that we collect during the strike is going to the Entertainment Community Fund

We have a tip page now because people insisted we set one up, but we really are looking to try to help everyone that is in this, not just the people who are officially striking, but all of the people who work in this business who are affected. And these funds are the best way we have at the moment to really do that support and give people the financial resources they need while they’re not working. 

I don’t think that this is the end, by any stretch, because SAG is still on strike. And there could be other strikes in the future based on these negotiations and how their negotiations go. And the big lesson is that we’re all part of this, and we’ll be there for them the same way they’ve been there for us.

For a step-by-step rundown of how to subscribe to the Benson sisters’ Twitch page, Shawna also crafted a Twitter thread explaining the process.


Follow @GiveMeMyRemote and @marisaroffman on Twitter for the latest TV news. Connect with other TV fans on GIVE ME MY REMOTE’s official Facebook page or our Instagram.

And be the first to see our exclusive videos by subscribing to our YouTube channel.

As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases made through links/ads placed on the site.

Filed under Strike

Comments Off on Shawna Benson Explains How the Benson Sisters’ Twitch Page is Bringing Fans Into the Picketing Process—and Helping the Entertainment Community Fund


Comments are closed.