Writers on Strike

They're fighting for fair treatment. They'll likely lose.

NPR (“Writers Guild of America goes on strike“):

Television and film writers have gone on strike against major Hollywood studios: Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony. The Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents the studios, failed to come up with a new three-year contract in advance of the old deal expiring at midnight Monday. Representatives of the WGA voted to call a strike, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m. PT on Tuesday.

“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” the WGA said in a statement Monday night. “From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a ‘day rate’ in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession.”

The WGA said picketing would begin Tuesday afternoon.

In a statement sent to NPR sent shortly before the announcement of the strike call, AMPTP said it had presented a package proposal to the guild “which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.” According to that statement, the studio’s alliance told the WGA it was prepared to improve that offer “but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon. The primary sticking points are ‘mandatory staffing,’ and ‘duration of employment’ — Guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.”

These strikes happen periodically, with the last time in 2007. The one I remember most is the 1988 strike, because of the infamous Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Shades of Gray,” which demonstrated that, no, just anybody can’t write a decent episode.

Alas, with each iteration, the writers have less leverage, both because they’re competing against a larger trove of existing content and because the economics of the business keep evolving.

Since negotiations began in March, the WGA had been asking for higher wages, healthcare benefits and pensions, and in particular, better compensation when their work shows up on streaming platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

“Driven in large part by the shift to streaming, writers are finding their work devalued in every part of the business,” the guild said in a bulletin to its members. “While company profits have remained high and spending on content has grown, writers are falling behind.”

The strike comes at a time when there are increasing concerns about the profitability of streaming, and fears of a possible economic recession. Companies such as Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Amazon and Netflix have laid off thousands of employees.

Negotiations are about leverage and, alas, the writers simply have less now than they did in 1988. Speaking for myself, with the exception of a handful of shows for which I’m awaiting the next season to drop, it would be years before I noticed the strike absent news reports. There are simply too many seasons of too many quality shows that I haven’t gotten around to watching in the can for me to much care.

That said, the writers’ demands are hardly unreasonable:

Still, Alex O’Keefe, one of the writers of the Hulu series The Bear, says that the writers aren’t getting a fair cut of what studios are making. “I’m really grateful to work on a show about the everyday struggle that so many Americans are living through,” he told NPR. “But at the same time, I’ve seen that there’s complete lack of care towards our working conditions. It makes it so difficult to produce the content that then makes them millions and millions of dollars.”

O’Keefe says even though The Bear was a hit, “I don’t get paid every time somebody watches it. I don’t get paid every time somebody says, ‘yes, chef.’ I don’t expect to make the majority of the profits or anything like that. I just added my spice. It was a whole operation to cook up that show. But we don’t receive the residuals that people associate with television shows.”

Yet, this speaks to the leverage issue: I was heretofore unaware that a show called “The Bear” existed. Unless we’re talking about the one with the chimpanzee who accompanies the truck driver.

In the olden days, writers for movies, television, comic books, and the like were under work-for-hire contracts and thus paid once for their work. But that was generations ago. Apparently, the studios want to go back to the future.

Britanni Nichols, who writes for the ABC show Abbott Elementary, says that between seasons, she used to be able to live off residuals she got when the network re-aired an episode she wrote. She got half her original writing fee each time. Now, when her episodes are sold to the streamers, she gets just 5.5 percent of her writing fee.

“You’re getting checks for $3, $7, $10. It’s not enough to put together any sort of consistent lifestyle,” she told NPR. “It can really be a real shock. … sometimes you get a stack of checks for $0.07.”

Writers in Hollywood are basically gig workers with a union, constantly looking for their next job.

And TV writers say that streaming translates to less work and less money, with studios asking for series to last eight to 10 episodes a season, rather than the traditional 22 episode seasons on network TV.

Even writers on hit shows say they not living some kind of lavish Hollywood dream lifestyle; O’Keefe says he’s basically broke in between gigs.

“I live a very working class existence and there’s nothing to be ashamed about it,” he says. “But yeah, I’ve reached a point that I don’t know how I can continue to survive in this business as it is.”

Nichols says while she’s been working steadily on Abbott Elementary, her next gig isn’t guaranteed.

“It could be right back to a really sort of bad situation where I’m again, struggling to pay rent. And that shouldn’t be the case for someone who’s going to be a decade into their careers, working for an Emmy-winning television show,” she says. “I don’t think anyone would look at my career and say, ‘oh, that person still has to worry at this point,’ but that’s just where things are right now.”

Other TV writers say they’re now being asked to work on spec in what are called “mini rooms”: They work alone on scripts that may or may not get greenlit, with no guarantee they’ll get to be in the official writer’s room even if the show does get picked up.

That seems an inhumane and unsustainable way to treat your creative talent. But it’s apparently becoming the new norm.

And it appears things are only going to get worse:

Another concern by the WGA is the use of artificial intelligence in creative content.

In anticipation of a strike, studio executives had reportedly been stockpiling scripts for months.

“We have a large base of upcoming shows and films from around the world. We could probably serve our members better than most,” Ted Sarandos, co-CEO of Netflix, told investors during a recent earnings call. “We do have a pretty robust slate of releases to take us into a long time.”

Sarandos said the last writer’s strike, in 2007, was “devastating” for everyone, including viewers. Hollywood production shut down for 100 days, and the local economy lost an estimated $2.1 billion. The effect on viewers was felt immediately on late night TV shows and other daily productions.

Back then, writers were asking for better compensation when their work went on DVD’s and internet downloads, like iTunes. This time, much of it has to do with the streamers.

Again, I just don’t see how the writers prevail here. The studios have all the leverage and the very conditions the writers are striking over means they’re desperate for their next paycheck. But being treated like the professionals they hardly seems unreasonable.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Stormy Dragon says:

    Yet, this speaks to the leverage issue: I was heretofore unaware that a show called “The Bear” existed.

    Meanwhile in the real world, FX says The Bear is the most watched comedy show in the network’s entire history, so maybe stop assuming that just because you have no clue about something that no one else does either.

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  2. wr says:

    It’s funny, when the railroad engineers went on strike, people didn’t feel compelled to comment that they’d never even heard of the EMD 710 Series diesel engine, so the strike didn’t really mean anything to them. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never heard of “The Bear” — many people worked on it, many more watched it, and several corporations spent and made money on it.

    As for no leverage… this is my fourth (or fifth?) WGA strike since I joined in 1987, just in time for the longest strike in our history. We’ve never had the leverage, and yet with the exception of the one time we weren’t particularly united, we have always made gains.

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  3. James Joyner says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Your constant contentiousness is getting beyond old. I was simply reinforcing a point made elsewhere in the post: there’s so much quality content out there that essentially nobody has time to watch even a large fraction of it, which means there’s a lot to fill the vacuum.

    @wr: You obviously know the industry way better than I do. But from the outside it seems like you had much more leverage in 1988 because most of the original content was on a handful of over-the-air channels and viewers expected a new show every week. Now, most shows drop the whole season—which is now much shorter than the old 26-episode model—at once and then the next season comes out when it comes out—sometimes two years or more later—rather than starting back up in September after summer reruns.

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  4. Kathy says:

    It’s a fool’s errand to try to determine the “most important” aspect of what is a coordinated effort by large numbers of departments staffed by people.

    But the foundation of every movie and TV show is and will remain the script.

    Maybe AI will someday write cogent scripts worth filming. But then maybe AI will someday also set up scenes, do every scene in flawless CGI, provide voices, and do the whole movie itself. And maybe it will do this without writers, yes, but also without actors, set designers, camera operators, or a director.

    1
  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    For Apple and Amazon all this is all a shrug of the shoulders, a rounding error. Other companies (Warner? Netflix?) may think the strike offers an escape from ridiculous nine figure deals made with producers who have, in many cases, failed to produce.

    Of course I absolutely support the WGAW. But as a writer – sorry, what in Hollywood is called an ‘author’ as opposed to a ‘writer’ – I’m allowed an eye roll or two. We have no union. The idea that we’d get paid for anything but the final product makes us giggle. Authors work for months, even years, and very seldom have any confidence of a sale. No salary, no benefits, no retirement plan, no office, no assistant, no protection. Just me and my laptop.

    Of course the gigs are different. A writer in a room is a factory worker. An author in his garret is a lone craftsman. Group project vs. individual effort. There was a live possibility one of my ‘properties’ might go to TV, which would have meant an actual job. As in, be in this place at this time and do work. When a feature play became the greater likelihood I was relieved, because that’s not a job, that’s a sale. Write me a check, and buh bye.

    I was always a bit bemused by how Hollywood people will refer to their movie, their TV show, despite having been just one part of a 100 person enterprise. I once had an editor refer to something of mine as hers – in that same loose way – and I was not happy. No, no, no. It’s mine. I made it. A thing did not exist, then I typed some words, and it did exist. Mine.

    I should probably go write another book. I’m not a union member, exceedingly unlikely I ever will be, and author snark aside, Hollywood is disrespecting people who are absolutely indispensable, people who often work shocking hours, pour their hearts into work only to be tossed aside and ignored by assholes in suits. Fuck tha man, go union!

    9
  6. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “But as a writer – sorry, what in Hollywood is called an ‘author’ as opposed to a ‘writer’ – I’m allowed an eye roll or two. We have no union”

    You seem to believe there is this giant gulf between the John Gault-like authors out there and the pathetic factory workers churning out scripts. Would it surprise you to learn that hundreds, if not thousands, of WGA members are also published authors? (Including yours truly…) And that when we write a book, we go through exactly the same things as you (although possibly without the sales figures)?

    It’s not the writers who are unionized, it’s the jobs.

    6
  7. wr says:

    @James Joyner: Back in 88, the reason we had no leverage was because all the studios were now parts of giant multi-nationals companies of which the entertainment business was just a tiny portion, so they could withstand anything.

    The fact is, in any strike the workers always have very little leverage. If they did have leverage, there wouldn’t be a strike in the first place.

    4
  8. inhumans99 says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    You have a tendency to snap at folks. Tucker Carlson’s show was the most watched news show on Fox News Channel, but were it not for social media, etc., amplification a lot less folks would know who this critter is. A few million viewers is a far cry from everyone watching such a show.

    The Bear is a great show, but if I asked most folks if they had seen a show called The Bear they might think I am talking about a nature show, not a show about a chef working in a sandwich shop, lol

    I do disagree with James that plenty of content already available means less leverage. Many shows do not take-off like The Night Agent and end up one and done. The tv and movie folks need a constant pipeline of content that might contain the next big hit. New content is the only way they can grow their audience.

    My brother in law works in the industry (I have mentioned before that he was a primary member of a team that put together things like the Avengers Endgame comic con sizzle reel, so this strike impacts his livelihood, as he needs a steady flow of content to work on to stay employed.

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  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @inhumans99:
    I watched one episode of The Bear.

    Usually I complain that things are too fake. The Bear is too real. Triggering, some might say. I’ll probably watch the rest of it some day, but restaurant stress is still baked into me.

    4
  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    @wr:

    Isn’t the Authors Guild a thing too? Although I guess it’s not technically a union.

  11. wr says:

    @Stormy Dragon: “Isn’t the Authors Guild a thing too?”

    Pretty sure MR can speak more knowledgably about this than I, but my sense is that they’re more of a support group than a union — they offer help with contracts and with copyright issues, I think they have a health plan writers can buy into. I don’t mean to dismiss them at all, but they don’t perform the core functions of a union (and they would never claim to).

    1
  12. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I had the exact same writer/author experience. The screenwriter was the writer, and I was informed, with great solemnity, that I was the “author.”

    @wr:

    This is exactly right.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr:
    Yeah, the Authors Guild, as I understand it, is there to affirm the importance of New York City literary authors and occasionally whine about censorship.

    Please don’t ever think I don’t respect Hollywood writers. That third ep of Succession was like watching a magician do close-up card tricks. I watched… still didn’t know how they did it. Barry. Hacks. Better Call Saul. Many great shows. And movies. EEAAO leaps to mind. But I’ll toss out one TV show I would have thought nearly impossible: the successful rescue of Picard, season 3. Not easy to take a hot mess of a hand-off and polish that turd to brilliance.

    1
  14. Andy says:

    I don’t know enough about the business to comment knowledgeably, but it does seem from the outside that writers are probably undervalued financially in the big picture, so I wish them well in their efforts to get better compensation.

    I also agree with James in the sense that I think there is a glut of content, especially on TV, and I wonder if there is a big enough audience to support it all.

  15. Andy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But I’ll toss out one TV show I would have thought nearly impossible: the successful rescue of Picard, season 3. Not easy to take a hot mess of a hand-off and polish that turd to brilliance.

    I gave up on Picard because it was so bad. But your recommendation might get me back into it, at least with Season 3.

    3
  16. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “I’ll toss out one TV show I would have thought nearly impossible: the successful rescue of Picard, season 3. Not easy to take a hot mess of a hand-off and polish that turd to brilliance.”

    I’ve only seen the pilot. Is it worth the next 19 episodes to get to season 3?

    3
  17. Mu Yixiao says:

    @wr:

    Option 1: Watch seasons 1 and 3
    Option 2: Just watch season 3

    One is “good”–not great, but not terrible. It’s got some pieces that work very well and others that…. don’t. It’s definitely not TNG. This is the story of an 80 year old man who used to be in command–and all the weight and pathos that comes with having that control slip away.

    Season 3 is mostly fan-service, but it pulls it off rather well. The story is again “good”, but that’s honestly not why we were all watching it.

    Season 2 is a hot mess that had no clue what it was trying to do.

    1
  18. EddieInCA says:

    I’m as pro-Union as they come, but the WGA asking for Mandatory Minimum Staffing on TV series “whether shows need the writers or not” is never going to fly. If that’s the hill they want to die on, they will die.

    I’m expecting a strike similar to 2008, which created the explosion of Reality TV. But this time it will be worse, because technology has created the ability for people to create content very inexpensively – without writers. Watch a network put on a series which will be nothing but TikTok videos for 30 mins; TikTok videos that were submitted for free.

    The writers are playing a losing hand. And eventually, they will settle with some modest gain, but not before alot of pain works it’s way through the entire business.

    4
  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @wr: @Andy:
    What @Mu Yixiao: said. It went from meh, to fucking hell, to, OMG this is actually good. The fan service was a bit much but as Mu said, they pulled it off.

    The hardest write I ever did was on HUNGER, which is ~500 pages. As I was writing it I knew I’d fucked up the ending. My editor got it, said, ‘hey, you kind of fucked up the ending.’ (I know! I know, goddamit!) So I had to chop off the last 200 pages of a book with maybe five plotlines, and come up with a whole new ending(s) that paid off. The Picard job was like that but with way too many people looking over your shoulder and way too much money on the table. So, big props for that.

  20. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    On the other hand, I could have watched an entire season of Picard and Riker sitting around the cabin chatting with Laris.

    2
  21. Kathy says:

    @Mu Yixiao:

    Season 2 is a hot mess that had no clue what it was trying to do.

    Yes, they did: try to draw attention away from the time paradox that was obvious to everyone on episode 1.

  22. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “I’m really grateful to work on a show about the everyday struggle that so many Americans are living through,” he told NPR. “But at the same time, I’ve seen that there’s complete lack of care towards our working conditions.

    Art imitates life. And sometimes, the artist’s life imitates art imitating life.

    My impression is that there are fewer and fewer situations where people should think of themselves as anything other than laborers. Being a “professional” is a thing of the past, unless you’re in organized crime–it’s still what it used to be there.

  23. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “I’m as pro-Union as they come, but the WGA asking for Mandatory Minimum Staffing on TV series “whether shows need the writers or not” is never going to fly. ”

    You realize that this characterization is not the Guild’s position, but the studio’s version. It’s kind of like quoting the railroads saying that train engineers were striking because they wanted to impose Communism when what they were really asking for was the ability to take a sick day or two.

    1
  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr: “The fact is, in any strike the workers always have very little leverage. If they did have leverage, there wouldn’t be a strike in the first place.”

    THIS! EXACTLY!!

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @wr: @Mu Yixiao: Watching the first episode of Picard showed me that I never need to watch another Star Trek spin off. Ever. I’d just considered picking up where I’d left off, too,–2 or 3 episodes into Deep Space Nine.

    Did Vivaldi write 500 concertos or merely write one concerto 500 times?

  26. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    You may be thinking of PEN (Poets, Editors, and Novelists). The Authors Guild has dwindled in prestige over the past few decades. It used to be that when your first books was publshed by a legit outfit, the AG sent you a lovely engraved invitation to join the organization.

    Now, as far as I can tell, the AG membership consists of mostly wannabes and the self-published.

  27. EddieInCA says:

    @wr:

    You realize that this characterization is not the Guild’s position,

    I’m on the WGA side, so please enlighten me to the Guild’s position. Because that seems to be a position that several showrunners have told me [in person] is a large sticking point. And it’s something that writers here in LA are talking about alot. So I’d love to know what the WGA position is on this issue.

    1
  28. Gustopher says:

    Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen started shooting without a script, and I don’t think you can tell from the final product. If you watch every Transformers movie Michael Bay was involved with, you would be hard pressed to identify it as the one where filming started without a script.

  29. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: Please understand that I’m not on the inside of these negotiations, but I am aware of some of the problems being addressed. I’m not sure which is being twisted into accusations of featherbedding, but one major issue is that writers are hired onto a show, they work for ten or however many weeks to write the show, then they’re let go long before the show goes into production, which means that there is an entire generation of writers — future showrunners — who have no idea how a series is made, or even what a set looks like. One demand that I have seen is that a certain number of writers be kept on staff during production, and a smaller number all the way through post-production. Is this maybe what you’re hearing about?

    1
  30. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: I’ve also seen that the producers are demanding the introduction of a day rate for comedy writers, so they can be engaged and dismissed like Uber drivers.

    1
  31. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: Actually, this is a pretty good article on the issues:

    https://www.vulture.com/2023/05/wga-strike-2023.html

    And here is the actual pattern of demands. I can’t find the demands you’ve described anywhere in either of them, although maybe I’m missing something:

    https://www.wgacontract2023.org/the-campaign/pattern-of-demands

    1
  32. EddieInCA says:

    @wr:

    No. What I’m hearing is that the WGA is insisting on having a Mandatory minimum for writer’s rooms, X numbers of writers for x number of weeks, regardless of need. An arbitrary, fixed number having no relation to the actual needs of the show. The Studios are calling it Mandatory Minimum Staffing, and the WGA is calling is “Save the Writer’s Room”. As for Writer’s on set, on my shows, they’re more of a detriment than a help, because despite the producer titles, they know very little about what goes into a shooting day. If you remember, in Florida, we didn’t have any writer’s on set for ‘The Glades”. If we had an issue with a script on set, we just called Clifton. In four seasons and 49 epidoes, it happened less than a dozen times. We did fine.

    I think of of the things the studios are trying to push are ridiculous; the day rate for Comedy writer’s being one large one. But here’s the reality. The industry is about the change in a big way. The IA is in for a big awakening. We used to need big crews because we had big lights, big set dressing, big flags and bounces. We needed alot of trucks to move the lights and grip equipment because Camera’s needed alot of light. Cameras used to weigh 50-60 pounds and film had ASA of 1600 if your were really lucky. Now, we have ASA over 25,000, cameras that weigh five pounds, and sensors so good that you barely need any light at all. Today’s iphone shoots better “film” than motion picture cameras from only 20 years ago. Going forward, we won’t need four-six Grips on a series. We won’t need four-eight electricians. We no longer need a film loader. We soon won’t need 2nd ACs. Technology is changing the industry – as it always has.

    I hope the writers focus on the residuals, and the soon to be here AI generated scripts, and the additional pension, health and welfare. While I’m no longer a member of the WGA (I was a member for a while in the 90’s), I do hope they win substantial gains. But just like the AMPTP, the Writer’s have to be realistic to the changing landscape.

    5
  33. Kathy says:

    @EddieInCA:

    Cameras used to weigh 50-60 pounds and film had ASA of 1600 if your were really lucky. Now, we have ASA over 25,000

    I suppose it works differently in digital. Back in the days of chemical (analog) photography, I recall an ASA of 1600 gave a below standard resolution for 35mm negatives and prints, but ti was good for low light photography (still required a flash). I recall taking photos of fireworks with an ASA 1200 film. Other than needing a tripod when attempting multiple bursts in one shot, they came out rather well.

    Same trip I took ASA 25 film for daytime photography at Kennedy Space Center. The improved resolution fell short due to lack of access to a photo lab, and the highway robbery prices photo places wanted for blowing up a photo to 8 x 10.*

    Regular ASA for home/casual use film was 200 to 400.

    I hope the writers focus on the residuals, and the soon to be here AI generated scripts,

    Current large language model AI, like the (in)famous ChatGPT, really mine databases taken from online content and such. It can be argued the sources used to generate anything, bu particularly works like scripts or stories or novels, should be credited and paid.

    I know: good luck making that happen.

    *I wonder if I could scan the negatives, if I can find them, and blow them up digitally. Scanners these days are really high resolution.

  34. Gustopher says:

    @EddieInCA:

    I hope the writers focus on the residuals, and the soon to be here AI generated scripts

    I think AI generated scripts that anyone will want to watch are a long ways away. There’s nothing creative about the current round of AI, it just takes and remixes existing content, so it’s going to feel very stale and flat. And without new imaginative things being created, at a point, the AI would start training on its own output, which gets very boring very quickly. Marvel movies would seem like masterpieces in comparison.

    Sometimes it can remix in unexpected ways — but I think that works better for things like still images where things don’t have to make sense for longer than a single frame, and where the unexpected juxtaposition is often a key element of art.

    (Aside: Jean Arp would make art by dropping colored paper and seeing where it ends up. That’s a lot like AI, except Arp was very particular about which arrangements he preserved.)

    1
  35. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “What I’m hearing is that the WGA is insisting on having a Mandatory minimum for writer’s rooms, X numbers of writers for x number of weeks, regardless of need. An arbitrary, fixed number having no relation to the actual needs of the show.”

    People are always hearing things during strikes — I’m sure we’ve both been through enough of them to know that. And I’m really disinclined to believe this because the negotiating committee is all writers and many of them are showrunners — they’re not going to demand something that undercuts their ability to run their own shows.

    2
  36. wr says:

    @EddieInCA: “As for Writer’s on set, on my shows, they’re more of a detriment than a help, because despite the producer titles, they know very little about what goes into a shooting day.”

    I have no doubt this is often true. I’ve certainly seen it myself, and we’ve all heard the horror stories. But having a new writer on the set is also about training that writer to become a producer and to help shepherd the next generation. I get entirely why this would be nothing but a pain in the ass to someone in your position. That doesn’t mean it’s not important to the WGA.

    1
  37. Lounsbury says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Exactly wrong in the history of trade unionism. Leverage from work stoppage is quite economically painful to the producer, notably by skilled labour that is hard to replace or substitute, and industrial action something of a matter of siege warfare. In the days of labour organising Left, they did understand that. The professional class cultural Left, with its activist Bobo intello lean rather less so.

    However it would rather seem Netflix has shown USA Hollywood is rather more substitable with global content. The strike rather has the feeling of a French Great War type action, fighting the last century’s war, all with élan, charging into the Maxim guns.

    Of course the sob stories perhaps really need some numbers behind them – scale of spending on writers per capita (budget versus total writers in market, the fragmentation of modes of distribution and channels [what on earth is FX as an example [yes yes, some obscure American cable channel evidently, with what number of eyeballs on it]). Abstractly I would rather wonder if this is not in good part the sign of a bubble bursting (the digital and then streaming bubble).

    1
  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @EddieInCA: @wr:

    I’m not a writer, merely an author, but I feel comfortable saying that there are times when the words just come out wrong and need to be fixed – by a writer. I for some reason got an invite to be in the audience for the new Frasier. As I sat there I saw the writer-on-set throwing new lines to the cast. And the result was bigger laughs. Beyond that, a writer will just hear an actor speaking a line and know instantly that it’s wrong and could use a fix. Especially in the increasingly rare situation of an old-school, multi-cam sitcom where you can gauge audience reaction to a gag and fix what didn’t work.

    Also, a writer will see future possibilities. For example some element of the set that can be incorporated in future lines. It’s the same principle that led to me crawling under tanks for FRONT LINES or buying a decommissioned Garand or firing a Thompson in Vegas. I’d seen the pix, knew the facts, but when you crawl under a Panzer, or feel that submachine gun pull up and to the right, it’s different, it adds flavor.

    You cannot lock writer children in a room, kids who’s entire world experience is probably limited to the exact same experiences as every other writer in the room, and expect something original and revelatory. The writers have to see and feel. It’s some serious philistinism, some real failure of understanding to confine writers and limit their access.

    2
  39. @Kathy:

    I suppose it works differently in digital.

    The simple answer is: yes, it very much does.

    The grain associated with high ISO film is not, at all, the same as with digital–especially the higher-end cameras.

  40. mattbernius says:

    @wr:

    People are always hearing things during strikes — I’m sure we’ve both been through enough of them to know that. And I’m really disinclined to believe this because the negotiating committee is all writers and many of them are showrunners — they’re not going to demand something that undercuts their ability to run their own shows.

    Totally this. I’m in the process of helping bargain our first contract at our small non-profit. And with a total head count of about 200, and general access to what we are bargaining, its still amazing to me how our positions get characterized by folks who are not directly involved in the process.

    Solidarity to you and all the others on the lines.