Strike Update: 7 Interesting Things to Watch Out For

Writers Strike

The recent strike by the Writers Guild of America (WGA) might have blindsided many viewers. With the booming success of streaming platforms and a whopping 599 scripted series produced in 2022 alone, one might presume that those responsible for crafting these beloved narratives, the writers, would be thriving. However, behind the gloss of shows like Succession or Yellowjackets, writers are grappling with intricate challenges, making their role in the industry more precarious than ever before.

The Economics Behind Hollywood Writing

Contrary to popular belief, not all Hollywood writers are bathing in luxury. Just as in the realm of acting, where only a select few like Chris Pratt achieve global stardom and wealth, countless writers are attempting to stitch together a consistent and sustainable income. At the heart of the ongoing dispute lies the issue of residuals: the royalties received when a show or movie is rerun or repackaged. Streaming platforms have drastically altered the residual model, often leading to writers pocketing minuscule amounts. Given this backdrop, it’s no wonder that an overwhelming 97.85% of writers voted in favor of the strike.

The Tectonic Shift of Streaming

The entertainment landscape post-2007, after the last significant WGA strike, has been reshaped largely due to the advent of streaming services. Writers, while initially viewing this as a potential new frontier for storytelling, soon found themselves squeezed by changing payment models and reduced job security. Adding to this is the concept of “mini-rooms,” an approach by studios to employ fewer writers for lesser durations, constraining the traditional pathways for writers to mature and flourish in their craft.

Emerging Tech: AI in Storytelling

The debate around technology’s role, particularly AI, in the creative processes is intensifying. The WGA has been proactive, putting forth regulations concerning generative AI’s involvement in writers’ rooms. There’s a mounting concern that AI, given its rapid advancements, might overshadow or, worse, replace human writers. But as Quinta Brunson insightfully commented, certain nuances of creativity, like “AI Can’t Write Tariq’s Raps,” can’t be replicated by machines.

The Studios’ Stance: A Silent Retort

Interestingly, the studios, powerhouses of the entertainment ecosystem, have been relatively tight-lipped. The little they’ve conveyed leans towards a somewhat dismissive “deal with it” stance. By highlighting the benefits they offer to writers, studios attempt to paint a rosy picture. However, the vast profits in their coffers narrate a contrasting tale. To bring this disparity into focus, WGA board member Adam Conover remarked that the cumulative demands of thousands of writers barely equate to the earnings of a single studio CEO in a year.

Audience Repercussions: A Ripple Effect

For the general audience, the initial tremors of the strike might remain unnoticed. However, if the standoff persists, we could witness a disruption in the regular cadence of TV shows and a potential dip in content quality. Past strikes provide a glimpse of the challenges: the James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, produced amidst a writer’s strike, faced significant hurdles, jeopardizing its narrative quality. Present-day shows, such as House of the Dragon, are treading on similar thin ice.

Future Implications of the Strike and the Broader Canvas

The ripple effects of the strike are vast, touching all facets of the entertainment domain. The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) dodged a strike bullet in 2021, but with upcoming contract expirations for the Screen Actors Guild and Directors Guild of America, the industry is on tenterhooks.

With days passing, WGA members, though unified in their resolve, face an uncertain horizon. Their demands are not mere whims but are foundational to sustaining the industry’s creative core. As the standoff continues, there’s a collective hope that studios will soon acknowledge the irreplaceable value of writers, ensuring they are rewarded and revered as they rightly should be.

Richard Lowe
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