It’s official, television and film writers are going on strike. Due to economic instability, lack of job security, the rise of AI writing, and increasing demand for written content, screenwriters have been pushed to the brink. The Writer’s Guild of America East and West have been attempting to negotiate terms with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Those talks have not met with an acceptable compromise, meaning that effective 12:01 AM, May 2nd, writers are officially on strike.
The last time this happened was in 2007. Of the many issues at stake at the time, one of them was linked to DVD sales and the residuals. Despite the writers of those shows obviously helping to bring them to the screen and eventual DVD release, they were not being compensated fairly. Additional concerns were brought up regarding new media avenues such as internet broadcasting; what we’d label as streaming today. The fight over these and other issues resulted in a 100-day long strike.
Now here we are in 2023 and in many ways, writers still have a lot going against them. There is more content being pumped out than ever before across networks and streaming platforms, but many writers face not knowing if they’re going to be working from week-to-week on a program. Sometimes instead of a salary they’re just paid a “day rate” for writing for late-night talk shows. The overall lack of job stability and security doesn’t make it easy to know where the money to survive on will be coming from.
There’s also the concern of AI and how it’s changing how scripts can potentially be generated. The idea of automation vs a human work force has frequently been at the source of labor disputes. The WGA would like to be able to ensure that union created content will not be used for the furtherment of AI learning or that AI will not be used to rewrite guild member content. It’s easy to see how this could be a huge threat to writers and a huge cost-cutting move by producers who would no longer need to hire writers if AI content is strong enough to bring to screen.
There are other details of course that have to do with pay rate, scale pay, and other industry concerns that go beyond what most viewers would normally be concerned about when they tune in to watch their favorite show. What they would notice is late night talk shows not airing new episodes or scripted series having a reduced episode count if the strike goes on long enough. The latter of these was a particularly powerful effect of the strike.
A strike of this magnitude means several shows, including most of the big late night programs, are going dark until a compromise is reached. We’ll keep you updated on this and other news.