America’s writers aren’t happy! Or to be specific, those writers who have a hand in shaping Hollywood’s output of entertainment, as the Writer’s Guild of America wants a piece of the lucrative streaming pie that they feel that they are rightfully owed. It’s a tricky subject, but the gist of it is that while the entertainment industry has made a successful pivot to streaming, the writers behind such shows are making less money now that they can’t strike the same syndication deals that they would have with regular broadcast television.
Streaming services are also making use of shorter episode counts per season, complicating matters. On top of that, Hollywood’s biggest players are doing whatever they can to avoid paying above minimum wage to many an employed writer. And as a result, for the 15 000-members strong creative union, there may be only one solution left when their current contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers goes back to the deal-making table: Strike.
It’s not the first time that the WGA has gone on strike, as negotiations broke down and led to the infamous 1988 downing of typerwiters. More recently, the 2007-2008 strike was directly responsible for a summer of creatively bankrupt content.
So how does that affect you, the viewer? Well let me put it this way: Remember Transformers: Rise of the Fallen, Quantum of Solace or the second season of Heroes? I bet you don’t want to, but without contracted writers around to make use of, Hollywood’s creativity started scraping the bottom of the barrel resulting in situations like movies shooting with a script that was literally being made up on the set by the actors and director.
“The WGA is a union. We therefore have to be ready for a battle if the circumstance demands it, including a strike,” WGA president David A. Goodman said in a statement regarding a fresh writer’s strike to THR.
But predicting the outcome of negotiation right now is like asking in the first quarter if a football game will go into sudden death overtime. It’s nonsense. Nobody knows.
So what’s Hollywood doing then? Negotiating fairer payments, residuals and royalties for writers? Ha ha, hell no. Still feeling the raw pain from the last strike that cost the Los Angeles economy an estimated $2.5 billion more than a decade ago, Hollywood is instead stockpiling content and bankrolling more episodes of current TV series, grabbing shows from abroad and looking to good ol’ Canada for new content during what could be a content drought. The irony of which is not lost on writers, who are being asked to pen new scripts for more episodes of currently airing TV shows.
Showrunners have an inherent conflict of interest when executives come to them asking for additional content,” Legends of Tomorrow writer-producer Marc Guggenheim explained.
On the one hand, we feel an obligation to our casts and crews to keep them working. On the other hand, if scripts are being stockpiled, are we actually not just helping the studios and networks weather a strike? And are we perhaps increasing the likelihood of a strike by essentially filling up the war chest of the people we are about to go into negotiations with?
Here’s another bit of fallout that viewers will have to brace for: With writers on strike, the entertainment scene will most likely rely on filling content gaps with shudder reality TV, so prepare yourselves for more of that schlocky content should a deal fail to materialise in May.
Last Updated: February 6, 2020