Various and Sundry Writing

More Context for the 2023 Writers’ Strike

So the not-quite-a-week-old writers’ strike is still on my mind, in part because much of the online forums I visit are full of, well, writers. So here’s a few more resources that I feel give you a bit more context about what’s being demanded, how the studios usually respond and what is officially on the table.

First up, an 8 1/2 minute video from Nerdist that sums up the strike:

If you’ve been following other strike coverage, including what I’ve posted here, some of it might be familiar, but, hey, it’s video, so you might go through it quicker.

Now, you might also note that Nerdist seems to be on the writers’ side — and while I can’t help someone who doesn’t like to stick up for the underdog or perhaps has a terminal case of whataboutism — I did get some good historic context from de-facto pop culture historian Mark Evanier. Being a WGA writer for over 40 years, he’s seen multiple contract negotiations and how the studios operate. And in the hundreds of posts of his I’ve read, he both doesn’t seem mean-spirited, but not about to be overly nice to someone or something that is, common sense-wise, not nice. You can read the whole post, but this excerpt gives you a good idea of the studios’ standard operating procedure:

Well, now that I’m officially on strike, let me say a few things. This is my fifth strike since I joined the Writers Guild in 1976. For the record, the previous four were in 1981, 1985, 1988 and 2007. The issues were different in each strike but in a sense, they were all the same: The old contract was expiring and the alliance of the major producers were using the need to arrive at a new contract as an opportunity to achieve two closely-related goals…

  1. To lower what they paid us for our work…or to at least not give us an increase that kept pace with inflation and the rising cost of living and…
  2. To establish that we — and the directors, actors and everyone else — would get the smallest possible share of the revenues being generated by new income streams and new forms of technology. At the moment, that’s mainly streaming but in past strikes, it was the increase of new cable channels, the sales of programming on videotape and (later) LaserDiscs and DVDs, etc.
~Mark Evanier

He also answers various strike questions here, here, and here (and will likely continue to do so).

If helpfully answering questions about writers makes you think of John August, Craig Mazin, and Scriptnotes, you’ll be pleased (and probably not at all surprised) to find out that they have a number of podcast episodes that have dropped in the past week that you can check out. I won’t go into the litany of links here, in part because I need to wrap up this post, but also because, if you’re at all a script writer, just subscribe to that podcast! You won’t regret it.

Finally, the WGA has been been up front about what they’re asking for and what the response has been (if anything) from AMPTP. To whit: you can check out the summary online. Writer Neil Gaiman posted this earlier in the weekend and it’s been making the rounds as well.

I like this rundown because you can wonder about whether this percentage increase over that percentage increase is fair or not, but no response, or the ridiculous response regarding AI, does rather show who’s trying to reach an equitable arrangement. I’ve posted about AI several times this year and it does strike me that the writers are being like the original Luddites who were not so much anti-technology as wanting a voice in how technology was changing their jobs.

Some online speculators have mused that we won’t see an end to this strike until talks with the DGA and SAG-AFTRA start on May 10th and June 7th, respectively.

I’m really hoping the strike doesn’t go until June, but we’ll see.

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