Why the WGA Strike is So Important

Today marks two months since the Writers Guild of America went on strike. With the support of many major guilds worldwide, they fight for the future of the craft of writing. What happens to conclude this strike will very likely shape what television and movie writing looks like forever. 

However, the full effect of this strike will not be realized until long after it concludes. In 2008, the WGA strike lasted 104 days and cost studios around 2 billion dollars. Factoring in inflation, that number would be closer to 3 billion. 

We’re starting to see the strike’s impact with major studios announcing a push back on their movies. Disney has moved most of its Marvel Cinematic Films to later dates. Other studios have followed suit. Unfortunately, this strike also harms small businesses that make a large amount of their income from production. 

It’s not just the 11,000 or so writers who are affected, it’s everyone involved with a production. 

It is Day 62 of the WGA strike, and at the moment, studios seem too busy trying to keep their actors in place to even look in the direction of the WGA. What’s more, they think they can outlast writers. 

Writing is the foundation of any project. As has become apparent with one box office dud after another, pushing writers to their limits is unsustainable. One show-runner, remaining anonymous, had this to say. 

On the last show I made, I spent three months living in Brooklyn during production, working seven days a week, 12-hour days on average, in a desperate attempt to succeed with the limited tools provided. I was given the choice of having one writer on set with me or a producing director. These are two very different jobs, but I had to pick. I chose a talented writer and still, the workload of writing plus production demands required more hours than we had available. I got the job done, quite frankly, by making myself unwell. This is unsustainable.



This show runner made himself ill to get a project done. Is there any wonder why films and shows are falling flat and stories have no life in them?

Over on the WGA’s website, they have a page dedicated to their writers sharing their stories. In my opinion, their words speak louder than mine, so let’s let them speak. 

One of the things feature writers are fighting for this strike is to finally make the studios admit that it doesn’t matter if you’re writing for the big screen or streaming. The work is the same, so the pay should be too.

Since the invention of streaming studios, the wage disparity for writers has become unbearable. Oftentimes, studios will hand over the bare minimum (less if they can) and expect free work on top of that. Conditions are rough both physically and mentally and even after all that, writers are at the mercy of “algorithms” that may tell a studio to cut their project in the eleventh hour. 

Sometimes, this has caused writers to make an unimaginable choice. 

We support the strike because we don’t want feature writers to have to make impossible choices like the one we had to make between free work and healthcare coverage.

No one should have to make that choice but the studios forced this pair of writers into that in order to save a few bucks. 

In a time when the cost of everything is going up, writers are getting paid even less. Take a look at this comment from a writer. 

Last year I worked on two shows—both for streaming. One has over three billion minutes of streaming time just in the first week alone. The second hasn’t aired yet, but is the second season of a franchise show, which had a budget over $150 million. Although I worked on both shows at the Producer level, my combined income on these shows was less than my income from five years ago when I worked on only one show as a story editor. 

Often, studios will create what is known as a one-step deal. You get paid for the finalized script – no matter how many drafts they drag you through. It can take what would be a few weeks of work and drag it out by a month. 

Don’t take my word for it. Listen to this story. 

I had a spec optioned once with a rewrite. That “one-step” deal lasted 10 months and included five drafts that went directly into the studio (not counting the producer passes). It took a year after commencement to get health care—and I almost didn’t qualify because the delay between commencement and delivery was so long. Months later, the studio attached a director. I did multiple drafts for him over the course of a month. But the studio wouldn’t trigger the optional polish in my deal. So all told, that was 11 months, seven drafts, 75K divided between me and my writing partner. Take out commissions, and we got 28K a piece. Before taxes. There is no such thing as a one-step deal.

This so-called one-step hides the potential for over a dozen steps in between. And for all of those and those hours, they don’t pay any additional money. 

Why is this strike important? 

It’s for people just like you and me. Ones that are trying to make rent keep their Guild insurance (which requires hitting certain wage thresholds) and survive. These are the people who make the shows that we cannot get enough of. 

Since streaming services began creating their own unique content, it has taken off. Streaming surpasses Broadcast, Cable, and Premium Networks when it comes to awards season. And it’s not by a tight margin either. 

Yet, compared to the residuals writers have seen from cable and broadcast, streaming shows pay significantly less. 

While studios succeed, the writer sees virtually none of the money that results. And without the writer, there is no show. 

There’s one more reason that this strike is so important. What does writing look like with the option of using AI? Can AI replace writers delegating them to mere editors of cheap content pushed out by a machine? 

The WGA demands were made public on Day One of this strike. One of the notes was regarding the use of AI to write scripts. The WGA and its members want assurances that studios won’t start having AI write the scripts and that human beings be relegated to editing (which, given the current quality of AI writing means rewriting it from the ground up). The problem is that editing a script pays significantly less than writing it from scratch. 

You probably wonder how this affects you if you’re not a writer. Tired and burnt-out writers cannot produce fresh content. Not that they’re being given the chance to. But the use of AI would eliminate the human spark of creativity. 

No computer can replace that. 

How can you help? Visit the WGA website for more information and resources. For television to improve, writers must be given appropriate staff and be allowed to make a living wage. 

I stand with the WGA. Someday, I plan to be a member myself. Everyone out there on the picket lines are fighting not just for their futures but mine too. 

Featured Image: Writers Guild of America

Source: Writers Guild of America

One thought on “Why the WGA Strike is So Important

Leave a Reply