Many have forgotten, but 15 years ago, the Writers Guild of America put the film and television industry on the ropes. Between 2007 and 2008, the WGA called a strike that lasted more than 100 days and affected dozens of projects. The Office and Family Guy, to name just two, lost an entire season in the battle between writers and producers. What’s more, for many TV fans, the strike killed Heroes, Prison Break, and Desperate Housewives, and almost did the same to Lost. It became clear that the shows we watch and consume are not written by themselves, nor do they have anyone behind them.
Well, starting today, May 2, 2023, at 12:01 a.m., the WGA has called a new strike after days of unsuccessful meetings with the industry’s major corporations and production companies. This was the call to Hollywood writers and screenwriters:
“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing. From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a “day rate” in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.”
Screenwriters’ Big Demand: War with AI
One of the main areas of discussion has been the emerging threat of AI to the profession. In recent months, we have seen a proliferation of bots that take original scripts from shows like Seinfeld and create new, random, never-ending episodes for free and without the authors’ permission.
The WGA demands “regulation of the use of artificial intelligence in MBA-covered projects” and prohibits artificial intelligence from rewriting writers’ material or being trained from previous work to mimic a style and create a new copy. The major TV studios have rejected the demand, and the union’s counter-proposal to hold “annual meetings to discuss advances in the technology” has also been denied.
But that’s not the only point of contention. According to Deadline’s sources, an upward revision of the minimum wage was also sought. While the WGA’s proposals were for screenwriters to earn enough to generate a business of about 429 million a year, the companies were talking about 86 million. Vastly different numbers lead us into another dark age of television.
It is too early to tell which shows will be affected, but for now, it is confirmed that all late-night shows in the United States will be shut down. Jimmy Fallon, Kimmel, and Stephen Colbert’s shows, among others, will be temporarily off the air as their writing staffs have joined the strike.
Source | Deadline