Walking the WGA Picket Line
I joined my first WGA picket line yesterday afternoon, outside Paramount.
I am not a full member, but was an Associate Member for a few years after the deal for the Game pilot I cowrote a few years ago. But I was pleased that when I checked in, they found me in their database on a laptop.
I am so proud of the writers for their (our?) strength in organizing. There feels like real momentum behind the cause. Certainly there was a ton of honking when I was there on Melrose yesterday (which left me kinda jumpy).
It was sort of funny for this lifelong Trekkie to be protesting outside of Paramount—the birth place and home of Star Trek for many decades. Never would have thought I’d end up here as a little kid watching black-and-white reruns.
I think everybody knows that the giant corporations are squeezing everybody, and writers have been totally hosed with the switch to streaming (with their minimal or eliminated royalties) and general abuse of their services.
I think everybody knows that we’re all being treated like we’re disposable, it’s just the writers’ turn to speak up about it—hence the support for the strike.
Screenwriting is a very strange kind of “work.” I spend hours just sitting or walking around the house and it doesn’t look like I’m doing anything—but I am. I’m thinking of solving story problems so when I go sit down in front of the computer, I know what to do.
It takes years to get good enough to create anything meaningful—and the business structure that used to exist (with royalties and minimum protections) let writers support themselves while they learned their craft.
It’s not “gig” work—it’s an art, a trade and a lifestyle.
But if the companies make it impossible to earn a consistent living at it, people won’t go into it. The studios will think they’re saving money, but all they’ve really done is decimate their own talent pool.
That said, this strike looks like it will be a long one. What’s pathetic is that—and this is just my own opinion, albeit reasonably well informed—the producers/studios more than likely already know what they’re willing to settle at.
But if the strike goes on for 90–100 days (or whatever), they can invoke a force majeure clause in their various contracts to get out of projects they no longer want.
Yeah, it’s that simple.
It will be interesting to see what happens with the DGA (directors) and SAG (actors) deals which expire June 30th. Here’s an L.A. Times piece about that.
This strike has already been disruptive to my own career, but not nearly as bad as people who have shows in production, or were recently green-lit. My heart breaks for anybody who toiled for years on a dream project, only to have it go up in smoke due to bad timing.
Here’s an interesting piece from The Hollywood Reporter about how writer–directors are navigating different mandates as to work they can and cannot perform.
By the way, anybody can picket! I saw at least a few actors out there yesterday. (Not a bad career move.) Here’s the info.
So stay strong.
And one thing about a writer’s strike: the picket signs tend to be well written!