TrendingUS News

Writer’s Guild of America Strike Resolved

Michael “MJ” King
Staff Writer

This past summer, movie successes like Barbie and Oppenheimer have failed to make up for the monumental losses that Hollywood has experienced at the Box Office. Traditional Disney IP cash cows like The Little Mermaid and Indiana Jones or Warner Brother’s Blue Beetle and Shazam have crashed and burned financially and been slammed critically by audiences. Much of the Box Office’s poor success has been due to poor morale amongst writers, low pay, overloaded schedules, and far too much top-down authority from studio executives sucking the creative soul from the cradle of innovation. This mistreatment of the industry’s foundation is undervaluing and exploiting its potential. The writers want to be recognized for their contributions to the entertainment industry and compensated for their work. They are also seeking greater job security and protection against exploitation by their employers. In response, the Writer’s Guild of America has thrown the old status quo out the window, and the WGA’s five-month-long strike reflected the cracks in Hollywood’s hourglass. A few years ago, the emergence of streaming services altered the industry’s inertia, and this strike, along with its conclusion, has provided answers for the changing times and laid the framework for a new Hollywood. But how many of these demands were met and issues resolved?

The sitcom structure that brought classics like “The Jeffersons”, “Seinfeld”, and “The Office” are beginning to fade in favor of more lucrative, safe, and shorter-run seasons that defines modern TV. (Photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Standard TV schedules used to run about 22 episodes per season, which, give or take, was about six months out of the year of work time. Residuals usually paid for the downtime in between. Producing shorter episodes with a centralized story, a tighter cast of characters, and a more refined overall structure can significantly enhance the quality of a show. This approach helps keep the narrative focused and engaging while allowing for more depth and development of the characters involved. But, nowadays, productions are typically eight episodes, which is only two months of work time. Fewer work months mean less pay; today’s Hollywood writers work fewer days than their cable television forerunners. This forces writers to simultaneously take on multiple projects throughout the year and quickly causes writer burnout. Within this model, time is not the friend of the WGA.

From the executives perspective, if a 22-episode season flops, that is a massive amount of resources, money, and, most importantly, time wasted. In comparison, an eight episode season flopping is much easier to recover from. Multitasking on several shows at once inevitably produces poorer writing for each show and less concentration in crafting honestly, well-thought-out art. Unfortunately, this issue has yet to be solved, as it is a natural evolution in the industry. However, there are ways to navigate these uncharted waters, and the primary method is to keep writers afloat with the strong hull of residuals.

For those unaware, residuals are a form of payment for creators when work is rerun, sold on DVD, Blu-ray, or moved to a streaming platform. However, these incentives will primarily tailored to cable news networks, where those types of sales were common. Since on-demand streaming took over, DVD and Blu-ray sales are less lucrative for studios, some electing to ignore them entirely. And this goes without saying: there are no reruns for streaming shows. The modern-day residuals will now be based on foreign viewership and increase by 76%. For instance, writers of Netflix will now receive $32,830 instead of the previous $18,684 for a one-hour-long episode. This is a staggering increase that will help fill writers’ pockets in between projects.

Additionally, writers will be rewarded when a show or film performs exceptionally well. Under the new agreement, if 20% or more of a network’s subscriber base watches a show or movie within the first 90 days, writers will be rewarded with a 50% bonus in residual checks. Providing these sorts of incentives is crucial in boosting the morale of a writer’s room and preventing fatigue over long, drawn-out shows. Previously, apart from the pay you initially received for writing the show, none of its success (or failure!) helped you. Sure, you get your name attached to a successful show and a slight boost to your ego, but nothing beats the almighty American dollar rewarding your work. An added effect is promoting writers to stick with successful TV shows, and retainment of staff for later seasons is crucial in maintaining one vision for a narrative.

The writer is the creative engine that runs the story, yet writers rarely are on set or even meet actors cast to play their characters. This is an inefficient practice; it’s like having the chief absent for a baking class; he cooked it, now let him teach it for the love of god! Writers understand their characters much more profoundly than anyone else, and having them barred from meeting their actors or being on set to help direct isn’t a recipe for success. Additionally, writers missing out on the on-set phase of production and even post-production is detrimental to a writer’s ambitions to be involved in the creative process more than just the writer’s room.

Nowadays, AI has begun a gradual encroachment into most industries, with varying degrees of controversy, and the hearts and minds of the TV/Film industry are no exception. With creativity and legitimacy in the balance, this new deal has made the guidelines clear of AI’s new role. Spoiler alert: they have no part. Now, admittedly, this wasn’t much of a surprise. Under current copyright law, no creative properties created by AI can be trademarked or copyrighted, which is a massive issue for studio executives. But to further slam the door shut, the most significant regulation establishes that AI cannot write or rewrite material, nor can any work it produces in a facilitator role be used to undermine an author’s credit. A few fandoms would argue that AI would better write their favorite characters, but that’s beside the point! With writer’s rights secured, the WGA once again swishes from downtown. Additionally, writers’ copyrighted works cannot be fed to AI databases to enhance AI’s creative writing abilities in the future. Essentially, a halt order has been placed on AI advancement in the creative field, and the day when SkyNet writes its own Terminator movie will have to wait.

Contact MJ at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest