At midnight on May 2007, the National Contract for American Screenwriters, obtained following the 2008/XNUMX strike that lasted a hundred days, expired!

What does it mean? That from this date the union of American screenwriters, the W (Writers Guild of America), is no longer signed to AMPTP extension (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers). For six weeks, the representatives of the writers have been at the negotiating table with the producers and legal representatives of the various studios to find a solution.

Before negotiations opened, the board asked its members, some 11500 people who write TV series and films for Hollywood, if they were in favor of a possible strike. With an overwhelming majority of around 97,85% of the members, they decided to go on strike.

Clarification. After three years of pandemic, the writers just didn't want to fold their arms, but it was a forced choice.

After six weeks of unsuccessful negotiations, at midnight and one minute on May 2, the strike began.


How does a screenwriter earn?

We try to dispel a myth. A good screenwriter, who works often, has the means to support himself comfortably. Forget, however, that you earn the astronomical figures that are read when it comes to television and film productions!

Here is a list of ways a screenwriter can earn his salary.

  • He writes a movie script and finds a way to sell it to a studio
  • For sale the idea for a movie at the Studios and if you're lucky get hired to write the screenplay as well
  • Write a book, or create another form of intellectual property that the studios are interested in buying or optioning. In this case he can hope to be hired to adapt it, earning more money, but it can also happen that another screenwriter is chosen
  • Getting hired to review an existing script, often written by others
  • Sell ​​an idea for a TV show, or a pilot script, to a studio. In this case it may happen that the author becomes the Showrunner
  • Get hired to write a show and become part of the writers' room

There are several ways to make money in Hollywood, but one thing should be remembered. Only a small group of names manage to make a lot of money in screenwriting.

The reasons for the strike

Although we entered these negotiations with the intention of negotiating a fair settlement – ​​and although your willingness to strike has given us room to maneuver to be able to negotiate – the response of the Studios to our proposals has been totally insufficient, given the existential crisis that writers are faced with. The Studios' behavior created the emergence of short-term contracts within a unionized workforce and their unshakable positions in these negotiations only confirmed their interest in continuing the devaluation of the screenwriter's position. .

Letter from the negotiating committee to WGA members

How is this strike different from the one fifteen years ago? Simple, there is the issue of streaming platforms that follow rules that are completely different from those of cable television.

Most streaming shows have shorter seasons than cable TV. Usually eight/ten episodes against twenty-two or more. This means that the screenwriter's pay is less than the work he did.
The wait between the different seasons can be as long as a year or more, unlike a few months as happens for TV. Not only that, those who work for a streaming show earn on average 46% less than those who write for cable television, but there is also and above all the question of micro rooms, restricted writing rooms that put screenwriters in the position of having to work in slavery.

Expression too strong? No, if we consider that until a few years ago to write a TV series there were cinemas that even had twelve screenwriters engaged in writing. Now we rarely get to five, and only if we are talking about very high budget projects. Most commonly two or three people work in the micro rooms.

If you think these numbers are enough, try taking a show you love, possibly from a few years ago, and count how many characters appear on screen or how many scenes there are. Also keep in mind how each character's lexical register changes and whether or not the show you love has plot holes. Then compare it to something modern, maybe created specifically for a streaming platform and let me know!


A common problem for many

But it's not just TV and streaming writers who have headaches. Even those who write for the cinema have his thoughts.

The pay remained that of 2018, but when inflation is also calculated, one realizes that there has been a 14% reduction in a historical moment in which the cost of living is skyrocketing, especially in the cities where work is found. Not to mention, a screenwriter who writes a movie that ends up on a platform gets paid as if he wrote a TV movie.

Although all these points represent big problems, we also have another one: the use of Artificial Intelligences.

By their nature scripts are highly coded. It could happen, and it did, just a few days after the strike was announced, that artificial intelligence software is used to even write an entire script. At that point the presence of the screenwriter would only serve to review the script itself. In this way costs are reduced: starting right from the writers.

Although to date there is not yet such a detailed program to get rid of writers, it is said that in the future this will not happen ...

Representatives of the writers have asked for a check on the use of AI in writing. But not only was the request not accepted, the possibility was even offered to participate annually in symposiums on the development of new technologies!

Among the reasons for the American writers' strike is the increasingly massive use of AI in the writing phase

Some requests from the writers to avoid the strike

But put simply, what are the screenwriter reps asking for?
Here are some examples to clarify ideas without going into technicalities that only interest insiders. For the Episodic TV series the representatives asked for the following, divided into two distinct moments.

Pre green-light (Before the series reaches actual production)

A minimum of six writers including four Writers/Producers. A somewhat pretentious term to define those people who in a writing room deal with finding sources, supervising the drafting of the episodes, but also and above all managing the various production aspects and coordinating the various steps that lead to the creation of a screenplay whole.

Post green light: The show will roll!

Six writers for the first six episodes, then adding one writer every two episodes, up to a maximum of twelve writers.

Example: eight episodes require seven writers, including four Writer/Producers. Ten episodes require eight writers including five Writer/Producers.

Response from productions: request refused and lack of an alternative solution.

Duration of the contract

Not everyone knows the grueling rhythms that a writing room has to maintain today. The standard time to write an episode is a week, a pace that is not really sustainable, especially for what has just been discussed.

Pre-green light request

Guaranteed minimum ten uninterrupted weeks of contract. Only in this case are contributions for pension purposes paid.

Post green light

Writers must have at least three weeks per episode (up to a maximum of fifty-two weeks). At least half of the staff must be contracted during production. At least one writer must be hired for a subsequent production.

Response from productions: request refused and lack of an alternative solution.

Request for weekly pay

50% upon commencing and the remaining 50% to be paid weekly during the writing period. This criterion applies to the writer who is paid less than 250% of the minimum wage. Whoever receives the most can have the freedom to negotiate the payment at will.

Response from productions: request refused and lack of an alternative solution.

Retirement and contributions for writing teams

Each member of a team receives contributions as if they were a self-employed writer.

Response from productions: request refused and lack of an alternative solution.

These are the salient points of the disagreement between the parties.

What to expect now

Unlike what happened in 2007, when the strike lasted from March 7th to August 7th, falling into the mid-season of TV series, and continuing until the fall programming was blown up (which is equivalent to the Christmas season for films released in the salt), today things are a bit different.

Sure, there are writing rooms closed, that means show how yellowjackets e Stranger Things, which had opened only a few days before the strike, will suffer late. But right now the shows that are really at a standstill are the ones that require daily scripts, like the Late Night Show.

Not to mention, there are dozens of shows viewers can watch across platforms without feeling the lack of things to see!

But then what is this strike for and why could it mark one of the most dramatic dates for Hollywood?

Because it could turn into a mega strike to which other unions could also join, including that of Directors (DGA) and Actors (SAG-AFRA).

The directors' national contract is expected to expire on June XNUMXst at midnight. The negotiations began when those of the screenwriters were still underway, but it seems that many of the requests, also related to the use of artificial intelligence, have been ignored. Nothing has been decided yet, but directors' representatives have publicly offered their support to the striking screenwriters. With less than two weeks left until their contract expires, it seems increasingly likely that the pickets in front of the Studios could become ever more numerous.

Actors, including voice actors, are in the same situation mainly due to the use of artificial intelligence software that is increasingly capable of replicating the human voice. If a solution is not found, the entire production machine would stop for an indefinite time, leading not only to a general stop in the production of films and shows, but also to an economic loss of such importance as to be able to put even the most studios in crisis. powerful.

As if that weren't enough, even the president of the IATSE, which represents the union of all the remaining workers on the set, from electricians to first aid workers, has alerted its members to the possibility of an imminent stop in the works, although he has left the members free to be able to look for other jobs for the duration of the writers' strike.

Nothing is certain and set in stone. Perhaps, moreover, she has gone too far. The consequences will not be happy for any of those involved!

And in the Old World?

Meanwhile in Europe, in Brussels, in front of the Foreign Press office in Hollywood (which we remember is in charge of the nominations for the Golden Globes), pickets of screenwriters who are members of the National Unions, spontaneously formed in support of their American colleagues…

In Europe, many screenwriters supported the American writers' strike

Conclusions about the writers' strike

The consequences can be many. In the meantime, we leave you this interesting article which lists all the series that are currently affected by the writers' strike. Go take a look and see if yours favorite show is among the interested!