The Writers Behind the Scenes: Putting the Pen Down for Pay

Strikers marching outside Netflix offices. Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

HOLLYWOOD – Since May 2nd, 2023, the Writers Guild of America has been on strike in demand for better working conditions and pay after negotiations with the Alliance Of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed. Lack of compromise has led many daily TV shows like “Saturday Night Live,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” and various other late-night shows to stop production. Series that remain in production, such as “Rings of Power” and “Severance,” are also under threat, being affected by unfinished scripts and lack of supervision. 

Consisting of over 11,500 writers, the WGA advocates for writers of all industries ranging from daily TV to film. In 2007 and 2008, the WGA went on a 100-day strike in which the union won, proving their worth in the industry by costing production companies an estimated $1.5 billion. The main motive for the 2007 strike was better wages: “Our basic mantra is if they get paid, we get paid,” said Patric Verrone, president of the Writers Guild West in 2007. Although fighting for similar demand, this more recent strike has particularly targeted the streaming industry and companies like Netflix. 

The WGA wants viewership-based residuals on streaming services, meaning that writers would earn more money based on how many people watch their show. Cable TV shows generate residual payments for writers, so every time an episode is rerun, writers and producers earn money from that rerun. But since streaming services don’t offer live TV, writers don’t gain any money made from a show after its release, despite possibly increasing membership or revenue for the service. Not to mention, some of the best TV shows and movies in recent years have come from streaming services, not cable television, hence showing how writers don’t reap the benefits of cable streaming in spite of creating better shows and movies. 

The union also wants writers to have more permanent jobs through mandatory staffing and employment guarantees due to a rise in “minirooms” where only a small group of writers develop shows for short periods of time. A “miniroom” creates a blueprint for a TV series that requires fewer writers to be hired once the show is greenlit. Fewer writers on set harms the potential quality of a TV show or movie by not allowing a script to adjust to certain problems like line delivery, location problems, and even prop issues. Less writers means less ideas and ways to solve problems, but it also takes away experience writers could gain from dealing with production issues. 

This strike shows no signs of stopping until the WGA’s demands for better wages, conditions, protections, and security are met by the Alliance Of Motion Picture and Television Producers. These demands, if successful, would increase the quality of television and movie production by allowing writers’ full creative freedom to create beautiful pieces of media. Shows and movies from these past years like “Succession,” “The Rehearsal,” “Better Call Saul,” “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” and so many others prove writers’ worth as a key component to developing imaginative shows and movies and the masterminds behind these words deserve fair wages and protected jobs.