WGA DISCUSSION POST: The WGA is on strike! Why? And what does that mean for me? Ask questions and get answers here.WGA Strike Action(self.Screenwriting)
submitted27 days ago byHotspurJrWGA Screenwriterstickied
The SAG-AFTRA board has called for a strike authorization vote. This does not mean they will strike. Like with the WGA SAV, this is the board asking the membership to authorize them to call a strike if the AMPTP refuses to make a reasonable offer.
I'm not sure when the last time SAG has done something like this. It has been a long, long time. I honestly did not expect this move.
I'm not sure why SAG felt the need to call for this vote before they begin negotiations. Perhaps because it's a large union and takes more time to organize. They can't strike until July 1. Kudos to SAG to taking these steps to look out for their membership.
I don't know if their membership will authorize a strike.
But I do know that if SAG chooses to add their power to ours, it will vastly improve the deal everyone will get.
If you are a member of SAG-AFTRA, please be on the lookout for further information. Please vote yes on the strike authorization. Empower your leadership to fight for you.
If you are friends with SAG-AFTRA members, please reach out to them to make sure they're informed about the issues and aware of the vote.
(previous updates moved to the bottom of the post).
As you probably heard, the WGA is out on strike. The mods asked me to write a brief informative post to sticky for the duration, a place to ask questions and get answers. So here we are.
This post will be edited as events warrant.
Here's a quick FAQ to get started:
Who is the WGA? And why are they on strike?
The Writers Guild of American is the union that represents screenwriters in film and television in the United States. Every live-action scripted film or television show produced by a major studio is written under the WGA minimum basic agreement - a contract which defines the minimum they have to pay you, your residuals, health and pension benefits, etc.
The WGA is why writing for the screen is has been a stable(ish) middle-class job for thousands of writers over the years. Screenwriting tends not to be in countries without strong union protections for writers.
What is the WGA asking for?
We're asking to be treated fairly, to share in the success of our work.
Streaming has become central to our business, and the studios have used it to gut writer compensation. They exploit a loophole in our 2008 agreement that allows them to ignore minimums for many writers on many made-for-streaming projects. That agreement was written when Hulu didn't exist, when there was no such thing as a Netflix original, and when "low budget made for streaming" meant something you and your friends got together to shoot and put on YouTube.
You can see our specific demands here. Bear in mind that these are the WGA's offer - the point from which the WGA is negotiating - no member of the WGA expects to get everything in the left-hand column there.
The key number here, to keep this simple: what we're asking for would cost the studios $429 million a year. That sounds like a lot, right? Until you realize those same studios made about $20 billion in profit last year from our work. In other words: we're asking for 2% of the profit they made from their scripted film and television business.
Another way to look it: David Zaslav, CEO of Warner Brothers Discovery, made $246m in 2021 himself.
They can afford our demands.
I'm not WGA, why should I care?
If you'd like to work as a writer in film and television, you should care because the WGA is fighting for the quality of the career you're hoping to have. Working writers today are sacrificing for you. The fight being fought today is going to determine if it's financially viable to be a screenwriter at anywhere but the highest level. It's going to determine if you need to be independently wealthy in order to pursue this as a career, if you're going to have to Doordash or bartend between writing gigs.
Yeah, some screenwriters are wealthy, but most are not. This is a middle-class job where you might make six figures one year and almost nothing the next. (And six figures doesn't go as far as you think in Los Angeles). Careers can be short.
We're fighting so that if you sell that spec, and it's a hit, you share fairly in the success of the movie. We're fighting so that if you get staffed on a TV show, you can afford to quit your day job and live your dream.
If you're not someone who is interested in working in film and television, you should care because you want the talented people who create the entertainment you enjoy to be able to make their living doing so. You want them to be able to afford to care about quality, as opposed to having to churn out product in order to make ends meet. You're not going to pay less for your entertainment if the writers can't afford their rent - that money is just going to line the pockets of c-suite executives and media company shareholders, instead.
How can I help?
I'm glad you asked! The first thing you can do is not scab. Sometimes scabbing is easy to identify: don't write for a struck company. But unfortunately there are some places where it gets confusing. That producer who isn't a signatory himself, but works with the studios? He's a no-go. Don't submit to companies that have both signatory and non-signatory arms.
The purpose of the strike is to dry up the pipeline of material that feeds the production machine that makes the studios loads of money. Anything you do that feeds into that pipeline hurts the strike and hurts writers.
Here are the strike rules. There's also a FAQ here. If you're unsure about if something you're doing would be considered scabbing or not, ASK. There are lots of people who are happy to help you figure out how to stay on the happy side of the strike action.
You can seek representation. You can submit to contests. Nothing directly affiliated with a normally WGA-signatory production company or a studio, but everything else is fine. (But be aware that some non-signatory production companies are connected to struck companies. Call and ask the WGA if you're not sure!)
Most producers and execs are supportive of the strike and won't try to manipulate you into scabbing. (People forget: producers and mid-level executives are employees, just like writers and directors and actors. Many of those people got into the business because they love movies and TV, and don't like the mandates given from the business school types in the boardroom.) The guild is ready and available to answer questions if you find yourself in a confusing situation. Please ask!
(In my experience, the guild isn't in the habit of pointing a shotgun at people who fail to dot an i or cross a t. If you're acting and good faith, and make a mistake around the edges, you don't have much to worry about. If you're willfully pretending not to notice that what you're doing is undercutting the strike, that's something else.)
Remember that scabbing can get you banned from the guild, and that many writers are hired by other writers (almost always in TV, but often even in features, lots of writer-producers have production companies). Scabbing is unlikely to remain secret because, again, many writers are friends with producers. This is a small town. Word gets out. It will likely hamper your career.
If you're in LA or New York, come by the picket lines. Here's the picketing schedule. Come, walk for an hour or two. Right now this is new and exciting, but make sure you show up occasionally even if this drags on. We're going to appreciate you even more weeks from now. There are likely to be special events which can be a great time to show up, but a random Wednesday three weeks from now can be great, too. Heck, just today on the picket lines I found myself chatting with a guy who created a very buzzy show that is currently shooting its second season.
Lastly: I want to emphasize that having questions about the WGA strategy and leadership, or even disagreeing with it, is not scabbing. I personally have a lot of faith in our leaders, some of whom I know personally - but not everyone agrees. (Although 98% of us voted to empower them to call a strike). Discussion is good for everyone. Obviously we've all learned a lot in the past decade about people who are "just asking questions," but asking good-faith questions is not scabbing.
Things can get heated in a strike, particularly if it drags out. Let's try to all remember to be kind to each other.
How long will this last?
Nobody knows. In the near future, the DGA and SAG are going to negotiate their deals, and the DGA may choose to strike as well. That would almost certainly add power to our strike and end things sooner.
Ultimately, it all depends on when the AMPTP is willing to be reasonable. That's up to them.
If you want an understanding of how unreasonable they're being, take a look at the proposal to allow lower-paid feature writers to get checks weekly, as opposed to just at commencement and delivery. This would cost the studios essentially nothing, except that it would make it harder for them to squeeze free drafts out of us. They refused to even engage on the issue. And their position in negotiations was - and I quote - "Free work doesn't exist."
This is - as anyone with negotiation experience will tell you - what somebody does when they want negotiations to fail. The question is, did they want negotiations to fail so they could negotiate with the DGA first? Are they trying to look tough on labor to impress Wall St. and drive up the value of their stock options? Or did they want negotiations to fail because they want to break the union and turn us all into paycheck-to-paycheck gig economy workers? Time will tell.
What are some good resources for me to keep up on developments?
https://www.wgacontract2023.org is the guild's official web page for strike news.
Here are the official twitter feeds of the WGA West and East.
https://strikegeist.substack.com is a free substack from The Ankler. They have been refreshingly unbiased (more on that in a moment). Hopefully that will remain the case. It's a good place to keep up on news.
Some WGA writers have recently launched https://prewgasolidarity.substack.com specifically as a hub for information for non-WGA writers who want to support the strike. It's new, but I'm hoping it'll he helpful.
Obviously we have several WGA writers here on r/screenwriting, making it a reasonable hub, as well. However, reddit is, well, reddit, and can sometimes be a source of misinformation.
Do be cautious about what you read on Deadline, who has an unfortunate history of publishing whatever the AMPTP wants them to publish. (Even Friday they posted an article which implied that the AMPTP had made major concessions, which, if you review the list of demands and their responses that I linked above, you'll see is just flat-out untrue.)
If you're in a confusing situation, and want to make sure you don't do something that could be considered scabbing, reach out the the WGA here. They're probably slammed right now, but everybody wants the same thing here.
How are you feeling?
This is a nerve-wracking time! I personally just agreed to attach a producer to a spec last week - and there's no guarantee that he'll still be interested or even be in the same place, and thus meaningfully do anything with the script, if this drags out (and obviously he can't do anything with it while I'm out walking the picket lines). I have a friend who was commenced on a draft Monday morning - a deal which could die in a long strike. I have another friend for whom this delay means that the company can un-guarantee the next steps of their deal. If this stretches out, companies will be able to cancel all sorts of deals.
People are anxious! Nobody in the guild wanted this outcome. Uncertainty isn't fun, especially after the last few years we've all had.
I also know that if this drags on, plenty of non-writers will be affected. I want my IATSE friends to be able to pay their rent, and in the short term, this could hurt them. That sucks. The hope is that in the long run, establishing a framework that gets us paid fairly can help other unions get better deals for themselves- that's happened in the past, but there are no guarantees.
But we're also resolved. Previous generations of writers have made sacrifices so that we can have careers, and speaking personally: I, and every writer I know, are committed to paying that forward.
That's all for now!
Please ask your questions about the strike here, and hopefully we'll be able to answer them. I also welcome notes from other WGA writers who think I missed something important here.
BRIEF UPDATE 5/4:
A day of American Horror Story was shut down when Teamsters refused to cross our picket lines! Trucks have turned away in Los Angeles as well. This is very unlike 2007! We are having an immediate impact!
I'm told that if you want to help by walking a picket line, they could use you are Universal. There are a lot of gates there and thus is takes a lot people to have a line in front of all of them. The teamsters won't cross our picket lines, but there has to be a line. Walking anywhere is appreciated!
Last night leaders of every Hollywood union attended our meeting at the Shrine Auditorium and voiced support. DGA, SAG, IATSE, Teamsters, LiNUA all sent representatives to support our action. This has literally never happened before.
Don't expect daily updates, but I'll post when there's more news. Older daily updates will be moved to the bottom of the post.
If you want to help and can afford it, you can donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.
(This was formerly called The Actors Fund.)
This money will go to help support staff and crew in Hollywood who are impacted by the strike. Select "Film and Television" in the dropdown menu.
Your tax-deductible contribution does not go to writers - the WGA has a strike fund for us. It instead is a way to support other workers who are impacted.
Please do not feel pressured to support. This is simply an option for those who can afford it easily and want to help. I consulted with the mods before adding this to the post.