By Samantha Relkin
You may be wondering why your favorite show hasn’t been promoting its new season or why it hasn’t aired yet. For 148 days, the Writers Guild of America has been on strike fighting for better working conditions.
On Sept. 26, the University of Tampa’s Film and Media Arts department hosted a Zoom for students to hear from WGA Strike Captain Shawn Wines. The two-hour Zoom gave students a chance to hear about Wines’ career, his position as strike captain, and what it means to him.
As somebody who has been following the Hollywood strikes, it was certainly interesting to get a first-hand account of what the strike is for. A tentative agreement was reached between the studios and the WGA, with the deal announced later in the evening of Sept. 26.
During the meeting, it was interesting to watch the facial expressions of Wines as he was checking his email for the contract. Explaining that they paused picketing while waiting to find out if they could go back to work, only a small number of WGA members knew about the contract’s conditions prior to its release.
The TV industry has changed dramatically in the past eight years due to the introduction of streaming platforms. When shows introduced six, eight, and ten episodes it took the same amount of time to produce, but less time to write. Studios also had fewer incentives to renew shows.
With half the episodes to write each season, it cut the amount of work time writers had leaving them with about 33% of the work they originally had. The worst part about their contracts was they were exclusive to the studio and that show for a minimum of a year.
A one-year contract for a show doesn’t sound like a bad thing until you’re told it’s only for 12-14 weeks of work out of the whole year. Initially, contracts would include around 40 weeks of work. Not only was the amount of work a writer could do reduced significantly but so was the amount of people in the writer’s room.
Usually, a writer’s room would consist of 10-12 writers who workshop episodes and scripts together. With the smaller seasons, there wasn’t a need for that many people and a lot of shows cut their writers’ rooms to six people.
The part about the contract that was the most mind-blowing to me was the studios keeping writers waiting two to three years to find out if their show was being renewed. Studios would drop writers or have them write the season just to tell them the season was not being renewed.
Writers are part of the backbone of the Hollywood entertainment industry. Without them, there would be no TV shows, movies, or talk shows. They write the content that happens, and while somebody pitches the show idea it’s the writers that bring it to life.
The WGA fought for guaranteed work with a minimum amount of work and pay for all 11,500 of its members. Captains, like Wines, led the picketing at the gates of studios all 148 days. The shifts for striking were long and some took place in the early hours of the morning
Originally anticipating the strike lasting until January or February, it ended this past week. While the writers are no longer on strike SAG-AFTRA is and they are fighting for the rights of actors and actresses. It is anticipated, and hoped, that the deal with the writers will push the studios to create a deal with SAG AFTRA soon so filming can resume.
While TV shows, both streaming and cable, as well as film are on pause until the SAG AFTRA deal Late Night Talk Shows are set to resume on Monday, Oct. 2.