Writers On Strike

In early May, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. This has affected all writers for television media and other forms of content, meaning that late night shows and other movies in production have since been slowed down or cancelled completely. And this is the first of such a strike since 2008.

This is because of recent booms such as streaming television and AI, the first more than the latter. Before, when all TV shows and movies were released in a more traditional route which consisted on either a theatrical release or being aired on TV channels, the duration of each release was prolonged. Especially in the case of TV shows, streaming culture brought about binge watching, meaning consumers could be done with 20+ episodes of a show within a week. This also means that discourse over the show also lasts equally little, and word of mouth is the most effective marketing strategy for cinema projects. What this has created is a push for quantity of shows rather than quality, and that means a demand for great writers in the showroom has dramatically decreased.

Other than that, writers are also actively being locked out of the show making process, meaning their creativity is limited to the room where the writing process takes place. Before this, writers of a production were involved in the directing process allowing them to get a better idea for future projects as well making last minute changes or adjustments to the script. Aside from this, their salaries are being affected as well. A report from the Writer’s Guild of America says:

“On TV staffs, more writers are working at minimum regardless of experience, often for fewer weeks, or in mini rooms while show runners are left without a writing staff to complete the season,”

“And while series budgets have soared over the past decade, median writer-producer pay has fallen.”

Aside from this, another point of contention is the influence of artificial intelligence. In an era where services like ChatGPT can come up with scripts or stories within minutes and without pay, it is no surprise that writers feel threatened. This is not to devalue the writers behind any production. There is an inherent value to any story told by humans, and works written by actual writers will be infinitely better, more thought out and more meaningful than any artificially generated script, especially considering that the way AI works is through a knowledge base consisting of similar works to essentially recreate. Transitioning to AI in writing would only create a loop where at some point, in the age of fast production and consumerism, robot content would start repeating.

This is why aside from the demands of increased minimum compensation in all areas of media, increased residuals, appropriate TV series writing compensation from pre to post production, increased contributions to pension and health plan, the strengthening of professional standards and the overall protections for writers, there is a demand to keep AI out of the writing room.

Until these demands are met however, these writers will remain on strike, which will result in a dramatic decrease in the quality of television. A similar thing was seen in 2008 essentially known as a drought of content, with many shows’ plots going off the rails without writers and it will be observed again if an agreement is not reached.

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