The Writers Guild of America (WGA)—the union representing 11,500 scribes behind American film and TV—is on strike after failing to reach a new deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, AKA, the suits that sign their cheques.
Why it’s happening: Streaming has up-ended once lucrative writing jobs by cutting the number of full-time roles and creating a gig economy within TV writing. Today’s streaming hits are made with fewer writers, doing more work, and making less money.
- Some 98% of TV staff writers work for the minimum compensation rate and not a penny more. But in 2013, only 12% of TV staff writers worked for the minimum.
- The WGA is calling for strengthening professional standards in addition to things like increased minimum compensation and higher residuals (royalty-like payments).
Why it matters: The sweet televised content you love and crave could soon face major delays. The first programs to take hiatuses will be those with tight turnaround schedules, like talk shows, soap operas, and Saturday Night Live.
And if the strike drags on for several months, it will bleed into the fall TV writing season, which would delay production of the shows you actually care about (no offence, Days of Our Lives fans). If it really drags on, it might even mess up pre-production of blockbuster films.
- Streamers could be better positioned to weather a strike compared to their network TV counterparts, as their shows are often produced further in advance, and some, like Netflix, have a vast, popular catalogue of foreign-made shows to rely on.
Bottom line: The last WGA strike dragged on for 100 days, mucking up film production, cutting seasons short, and subjecting the viewing public to some of the worst reality TV ever aired. The same fate could befall us… or we could just watch more Canadian-made content.—QH