As talks are about to resume Monday on the final elements that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and give voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. This is the fifth in a quick succession of five questions we asked a panel of 10 writers. Here are their responses, and hopefully other writers will be moved to comment about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast-changing digital age. (Note: Writer #10 didn’t reply to this question.)
DEADLINE: What tangible gains or losses did you realize through that strike, financial or other?
WRITER #1: I support my guild 100% and I always will. I think of the WGA like a relative — I can say something strong about them but if you do we’re going to have a problem. There could have been significant gains, but the strike was mis-managed in my opinion by [Patric] Verrone. When things were turning for the writers in a positive way, that’s right when they rushed to settle. If you’re going to hold out for that many months, go all the way and make real gains. If you’re not prepared to do that, don’t go on strike at all because the studios will find a way to engineer a strategic retaliation and that came in the form of one-step deals. Honestly, we went halfway with the strike, stopped and then complained about it for years. A lot of really sneaky stuff happened in the closing weeks of the strike. I was invited to several “behind closed doors” secret meetings and I declined. The TV showrunners were put in a tough position by the studios and they didn’t all behave in the best interest of their fellow writers. Some did. A strike is like a gun — don’t take it out unless you’re really prepared to use it. And using it doesn’t mean calling a strike — it means staying on strike until you achieve what is right and what is fair. Essentially we only loaded the gun. We never really fired it. The strike isn’t the bullet. Holding out long enough to meaningfully change things for writers, that’s the real bullet and that would have taken another three months in my opinion. Three more months, and more would have been achieved. I am well aware that others will disagree with that statement but it happens to be true.
WRITER #2: Aside from the months of no income, and uncertainty and unwarranted stress on home, marriage and work…the strike accelerated the compression of the movie business. As the studios used it to cut overhead and reduce its development slate, writing jobs dried up. There are fewer jobs now, certainly fewer for younger or less experienced writers. Even heavily produced writers are facing single‐step writing deals, which undercut creativity and quality and, ultimately, reduce the odds of a script becoming a movie. Interestingly, it could be that the strike pushed feature writers toward television, which is experiencing a massive expansion in quality and opportunity.
WRITER #4: I lost part of one season’s salary.
WRITER #5: As I said in my disclaimer, I’ve seen an upward career trajectory since the strike…but only by coincidence. I don’t think the strike helped, and while I have no way of knowing what might have been, all the representatives and dealmakers in my life insist that were I doing the same things “back then” I’m doing now, I’d be better compensated.
WRITER #6: I came into this career just prior to the strike. It has been an ongoing process of learning and readjustment ever since. A writer must, by necessity, pursue as many other avenues to sales and employment as possible because the old business model is f*cked beyond repair. You can lament its passing, but that won’t get you paid. The playing field has now widened, the opportunities are there to exploit — go find them. The WGA will not help you do this. No one will help you do this. There has probably never been a better time to be a writer.
WRITER #7: For me, the strike was a loss in every way. The volume of work slowed down. Quotes were no longer honored. Plus, I had a TV pilot deal at ABC (for $250K) that got force majeured — and no tiddly-wink 1% increase in residuals is ever gonna make up for that loss.
WRITER #8: Losses were tangible in the form of NO WORK FOR TWO YEARS. Gains? They give us 5 grand now to publish our screenplays. I guess that’s progress.
WRITER #9: It’s tough for me to say because I was too new to the guild when it happened.