As usual, everyone in town seems to know definitively whether there will be a disastrous Writers Guild strike on May 1. Good for you, but I’d argue that’s a bit silly and premature; the Directors Guild hasn’t even started negotiating, as is expected soon, and those talks typically set the tone for SAG-AFTRA and the W.G.A. It’s a nuanced process.
Still… if the chatter around town and the private emails forwarded to me lately are any indication, there’s worsening anger and resentment in the writer community over the shifting economics of streaming—shifts that I detailed back in June and that, by and large, have led to most Hollywood writers making less money for more work. There’s also a feeling that, despite all the posturing and public tantrums, the W.G.A. has ended up settling in previous standoffs for modestly increased minimums and perks like paid family leave, rather than targeting the fundamental evolution in how content producers generate money. In short: Writers are pissed, and frustrated, they feel left behind, and they seem hellbent on creating chaos if necessary to get what they want. “This is the war of our lifetime, and our children’s lifetime,” one W.G.A. member email to another writer reads.
At the same time, those studio water towers aren’t exactly overflowing with champagne these days. The employers are facing increasingly perilous financials, with the C-suites presiding over companies that are, for the most part, about half as valuable as they were just a year ago. I know, it’s hard to play a violin for a corporation, but the bottom is falling out of cable television, streaming is very expensive and not very profitable, every studio has announced layoffs or cost-cutting, and executives are being asked to scrounge for dimes and nickels in their casting couches. The last thing they want to do is pay more for writers when all the signs are flashing pay less.