If you’re a striking Hollywood writer, maybe even reading this as you picket outside a studio while chanting a creative coupling of an expletive with the words “David Zaslav,” take a quick look to your left and right. If you’re one of the fortunate WGA members who is tied to a studio or streamer through a first-look or an overall deal, and have seen that deal suspended during the first few weeks of the strike, chances are that one of the similarly situated people in your immediate vicinity has not been suspended. Many have, and many haven’t, which has created this odd dynamic where some of even the most vocal WGA activists have lost their income by walking out, and others are essentially getting paid a ton of money to picket.
No shame there; in many cases, it’s up to the studios, not the union or its members, to determine what to do with paychecks during a strike. Under the Minimum Basic Agreement, employment agreements for WGA members are “automatically suspended, both as to service and compensation, while such strike is in effect.” That’s writers. But tons of writers are also producers and directors, of course, and in practice, most companies have kept paying their multihyphenates under term deals.
It’s tough to generalize here—and yes, I know that most WGA members aren’t under any studio contract and thus don’t have the champagne problem of being suspended or terminated. But, for the most part, the deals built around TV development (meaning the writer-producer is being paid to come up with new shows) were suspended, some of them immediately after the May 2 strike. And those deals built around production, meaning the writer-producer is behind one or more shows that are actually happening, have not been suspended.