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Here's What The TV And Movie Writers Got From Striking. It's Pretty Darn Good!
Now if they could just be protected from the trade press calling them 'scribes.'
The Writers Guild of America and the evil rapacious clueless management of movie and TV studios and streaming services reached a tentative deal on a contract Sunday, bringing an end to the almost five-month writers’ strike that turned off the vital content taps that make the entertainment industry go. And by gosh, the writers got a heck of a deal out of the strike, addressing most of their most serious concerns about compensation for their work in a changing industry, what with the rise of streaming systems and the iffy future of network TV, as well as the threat posed by artificial intelligence, that newfangled technology that’s even more artificial than a studio executive’s smile. (Jesus, ChatGPT, can’t you come up with a better analogy than that?)*
*This dialogue is a filthy fabrication. AI was in no way involved and I wrote the shitty line myself and tried to blame a computer. What’s that? You knew? Fine.
Now the WGA members just have to ratify the three-year agreement in voting early next month, and they can get back to writing scripts that can’t be produced until the actors’ union gets a contract from their soul-sucking industry bosses (coincidentally, the very same soul-sucking industry bosses the writers were dealing with). Even before that, the union’s governing boards voted to accept the agreement and said the strike would end Wednesday, so writers for late-night shows and other programs that don’t use actors can get back to work right away.
The writers got an increase in basic pay and residual payments, which are, as the name suggests, payments for each time a movie or TV show is screened, rerun or streamed, leaving a residue of money on the writer and a residue of vague memory on the culture, which is why we have IMDB to check. The deal provides a new higher residual formula for work that runs on foreign streaming services, and bonuses for streaming programming that becomes a hit — that latter bit was originally rejected flat out by the studios.
The writers also won minimum staffing for writers’ rooms, which has been a serious issue since many series, especially on streaming services, have been cutting both writing staff and the number of episodes per season, meaning writers aren’t employed as long and are unable to make a living. As the AP explains,
The writers also got the requirement they sought that shows intended to run at least 13 episodes will have at least six writers on staff, with the numbers shifting based on the number of episodes. They did not get their desire for guaranteed staffs of six on shows that had not yet been ordered to series, settling instead for a guaranteed three.
Writers also got a guarantee that staffs on shows in initial development will be employed for at least 10 weeks, and that staffs on shows that go to air will be employed for three weeks per episode.
That’s also explained in further detail, and in more insider-y terms, at Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, neither of which can resist calling writers “scribes,” or in the case of Variety, calling the WGA “the scribe tribe.” This little mommyblog what relies on cat pictures and obscure inside jokes wishes those publications could stop trying to be cute.
On AI, the writers got very specific protections against insane computers stealing their jobs, if not bringing about the apocalypse for us all. Here’s the Hollywood Reporter’s summary. The abbreviation “MBA” here stands for “minimum basic agreement;” i.e., the contract.
[The] union secured protections against AI penning or rewriting original material under the MBA or being used as “source material” to adapt. Writers can still use AI as a tool if the company they are working for allows it; however, they cannot be required to use it and companies must disclose if they are giving writers any AI-generated material during the writing process. In addition, “The WGA reserves the right to assert that exploitation of writers’ material to train AI is prohibited by MBA or other law,” the union stated in its summary of the 2023 MBA.
That actually seems to cover the biggest concerns, at least until technology comes up with some wrinkle neither side in the negotiations anticipated, like AI that starts taking hostages.
The writers wanted more transparency from the streaming companies about how many sets of eyeballs are consuming streaming programming, to check against what the companies compensate writers for, but got only a guarantee of fairly limited data on total hours streamed, which the union in turn can only make limited use of, because streaming data is the companies’ Precious and must not be seen by the dirty public.
Now it’s the actors’ turn, and until their strike is settled, many WGA members have pledged to walk with the Screen Actors Guild’s picket lines. As of yet, the AP reports, the actors union hasn’t received any word from the industry about reopening contract talks, and the actors voted Monday to authorize the union to broaden the strike by adding video game actors — both voice actors and the people who wear the blue suits with little balls all over ‘em for motion capture — to the walkout.
And the writers, should they choose to, can no doubt come up with some terrific slogans for those picket signs, too. If I had played any video game more recent than Portal (2007), I would surely suggest something that would be a triumph.
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