WRITERS HAVE RIGHT TO STRIKE
OPINION By Quinn Tierney
The film industry has shut down and various television productions like Stranger Things and Saturday Night Live have ceased, all because Hollywood screenwriters are fighting for their rights, as they deserve better from the entertainment industry.
According to The New York Times, The Writers Guild of America (WGA) labor union represents over 11,500 writers in America and every three years the guild negotiates a new contract with Hollywood studios. This year was one of those negotiation years, however, as the production company's budgets have grown over the years, writers expected to be compensated more. The writers tried to ask for more money because of this and the production companies said no, which resulted in the guild going on strike on May 2.
Writers are not wrong to be upset about their unfair salaries. Throughout the past three years, streaming services have exploded especially during the pandemic when more people were stuck at home looking for things to watch. What some people fail to realize is that the increase in content did not just appear from thin air and that writers were behind the quick turnaround of various television shows and movies. With the influx of content comes more subscriptions to streaming services, which means an increase in revenue for production companies. Writers were working day and night to create content for us when we were stuck at home, yet never saw the compensation expected to come from the large numbers companies were boasting about.
While the new era of streaming has been beneficial to viewers to be able to binge-watch their favorite show, it can be a screenwriter's worst nightmare. According to The New York Times, screenwriters for a network show create around 26 episodes per season, which is around 40 weeks of work. While working for a streaming service, writers only write around 12 episodes per season, which results in only 24 weeks of work - which is not enough time to earn a stable income.
Streaming has also eliminated writers' ability to receive residuals when the show gets syndicated or sold. Now, streaming companies provide a fixed-residual, which means no matter how popular the show is or how much it gets sold for, the writers get the same amount. This is extremely unfair and is one of the things at the center of the current strike. On top of fair pay, the guild is asking for a formula to determine the residual amount based on the number of views the project receives.
As the guild continues to ask for more, production companies have been put in a vulnerable position as they are constantly under pressure to reduce costs, but now have stopped making revenue during the strike. Companies like Netflix have been forced to cease production of some of their most profitable productions because its writers have walked out. While this is sad for viewers and means they won’t get to see a new season of their favorite show as soon as previously expected, they have to realize that they need to value the people who make their favorite stories come to life and support the writer’s strike.