With the emergence of the Writers Guild of America Strike in recent weeks, many are asking what is next for the film and television industry. How will the public react when their main source of entertainment is brought to a screeching halt?
The Writers Guild of America (WGA), which consists of around 15,000-20,000 members, including screenwriters in the T.V. and movie industry, is in the midst of a union strike in the streets of Hollywood and New York City against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, also known as AMPTP. The goal of the WGA’s is to receive a slight wage increase and to secure a more reliable position for screenwriters in the industry. These changes would provide a more stable duration of employment and consistency in work and payment for screenwriters. This request stands on the footing that many writers have expressed that the unreliable nature of screenwriting can be incredibly stressful, even for the most seasoned of writers.
This is not the first time the entertainment industry has seen a strike like this. The most recent occurrence of a WGA strike took place not too long ago from 2007-08. It lasted over 100 days, which the current strikers say they are willing to do as well. A key difference between the two strikes, however, is the presence of big names in entertainment showing up this time. In 2007, writers stood primarily alone within their union, whereas now many big names in the industry, such as Pete Davidson, Tina Fey and Seth Meyers, are showing up to rallies to support the claims of screenwriters. Many actors are coming out of the woodwork with claims like that of Timothy Simons saying, “I have never said anything funny without a writer.” With the support of actors, makeup artists and set designers, the WGA is hoping for a more positive outcome while negotiations with studios and producers continue.
Within these negotiations, another large worry screenwriters are expressing is the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) software and the proposition to use it in order to write scripts. Along with the already unpredictable nature of the job of a screenwriter, having jobs replaced by AI software is a very scary proposition for the profession. Not only could AI be potentially responsible for limiting the amount of viable jobs in the industry, but it also poses the question about ethical standards within T.V. and movies. Is AI capable of writing the next “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones?” The next time someone goes to binge on the newest Netflix drama, will there be writers behind the words, or rather only a regurgitation of what we have already seen? Is AI even capable of creating something outside of formulaic plot lines and not-so-surprising plot twists? These are the questions being brought up by screenwriters in the industry, not only in defense of their jobs, but also in defense of the ethics of the industry itself.
For the average person, this may not seem like the most pressing issue. For those who think it will have no effect on their day-to-day lives, they might be surprised that their own favorite show is being affected by the current WGA strike. Amongst the list of shows that are currently being postponed due to the WGA strike are “Stranger Things,” “The Last of Us,” “Family Guy,” and “Saturday Night Live” and a large quantity of other Late Night shows. This is just a fraction of shows that have and will continue to be postponed until an agreement has been reached between the WGA and the studios.
As this is an ongoing issue, there is no way to tell when exactly the strike will be over and what the negotiations between the WGA and AMPTP will result in. However, the ongoing efforts of many in the entertainment industry are avidly working to make change and create boundaries regarding the standard of work for screenwriters.