In the last decade, movie and TV studios have seen their profits rise by 36 percent, while writers’ pay has gone down by 4 percent in the same period. On May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) announced that they would be going on strike. The WGA represents over 11,000 film, radio, televisions, and online writers who demand higher pay and more stable writing jobs. In a modern age where writers are being hired for single-digit episode seasons on streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, jobs are becoming more uncertain and hard to come by. The WGA wants to ensure that writers are ensured to have jobs for dozens of episodes at a time to eliminate the risk of having writers search for jobs multiple times a year. Even though shows or movies may be delayed as a result of the strike, ensuring that writers create entertainment for years to come is more valuable than missing a few weeks of your favorite show.
The WGA is reportedly prepared to be on strike for more than a hundred days, which would be the longest strike in more than a decade. As a result of the strike, a number of TV shows including Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon are not able to produce new episodes, and are airing reruns on a weekly basis. In addition to current shows being halted, future shows and movies are also at risk of being delayed or even canceled. Popular Netflix show Stranger Things has stopped production until the WGA reaches a deal with executives and upcoming Marvel thriller Blade has suspended pre-production until the strike is resolved.
With shows and movies being delayed, the WGA hopes that the public will begin to appreciate the writers more than ever, emphasizing their importance in creating world class television and films. There is no telling how long the strike will last, but it will require both the writers and the executives to make compromises for the entertainment industry to get back up to full speed. The WGA has already laid out their proposals for returning to write, but executives have either denied requests or sometimes completely refused to negotiate entirely on some issues.
One main negotiating point for writers has been the use of AI in future projects, and everyone should have an interest in the writers’ concern of how AI will impact their jobs. After all, countless professions in the coming years also will face similar possibilities of AI replacing human workers. IBM has already fired 7,800 people, citing that using AI instead of them is more cost-efficient. The WGA wants to create a regulation that “AI can’t write or rewrite literally material; can’t be used as source material; and MBA-covered material can’t be used to train AI.” The guild wants to ensure that jobs that were made for writers are filled by human writers rather than computers that can write complete episodes in a matter of seconds. While there have not been produced, live-action TV shows written by AI, there have been a number of examples of AI being used to simulate writing episodes. In February, a Twitch livestream titled “Nothing, Forever” played what appeared to be 8-bit pixelated TV episodes for hours on end. The lines were generated by AI that was fed every single episode of Seinfeld and spit back out a similar product based on what it had seen.
While it may provide a small inconvenience to the average consumer who just wants to sit down and watch Saturday Night Live on the weekends, the strike is necessary and a long time coming. Writers deserved to be adequately compensated for their incredible work to keep TV shows and movies running smoothly.