Abdul Rahman Habib wrote
Monday, May 15, 2023 03:00 AM
The Writers Guild of America has been on strike for several days to demand higher wages and threaten artificial intelligence. The screenwriters told Newsweek they are struggling to make ends meet, with one having to steal food from the Netflix cafeteria while their plight raises concerns about the future of the profession and some of America’s favorite shows.
Life as a Hollywood writer promises champagne and caviar but, for Michael Mohan, it didn’t even provide enough for a sandwich.
Three weeks before the writers’ strike began, Mohan, co-founder of the Netflix show Everything Sucks!, sought to illustrate the plight of working in the industry with a tweet that could easily serve as the plot of a bizarre drama.
He wrote: Ben “Young Jones” and I used to steal food from the Netflix cafeteria to feed our families because we had to write for so many months for free that I couldn’t take other jobs.
Mohan’s tweet was viewed hundreds of thousands of times as the writers’ strike featured familiar concerns about low wages and the power of big corporations, and lesser-known firms, such as the threat artificial intelligence could pose to the creative industries.
While some Americans have little sympathy for Hollywood writers in a country facing soaring prices, Mohan says they should be concerned not least because what he sees as an existential crisis will kill off the shows they love to watch.
“No one should go to Hollywood thinking that lucrative artwork is a sure bet,” Mohan told Newsweek. “But I think once you get to a certain level… I always kind of assume that if you make a living writing and directing movies and TV, there’s going to be more stability once you get to a certain level. That’s not true at all.”
The Writers Guild of America said May 1 that it was set to begin the strike after six weeks of talks with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Brothers, NBC Universal, Sony and Paramount — all under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. Strike lines coalesced the next day.
Writers made moves over contractual terms for their works and the studios’ refusal to one day rule out artificial intelligence to replace human staff heightened tensions.
There have also been issues with compensating writers whose income doesn’t match the billions in streams that shows and movies earn.
“The pay structure is out of step with the work that gets done and the demands it places on your life,” Mohan says.
Jason Gordon, director of communications for the Writers Guild of America, told Newsweek as the strike began that fairness is an important component of maintaining sustainable jobs.
Gordon continued, “This strike is about ensuring that writers receive the dignity, respect, and value they deserve, and that that is reflected in a fair contract with the studios and networks that employ them. That’s what’s at stake in this strike — whether writers can keep their careers.” In making the series and movies that the American people love and enjoy.”
He added, “As a result of the strike, television programs that depend on writers have been forced to create content on broadcast day such as late-night talk shows of pre-recorded and scripted shows.”