Victory for screenwriters following WGA strike

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

After five months of picket lines and strikes, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and the Writers Guild of America (WGA) have finally come to a tentative agreement. All that remains is for the 11,000 members of the WGA to vote in favor of the agreement to ending the strike.

The WGA sent an email to members, calling the agreement “exceptional with meaningful gains and protections for writers." The agreement includes guidelines for AI use, such as “AI can’t write or rewrite literary material," ensuring that material created by AI can’t be used to undermine a writer’s credit. Additionally, a writer can choose to use AI when writing as long as it follows studio policy, and they cannot be required to use AI. The studio must also disclose to the writer if they are providing them with anything that has been generated by AI, and the producers are not allowed to use a writer’s material to train the AI without their consent.

The contract also includes guidelines for residuals when it comes to streaming platforms. If a film made for streaming is made with a budget of $30 million or more, then the minimum amount a writer is paid for story and screenplay will be $100,000 — an 18 percent increase from the current rate. There’s also a 26 percent increase in the amount of residuals that are paid to writers. There are also other guidelines related to compensation, but essentially writers will finally be getting paid the amount that they deserve.

I’m very happy that an agreement has finally been reached. I always felt like the writers were striking for very valid reasons. After all the work that writers do to create worlds and intricate plots, they deserve to be paid appropriately. I also have to say that I’m grateful that these writers fought against such a strong force like the AMPTP. As an aspiring filmmaker and screenwriter, it really makes me feel better knowing that I actually could have a career in this industry and be paid fairly for it. It’s not only about money though. It’s about being treated with respect: being treated like a human being instead of having to claw your way through a competitive industry only for the floor to be swept out from under you. The members of the WGA simply want to be treated like the work they do is just as important as that of the producers. With this deal, the writers are finally being acknowledged as talented people who make essential contributions to the final product.

I was surprised that it took the AMPTP this long to just compromise and negotiate. Bringing Hollywood to a halt for 146 days is very costly, when they could’ve just brought this offer to the table the entire time. The members of the AMPTP are the people that always benefit the most financially from the movies, despite not having a hand in the creative process that brings the stories to life. It probably would have saved them money if they had just been fair to the writers in the first place rather than seeking to continue to hoard all the money made from successful films.

This isn’t the first time that Hollywood has gone on strike. In the 1960s, the actors and writers went on strike, hoping to make their jobs more profitable. With the invention of television came the ability for studios to have films and shows air on TV over and over again. Yet the people making the money off of these re-runs weren't the writers, actors and directors, they were the studios and networks. The studios refused to compensate the people that actually worked on the film, so the writers walked out in 1960 and were soon followed by the actors. This strike is what established the concept of paying residuals to actors and writers when a series or movie they were a part of would be played on television. This was a historic gain, but because of lack of unity between the actors and writers in this strike, the deal was still a disappointment. However, this strike definitely foreshadowed that the WGA and the Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) would become powerful allies. The 1960 strike laid the groundwork for the writers today to finally be given a decent deal and to have the opportunity to receive what is rightfully theirs.

Having a career in the film industry is hard. It’s all about who you know and what you’ve done more than it is about talent. There’s no reason for it to be even more difficult to make a living than it already is. I’m hopeful that this deal will pave the way to making film a more fair industry.