Miscellaneous, Screenwriting, Vancouver/Vancouver Island Film/TV Industry

Of Writers Strikes & Feast or Famine

It’s early 2023 and the contract with the WGA and producers of film/tv expires in May.

This, according to the word on the street, means an inevitable writers strike, along with the DGA and AFTRA. Of course, WGC writers, being in a sister union, will support strike action.

Well then. For those of us working in ‘the inudstry’ we are entering a famine. I mean, this is not unusual at this time of year – January and February are typically low activity months. When I worked in live theatre, it was the same, really. 

In truth, as long as we prepare for these slow months, it’s not really a famine. It is a time to rest from the intense physical toll that 12 to 16-hour days have on us (yes, you read that right and it’s a working condition which is a topic for another day). 

Anybody who has worked in this industry or even someone who has worked in a service supporting this industry (catering, health & safety, etc.) will tell you that when it’s ‘busy season’ you will be inundated with opportunities to work. But it always slows down. Even now, when we have less of a distinct ‘pilot season’ than before, there is always a slow-down in January and February as long-running tv series wrap production. Feature films are not generally starting up – for a multitude of reasons but most generally due to bad weather. 

Now, though, unless you were listening last year when talk of a writers strike started in earnest, you could be facing a significant work drought. Famine. Writers, along with directors and performers, will be negotiating a new contract with producers and so far, the word is that writers anticipate hard push-back on their demands. 

‘Demands’ implies they are unreasonable, but I don’t think that is the case. The key thing, I understand, is they are negotiating updated rates for productions that were previously categorized as ‘new media’. You see, back when streaming was new, writers supported the emergence of a new entertainment platform by working for ‘discounted’ fees. But it is safe to say the ‘new media’ is not new anymore. It is a well established platform and so should be paying for writers services accordingly. 

I sit on both sides of the argument as an emerging producer and a screenwriter. I work under the burden of responsibility for the production budget so I understand well the impact that higher writers fees will have. I also understand the value of the work. Let’s face it – if writers didn’t write, we wouldn’t have anything to produce. Period. 

As someone whose current ‘day job’ in the industry relies on start-ups and ongoing tv series, I’m not a little anxious about how much we will or will not have projects in production.

I have bills to pay and the savings I’ve hoarded while I was working will be stretched thin if we face a prolonged strike.

I also have projects in development for which I will need to account for writer, director, and cast fees in the budget. So I wait on baited breath, as the saying goes, while we approach this year’s funding windows and application deadlines. 

The best a person in my position can do under these circumstances, is tighten the belt and focus on development of projects to be ready for pitching and funding. Because after the strike, there will be a glut of work as producers seek new content for platforms that will be airing a lot of re-runs while the strike is in effect. 

Learn more about the impending strike and the reasons for it at THE WRAP and at DEADLINE.

(photo: Getty Images)

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