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What the WGA strike did for TV writing in 2024


TV Writing went on strike

The TV writers of the WGA did it. They lasted many long months on the picket lines and they forced the AMPTP (the studios, networks, and production companies) to negotiate in good faith, and they got an earth shatteringly good deal. Pretty much everything that was demanded was granted, and what came with that were advancements in protections and pay across the board.


So, now it's 2024. And for the TV writers out there and the viewers at home, things don't feel too different. Why is that?


The biggest wins for TV writing from the WGA strike were protections


This was very much a pre-emptive strike. Though many things had been getting worse in terms of pay and length of time on a show, both of which were decreasing dramatically for TV writers, this strike was meant to begin to turn the tides. And that occurred in many different ways.


TV Writing vs. AI


One of the more popular issues to ripple through news stories relating to the strike was the use of AI. This was not a problem... yet. With ChatGPT just rearing its head, this technology had not fully shown what is was capable of just yet. But the signs were all around. And the WGA taking a stance on this encroaching technology prevented major losses occurring on the part of writers, losing out a first draft fee to something a studio executive decided to give to AI first and then have a writer rewrite. Let me explain...


Screenwriters get a lot of money for a first draft of their script. They get a much smaller amount of money for a rewrite. Without protections against AI, studios would conceivably have been able to tell ChatGPT to fart out a terrible first draft, and then they could hire a WGA writer on an extreme discount to rewrite it. A scary thought. Luckily, that had not yet come to pass. So, as I said, this was a pre-emptive move.


Protecting the writers' room


Another of the most important protections the WGA fought for was protecting the writers' room. See, in the years since streamers took hold, the whole framework of how TV is made has changed. Previously, TV episodes were produced as writers' rooms wrote episodes. Therefore, all episodes were produced with the entire writing staff. However, streamers came along and introduced mini-rooms, full of writers who would be around to write all of the episodes of the show for a couple months. But then only a couple writers, and sometimes only the showrunner, would remain for the actual shooting of the episodes. This left the showrunner in a difficult spot, because if anything changed, which they always do, he wouldn't have a staff to rely on to help. Also, it cut out any foreseeable route for lower level writers to learn how to produce and one day become showrunners themselves. It made the entire TV writing industry into a 1% of showrunners and then everyone else being quickly and easily replaceable.


Now things are different. Protections were fought for and put in place by the WGA that mandate a minimum of writers throughout a TV series' production. Hugely important, right? So, why aren't most TV writers going to feel those changes yet?


The writers' room minimum is very small. It's only a few people, meaning that most of the mid and lower level writers will be experiencing the same phenomenon they've been experiencing for years... short writers' room and being forced to job hunt constantly. But this is no fault of the WGA. It's a start! And a huge start. This was a non-starter according to the AMPTP at the beginning of 2023 and now it's in the contract.


The TV writing industry has been slow to start


This is something that has been felt by everyone in the entertainment industry, and everyone who watches entertainment. Have you noticed there's a lot of fluff on streamers right now? I know, there always is. But it's a little more than usual right now, right?


Well, even though the WGA strike ended months ago, the AMPTP still had the SAG-AFTRA actors strike to contend with. And while that was happening, we were winding down to the end of the year. And after this enormous months-long reset, no studio was quite sure what they should be looking for. Plus, Hollywood likes to take a three week vacation for the holidays. (I'm not joking about this.) SO, at the end of the day, everything just kind of stalled. Development and productions are just starting up now in January of 2024, and there will be a huge drought of good programming moving forward this year.


TV writing will prevail


But as always TV writing will prevail as an industry. And with these protections in place, WGA writers will be stronger than ever.


If you're looking to become a TV writer yourself, check out my other posts on my blog, or sign up for my newsletter on my home page.

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Hello!

I'm Anton, a TV writer and author of Breaking Into TV Writing, a book about the business of TV writing and how to get your foot in the door.

 

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