Hollywood writers’ strike reveals further hypocrisy of showbiz 'elites'

Early yesterday, thousands of Hollywood screenwriters went on strike after last-minute talks with major studios broke down.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is demanding better pay and a greater share of the profits owing to the streaming boom from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the major studios and streaming giants such as Netflix.

Currently, audiences consume most of their content from streaming services.  The convenience of watching movies or a series at the time of choice from the luxury of one's home has reduced the number of broadcast and cable scripted series as well as visits to the cinemas.  The pandemic probably contributed to the irrevocable change in viewing habits for some viewers.

Streaming services are also cost-effective during times of inflation, compared to cable and satellite subscriptions.  There is copious content at a fixed price of a monthly subscription.

Yet the writers have seen no improvement in their compensation despite the considerable increase in viewership of streaming services that have enabled high profits for the streaming platforms.

More than 9,000 writers — i.e., 98% of voting members of the WGA, began picketing on Tuesday afternoon.

YouTube screen grab.

The WGA said the decision was made after six weeks of negotiations produced a "wholly insufficient" response to "the existential crisis writers are facing."

The WGA criticized studios for creating what is called a "gig economy."  The gig economy means that the writers are hired on a contract basis.  Once the contract ends, writers are divorced from the project; there are usually very little earnings apart from the contractual fee, nor are there "residual" payments for showings of the contract after the period of the contract is expired.  

Alex O'Keefe, the award-winning writer on the series The Bear, who is a WGA member, revealed that many writers are paid the minimum amount by studios, which created "a huge underclass in Hollywood."  O'Keefe claims that young black writers such as him have brought a whole new wave of creativity, yet they find it difficult to survive in expensive cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, where they work.

The film studios claim they must cut costs due to financial pressures, while noting how the overall "residuals" payments to writers hit an all-time high of $494M in 2021.  The AMPTP said it had offered a "comprehensive package proposal" including higher pay for writers.  But it was unwilling to improve that offer further "because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon."

The WGA released a document claiming that "for the sake of our present and our future, we have been given no other choice."

The demands called for a TV staffing minimum, ranging from six to 12 writers per show, as well as a guaranteed minimum number of weeks of employment per season.

The studios rejected a guild demand that the use of A.I. bots be banned from writing or rewriting material, instead offering to hold "annual meetings to discuss advancements in technology."

While the writers may deserve to be paid better, they cannot dictate the tools, including A.I. tools, that the filmmakers and producers opt to use.  It is strictly up to the discretion of those funding and running the project to choose the cheapest and most efficient tools available.

One of the effects of the strike is that production on late-night "comedy" shows with Kimmel, Fallon, Colbert, and Meyers will come to a halt because their writers are members of the Writers Guild of America.  The strike will not affect Fox News's late-night comedy show Gutfeld! because its writers aren't members of the WGA.  Shows such as The View are continuing without their guild writers, the show's co-host Whoopi Goldberg apologizing in advance that their banter would be less polished with all its writers out on strike.

The actors' union SAG-AFTRA and the directors' union DGA have voiced solidarity with striking writers.

So how important are these writers?

All that you see on a screen before you, from movies to series and even advertisements, home shopping segments, documentaries, "reality" shows, and comedy shows, is the culmination of a journey that began in the mind of a writer. 

Every syllable that is uttered and every situation that is conceived is the result of what the writer envisioned. 

It is said that a fine film or show can be made with a bad director, bad cast, and bad crew but a great script.  However, the best director along with the most outstanding cast and crew cannot make a good film or show from a poorly written script.  The importance of the written word can hardly be exaggerated.

Even "opinion" shows such as The View use writers.  Perhaps some of the opinions expressed are not of the cohosts, but of the writers.  The co-hosts are merely like actors mouthing dialogues from a prepared script.

The "compassionate liberals" of Hollywood have ignored the plight of a group for so long that they were compelled to go on strike.  These writers, based on the content they create, are hardcore liberals and ardent believers in liberal groupthink, yet in the eyes of the Hollywood "elite," they don't deserve the necessary compensation or dignity. 

This display of wokeness, the pledges of diversity and inclusion, and the spiels about empathy are merely charades.  Their actions — i.e., their unwillingness to compensate the group much lower in the hierarchy than them — demonstrate who they really are.

Diversity and inclusion, if applied, are restricted to the top echelons.  Stars from minorities may have better opportunities in Hollywood for acting parts, but the plight of writers, including non-white writers, remains largely overlooked.

The stars and studio bosses themselves are doing well.  They earn handsome paychecks and often a percentage of a film's box office gross.  They also earn via the "residuals" — i.e., the revenue from DVD, Blu-Ray, and other media sales, and also the revenue from TV rights and streaming rights, perhaps even merchandise sales.

Some stars made a great deal about income disparity in Hollywood, but that didn't apply to the writers.  As always, they were focused on themselves.  These were actresses complaining about the disparity in the salaries of male stars compared to female stars.  Jennifer Lawrence complained she was paid $25 million for Don't Look Up while her male costar Leonardo DiCaprio was paid $30 million.  Jennifer has never once raised her voice for struggling writers.

Hollywood is blatantly and unrepentantly exploiting the very group that made it rich and famous, while it lectures the world about being compassionate.

This is further proof of the blatant hypocrisy of this revolting group.

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