The writers’ strike is on.
No one wanted this — no writer with an ounce of sense, anyway — but the producers and the studios and the networks and the streamers gave us no choice. The Guild negotiated right up to the final deadline on May 1, but it takes two to tango. In the waning hours of May 1, the Writers Guild of America declared a strike. The action began on May 2. There are pickets in front of every studio lot and sound stage in LA, and many in other cities as well. Get used to them. I expect they will be there for a long time.
I am not in LA, so I cannot walk a picket line as I did in 1988, but I want to go on the record with my full and complete and unequivocal support of my Guild.
How long will the strike last? No idea. Maybe the AMPTP members will come to their senses tomorrow and offer some meaningful concessions, and the whole thing can be wrapped up next week. I would not bet the ranch on that, however. I have been through several of these since I first started writing for television and film in 1986. The 1988 strike, the first I was a part of, lasted 22 weeks, the longest in Hollywood history. The 2007-2008 strike, the most recent, went for 100 days. This one may go longer. The issues are more important, imnsho, and I have never seen the Guild so united as it is now.
Writers’ strikes tend to be longer than other labor actions. That’s the nature of the beast. My father was a longshoreman. When the ILA went out on strike, work on the docks shut down at once. The ships did not get unloaded. The trucks did not move. The cranes froze in place, the fork lifts stayed where they were when their drivers walked off, the bananas rotted in the holds. It does not work that way with writing. Everyone has seen this storm coming a long way off… and accordingly, studios and streamers and networks have been stockpiling scripts for months. As of May 2, the pens are down and the computer screens have gone dark all across Hollywood, but production will continue so long as there are scripts to shoot. The proviso being, of course, that those scripts must be shot EXACTLY as they were as of midnight on May 1. Not a word can be changed, cut, added, not a scene can be altered. All that requires writing… and from now until the strike ends, the writers will be on picket lines, not on sets.
(Many of you will be wondering, rightfully, about the impact of the strike on my own shows. The second season of DARK WINDS wrapped several months ago. Post production has been completed on five of the six episodes, and will soon be done on the last. The show will likely air sometime this summer on AMC. No decision on the third season will be made until after the strike. Peacock has passed on WILD CARDS, alas. A pity. We will try to place it elsewhere, but not until the strike is over. The writer’s room on A KNIGHT OF THE SEVEN KINGDOMS: THE HEDGE KNIGHT has closed for the duration. Ira Parker and his incredible staff of young talents are on the picket lines. Across the ocean, the second season of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON started filming April 11 and will continue in London and Wales. The scripts for the eight s2 episodes were all finished months ago, long before the strike began, Every episode has gone through four or five drafts and numerous rounds of revisions, to address HBO notes, my notes, budget concerns, etc. There will be no further revisions. The writers have done their jobs; the rest is in the hands of the directors, cast and crew… and of course the dragons).
((Some of you, I fear, may be having anxiety attacks just now, on the mistaken assumption that this strike affects WINDS OF WINTER. You can relax. The WGA is a union of film and television writers. It has nothing to do with novels, short stories, or any other form of prose fiction, nor comic books and graphic novels, nor stage plays, nor the editing of collections and anthologies I have on-going projects in all those areas, and that work continues unabated. And WINDS continues to be priority number one)).
I am not going to try to explain the issues at stake here on my Not A Blog. Others have done that far better than I could. Whistle up Google and you will find dozens of stories on the internet detailing what the Guild is asking for on behalf of the writers it represents. The details are there, for those of you who are interested in going more deeply into the disputes. Needless to say, money is a big part of it. The move from broadcast and cable to streaming has severely impacted residuals for writers (and directors and actors as well). Television seasons have been shrinking; from 22 episodes on network, to 13 on cable, to 10, and now to 8 and 6. Since writers are often paid by the episode, that’s hurt too. Writer incomes are down across the board. The details are in the news stories.
And there are other issues, one of which I think is especially important. So important that I think it deserves its own post. Look for that tomorrow. For today, let me close by saying I am very heartened by the support we’ve received from the Teamsters and the other unions, and from many individual members of SAG and the DGA as well. I hope we will have the support of all of you reading them as well: the viewers, the fans, the people we are making these shows for.
It could be a long fight, but with you on our side, we cannot lose.
Current Mood: determined