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Writer Wednesday: The WGA Strike & the Ethical Consumption of Entertainment

Hello authors and welcome to another Writer Wednesday where we talk shop, industry, and more. Today it's a doozy of an industry post due to the Writer's Guild of America going on official strike as of May 2nd 2023 due to break down in contractual negotiations. Now, we have discussed before how and why strikes of this nature happen. This isn't the first time the WGA has gone on strike in the fight for better working conditions, and the far reaching impact of that strike was wide spread through the entertainment industry, slowing and halting the production of movies and series, scuttling many seasons in progress, and shaking the financial stability of the mammoth entertainment industry on several levels.

The Ethical Consumption of Entertainment

There were several reasons then and now for the WGA to strike, and it all leads back to the ethical consumption of entertainment. There have been many factors in the past couple years that have upended and reshaped the industry. With the pandemic, there was an even higher demand for on-hand, easily accessible entertainment. The uptick in demand for content paved the way for juggernaut companions like Amazon, Disney, and Paramount to join the streaming wars and three years later they continue to fuel their still relatively new platforms. The pandemic also changed the way we worked in general, taking a critical eye to the status quo of working conditions.

"Viewers may be among the short-term losers in the event of a strike. But they are sure to be among the long-term losers if nothing changes and the WGA is right about both how the industry is operating right now and how it may operate in the future. " -Linda Holmes, NPR

The high demands of the entertainment industry have long been funneling down to the content creators. An example of the problem is a concept called the 'mini room' where the initial writers working on a series or film are separated from the bulk of the production to bang out scripts and then shunted off without much in the way of further input. This effects their opportunities and exposure, denying them the chance to retune and refine story elements, lessening their credit and impact, where having a hand in later aspects of the production would gain them a producer credit to their their name. Many of those initial authors are losing their livelihoods as studios use the 'mini room' to cut costs and reap the benefit of not keeping a full staff of writers. The current way contracts are structured for writers has potentially terrible long term effects, since it strips out the actual training process for the next generation of screen writers to actually learn how to make good television. This also has devastating effects on Hollywood's already shaky initiative for diversity, where the current 'experienced' writers are frozen in place without allowing upward movement or opportunities for new voices.

Another added dimension to the mix is the up and coming reactions to AI writing and how that will play in the creation of content. AI generated content is already making waves in the book world but at the core of the issue is this: AI generated content spits out an unoriginal facsimile of what it is fed.

Entertainment is something we have come to rely on heavily as a society, not only for its escapism from the harshness of reality, but for the potential of enrichment. At our heart, we not only crave stories, but our minds and our dreams are shaped by them. Corporations often fail us in this regard, seeing only the bottom line, financial aspect, and in doing so, they gimp themselves by failing to invest in the future of their own industry. And this failure to invest in the roots, in the baseline of an industry will have massive, wide spread ripple effects. The current system is highly exploitive of the very writers who create the content we so readily consume and worse, sets up a future cascade break down for the industry itself.

Moving forward, how this current strike plays out could be critical to the upcoming contractual negotiations for the Directors Guild and the Screen Actors Guild.

Resources & Further Reading

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