The first picket line of the 2023 writers’ strike took over an entire New York City block on Tuesday afternoon, with the WGA shutdown official, and union strike plans in full effect.
Hundreds of writers representing all parts of the WGA East membership marched down Fifth Avenue, between 37th and 38th Streets, blocking the entrance to Peacock’s Newfront Show, NBCUniversal’s streaming service.
“This is seen as an existential moment for the book,” said writer, actor, producer and director Danny Strong. Hollywood Reporter on the picket line. “I think we’re very deep, and I think what we’re asking for is basically right and it’s a basic kind of fairness. There’s more content than ever before and yet writer salaries have come down dramatically because all of those revenue streams have been wiped out.”
Strong added, “We feel that the current financial model towards broadcasting in particular is unfair, and needs to be modified.” It needed an edit three years ago, but the writers very kindly because of the pandemic chose not to address the issues at that time, because it was an unprecedented and upsetting time for the whole world. But those issues have only gotten worse for the writers since then. greater percentage of the market share, and it’s going to dominate the industry for decades to come. So this is the moment when we need to get a fair share of the income from that.”
It was a concern echoed by Sasha Stewart, a member of the WGA East Leadership Council, and a recent writer on Netflix’s Edit: Fighting for America.
“I think AMPTP has refused to discuss some of our most pressing issues because they want writing to stop being a profession,” Stewart said. “They don’t want it to be a career. I think they want it to be like a party, you have it once every few years, for a few days maybe, or a week or two at a time.”
“I think that’s what they want for directors. I think that’s what they want for actors and crew members as well,” Stewart added. “I think they don’t want people to be able to actually make a living, create content that’s very profitable for them.”
Josh Gundelman, writer at Last Week Tonight with John Oliver And Desos and MiroTell THR that he, like other writers, does not “want to be on strike”, but that the energy for the union is “really high” at the moment because there is so much at stake in terms of past gains and the future of the industry. “Everyone out here is shouting and marching because it’s so important to the future of not only us, but the people who come after us and the legacy of the people who came before us,” Gundelman adds.
Patrick Coker, lead writer for BET’s Tales and supervising producer, he said it was his first time hitting as a writer in Hollywood. However, he had been on the picket line several times before as a Verizon employee before joining the WGA in 2017. It was an experience that prepared him for a long strike and involved him not working in any production capacity until a deal was struck.
“Whenever you strike to get the things you deserve, in the short term, you suffer a little bit,” Cocker said. “We’re going to fight because we won’t get paid, we might lose our health care — and hope during that time nothing catastrophic happens to your health. But you have to put it online because if you don’t fight for it now, it’s going to fizzle out over time.”
And just like that… Star Sara Ramirez also appeared on the line with her own sign, promising that she’ll be in this for the long haul with the book. They said “I’m ready”. “I truly believe in the work of writers. The content we consume would not exist without our writers, and they deserve better contracts. So I am here in solidarity as a member of SAG-AFTRA, with my writers whom I love and respect so much.”
Cocker — who said one of his main priorities for the strike is to avoid Hollywood becoming a “gig economy” — admitted he wasn’t necessarily surprised by what happened at midnight Tuesday, but said THR He hoped companies would see the light of day and see that without us, there is no content. It all starts with a word on the page and we Put the words on the page.
For Gondelman, one of the main issues with the strike is how broadcast creators “structure seasons and shows,” which he said are getting shorter and as a result, there’s less long-term safety in rooms that get smaller. “They’re making more content than ever before, but writers’ wages with inflation have fallen over the last 10 years by a very large amount. So this is an existential threat because not only do they keep wages down, they take away the security and stability that allow writers to make a living Sustainable over the course of a year and over a career.”
Ramirez said too THR On the line they object to how the rooms are currently structured. “When you hire writers, they better see all those scripts — every writer in that writers room is better than getting every script that comes out,” they say. “I’m not okay with hiring writers’ room and then cutting some of those writers out of the process. I know that happens—we inside the system know what’s going on—and it’s not good.”
Cocker also cited the differential treatment of writers’ live-action creators, particularly those from historically marginalized communities, as a major issue. While broadcasting did expand some opportunities for BIPOC and its female clerks, he said it did not offer them the same benefits and opportunities for advancement as their pre-broadcasting white predecessors.
Broadcasting — the new media — used to be the new frontier, but it is now Main Boundaries and because of how they open up, more writers of color and more women have been able to get in, but they get caught in those lower positions and that’s a problem with streamers,” he said. The show won’t be produced until it’s dropped in June-July, so you don’t get that experience in production which means you can’t move up in the writers’ room.”
While the picket line didn’t seem to affect Peacock’s Newfront (an attendee told THR That the room was full, and many people were standing after taking all the chairs), it instantly became a destination for visitors. said a tourist visiting New York from California THR that when they heard about the hit, they adjusted their schedule to check out the picket line, which included familiar faces like Strong, to cutZack Cherry The Tonight ShowSteve Higgins and Ramirez, along with members of SAG-AFTRA and IASTE.