When the Writers Guild of America began their strike, it didn’t seem like a big deal. Why would it? Surely the studios and the writers would negotiate and the strike would end. When it didn’t, the strike faded from the public eye and people kept watching their shows.
Then, in July, for the first time since the 1960s, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists joined, some actors walking out of movie premieres to do so. And now, with fall approaching quick, we will start to see the effects of the strike since the fall shows couldn’t be worked on in the summer.
But why strike? What do the unions want that studios refuse to budge on? Ridiculously, fair pay, better working conditions, and restrictions around the use of Artificial Intelligence.
With streaming services rising in popularity, writers and actors are asking for better residuals. You know, the things they live on? Actors from major shows like “Orange is the New Black” have revealed that they are making cents per episode. Cents. Further, streaming services aren’t releasing exact viewership numbers, making it difficult to negotiate fair residuals. Writers and actors are not being fairly compensated for their labour, and that’s never okay.
Writers are asking that more writers be involved for the entire season of a show. Writer’s rooms used to employ 10 or more people under the showrunner; now, they employ four or five. Studios are wanting to decrease this further, while writers want a larger minimum number with the ability to hire more. Writers are also asking for a longer guaranteed employment time while working on shows.
A.I. is becoming an issue for both parties. Writers don’t want their work used to train programs and don’t want scripts written by a machine and edited by humans. Which, fair enough. They’re trained to write, they should be writing.
As SAG-AFTRA votes for strike authorization against the video game industry, they’re also wanting protections from A.I. Voice and performance actors are having their work collected and used and aren’t being compensated. SAG-AFTRA is asking that, if this is going to be done, it will be done with consent and compensation. The vote ends on Sept. 25, so we’ll see what happens.
I know A.I. is a hot topic right now, but honestly, humanity has been creating art before we were writing history. We should be able to make art without fear of it being stolen and used without consent to train programs that can’t truly make art. A.I. can copy, it can collage, but it cannot create what it isn’t trained on.
What do the strikes mean for entertainment? Shows getting cancelled or not getting renewed? What’s new? That already happens all the time, any time a show doesn’t immediately perform as well as studios want. No more cult classics I guess. No new shows this fall? That’s OK, we’ll rewatch our favorites, maybe find new shows. Frankly, I’m fine with waiting to get new shows until studios agree to treat workers fairly.
Lynn Spahr is a Hutchinson sophomore studying journalism and is the Opinion Page Editor.