No Wages, No Pages: The Importance of the Writer’s Strike


A luscious green lawn, hundreds of family and friends gathered together, and the ever-increasing chant of “pay your writers” were what Boston University’s commencement entailed. Not all college graduations involve protests, but they do if your commencement speaker is the CEO of Warner Brothers refusing to adhere to the demands of thousands of writers across America. 

The Writer’s Guild of America has gone on strike for the first time in fifteen years, protesting against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for a variety of reasons. This is their first attempt since a strike in 2008, demanding higher wages—a similar trend seen in the current strike. In addition to requesting increased minimum compensation, the WGA seeks better working standards, anti-discrimination measures, and much more. 

Two of the most notable demands that arise in the fight for these rights, however, are how to handle issues like residuals with the usage of streaming, and regulations regarding AI. Both of these concerns have come to the forefront during the strike, and remain two of the biggest issues.

Nearly every show has migrated to streaming services. Now, instead of watching the latest comedy show on cable TV, viewers can load up Netflix for another season of Love is Blind. The convenience can’t be beat: no commercial breaks, and no wait for each new episode to come out weekly. Yet many fail to realize the detrimental situation this puts writers in.

Typically, writers are on board for a television series for up to twenty-nine weeks; staying on a project for so long comes with the benefit of increased salary and job security. In streaming however, shows are very short, usually ranging from six to ten episodes. This results in fewer weeks on board and less pay, but also less writers hired altogether. 

The switch to streaming also cuts back on the residuals writers earn from reruns. When a show is played again on television, those who worked on it receive money every time it’s rerun. Yet in streaming, there’s no opportunity to rerun a show; instead, viewers must replay it in their own time. 

Fair treatment for writers has come at the cost of convenience for consumers, spelling out an untimely death for network television. This is a trend that only continues when involving AI in the conversation. 

Never before did the film industry have this issue. Accessible AI has been a very recent introduction with resources such as ChatGPT, so it isn’t unreasonable to assume that it’d make its way into movies and television scripts. This is despite the fact that 2/3rds of people don’t want AI used in cinema. 

Executives must take into account the quality of work AI can produce. A program like ChatGPT can write a convincing essay, but to produce an entirely well-written television show seems like too daunting a task. Nevertheless, even though AI now may not meet the standards of TV, who’s to say that it won’t a few years down the line?

It would seem with these concerns from consumers, coupled with pressure from writers, that Hollywood executives would adhere to these demands. Yet major studios are refusing to budge, and instead of regulating AI usage or banning it altogether, offered to hold annual meetings to discuss technological advancements. The intentions of AMPTP remain clear: they value profit, with disregard for their workers and their art.

Though many attribute good cinema to directors or actors, it’s writers that are the backbone of Hollywood, and the entertainment industry as a whole. Without them, we wouldn’t have the punchy jokes or heartfelt scenes that captivate audiences. Some think motion pictures are only for mindless entertainment, but they’re also responsible for making viewers feel seen; a responsibility no amount of AI can handle. 

There’s a reason the humanities are dying: the younger generations are pursuing careers with financial stability and job security. The AMPTP’s refusal to acknowledge their writers’ demands is just making screenwriter another dead end, and will leave cinema another heartless, unrelatable industry. Once we lose the humanity and stability of writing, it’s over.