The writers strike is about to enter its first weekend as members of the Writers Guild of America rightfully want fair compensation for their work. Their negotiations with AMPTP stalled on Monday night. This has thrown Hollywood into chaos and studios running scared. This of course includes Disney who just sent a letter to their showrunners demanding that they continue working through the writers strike. Obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, the letter aimed at Disney-owned ABC, written by Assistant Chief Counsel of the network Bob McPhail, reads:
“We want specifically to reiterate to you as a showrunner or other writer-producer that you are not excused from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike. Your personal services agreement with [the] Studio requires that you perform your showrunner and/or producing duties even if the WGA attempts to fine you for performing such services during the strike,”
The letter would also go on to say, “Your duties as a showrunner and/or producer are not excused, suspended or terminated until and unless you are so notified in writing by the Studio.” In the Q & A section of the letter it would further specify, “you may, along with other non-writing services, be required to perform services commonly referred to as ‘a. thorough h.’ services as a producer.” This includes tasks like cutting for time, small changes to dialogue or narration made before or during production, and changes in technical or stage directions. This however would go against WGA 2023 workstopage guidelines which state, “The Rules prohibit hyphenates (members who are employed in dual capacities) from performing any writing services, including the ‘(a) through (h)’ functions.”
What Does The WGA Want?
This attempt by Disney isn’t going to scare anyone in the WGA. Even if you’re wearing multiple hats like actor/writer Ben Schwartz or director/writer Mike Flanagan, who have both been seen on the picket lines fighting this week, this isn’t moving the needle in the studios favor. Writers are fighting for a reasonable raise in pay, protection from free work, equal pay for comedy/variety writers for streamers, protections for writers rooms, and, one the biggest keys of them all, protections against the use of AI. A lot of writers feel like the studios are trying to replace them with AI and studios aren’t really doing a good job of hiding it. Most writers in the industry can’t afford their rent every month as it is. They rarely get the credit they deserve and film as an art form is being threatened by AI.
You can’t have your favorite film or TV shows without the writers who create these great stories. In terms of ABC and Disney shows Abbott Elementary, The Rookie, and Star Wars: Andor would be nothing without the writers. When CEOs like Warner Brothers Discovery’s David Zaslav are pushing north of $250 million for their yearly salary, it’s impossible to side with them. Don’t let anyone tell you this is the writers’ fault because that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Writing as a viable career is being threatened. No weightless letter is going to stop rightful change from happening.
Is the End of the Writers Strike in Sight?
Echoing the 2007 writers strike, the 2023 strike isn’t going away anytime soon. Especially with both the Director and Actors Guilds’ potential strikes right around the corner. While the writers strike rages on, you can have a good laugh by reading Disney’s full letter to their showrunners down below. You can also learn about what shows are effected by the strike and how the strike effect you.