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The WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) has gone on strike, demanding better pay for writers, better residual payments, and for there to be no AI (Artificial Intelligence) involved in the writing or editing of television or film scripts.
Residuals are payments made to directors and writers of a show or film after the release of said show or film. The payments are based on how popular the show or film is. For example, every time you see a Star Wars film on TV, George Lucas and the writers make a little bit of money.
But the controversy around residuals for WGA writers pertains more to streaming residuals. When a film or show is put on a streaming service, companies pay a premium residual rate for the first 3 years the film or show is on the service. The rate decreases over time, bottoming out after about 12 years. The paychecks writers get from these residuals can be as low as mere pennies.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, studios like Disney and Warner Bros. are pushing against the strike, telling writer-producers that they need to continue to work without fulfilling their writing duties. Shows like Andor season 2, House of the Dragon season 2, and The Rings of Power season 2 are also all continuing production without writers or writer-producers on set.
According to CBS, HBO has suspended their deal with The Wire creator David Simon after he picketed with the WGA.
But this strike will help all artists, especially when it comes to pushing AI out of creative industries or motivating strikes in similar unions. Which is why everyone should support this strike.
According to Reuters, studios want to use data from past scripts for AI to write first drafts. “We don't want our material feeding them, and we also don't want to be fixing their sloppy first drafts," Screenwriter John August told Reuters.
According to The New York Times, Netflix is putting a clause that they can use AI to recreate voices in contracts. The contract says that the studio has "free use of a simulation" of an actor's voice “by all technologies and processes now known or hereafter developed, throughout the universe and in perpetuity."
If an actor were to sign the contract, they would, theoretically, record some lines, then get fired when the AI gets enough data to recreate their voice, and receive no payment for when Netflix uses AI to recreate their voice.
Animation writers make even less than live-action writers, and according to Owen Dennis, creator of Infinity Train on Cartoon Network, the residuals made are all pooled into their union, TAG's (The Animation Guild), healthcare. Supporting the current WGA strike could motivate TAG to strike for better residuals in the future.
At the moment, supporting the strike as a member of the general public is easy. The WGA does not want the general public to stop watching streaming services or anything like that.
The best way to support the strike is to not get upset when you hear your favorite show or film has stopped production because of the strike. You may want your favorite show to come out as soon as possible, but the pause in production will lead to a better-quality show, because everybody in the cast and crew of a production helps make it what it is.
I was upset when I heard that the Foo Fighters were supposed to perform on Saturday Night Live, but due to the strike, the show was cancelled. Strikes are supposed to be disruptive.
There is power in numbers, and supporting the WGA strike in any way you can helps all artists.