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  • Writer's pictureHolly

In Defense of the Writer's Strike

Updated: Aug 24, 2023


I just read this article in The Wrap about the WGA strike and negotiations, and I got so frustrated by this statement by the AMPTP that I had to address it on behalf of all the writers out there that I love and adore. The AMPTP statement was in response to the WGA's urgent request to codify rules for writer's room (for reasons it's clear the AMPTP doesn't care about/understand) and it reads....


“If writing needs to be done, writers are hired, but these proposals require the employment of writers whether they’re needed for the creative process or not,” the AMPTP said in a four-page document publicly outlining its stance on the WGA’s proposal. “While the WGA has argued that the proposal is necessary to ‘preserv[e] the writers’ room,’ it is in reality a hiring quota that is incompatible with the creative nature of our industry.”


No, AMPTP. It is in YOUR reality "a hiring quota that is incompatible with the creative nature of our industry" not reality itself. That last sentence to me says everything. The fact that the AMPTP is telling creators what is and isn't compatible with the creative nature of our industry quite literally IS the problem. Maybe they should go and try to deliver a brilliant script with the power to touch millions of hearts. That is the level expected/needed by the studios in order to reap those coveted profits. And then come back and share your thoughts about what is and isn't compatible with the process.


The creative process is as hit or miss, and as mentally challenging as, for e.g., the scientific process. Creators need time to flounder, to ponder, to discover, to take risks in order to get to the really brilliant stuff. The stuff that blows us all away. But unlike in the science world, where scientists are employed and paid for research and development, toiling away sometimes for years on misses, until they hit on a new groundbreaking discovery, writers are increasingly on their own.


The studios directly profit from the years, sometimes an entire lifetime, of a writers heartfelt commitment to discover, and express powerfully, human truths that touch us all. But when it comes to supporting them through the process to get there, the Studios don't want to share in the cost at all. In fact, they pretend, or turn a blind eye to the fact that those necessities or costs even exist.


It's been my experience that the studios expect writers coming up to, not only be extraordinary writers, but they need to also be their own marketing and producing team; creating elaborate pitch decks and teasers, while developing large social media followings (much of which goes against a writers typically introverted nature).


All of this must be done on spec of course, meaning the writers are going to have to self fund their own development. Which means they have to brilliantly do all those things mentioned above, while also holding down a day job or a side hustle. And of course, they also need to keep that side hustle on the down low, or they won't be taken seriously as a writer.


And if they do manage to wear all those hats, and still do all those things well, and they succeed at getting the attention of the studio, they are often treated to the glorious opportunity of being taken advantage of.


Most are asked to sell their rights as a condition of the sale, which means the studio doesn't have to be bothered with the writers desires. They can change and twist their words at will. While they make it increasingly harder for the writers to share in any of the profits (under the convenient lie to themselves that it's the studio taking all the risk). This causes a condition where even a "successful writer" can easily be back to square one after each project, never getting to a stable financial place where they can focus solely on improving their actual craft, which is writing.


And that's just the feature writers.


If you want to become a TV writer, you have the added pressure of needing to have been staffed for many years before you're ever to be taken seriously. But how can one be staffed, when there are less and less staffs to be on? (hence part of the WGA's valid argument. The ability to be a Showrunner, and all it entails, doesn't come from nowhere. It encompasses too many varying talents that can't be read in a book. It has to be apprenticed.)


Again, imagine if this is how scientists had to operate. Self funding their own experiments. Putting together elaborate pitches. Selling themselves as a personality online. Instead of burying themselves in a lab somewhere and focusing.


How many great scientific discoveries do you think we would have? Which types of scientists do you think might succeed inside of that model? The truly great ones? Or the ones who are great at telling you how great they are?


So, sure studios. Go ahead and stay certain in your "rightness".


Keep telling creatives what is and isn't compatible to the creative process, as if you alone are the experts on that front.


Keep choosing not to support writers in the necessary development phase, because on your spreadsheets it doesn't make sense to pay people except when they're "needed".


Keep bringing your logical business brain to an industry that will never ever be logical.


Keep creating an environment where writers are left to fund themselves and seldom ever able to get a proper financial return on their investment.


This is all fully in your right to do, and many of your fellow business men and non-creatives will agree with you entirely that it all makes perfect sense.


But just know that the money you save, might end up being the money you lose, because the great writers might eventually go away. They might realize the quiet life of a self published novelist is the better way to go. Because trying to work inside the system you created doesn't make any kind of creative or financial sense.


If I had my way, what I'd like to see is a very special episode of Undercover Boss. Let's see how the AMPTP does trying to deliver scripts the way writers do under the system they created.


**Holly Payberg-Torroija is a writing/creativity coach and founder of Loving The Process where she helps people with great stories become writers with great books and scripts. If you're looking for a FREE intro workshop to help you get started click HERE


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4 Comments


I can try to understand your pain and outrage. However, it looks like that's the way the business is run. In the meantime, I try to get books I wrote for free to be noticed on the market. I wrote a screenplay for one book, submitted it to an agent, and that was the last I heard of it. Thank goodness, I had the sense to have it copyrighted. Maybe I'll send it to another organization looking for scripts. Carolyn Rae, author of Searching for Justice.

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Holly, please, send this to THR or Variety... epic

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Susan Jizba
Susan Jizba
Aug 08, 2023

Brilliantly written and Absolutely TRUE. Thank you so Very Much Holly!!!!

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skbashley
skbashley
Aug 05, 2023

Absolutely brilliant and spot on, Holly. You need to get this on Deadline or the Hollywood Reporter or dare I say twitter. How much do companies spend on research and development in other fields? This is the crux of the matter! There was a time in Hollywood when they actually paid to develop projects but for the last 20 years, all the development has been on spec. This I know from first hand experience. Vice was interested in a pilot I wrote. They had me in for a meeting with my producer. They said I should be really proud and flattered that my script was one of maybe five they had selected out of thousands to develop for their ne…

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