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Opinion

Hollywood Is About To Strike Out

Imagine playing a game where nobody wins and the end result could very well be years of universal disdain towards you from the spectators.  That is what is going on right now in Hollywood with the Writers/Sag-Aftra unions and the studio executives.

These labor negotiations in Hollywood have ranged from bad to ugly and it is only going to get worse before it gets better.  A work stoppage in any economy is never ideal.  A work stoppage in this economy, where inflation is a real thing and the cost of living is steadily rising, could be disastrous.

What People Have To Say About It

I ran a poll on Geek News Now’s Twitter account.  Out of forty votes, the writers and actors won the support of the people in a landslide.

This is not surprising.  The Hollywood studios have been silent for the most part.  The writers and actors have been very vocal about what they want.  The more vocal you are, the better chance you have of finding people to agree with you.

My good friend, known on Twitter as Comics and Cosmetics, had this to say:

She raises a valid point.  AI is a serious point of contention, one which I will touch on later.  The phrasing that “Everyone should get paid for the work that they do.” also rings true as well.  This isn’t about being paid a living wage, so much as it is about asking to be paid what your worth.  There is nothing wrong with that sentiment.  To quote the great Rickey Henderson: “All I’m asking for, is what I want.”

Rich Ingui, a fan on our GNN Greats Facebook page is quoted as saying “You don’t get what you deserve.  You get what you negotiate.”  That is very succinct and to the point. It is a quote that should be engraved on a placard on every set and in every writers room.

Matthew Green, also a fan on the Greats page said what we are all actually thinking: “Since the last strike brought a plethora of reality TV I dread what this one will lead to.”  Again, I can’t disagree.  It seems like every time an actor or writer joins the picket line, Gordon Ramsey gets a new show.  If I were a conspiracy theorist, I would hypothesize that Gordon Ramsey is actually behind all of this.

Now we come to what I think. As your loyal cynic, loveable misanthrope, and GNN’s resident contrarian; I have come to believe that both sides of this work stoppage are acting selfishly and are therefore both to blame for this ridiculous scenario.

Why The Studios Are Wrong

In defense of the strikers, the studios have a long history of treating talent like garbage.  There is no other way  to put it.  Whether it was the horrible treatment of the Three Stooges or Disney firing Bobby Driscoll for getting a bad case of acne, the studios very rarely have the best interests of their staff in mind.

All things considered, the studio’s collective offers are run of the mill.  The glaring problem is the desire of the studios to use Artificial Intelligence extensively.  Artificial Intelligence has the potential to be a death knell for writers and actors and it provides the studios a golden opportunity to prey on struggling actors and writers.

If you’re struggling and a studio comes by and offers you a couple thousand dollars to use your likeness odds are you’re going to take it. Especially if you’re short on rent.  You, still being fresh faced and naive will most likely fail to realize that the studio has rights to your likeness to use however they see fit.  More sinister than that, the odds of them offer you anything resembling residuals are slim to none.

Living in a town like New York or LA could be tough as a writer.  If you’re struggling, maybe a studio representative will approach you.   Let’s say they offer you a respectable sum of money for your work.  This would most likely pique your interest.  Now let’s work into this hypothesis that the struggling writer is more aware of how the world works than the struggling actor.

Trusting A Studio Executive Like David Zaslav To Use Artificial Intelligence Responsibly Is Akin To Trusting John Dillinger To Run Your Bank.

The writer negotiates a better deal than the actor, including residuals and other perks that the actor neglected to negotiate.

Fantastic.  You are now on your way to the good life.  You’ve negotiated a satisfactory deal, the studio loves your work.  Your future is looking brighter than the sun in Texas.  Only, the Studio never negotiated in good faith.  They have the rights to your project and have used Artificial Intelligence just enough to alter it.  You are no longer recognized for your hard work.  You don’t see one red cent from any money your project generates and it is altered just enough for you to have no legal standing in a court of law.

Assuming you do have a standing in a court of law whether you are the aforementioned actor or writer, you are still in fact struggling financially.  So even if you can afford a lawyer to take your case, odds are that the studio will just outspend you and wait the whole situation out until you can’t afford to go on.

Throwing salt in the wound, you will most likely have a really hard time finding work in Hollywood ever again.

Compounding the issues of the strike are allegations of heartlessness coming from the studios.  Allegations have been made that one studio executive claimed to be willing to let the strikes go on.  His sentiment is that he is willing to let the writers lose their homes to gain leverage.  Allow me to be emphatic in saying that these are allegations.  Nothing in that context is verified or on record, so whether or not that anecdote is true is debatable at best.

If the allegations are true and such a thing has been said, then that is shameful.  No matter how terse negotiations could get, wishing your adversaries poverty is an ugly and soulless thought that should be rebuked by the alleged executive’s peers.

Why The Writers Are Wrong

There is a lot to unpack here because so much is wrong with the reasoning of the strike.  Let’s start with the demands the Writers Guild are fighting for.

  • They want to restructure their residuals
  • A minimum of up to twelve writers in the writers room is apparently non-negotiable
  • Increased pay is a must
  • Shorter exclusivity deals
  • Assurances On AI

Demand for a restructure on residuals is a reasonable request.  Ratings involving streaming programs are largely kept secret by the studios, so writers don’t have access to viewership numbers.  This seems to be an attempted end around by the studios to save a couple of dollars.

Shorter exclusivity deals are also not unreasonable.  With the average season of a television show being truncated severely; sometimes to six episodes a season, writers need to be able to actively search for work.  They should not be beholden to the studios and forced to wait around for another opportunity.

Currently the exclusivity deal in Hollywood is structured around the old way of doing things.  Television shows used to have a much longer seasonal run ranging anywhere from 18 to 24 episodes a season.  That is no longer the case for a lot of writers and it is only fair to address this issue.

Now let’s get to the part where we wander into fantasyland.  The increased pay issue is becoming farcical.  For one thing, screaming about making a “livable wage” makes no sense.  It forces me to ask the people on strike what their definition of a “livable wage” is.  It also makes me wonder how they have been living up until now if such conditions were so severe. Also, a “livable wage” based on which bit of geography? $25 an hour in Manhattan, NY is very different from Manhattan, KS.

Thousands Of Writers Have Gone On Strike To Fight For A “Livable Wage” Despite The Fact That They Earn Substantially More Than The Average American.

I wouldn’t spend time at a job if my wage wasn’t livable.  I would either find a second source of income, or leave Hollywood and find something better.  The truth is that the writers and actors get paid very handsomely.

The writers guild minimum for a week to week writer is $5,069.00 a week.  If a studio gives a writer guaranteed work, the minimum can lower to $3,964.00 a week.

Let’s say you’re a part time writer in Hollywood and you only work about 20 weeks out of the 52 weeks in a year.  You would stand to make as little as $79,280.00 or as much as $101,380.00 per year.  There are much more serious issues at hand than your salary if you can’t afford to live off of almost $80,000 a year. While the cost of living in Los Angeles is Fifty-One percent higher than the national average, a “livable wage” is calculated to be a salary of about $55,829.00 per year. On the low end, a writer still stands to make $25,000.00 more than what has been determined to be acceptable.

Furthermore, to demand that no less than twelve writers be staffed for each project at that pay rate is fanciful.  To make that same demand and then demand a raise on top of that is pure lunacy and unsustainable.

Why Sag-Aftra Is Wrong

The actors in Hollywood are striking more out of solidarity with the writers than they are for themselves. Their point of contention, aside from Artificial Intelligence is also “earning a livable wage.”

Fran Drescher Chastised Bob Iger For Being Out Of Touch And Jet Setting In Designer Suits. This is Despite The Fact That One Month Earlier, She was Hob Knobbing With The Kardashians In Her Own Designer Clothing.

The pay scale for actors In Hollywood actually proves to be generous.

  • Work on a film with a budget of over 2 million dollars guarantees an actor $1,082.00 a day with a weekly scale of $3,756.00
  • Work on a film with a budget under 2 million dollars guarantees an actor $703.00 and a weekly scale of $2,441.00
  • A television episode for a standard actor earns them $1,082.00 a day, with a scale that gives them $2,741.00 for three days and $3,756.00 per week.
  • If you’re lucky enough to land a role as a major performer in a television program, you are guaranteed a minimum of $5,951.00 per week for a half hour program, and $9,522 per week for an hour long program.

At those rates, one would expect these starving artists to be living off of Ramen Noodles and Kool-Aid.

The Writers Have Rejected A Generous Offer

On August 23rd, it was reported that the studios offered a deal that guaranteed a thirteen percent increase in pay over a three-year period and controlled use of artificial intelligence.  They agreed to meet the Writers Guild somewhere in the middle with the request for guaranteed writers on staff with part of the deal being that some of the writers be hired by the showrunners.

After A Deal That Offered Writers Up To $11,000.00 Per Week Was Rejected, Many Of Us Are Wondering What A “Fair Deal” Is.

Such a deal would have been the highest wage increase for the WGA in 35 years.  Writers would stand to make up to $11,371.00 per week with a guarantee of up to nine weeks.  They rejected an offer that gives you up to $102,339.00 for working less than one fifth of the calendar year.

Final Takeaway

Demanding a raise in any economy is risky.  Throwing a tantrum about a substantial raise in the middle of an economic downturn marred by inflation and other damaging factors is crazy at best. Screaming into a bullhorn about not earning a “livable wage” when your current contract gives you in one week, the equivalent of three months pay for the average American; is disingenuous and insulting.

Using the power that you have to prey on talent for the financial benefit of your studio is immoral and abhorrent.  Artificial Intelligence is something that we are not ready for.  It is to easy to abuse the power that comes with it and in time, it could prove to be fatal to Hollywood and any other industry that will come to rely on it.

Hollywood has been out of touch with the general public for years now and it is finally coming to a head.  They had better get their finger back on the pulse quick, because the general public has a lot of options out there that don’t involve them and as these ridiculous, petty quarrels continue, we will rely less and less on our need for their entertainment.

Let’s all just go outside and touch some grass.

What do you think, geek faithful?  Sound off in the comments, we are FUELED BY THE FANS and would love to hear your take.

Thank you for reading. When I am not writing, I enjoy spending time with my wife Barbara, my three year old daughter Frankie, and my Loyal Hound Marbles.

For more fresh takes, and great fan engagement, please follow us on Twitter.  For Great Programming and fun and insightful discussion, subscribe to our Youtube channel.  And don’t forget to catche me on YouTube on the last Sunday of every month playing Comics Redacted on Comics and Cosmetic’s YouTube channel!

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