Writers Strike 2023

Writers Strike 2023 : What Do Writers REALLY Want?

The Writers Strike 2023 came up in conversation the other day as bbq conversation. This is not the first time and as things continue in their stalemate fashion, I’m sure it will not be the last. But what really struck me during this particular conversation is the misunderstanding people have about why the writers are striking.

I’m appreciative that Hollywood actors joined the picket line in solidarity. I think this was imperative for the writers to make any headway. But unfortunately, I do believe their joining contributed to the confusion about the issues at hand. They say they’re fighting for the same thing, but that’s not exactly true. All I heard from multiple people during this conversation was there was no way the writers could win, AI was here to stay. I finally asked, what do you think the writers strike is about?

Every single person answered that the issue was AI and the writers’ fear of replacement. My stomach plummeted at this response and it honestly proved my worst fears about the way the media has been covering the strike. While yes, AI is a concern that’s been brought to the table, it most definitely is NOT the chief reason the writers went on strike. And it most definitely is not why they walked away from recent negotiations and are still at a stalemate.

Working conditions for many across America have worsened. I’ve written about the abuses of mislabeling “independent contractors” in the past and how we’re being forced further and further into a gig economy that does not benefit the worker. The true heart of the Writers Strike 2023 lies in this same issue. 

Your Hired! Job Title: Independent Contractor

In the past, writers were picked up to be employees on set for a show. They were employed for the full season of a show, creating sixteen to twenty something episodes. Writers were paid a living wage for all of those episodes, they also received contributions to their WGA pension fund and health insurance plan. They also received residual payments for TV reruns and movie showings.

Streaming has changed all of that. With shorter seasons with fewer episodes and content coming out constantly, all the protections of previous writer contracts have gone out the window. To avoid paying for more than the studios believe they need, they’ve opted instead to fall into the corporate abuses of the gig economy. 

Instead of writers being hired as employees for a full season run, they’re now being hired as independent contractors for short gigs. Those gigs are paid with minimum hourly paid contracts. They’re pushed into writing pools, think tank rooms, where they’re forced to write an entire season’s worth of episodes over the course of a few days and then they’re dismissed. There are no contributions made to their pension or health insurance and there are no residual payments.

So, what are the Hollywood writers fighting for in the Writers Strike 2023?

They are fighting for the right to be employees. This a penultimate moment in American working history. Workers across the country are losing their employee protections by being forced to “independent contractor” status. Data from 2021 showed that an astonishing 1 in 3 workers are now classified as gig workers. This number rose to a record 51 million in one year alone. A 34% jump compared to 2020. Some of this was by choice, but many were not. 

Most gig work does not pay enough to cover parental leave or health insurance. This puts gig workers at a major disadvantage to other regular employees. These numbers speak for themselves, it’s time to pay attention. If we don’t want this to be the future for American workers, we need to speak up and do something about it. The Hollywood writers are taking a stand. And man, I hope it’s enough.

What are your thoughts on this issue?

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Blockbuster shift in books

Signs of Growth: The End of Blockbuster Names

Books and movies have always had a special relationship, so what does the end of blockbuster names in movies mean in books?

I recently watched a movie on Netflix with my husband and realized there was not a single actor or actress I had heard of in the movie. We discussed it and realized that’s happening more and more these days. I used to think it was because I’m getting older and more out of touch. But then I did some digging as I’m apt to do and found this is actually a “thing” now. 

In the past there were always the gatekeepers. The content curators. The studio heads who would greenlight which few movies got made per year. Or which shows were chosen for the fall season on the main channels. We were limited on what exposure we got to content. We only got to partake in what the curators chose for us. 

However, that’s all changed with streaming platforms. Movies and shows are now launched with regularity. Suddenly we can get access to almost anything. You can go down rabbit holes of niche topics and shows. Gone are the days when the curators kept us limited. 

But with that constant stream of content there are less and less of those big Hollywood “stars” rising to the top with the notoriety of the past. How could they? They can no longer be cast in everything. More actors HAVE to come to the stage and play.

blockbuster actors

The same is happening in publishing. With self publishing becoming more popular and writers launching new books with regularity there is just more content out there. More content equals more competition and less opportunity to rise to the top like the John Grishams, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King and other “blockbuster” writers of the past.

So does that mean that fame and fortune is a thing of the past? Will there never be another Jennifer Aniston or Brad Pitt? Possibly.

I can honestly say I’m okay with that. This might sound surprising coming from me as a writer. Wouldn’t I want the possibility of becoming a “blockbuster” success? Yes, but so few ever got to be. Whereas, in this current oversaturated market it’s anyone’s game. How though?

It’s all about niche marketing. Think about it. As content consumers we all have our particular genres of books and films we prefer. Netflix sets up our recommended for you algorithms as does Amazon. There are also the follow buttons. You like an author’s book you can follow them on Amazon, Goodreads and Bookbub. Then you get an alert whenever they publish something new. 

I do this with all my favorite authors. And as soon as I get that alert, I know to preorder the next book they have coming out. I just did this with Fiona Davis’s new book The Spectacular (was fabulous by the way) and Marie Benedict’s The Mitford Affair and The First Ladies. 

There is the same loyalty garnered with these systems. Just like you’d always go see the new Julia Roberts movie, you’re continuing to follow people you like. It’s just more spread out and catered to your specific tastes. 
In the long run, I feel it’s a more equitable and sustainable market. What are your thoughts on the matter? Are you enjoying the availability of more content or do you miss the days of content curators? As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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