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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AI Integration

AI Technology– is it the end for creators?

AI has arrived in the world of publishing. Is it welcome?

AI. Two letters that evoke such strong feelings. We have doomsdayers predicting the end of the working world as we know it. And then there are others who praise the technology as the best thing since sliced bread. So which is it?

I think there is a reason people are afraid. There has been evidence of competently executed manuscripts and artwork by this new technology. I believe it was Stephen King, who used the technology to generate an example of artwork that was spot-on for one of his potential books. The staff of sci-fi magazine, Clarkesworld, had to close submissions for their annual writing contest in January after they were flooded with AI generated submissions. But were those submissions successful? “It was “easy” to see which submissions were machine-generated,” said the magazine.

One can argue that will change in the future and people will soon be unable to differentiate as easily. But I still have to say, I don’t envision an AI program completely taking over the creator industry. Call me naive- but I just honestly don’t.

Thirty years ago the first computer beat the best chess player in the world. Everyone predicted the end of chess. Why bother anymore? And yet– my son just had over forty kids sign up for his after school chess club this past winter.

There will always be the fun in the “game” to draw people into wanting to create. And people will always still be drawn to the human element both in and behind the creation. People want someone to root for and relate to. People want to get to know the author or artist. They want to know what their inspiration was. What their thoughts, process, and difficulties were during the creation. 

One can argue that’s not always the case– hence why I’ll even agree some AI generated work will most definitely enter the marketplace. But this is why I feel it will never dominate the marketplace.
Now, what I do envision happening is a divide between the creators who embrace this technology and the ones who don’t. Just like the technology in the past, those who grow comfortable and find ways to utilize it will be the ones to rise to the top.

And there are plenty of ways to utilize this AI creator technology without having it replace us. Who couldn’t benefit from gaining time by dictating and immediate editing software? Meaning in addition to grammar– it would correct awkward sentence structure and misuse of words. This alone could save hours of rewrites and drafts.

There is also AI narration. No, we do not want to replace human narrators entirely. But it is costly to use a human narrator, limiting what we can get made into audiobook format. Utilizing AI for shorter works, bonus content, sneak peek chapters etc., could greatly increase our marketing potential and library of content.

Overall, the Hollywood writers on strike are partly right that we need to examine how the technology is implemented and how it will affect writers and their pay scales. Jobs might change. But do I honestly envision an AI program writing a writer out of a job completely? No. 
Instead of living in fear, let’s be strategic and discern how AI can make our lives better and more productive.

What are your thoughts on AI? As usual, I always love to hear from you. Please share below in the comments!

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