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The Big 150: 19, Random – What thought has been getting the best of you lately? WGA strike and AMPTP

The Big 150: 19, Random – What’s one thought that has been getting the best of you lately? How has it been influencing your behavior?

Honestly, there have been a number of thoughts that have been getting the best of me lately and influencing my behaviors. But I guess a better question for myself right now is ‘which specific thought do I want to share?’ So, this is now a blog post about the WGA strike and AMPTP.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is on strike right now due to failure to reach new contract agreements with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), and it’s really important to pay attention to how we all got here. Although I am not yet a member of the WGA, I am a member in good standing of a different union - the Screen Actors Guild (SAG-AFTRA), which has its own contracts up for re-negotiation in early June. Additionally, although I am not a member, the Directors Guild of America (DGA) also has contract negotiations coming up, starting on May 10th.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) is the trade association that represents television and film producers and, for the sake of this post, the studios (specifically, streaming studios). The WGA and the studios (AMPTP) could not come to a contract agreement, so when the old contract expired earlier this week, the writers went on strike at 12:01 AM the following day, lining studio streets with signs and picket lines.

This has been affecting me not only because I stand with the WGA in their cause, but also because I can’t help but feel a sense of foreshadowing with upcoming DGA negotiations and also SAG-AFTRA negotiations. There are so many different (uncontrollable) factors at play, but the main issues are how much streaming has disrupted traditional media models, writers’ residuals, and artificial intelligence (AI).

I can’t pretend to know all the ins and outs of residuals, but I do know that the studios do not share data about how much viewership their shows receive. To me, this is a lack of transparency that maybe should be illegal – especially considering that those numbers could influence and dictate just how much other people get paid. If I’m required to provide personal data information to a streaming service (which, hello, we all are because we have to provide an email address to sign up and a form of payment to subscribe) then why isn’t there some sort of accountability measure included so I know that the people writing and creating my favorite forms of entertainment are fairly compensated?

The biggest issue to me, however, is the studios’ aversion to agree to not use artificial intelligence (AI) in creating content. I feel very strongly that AI is a pandora’s box that some tech companies decided to open without any real conversations about the ethical and moral implications AI could have on society. Studios don’t want to agree that they won’t have ChatGPT write scripts or have AI edit writing instead of a human being. I don’t know if this would have been as big an issue a few years ago, but now that Apple (a tech company) is a streaming service, I doubt it’s an issue about which every studio will see eye-to-eye. Maybe there’s hope in that sense; there has to be division among the studios unwilling to meet the WGA’s demands, whereas the members of the WGA voted at an overwhelming 98% to authorize a strike.

And, sure, for argument’s sake, AI can’t unionize and strike against corporations (yet), so studios probably see AI as a way to save money. But you know what else AI can’t do? AI can’t emotionally understand the poignancy of the final scene of “The Shawshank Redemption.” It can’t understand the symbolism of seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time, and it can’t understand hope. It can’t comprehend the complexity of human experience: how we can love so fiercely, how we can grieve so fully, how we can laugh so deeply that we have to stop and catch our breaths only to spiral into maniacal laughter again only seconds later. These are the things that studios lose sight of when they place profits above people.

As I stated before, there have been a number of thoughts that have been getting the best of me lately and influencing my behaviors. I have spent more time than usual in the past few days reflecting on how to help make entertainment the type of industry I want to continue to work in and how to evolve into the kind of person I want to be within its working parameters. I’ve been pondering (more than I wish) about how to affect the most positive change so that the majority of people involved can feel like they’re winning because they truly are.

It takes a village to bring an episode of TV or a movie to life. It’s a collaborative process with so many different interdependent moving parts. There’s still a lot I don’t know that I’m excited to learn, but I’ve spent a lot of time on various film and TV sets and I’ve been witness many times to what goes on in front of and behind the camera. All the moving pieces of the collaborative TV and film-making process are important, but I do know that nothing can get filmed without sides (or a script) in hand.

You can’t bring a story to life without a story. The writers in the WGA create beautiful stories, sad stories, ugly stories, redemptive stories, horrifying stories, innovative stories, stories I hate, and stories I love. The world would be a duller, darker place without storytelling. I hope the AMPTP and the WGA can come to an agreement. I hope the DGA and the AMPTP can come to an agreement. I hope SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP can come to an agreement. I hope…

- Johny

ICYMI: The Big 150


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