Posted on: May 14, 2023 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by James Landgraf

You may not be able to watch TV in the same way ever again.

In recent weeks, members of the Writers Guild of America have gone on strike to protest the inadequate pay many screenwriters receive. “Saturday Night Live” cut its season short, The Tony Awards may not be televised in favor of a private award ceremony, and television everywhere is grinding to a halt.

Aidan McGuire

News Editor

“I think that studios are being really unfair to writers,” said Moraine adjunct theater professor and screenwriter Jenni Lamb-Hetherington.

As the Writers Guild of America strike continues to rage on throughout America, we are prompted to consider what changes must be put into action for the screenwriters who keep us entertained and fuel our country’s media. 

As a writer and film major myself, I understand the importance of creative jobs paying livable wages, and currently, screenwriters are not receiving this luxury. Despite studios bringing in millions, screenwriter weekly writer-producer pay has declined 23% over the last decade after adjusting for inflation according to WGA on Strike.

Photo by Valerie Macon
Demonstrators hold signs in front of Paramount Studios during a screenwriter’s strike in Los Angeles, California, on May 2, 2023.

A large part of the recent shift in screenwriter wages could be tied to streaming platforms favoring shorter television seasons and writing periods.

Screenwriters rely heavily on the WGA for assistance while they are in between projects, but with projects becoming shorter, the WGA struggles to support its writers.

So what can be done? To start, studios should offer screenwriters livable wages and there should be an overall increase in pay all-around in the writing industry. Additionally, as the WGA on Strike webpage stresses, writers should be offered more healthcare plan options. Treating these artists as if they are minimum-wage fast-food workers should be unacceptable, especially given the amount of money studios bring in.

The rise of technology is also spurring fear throughout the screenwriting world. Many people are concerned with studios turning to AI chatbots for writing shows. While in theory this switch would save studios money and allow them to pump out content at a faster rate, the use of AI diminishes everything that it means to be an artist or a writer.

You cannot replace an artist with technology, no matter the skill of that technology–because the human touch of an artist cannot be replicated.

“The idea that AI could potentially write television in the future is terrifying,” said Lamb-Hetherington. “It’s going to be a long time. I think people should be ready to not see their favorite shows this fall.”

So how can you help? Lamb-Hetherington and others involved in the industry are urging people to cancel their streaming service subscriptions to help support writers.