As talks are about to resume Monday on the final elements that many hope will lead to a new deal for the Writers Guild Of America, we wanted to lend some perspective and give voice to the TV and feature writers whose fortunes will be tied directly to the deal their union makes. This is the third in a quick succession of five questions we asked a panel of 10 writers. Here are their responses, and hopefully other writers will be moved to comment about the issues that worry them most as their work is monetized in this fast-changing digital age.
DEADLINE: How are you feeling about the deal that the WGA is considering, and what concerns do you have that aren’t addressed in it?
WRITER #1: I trust that small gains will be made and a strike will be averted and at this stage of the business that’s all that can really be expected. That is actually a success in 2014.
WRITER #2: Writers on short-order shows now ﬁnd themselves working for half a year or less, stuck on unpaid hiatus for open-ended periods while waiting to see if their show -- and their contract -‐ will be renewed. During this period they are virtually unemployable because studios demand “exclusivity” and “ﬁrst position,” preventing writers from seeking other work, their ability to make a living cut oﬀ.
WRITER #3: I personally don’t have a lot of hope for any kind of decent deal these days. The companies have consolidated so much power and the Writers Guild is a two-tiered union. During the last strike, the super-A-list-high writers (who also function as TV producers on many things) decided that they had enough of the strike and called it (In a secret meeting at Aaron Sorkin’s house!). If we had held out until the actors’ contracts were up and then they joined us, it’s possible we’d be looking at much better splits for streaming, DVD and digital downloads. But if the top of the union doesn’t have the interests of the mid and lower levels in mind then we can’t get anything. So we might get thrown a few scraps, but I don’t think we have the leverage to demand anything significant.