“Shoutout to writers,” exclaimed Jason Sudeikis, on stage with much of the cast and creative team behind “Ted Lasso” for a fan event that would kick off the opening of the “Think Apple TV+ FYC” space. “What a day to be doing this.”
Mere hours later, at the stroke of midnight on May 2, the Writers Guild of America would decide to officially go on strike, calling for its members nationwide to enforce a work stoppage. However, it was not clear until that following afternoon what the guidance was for participating in For Your Consideration events meant to highlight the work they already accomplished this TV season.
The conclusion the union came to in terms of members attending film festivals or FYC events for a film or a show they wrote on, as published in the WGA Strike Rules FAQ, was “You should let the Company know you are prohibited from making these promotional appearances about your work until the strike concludes.”
While the writers remain a united front (after all, the strike was authorized by a record 97.9 percent of members), the decision to sit out of FYC events does seem a bit polarizing from the outside looking in. Sure, through one lens, it’s a no-brainer that sitting on a panel inside an event space paid for by Apple counts as entering the premises of a struck company, an act forbidden under strike rules. But through another lens, it does seem like a missed opportunity not to take advantage of the stage time to expound on how these series vying for Emmys would never have been able to come together without writers.
As soon as that Tuesday night, May 2, at the FYC event for the Prime Video limited series “Swarm,” taking place inside the Prime Experience space funded by Amazon, allusions to how the strike impacted Emmy campaigning had already begun. Moderator Angelique Jackson, Senior Entertainment Writer at Variety, preceded the planned one-on-one conversation with star Dominique Fishback by reading off a written statement from “Swarm” co-creator, executive producer, and showrunner Janine Nabers that said “I’m not present tonight because I am standing in solidarity with the WGA.”
The note got a rapturous applause from the audience of mostly Emmy voters, who are TV professionals themselves, as did Fishback’s response to the statement, saying “I support any artists who are standing up for what they deserve 100%.” The following night, during a fireside chat after receiving a BAFTA Special Award in New York, top-level television producer and “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” showrunner Shonda Rhimes added her voice to the cause, emphatically saying “I am a writer on strike right now,” when asked for her take on the situation.
As picket lines sprouted up around Hollywood, the Television Academy decided to give its partners the option to either proceed with the pre-planned FYC event as is, adjust or cancel the panel portion of the event, or cancel the event altogether without a penalty fee. Only “The Problem with Jon Stewart” and “John Mulaney: Baby J” were immediate cancellations, which makes sense given both comedians’ intimate ties to the writing community. Slowly but surely though, other programs like Apple TV+’s “Mythic Quest” have chosen not to move forward with their FYC events.
But for the most part, For Your Consideration events have muddled through without the involvement of the writers that created and/or ran the show. Friday’s event for Netflix’s Outstanding Animated Program contender “Entergalactic,” which served as the kick-off for the streaming service’s FYSEE ’23 programming and event space, ended up canceling the panel it had planned with co-creator/star Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi and an assortment of the behind the scenes talent involved in making the project, but still screened the 90-minute TV event to a packed audience, with one person overheard saying they felt a good energy in the room.
Now, if a panel does happen, the lineup is usually whatever actors that are in town, and had no involvement in scripting the show, a non-writing producer (e.g. “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power” EP J.A. Bayona, who directed the first two episodes of the Prime Video series), and a select group of craftspeople that worked on the series. During the conversation, they often praise the show’s writers, but it has started to seem like the word “strike” is taboo.
If there has been any cause for major alarm this past week, it has been the spate of summer awards shows announcing some form of restructuring or postponement. Drew Barrymore stepping down from hosting the MTV Movie & TV Awards in solidarity with the WGA, days before the live show was set to occur, led to a speedy Sunday telecast that cobbled together sketches the daytime talk show host had already taped with acceptance speeches the winners sent in from home. The following Monday, the American Film Institute announced that its June 10 gala honoring actress Nicole Kidman with a Life Achievement Award, an event often taped and edited into a TV special airing at a later date, has been postponed indefinitely.
While the 75th Primetime Emmys are not scheduled to occur until September 18, the hosted live telecast takes months to plan, and necessitates a writers room. When asked if there is a deadline for when a decision will be made to possibly restructure or cancel the upcoming Emmys telecast, the Television Academy said in a statement to IndieWire, “Like everyone, we hope these negotiations will be resolved swiftly, amicably, and equitably. We’ll address any questions around the Emmys as we get nearer to the ceremonies.” As For Your Consideration events move forward with business as usual, there is an ever-increasing chance that the awards they seek may be announced via press release.