Studios Fire Back, Say WGA’s Mandatory Staffing Demands Are ‘Incompatible’ with Creativity

The AMPTP's first public response to the writers strike said the WGA wants "a one-size-fits-all solution to shows that are unique."
Writers Strike 2023
2023 WGA Strike
AFP via Getty Images

The studios and networks are firing back at the Writers Guild of America (WGA) in their first public comments since the writers strike began on Tuesday, arguing that what the guild refers to as an effort to preserve the writers room is “in reality a hiring quota that is incompatible with the
creative nature of our industry.”

“We don’t agree with applying a one-size-fits-all solution to shows that are unique and different in their approach to creative staffing,” the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) said in a lengthy document released on Thursday. “Some writers are the sole voice of a show and others work with only a small team. The WGA’s proposals would preclude that.”

Basically, they’re saying shows like Mike White’s “The White Lotus” or Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone” couldn’t even exist under the WGA’s own demands.

But forget creativity for a moment, the two sides cannot even agree on the cold, hard numbers being used to fight this fight. The AMPTP is now saying that the WGA is misrepresenting its offers in terms of minimum wage and healthcare. “The first-year general wage increase currently on the table is the highest first-year increase offered to the WGA in more than 25 years,” they wrote.

The studios also blasted that whole “gig economy” argument, saying writing for TV and films has “almost nothing in common” with standard gig work. This job comes with employer-paid health care, contributions to pension plans, and paid parental leave programs.

“For one thing, most television writers are employed on a weekly or episodic basis, with a guarantee of a specified number of weeks or episodes. It’s not uncommon for writers to be guaranteed ‘all episodes produced,'” the AMPTP added in its statement.

And don’t even get them started on streaming residuals. There, the studios claim the WGA is demanding foreign residuals that represent a “200 percent” increase over current rates and treat foreign subscribers as the same as domestic subscribers, despite foreign subscribers often being priced (and monetized) differently (read: lower) than in the U.S.

Then there is the A.I. No one knows what to do with the very thing we’ve created, but the studios say their position has been taken out of context. The current WGA agreement already says a writer is defined as a “person,” the AMPTP wrote, and that A.I. wouldn’t be covered or receive a writing credit.

“We’re creative companies and we value the work of creatives. The best stories are original, insightful and often come from people’s own experiences. AI raises hard, important creative and legal questions for everyone,” that part of the document reads. “For example, writers want to be able to use this technology as part of their creative process, without changing how credits are determined, which is complicated given AI material can’t be copyrighted. So it’s something that requires a lot more discussion, which we’ve committed to doing.”

OK, so no health care for computers. The strike goes on.

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