The Writers Guild of America (WGA) was heard loudly at the ATX TV Festival in Austin, Texas, where various panels informed attendees about the issues that matter to writers in the stalled negotiations with studios. The panels discussed AI and staffing minimums, which refers to the set minimum number of writers that a series has to employ. The writers also explained why production shutdowns during the ongoing strike are an important part of their fight for a fair deal.
Greg Iwinski, a WGA negotiating committee member, who has worked as a writer on “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” and “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” discussed the writers’ strike on a panel alongside Julie Plec and Zoanne Clack at Stateside at the Paramount.
In an interview with Deadline on Saturday, Iwinski explained why production shutdowns are essential. Iwinski said that nobody is happy or enjoys it when productions shut down because they want to be back at work and making content. He acknowledged the incredible amount of solidarity and support from the Teamsters and IATSE, who have said, “We will honor your lines.”
The WGA believes that the fastest way to get back to work is to close the pipeline of production. The hope is that this will cause a sharp, quick, fast pain now so that they do not have a prolonged strike later. The WGA wants the strike to be over as soon as possible so that all 11,500 writers and the Guild can get back to work, and so the industry can resume full production.
Loss of Jobs and Support for Below-the-line Workers
Iwinski also addressed the concerns of below-the-line workers who are vocal about losing out on jobs and not being able to support their families by choosing not to cross picket lines. Iwinski said he had experienced an incredible amount of solidarity while on the line. He added that they are willing to work with those who are honoring their picket lines to find ways to inflict the most damage to the studio pipeline while also inflicting the least amount of damage to the crew. If there is a way to get everybody paid but also stop production, they will always aim for that because those people are not the ones they are trying to hurt.
Staffing Minimums and Collaborative Writing
Staffing minimums is one of the WGA’s demands that has triggered a lot of discussions. Some believe that if someone like Taylor Sheridan can write TV shows on their own, others should have the right to do so too.
Iwinski responded by saying that there are only ten such shows, so it is not representative or fair to negotiate contracts based on what only 0.001 percent of their members are doing. He emphasized that writing is a collaborative form, especially television writing. In late-night writing, he has been in many rooms where the collective voice of the room is the voice of the show, and that’s incredibly important. The WGA wants to protect writers who won’t be powerful enough to demand a staff when they’re told there’s nobody there. They also want to maintain the integrity of a writers’ room that has led to all the television that people have known and loved previously.
When asked if the WGA is willing to negotiate on minimums, Iwinski said that they have not even begun negotiating because the studios have not responded. Therefore, there’s nothing to talk about in terms of negotiating numbers because they haven’t ever responded to their initial proposal.
Finally, Iwinski addressed the criticism of the themed pickets and photos shared on social media. He said that to be critiquing people trying to find joy in a hard situation is an incredibly privileged position to stand in. He added that the idea that you cannot find joy in the solidarity of fighting for your own dignity is a position that’s out of touch with reality.
The WGA is fighting for fair deals for all writers. They have been vocal about the need for production shutdowns and the importance of maintaining staffing minimums. They have also emphasized the importance of collaborative writing and the need to protect writers who aren’t powerful enough to demand a staff. The WGA wants the strike to be over as soon as possible so that all writers and the Guild can get back to work.