Cleveland and the Writers’ Strike

By: Jake Harness

The Strike:
For many of you who are unaware or have little knowledge of the current status of the film industry, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) is currently on strike, with talks that SAG will soon be joining. The Director’s Guild of America (DGA) was on strike for a brief period of time but has since came to an agreement with the studios.
What exactly does all of this mean?

The WGA went on strike on May 2nd to fight for residuals for streaming services, better wages, and protection against AI technology. This strike is very different from previous WGA strikes as this would essentially be a restructuring of the entire film industry.

At the current moment major studios want to rely heavily on AI technology to write their scripts and then hire a writer to come in and clean up any mistakes made by the AI. The problem with this is that the writer that comes in and cleans up the script is only paid for rewriting and owns zero percent of their work for the script. Since it’s AI, the person that pushed the button on the prompt is the holder of any intellectual rights and this would typically be the producer. In doing so, writers are slowly but surely being phased out by major studios.

The major studio executives have their eyes on money and convenience with little to no experience on actually being creative, which takes any form of art out of the filmmaking process in general.

Writers are also not being paid residuals for streamers. A long time ago when your movie or TV show was made you were paid initially, when it went to DVD and VHS, when it went to video stores, when it played on TV, etc. Now with everything being streamed, writers are only paid for their initial writing work with no residuals for how many subscribers stream their work, all while the studios that own these streaming services are raking in as much money as possible.
So how does all of this effect the film industry in Cleveland?

In the film industry, over 90% of the industry never gets to walk on the red carpet. When you get passed the director, the DP, the producer, and all of the major department heads, you start to get to the “below the line” crew. Imagine when you’re watching Star Wars and you see thousands of people in the credits, this is the majority of the film industry.
When a major strike like this happens, all productions get put on hold. Meaning any crew members are out of work until things get resolved. The issue with this, is that no one knows when the strike will end. The last WGA strike was in 2007 and lasted for 100 days. A city like Cleveland, which only gets 2 or 3 major projects a year relies on these projects in order to stay alive and with the WGA strike, it has left the entire film industry of Cleveland in limbo.

The biggest film that was scheduled to come was the new MCU movie, BLADE, which was scheduled to film in the next few months. With the strike in place, that movie is now on hold indefinitely with no guarantee that it will resume production in Cleveland when the strike is over.

Moving Forward:
Although this is kind of a rough time for any film worker, there is still a positive outlook for this time. While we wait for bigger projects to come along and for things to go back to normal, we

can help each other out on smaller projects and stay creative in some form during this time. For me, I’m continuing to shoot music videos, web content, and documentary work, all while also writing my own scripts for the future.

Recently a group of friends and myself have been getting together to form a little writer’s room where each week we meet up and come up with short film ideas and write them out. It’s been a lot of fun but also feels super productive in the process.
Keep your head up. This too shall pass.

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