Sunday, May 19, 2024

Hollywood screenwriters face ‘existential crisis’


Nichols explains that all the financial security that allowed screenwriters to continue during their non-working periods has disappeared. After ten years in the field, getting paid to re-show a piece of his writing on a streaming platform is rare.

Screenwriters in the US are fed up with the risks that threaten their industry in the era of streaming platforms, causing them an “existential crisis”. Behind Hollywood’s glamourous festive looks, film and television writers are plagued by major problems. Their voice and protest action.

Speaking to AFP, Sarah Fisher, who took part in the protest in front of Warner Bros., said, “The studios are trying to turn our jobs into mini-jobs.”

Ten years later, she worked as an assistant on major series including the Marvel-produced “Agents of Silence,” becoming the thirtieth youngest woman accepted into the Writers Guild of America, which represents 11,500 screenwriters. Hollywood’s biggest strike in 15 years

Despite joining the union, Fisher has been looking for work since November, concerned that her savings are rapidly dwindling.

Fishermen are not the only ones facing a similar situation in the sector. The model adopted by television of twenty-episode series per season, allowing people to work for longer periods of the year, was negatively affected by the emergence of streaming platforms, especially Netflix.

Seasons of series aired through these platforms are only six to ten episodes long, which means less work, and it’s challenging to gain experience with fewer writing teams these days. “A lot of my friends ended up writing successful soap operas and started working as Uber drivers,” says Fisher.

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“worthless sums”

According to 34-year-old Brittany Nichols, the screenwriting industry has always faced challenges because Hollywood productions are not continuous, but today it is not a “viable career”.

The co-writer of the series “Abbott Elementary” decries the change every time the amount added to screenwriters’ salaries.

These amounts are large for re-broadcasting a television work because they are based on advertising, while they are much lower when re-broadcasting a work via streaming sites that do not provide statistics on the number of views.

Nichols says all the financial security that allowed screenwriters to continue in their non-working hours has disappeared. After ten years in the field, getting paid to re-show a piece of his writing on a streaming platform is rare.

“These amounts are almost worthless,” he says. “I can’t buy a slice of pizza with them.”

Before he began working in the writing industry for television series, this African American struggled to pay the $3,900 rent for an apartment in Los Angeles, where real estate prices are high. “On all the series I co-wrote, the creators would hire me for six, eight or 10 weeks,” he says.

The minimum wage for a screenwriter, the lowest position, is still $4,500 per week. However, most screenwriters interviewed by AFP can’t work more than a few weeks a year. They all point to the hidden costs of their profession, and between what they pay a lawyer and their taxes, half their paychecks evaporate.

With the advent of streaming platforms, the industry has become precarious. Statistics from the Writers Guild of America show that half of screenwriters in the television industry earned the minimum wage set by the union in 2022, while a quarter of them earned similar wages in 2014.

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Negative impact of technology

Even seasoned screenwriters are affected by circumstance. Some of them, like Adam Bawa, see what’s happening as a sign of Hollywood sinking into the culture of Silicon Valley, where Netflix and Uber were founded.

The 48-year-old screenwriter was in frantic negotiations with a studio that offered him less than $150,000 from his previous films. It no longer held an unwritten tradition that a screenwriter’s wages could not be reduced over time.

He points out that the emergence of streaming platforms is pushing “executives to trust what’s accepted in the tech industry rather than the Hollywood conventions of the past,” and that “production companies’ mission is to make movies that matter, but today they’re trying to satisfy their stakeholders.”

Screenwriters are shocked and humiliated after company bosses talk about layoff policies (Disney, for example, cut 7,000 jobs) and Wall Street-related pressures to make their studios more profitable.

“The current period is difficult (…) but what we are facing is the result of the greed of the actors in this sector,” says Daniel Sanchez-Wetzel of the Writers Guild of America, noting that the union’s demands are “2 percent”. Profits made by manufacturing companies. “We claim our part in creating,” he says.

Pandora Bacchus
Pandora Bacchus
"Coffee evangelist. Alcohol fanatic. Hardcore creator. Infuriatingly humble zombie ninja. Writer. Introvert. Music fanatic."

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