Today is high-noon in the three-week long stand-off between screen writers belonging to the Writers Guild of America and the big studio conglomerates which dominate US cinema and television screens. Leaders of the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are resuming negotiations after powerful strike action by WGA members.
Twelve thousand writers have been picketing in both Los Angeles and New York City for demands aimed at preventing loss of income as a result of Internet broadcasting and DVD sales. At present, writers receive 4 cents per DVD sale and no residuals (royalties) from iTunes sales or advertising-supported free rebroadcasts on web sites such as abc.com. Writers receive no payment from material aired for free on the Internet.
The strike has received tremendous support, not only from WGA members, but also from leading members of the acting profession who have spoken out and joined picket lines. Outside the film and television industry, recording artists like 13-year old singer-song-writer Shamim have also joined the picket lines. Shamim recently founded the Protection for Artistic Rights Coalition (PARC), an organisation whose ultimate goal is to spread youth awareness of the issues that artists face in an industry changed by the Internet and digital media. "I am affected by the same things that the writers are affected by with respect to digital media. I am a struggling recording artist who has music being downloaded freely through the Internet," She said. "At the end of the day we are all creative people who are watching profits and royalties stream in from advertisers to giant companies that haven't been paying artists their fair share."
US dockers have brought food hampers to picket lines, California Nurses Association members have joined the protests and Teamsters Union members parked trucks outside studio gates in demonstrations of solidarity. In the UK, the Writers Guild and International Art Critics Association have expressed support. The writers’ strike has also been strengthened by the support of show runners – the people who work as both writers and producers - such as Marc Cherry of “Desperate Housewives” fame.
Life-time WGA member Richard Walter noted that the present dispute was different from the last WGA strike in 1998: "Way back then there was more dissent within the guild, particularly involving the show runners. This year, very much to their credit, despite financial risk, show runners have been very pro-guild. Production has been affected much more directly and quickly than anticipated by management,” Walter said. “I’ve never seen anything like this in all my years – and I’ve been through seven or eight strikes.”
The show of unity amongst everyone from writers, actors, musicians , show runners and even producers in the American entertainment industry is awesome. WGA members are showing a side of the US that is too often submerged by right-wing governments like the Bush regime. The immense strength of the strike, together with a number of anti-government films coming out of Hollywood like Rendition, indicates that a big change is taking place across the Atlantic, coinciding with an historic crisis for the American economy
A World to Win