Striking WGA and SAG AFTRA members picket in front of Paramount Pictures in Hollywood

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‘I’m a showrunner who asked for this’: TV writers debunk misinformation about their strike demands

'Variety' is under fire for promoting an anonymous TV writer who opposes a popular WGA strike proposal.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Posted on Aug 17, 2023

Throughout the actors’ and writers’ strikes this summer, Hollywood news outlets have been accused of anti-union bias. Strikers claim that sites like The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline publish skewed coverage and misinformation, effectively siding with studio bosses as workers campaign for fair pay.

The latest example centers on TV writers’ rooms. One of the Writers’ Guild (WGA) strike proposals involves introducing a minimum staff size for TV writing teams. Depending on the number of episodes per season, shows would have to hire either six or 12 writers.

However, a recent Variety article pushes back against this demand. Quoting anonymous sources, the article says there is “private dissent” among WGA members regarding minimum staff sizes. A small number of showrunners say this will force them to hire unnecessary writers, with one telling Variety, “Nobody asked for this. Every showrunner I know is against this. It doesn’t make sense to anybody.”

This sparked a lot of pushback from other TV writers, arguing that they actually did ask for this.

Basically, the universal response to this Variety quote was “nah.” It sparked criticism from a deluge of writers including the creators of hits like The Wire, Yellowjackets, and Suits.

Screenwriters support minimum staffing guidelines because it protects them from low-paid, unreliable freelance contracts. In recent years, studios have begun to favor “mini-rooms” where writers draft an entire season of TV in just a few days or weeks. Then these freelancers are dismissed so one or two credited showrunners take over.

The pay is low, and the workplace structure makes it harder to gain the experience and credits required to establish a career. Many people also believe mini-rooms result in subpar TV shows compared to the output of traditional writers’ rooms.

One detractor alluded to the idea that “solo showrunners” who claim to write alone secretly rely on uncredited work from writers’ assistants. Others joked that the Variety quote must come from Yellowstone creator Taylor Sheridan, the only prominent TV writer to openly oppose the minimum staffing proposal. (Sheridan is one of a very small group of showrunners who write entire shows by themselves.)

Many responses also accuse Variety of trying to sow discord among the striking writers. But if that’s the case, it doesn’t seem to be working.

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*First Published: Aug 17, 2023, 12:25 pm CDT