Until recently, TV writer Stacey Rose would start her morning at her home in Charlotte with a cup of coffee, journaling, meditation and sometimes yoga.
Today, however, she’s starting her morning in a hotel room in New York. There, she will join the picket line as part of the ongoing writers’ strike.
On May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) took formal action against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). The WGA, which represents thousands of entertainment writers, including Rose, is striking for higher compensation, regulation of artificial intelligence, staffing requirements and more.
With no income and an air of uncertainty, Rose says she and other writers are scared.
“Our livelihoods are at stake,” Rose said. “I’ve rolled the dice and gambled a lot in my life to be able to do this. I left a whole other career to be able to do this. The idea that it could be taken away is horrifying.”
Behind the picket line
All 11,000 writers in the WGA must participate in the strike or risk losing membership that includes benefits like healthcare, pension and other protections.
Some writers are participating by physically picketing outside studios like Warner Bros. Discovery in Los Angeles, while others are working exclusively outside of writing.
Many writers are out of work altogether.
This is Rose’s first time participating in a writer’s strike — she hadn’t entered entertainment writing at the time of the last strike — and despite being unsure of the future, she and other writers in the union are “galvanized and united.”
“We’re hoping that keeps up. They can’t run this industry without us,” Rose said.
Striking looks different based on the stage of production a show or movie is in. Producer Katori Hall of Starz TV show “P-Valley,” has chosen to delay production.
Another showrunner, Boots Riley, who directed the film “Sorry to Bother You,” said in a tweet that he will cease promotion of an upcoming show set to be released in the summer. One tweet from Riley read:
“These kinds of choices are what much of my work for decades, including this show, is about. More importantly, it’s these kinds of moves that win strikes.”
“It’s f****d up,” Rose said of the situation. “It takes somebody Black so long to get a show on the air and to get things done. For you to come this far and not [be] able to promote your show?”
A rerun of history
The last WGA strike was in 2007 and lasted for 95 days.
Then, WGA’s major concern was the rise of on-demand video and DVD sales’ in place of reruns — a source of money that writers wanted to be compensated for.
The strike concluded with an agreement being reached between the WGA and the AMPTP.
During the strike, however, many popular shows like Lost, Bones and Breaking Bad had their seasons shortened.
In 2023, history is nearly repeating itself.
In addition to wanting regulation for artificial intelligence, writers also want fair compensation from streaming platforms. “The studios are trying to convince folks that streaming isn’t profitable, which is complete bulls**t,” Rose said.
Rose said the ramifications of the writers’ strike are more dire than people may realize. “People are losing their jobs,” she said. “People are going to feel it economically. It’s not a joke.”
Rose also told QCity Metro that there is a strike fund for people in “immediate danger” regarding income. “Most people are like me, living off their savings, but I don’t want to deplete my savings,” She said.
Rose, a former respiratory therapist, said she’s even considering returning to her previous career in healthcare to make ends meet.
A 2022 article from California Local showed that the entertainment industry generated over $200 billion in 2020.
“I think it is unfortunate that because we work in entertainment, and because we’re living our dreams and because we are writers, that people look at it as, you know, not — to a certain degree –, not having a real job. And it’s really a job, trust me,” Rose said.
She described being on set for 12 hours, five days a week while working on-site in Los Angeles. “I’ve sat in the woods shooting with an episode all night long,” Rose said.
Rose told QCity Metro that without writers on set and productions halted, other entertainment workers like actors and crew are also out of work
‘Absolutely’ worth it
Rose said the writers and others supporting the strike have done a lot of “commiserating and supporting” of each other, but the effects are still evident.
“I’ve been like grossly depressed over this because I’ve worked [so hard] for the last decade or so to get where I am now,” Rose said.
Despite this, when asked if it was all worth it, she responded in just one word: “Absolutely.”
“It’s not a lot that we’re asking. We’re just asking to have a secure future. That’s it,” Rose said. She added that if the strikes don’t produce the WGA’s desired outcomes, the consequences would go beyond bad television, but that television could become “a different medium” entirely.
“Artists are workers,” Rose said. “Look around you…artists made everything…they designed, they wrote, they sang, they acted. That is work. We deserve to become compensated as such.”