The Writers Guild of America is currently on strike, demanding improved compensation and protection against the use of AI writing programs. The duration and potential impact of the strike remain uncertain, given that the 2007 strike lasted 100 days and led to numerous series being canceled or shortened. Walt Disney Studios is anxiously looking on, hoping to avoid disaster, especially for the already struggling streaming platform Disney+.
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The Hollywood Reporter recently found a memo sent to Disney showrunners that indicates Disney is trying to combat any potential impact to shows as a result of the writers strike. In the letter, Disney demanded that show runners return to work regardless of their WGA affiliation. Many show runners hold what is referred to as a “hyphenated position” meaning they are writer-producer writer-director etc. It is these employees Disney has summoned back to the studio.
The letter, written by ABC’s Assistant Chief Counsel Bob McPhail, states,
“We want specifically to reiterate to you as a showrunner or other writer-producer that you are not excused from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike. Your personal services agreement with [the] Studio requires that you perform your showrunner and/or producing duties even if the WGA attempts to fine you for performing such services during the strike. Your duties as a showrunner and/or producer are not excused, suspended or terminated until and unless you are so notified in writing by the Studio.”
In a Q&A portion on the letter the studio stated they do not expect writing to be performed during the strike but that other duties are required of them including “A through H” work. “A through H” work includes tasks like cutting for time, small changes to dialogue or narration made before or during production, and changes in technical or stage directions. This however would violate the WGA’s workstoppage guidelines that specifically state that A through H work cannot be performed during the strike.
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An article from Collider editorialized the letter stating that “Most writers in the industry can’t afford their rent every month as it is. They rarely get the credit they deserve and film as an art form is being threatened by AI.” Disney, it seems, doesn’t care that writers who cannot pay their rent get fined as long as they return to work.
The full letter can be viewed here: