A division of The Walt Disney Company will reportedly stop hiring “woke” writers and producers in response to changes brought about by the new agreement made between Hollywood’s writers and studios.
The End of the Writers’ Strike
Members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on strike on May 2, 2023, as writers became increasingly concerned over issues surrounding their compensation, as well as the prevalence of the use of alternatives to their own writing.
But it would be a record 146 days before members of the guild and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) would finally come to an agreement on the terms of a new three-year contract that specifically addressed issues including better benefits and better pay, as well as terms that protect writers as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is on the rise and could threaten the livelihood of writers, artists, actors, and other creative people in Hollywood.
But according to Ben Campbell, a reporter at Screengawk, the terms of the new three-year contract “could change everything for writers, as well as for the studios,” and Disney’s Marvel Studios is reportedly already speaking out about changes to be implemented in the studio’s hiring practices.
Marvel’s Already Making Changes?
Marvel Studios reportedly has plans for a complete restructuring of its television division–a restructuring that could look very different from Marvel’s current practices.
“This apparent restructuring could mean eliminating diversity hires and a stronger focus on the individual’s experience, skillset, and salary requirements,” Campbell claims. And while the potential changes in Marvel Studios’ hiring practices correlate to the new agreement in place as part of the Writers’ Guild strike and associated negotiations with the AMPTP, they could also easily be due in part to Marvel’s current struggles.
“[Marvel] has had several failed TV shows on its streaming site, Disney+,” Campbell writes, “and they know it’s taking a toll on the company.”
While Campbell touts the fame and undeniable success of many a Marvel movie within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Iron Man, and others, he points out that the studio seems to have difficulty when it comes to figuring out how to make a television series that garners similar success. The reporter describes Marvel’s current attempts at getting back to the glory of its films as “desperate.”
In an interview with CNBC, Disney CEO Bob Iger blamed Marvel Studios’ overwhelming amount of streaming content for recent “disappointments.” Iger conceded that the studio left the audience’s expectations in a state of disarray by offering so much content at one time.
“[Marvel Studios] had not been in the TV business at any significant level,” Iger told CNBC’s David Farber. “Not only did they increase their movie output, but they ended up making a number of television series, and frankly, it diluted focus and attention. That is, I think, more of the cause than anything.”
It isn’t an actor problem. Or a writer problem. Or a studio issue. It’s the problem of too much content.
In response, Campbell suggests that Marvel was already planning a major restructuring within its television division long before the writers’ strike rather than in response to it. However, he notes that Disney now claims that the changes are based on the developments and outcome of the WGA strike.
A New Contract Changes Everything
In September, the WGA and AMPTP finally came to an agreement in the form of a deal they called the Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA). The agreement addresses WGA members’ demands for better compensation and benefits, as well as improved working conditions, the enforcement of certain contracts, and the use of literary material and artificial intelligence. It also addresses residual payments for writers in Hollywood.
“So essentially,” Campbell writes, “members of the WGA got almost everything they wanted when the strike began, and studios are going to have to change the way they compensate, hire, and contract screenwriters for every film and TV show produced.”
The new agreement (MBA) states that every showrunner has to be a union writer. It also states that the showrunner has increased power when it comes to selecting and hiring a staff of writers. This, according to Campbell, means that Marvel will have far less decision-making ability when it comes to choosing writers who will create the stories within their films and television series.
As such, Marvel reportedly has a plan in place to account for that loss of control.
Marvel’s Plan to Counter the Negative Effects of the Agreement
According to Campbell, Marvel plans to focus heavily on higher-quality content. Rather than spending time making pilots to test with audiences, the studio will instead approve new series, write new series, and produce new series–all with no audience input ahead of a release. Since there will be far less proverbial room for error, Marvel will be forced to hire only experienced writers and producers.
Campbell suggests that such pressure on Marvel to hire only the best of the best will ultimately result in the studio’s abandonment of a focus on diversity in age, background, gender, or ethnicity when it comes to hiring new writers, as they will most likely be laser-focused on hiring only those writers and producers who already have successful television shows to their credit.
Marvel’s Television Future Remains Uncertain . . . For Now
The new writers’ agreement calls for the union showrunner to do the hiring, so Marvel will only be tasked with bringing on the initial showrunners–those who are also laser-focused on selecting the absolute best, most experienced, and most successful writers in the business.
Though the agreement between Hollywood studios’ writers and the AMPTP is set in stone at this time–at least for the next three years–it’s unclear whether Marvel’s supposed plans for restructuring will be executed, and until that happens, Marvel may continue seeing a downward trend in the public reception and profitability of its television offerings.