From the Outside Looking In: On Navigating Hollywood’s Double Strikes

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) have reached a tentative agreement on a new three-year contract. While it now needs to go to a ratification vote, the 148-day long WGA strike — the second longest in the union’s history — has come to an end.

Before I go any further, let me comment by saying that I find it interesting that the members of the AMPTP were so set on having this agreement done by Yom Kippur. For those who don’t know, it’s the second of the two holidays that make up the High Holy Days in the Jewish faith. It’s known as the Day of Atonement, as it’s meant to be used as a time of self-reflection and to seek forgiveness for wrongdoings over the past year. Well, I hope those of the AMPTP who observe the holiday realize that the only way they can receive anything resembling forgiveness by both the WGA and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) is to give them the protections and pay they rightfully deserve, and that means also making a deal with the latter union in the very near future. Until then, please consider making a donation to the Entertainment Community Fund.

I strongly believe that if the past few years of living through a pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we only have one life to live, and shouldn’t settle for less. The fact that there have been so many strikes popping up both in and even outside of the entertainment industry is not surprising to me.

It’s been said that everyone — whether working in the industry or not — would be affected by the strikes, although that’s coming from the angle of consumers, whose favorite shows and highly anticipated films have been delayed in production. Little did I realize nearly five months ago how much these strikes would affect me, both as an upcoming screenwriter and as an entertainment writer.

I’m not a member of the WGA, though I would like to be someday. But in a show of solidarity as current members took to the picket lines, I kind of had to act like I was one already. To me, that meant holding off on submitting to competitions and fellowships, no commissions to write or consult any screenplays, not speaking about my previous work as a consultant on a project I worked on last year, etc. There have been so many rules to keep in mind throughout all this, and there were some cases where I wasn’t sure if I would be accidentally breaking the rules. I’m about to start in the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting, and I had contacted the WGA legal department to see if it was okay for me to even apply and to enroll if I got accepted.

So there were already a lot of mental gymnastics I was doing to stand in solidarity with the WGA alone, yet when SAG-AFTRA went on strike in mid-July, at first, I naively thought that I wouldn’t be affected, beyond my position as a consumer. I quickly was proven wrong, as I write this piece for the entertainment-focused outlet that is The Nerds of Color. With the SAG-AFTRA strike, there have been no interviews coming in with actors, no press junkets, and although the rules say it’s okay to talk about the latest shows and films for the likes of podcasts and reviews, I’ve just been hesitant to do so, again as an aspiring WGA member. It’s why I’ve been much more selective in recent time about what I’ve written about for The Nerds of Color; often opting for writing about content coming out of non-struck companies or not even having to do with film or television at all.

There has been a lot of caution and thought that have gone into standing in solidarity with both unions, and trust me when I say that if it weren’t for the fact that I’m based in the San Francisco Bay Area, I would have long since participated in a picket line or two. I also bear in mind though that what I have been through is nothing compared to the friends and acquaintances I have who actually are part of the two unions and how they’ve been affected by the strikes going on for as long as they have. As a result, some have had projects cancelled and others haven’t been able to promote any projects that have come out within this time. Thankfully, none that I know of have been in the position of having to sell their homes, but knowing that there are people who have, I sympathize with them.

To think that all of this — the mental gymnastics, the financial and career consequences of it all — could have been avoided, if the AMPTP would stop being so greedy, over demands that are completely doable. While the strikes may be nearing the end, it’s fair to say they’re not off the hook. Referring back to Yom Kippur, if it’s forgiveness they hope to seek from all this, then they must realize that that comes in waves.

I hope that the deals that come out of this will summon a new era for the industry of much needed change. As someone who’s up and coming, I will always stand with the unions who’ve fought so hard for this moment. They’re doing the work to implement deals that will already be set by the time I arrive.

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