The writers’ strike continues, while the Directors’ Guild is currently in closed-door talks with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and SAG-AFTRA is gearing up for a strike authorization from its 160,000+ members. June is going to be a VERY active month on the strike front, as both the DGA’s and SAG-AFTRA’s current contracts with AMPTP come to an end.
Worst case scenario from a labor standpoint is that DGA and SAG get what they’re asking for, leaving the writers out in the cold—notable because all three guilds are asking for essentially the same thing: living wages, restored residuals from streamers, contractual protections for length and type of employment, protections against AI replacement in their fields. (Why anyone wants art created by computers, I will never understand.)
The best-case scenario from a labor standpoint is that everyone ends up on strike, forcing AMPTP to deal with everyone and everything at once, and since there is so much overlap in the improvements the guilds want, it would be the strongest possible collective bargaining position. But everyone is super suspicious about the DGA negotiations since they’ve instituted a media blackout on covering their ongoing talks this month. Rumor has it, though, that the DGA talks are more productive than the WGA talks were. I really wonder what happens to the industry, which relies so heavily on collaboration, if one guild gets their ask but others don’t. It would sort of look like hanging your fellow collaborators out to dry.
And collaboration is the theme today, since Colin Farrell turned up at a picket line in New York yesterday, showing SAG support for the WGA alongside Michael Kelly. He emphasized how vital writers are to the creative process, saying, “For twenty-five years I’ve made a living, provided for my family off the backs of the creativity of writers.”
â€œFor 25 years Iâ€™ve made a living and provided for my family off the backs of the creativity of writersâ€¦ itâ€™s unfair whatâ€™s going onâ€¦ they are the genesis of all that we doâ€ â€“ Colin Farrell says alongside Michael KellyÂ at the Times Square rally today #WritersStrike pic.twitter.com/0fCGR4cAuE— Deadline Hollywood (@DEADLINE) May 25, 2023
None of this exists without writers! And no, AI cannot write scripts. Have you actually READ anything written by an AI program? I have, and no matter how solid it starts, it inevitably turns into nonsense. And AI is, currently, incapable of producing original ideas. There is a fear, totally valid, frankly, that studios will force writers to “edit” scripts generated by AI, thus further devaluing the labor of writers.
But there is a critical issue with that—AI can only generate “ideas” based on material fed into its algorithm, and right now, what is going into those algorithms is largely copyrighted material. It’s inevitable we’re going to end up with a high-profile intellectual property lawsuit over creative works being stolen to “train” AI, and it will probably end with a ruling that leads to the current generation of AI “creative” programs being shut down.
And yes, AI recycling copyrighted material into “new” ideas is different from a writer being hired to script a remake/reboot or sequel. In the case of the remake, the studio is commissioning their own IP to be updated, they are going to directly profit from the effort. In the case of AI generating a script after being trained on copyrighted material, the person who created the material that “taught” the algorithm is not compensated. It’s that simple. Until the AI companies start paying the people they’re ripping off, it’s an IP nightmare waiting to happen. There’s already a group of artists suing an AI firm for stealing their images to train an AI.
Anyway, Comrade Colin lays it out perfectly in his brief remarks on the picket line. The corporations are getting richer, but the writers are being pushed out of their own industry, and that’s not fair. Again, they’re not asking to get rich, they’re asking to be able to make a living coming up with the ideas that drive Hollywood.
At present, and likely for the mid-range future, there is no replacement for human endeavor in the creative arts. If we want movies and TV shows to watch, books to read, podcasts and audio plays to listen to, we need writers who can support themselves while creating these works. Otherwise, Hollywood really will be nothing but rich nepo babies.
Live long and gossip,