Incredible Hollywood Writers say live broadcasting broke the career ladder

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Ronald D. Moore began his television writing career in 1989 at an entry-level job on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” before moving up the ranks to produce hits like “Battlestar Galactica.” and “Outlander”.

That path to success is hard to find in Hollywood today, say Moore and other writers, and is one of the reasons the Writers Guild of America (WGA) called the strike that began May 2 shutting down late-night television and threatening to undermine the crucial fall TV season. .

“If I were starting today, it would be much harder work than when I started my career,” said Moore, 58, as I sat outside Comcast Corp. (CMCSA.O)’s Universal Studios in Burbank, California.

How to train and support a new generation of writers is a sticking point in contract negotiations between the WGA, which represents 11,500 film and television writers, and major Hollywood studios. Both sides agree that the changes brought about by the broadcast television revolution have reduced opportunities to work on sets and see first-hand how television is made.

A decade ago when radio shows dominated television, seasons usually lasted 22 episodes. After writing one or two, shooting would begin and the writing team would go to the set to help with rewrites and production. Eventually, they could work their way up to running their own series.

Netflix Inc (NFLX.O) and other streaming services have begun crafting shorter series in “Little Rooms” with fewer writers. For a streaming show, 10 to 12 episodes are written in one go, and many writers are fired before shooting begins.

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John August, a member of the WGA negotiation team, said that while cutting their potential salaries, “it also limits the experience levels of these writers.” “They won’t learn how to put on a show.”

cooperation with actors

Writers often rework scripts during production for various reasons. An outdoor scene, for example, can be moved indoors due to bad weather, necessitating changes, said Kristin Chambers, writer for Boardwalk Empire. Input from actors can lead to revisions.

“Having the ability to talk to the actors changes the script,” Chambers said. “Suddenly I see something from (the actor’s) point of view. It’s a collaboration.”

Hollywood studios put forward a proposal to help clerks at the start of their careers. They suggested that the showrunner identify a promising writer to bring to the set, similar to the Directors Guild of America program, according to a source familiar with the talks. The younger writer will receive a salary.

However, the WGA is seeking a minimum of six television writers per series, half of whom are employed throughout production. For studios, this requirement is impractical and can lead to writers being paid for months while they wait for shooting to begin.

said the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the group that negotiates on behalf of The Walt Disney Company (DIS.N), Universal, Netflix and other studios.

“It’s actually an employment quota that doesn’t align with the creative nature of our industry,” AMPTP added.

The studios offered wage increases and residual payments to address complaints that writers work more and earn less, and that compensation is not high enough for many writers to earn a living wage in New York and Los Angeles.

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The WGA is asking for larger pay increases than the studios have proposed and bonuses for writers with more experience.

The WGA said half of all writers are now working at minimum salary levels. “Companies have turned the ladder of book economic success into a rolling chair,” said Chris Keyser, co-chair of the WGA’s Negotiating Committee.

On the picket lines, aspiring writers like 25-year-old Carrie Smith joined WGA members, hoping to help the union secure a deal on better terms to help them build a career.

“I want to be part of the fight for a better future,” Smith said while holding a Writers Guild of America on Strike sign. “You can’t climb a broken ladder.”

(Reporting by Lisa Richwin) Editing by Mary Milliken and Diane Kraft

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