Anyone on social media or the news has likely heard of the 2023 Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike. This demonstration since May 2 has had TV writers stepping away from creating content, while getting out in the streets to protest entertainment industry practices that put writers in a tough position.
Like any strike, it can be hard to understand the depth of the problem or the nuances of proposed solutions. But this is an important topic; Not only do most people benefit from the work of TV writers (who create what almost everyone uses to unwind at some point in their week), but the conversations occurring tackle subjects that apply to workers in many more industries, especially as AI content proliferates.
The ATX Television Festival (June 1-4) is making sure Austinites have local access to this discourse, using its "Season 12" programming as a platform for some of the WGA leaders to explain their goals and concerns. A panel conversation will cover what problems writers have been seeing in their daily work, what changes they want to see, and what this means for non-writers.
Perhaps most importantly, this will become a tactical conversation not just about creative rights, but what a strike can achieve, and how. (WGA Negotiating Committee member Adam Conover of Adam Ruins Everything briefly explains the logistics on YouTube, with a hopeful spin and some strong language.)
Panelists will include Zoanne Clack, Damon Lindelof, and Julie Plec of WGA West, plus Negotiating Committee member Greg Iwinski of the WGA East. Beau Willimon of WGA East will moderate the panel.
The WGA's demands, nearly unanimously agreed upon at 98.4 percent approval, are publicly listed and include increases of minimum compensation, adjustment of compensation after writing is finished (in reuse cases and excerpts, for example), and regulation of AI use for producing scripts.
“ATX TV Festival has always been a place of celebration and community," said co-presidents and founders Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson in a statement. "It is where important conversations are had about the history and future of television in a safe and inclusive environment. We will maintain these tenets as we believe education and conversation between both Industry and Consumers are needed now more than ever."
"There wouldn’t be television without writers," the statement continues. "They have always been the rock stars of our festival, and though this year will look a little different, it will continue to be a place to showcase their talents and importance. The stories and characters we care so deeply about would not exist without them, and neither would this festival.”
Being careful not to figuratively cross the picket line, the festival has cleared the rest of the programming with the WGA, adding and removing coverage as necessary. It has also been sure to include content that focuses on a writer's experience outside the strike conditions, such as the panel “Why Do You Write?” The programming track "Hollywood, Health and Society" steps away from show business itself to discuss "social issues in storytelling."
Finally, the festival's sponsored pitch competition is still on the books, even though pitching shows is currently barred as part of the strike. In this case, the goal is not to sell any shows, but to receive feedback from mentors, inclduign other writers, showrunners, and producers. Hopefully, this advice can be applied in the future when participants return to business as usual — or rather, business in a whole new way.
More information, tickets, and badges are now available at atxfestival.com.
Clarification on added and canceled programming, from the announcement in its original language:
- WGA on Strike!
- Beyond the Page
- Why Do You Write?
- Queer Stories We Want To See
- …The End Programming
Please Note: These members of the WGA support and believe in their series and teams, but stand with the WGA at this time and will not be attending.
- Late Night with Seth Meyers
- Andor: A Conversation with Tony Gilroy
- Tiny Beautiful Things with Liz Tigelaar and Cheryl Strayed
- Dawson’s Creek 25th Anniversary Screening & Conversation