For the non-writers outside of the Hollywood sphere, there’s been a change happening lately that’ll likely impact how your favorite shows are made. Last month, the ATA (Association of Talent Agents) failed to update its policies in accordance with their contract with the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America), which expired on April 7th. As a result, the WGA asked its members to fire their agents if they did not comply with the WGA’s demands of a change of contract, which has to deal with how agents are paid via staffing and payments of their clients.
And now, going on over a month long, there seems to be no end of the WGA-ATA strife. But ever since, there seems to have been a resurgence in the writing community. Now that a staggering 92% of WGA writers have fired their agents, there’s been a cultural shift in how Hollywood writers have been handling themselves, in that the walls between them are crumbling. Now, for a brief moment in the 80-summat years it has existed, all writers in Hollywood, no matter how high or low level they may be, have found themselves on an equal playing field. The middle man has finally been (temporarily at least) cut out. Now, all writers from across the Hollywood spectrum are helping each other out in any way they can.
But there is one tool that has had the most success in helping writers getting other writers jobs: Twitter. Ever since the missed deadline of the contract renewal, Twitter has been ground-zero for writers’ resurgence through the use of hashtags like #IStandWithWGA and #WGAStaffingBoost. Now, showrunners, producers, and executives are using Twitter as the go-to source for finding new, un-represented, and starving writers for work.
This want for new and un-represented talent on the social media platform has also graced a new path for what writers are calling “grids” that are being passed around on Twitter. These grids focus on niche writers of diverse backgrounds, such as the Write Women list, the Black Book List, and the La Lista list. Now that the walls between represented and un-represented writers have fallen, these have been the go-to source for showrunners trying to hire staff writers.
Not only that, but Twitter has also been the medium for recommendations. Based on the grids passed around, high level showrunners have been tweeting out recs for other writers, commenting on their scripts and exposing them to other high-level writers on the web. It’s probably the first time I’ve ever seen Twitter turn its tide in favor of support of others rather than running on its usual economy of hate.
But the absolute special outcome of this whole WGA-ATA debacle are the WGA mixers that are being held throughout Los Angeles. Conducted via Twitter and Facebook event pages, writers both WGA and non-WGA, high-level and low-level, have been gathering at bars, venues, and other social hubs to connect, chat, and trade information. That’s not to say that one will come out with a job at the end of one of these events, but its purpose is to foster and grow relationships with other writers who could possibly aid you further down the road in your career, especially since most of these events are run by WGA members themselves.
But it begs the questions, what’s next for the WGA? Certainly from the out-pouring of support on Twitter and from these mixers, this WGA-ATA disagreement is no longer temporary, but the result of a deep conflict that has started long ago and finally boiled over, and has yet to be resolved. Isn’t this what caused the formation of industry guilds in the first place? To ensure their members were safe from abuse?
So what will come of it? Will agencies start asking their agents to no longer package deals with un-represented writers? Will the writers that are still represented eventually abandon their agents altogether? Leading to an industry future where TV agents are no longer necessary, but studios are still staffing writers at the same rate? Or will this be another repeat of the 2007-08 WGA strike?
It all depends if agencies are willing to cooperate and yield to the writers’ demands of equal pay and fair treatment. It’s taken many years and many strifes between them to finally reach the point where we are today, to realize that an ultimatum is required to truly settle this conflict.
But until then, what’s grown out of this struggle is that the soul and heart of Hollywood is finally beginning to show. Finally the bureaucracy of the industry is starting to become transparent, and the morality of the business is now ever more apparent.