Citing late payments and a general feeling that giving away some rewrite work for free is necessary to compete, the latest WGA survey shows that writers are more than a bit unhappy. The survey, which is done anonymously for protective reasons, caused the WGA to say that “screenwriters believe their status in the industry has significantly deteriorated over the past several years,” in a recent letter to union members following the results.
According to Variety, feature film earnings in 2011 dropped 12.6% to a total $349.1m and employment figures dropped by 8.1% to a total of 1,562 writers employed.
Whether or not this lays the groundwork for a new strike is unclear. The 2008 strike focused greatly on payment shares for the burgeoning digital market, but widespread difficulty in securing meaningful work is undoubtedly a more strident reason to renegotiate terms or, if need be, to threaten to stop work. Yes, a strike would affect the entire industry all the way down the line. Even if these conditions are a result of the natural belt-tightening done by the major studios – notably focusing on tentpoles instead of middle-budget features – they all must remember that, without a script, there is no movie.
View the entire survey via LA Times (opens as a PDF).