The decade's most triggering comedy
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has made some concessions to the demands of WGA in an effort to end the months-long strike. This includes providing streaming viewership data, per Variety. But they have not come to an agreement when it comes to having a set minimum number of writers on every project, regardless of what showrunners determine they need.
The initial stipulation said that TV shows needed a minimum of six to 12 writers depending on the number of episodes in a season. This month the WGA agreed to reduce that number by one writer but would not do away with the idea of writers room minimums.
“Nobody asked for this,” one anonymous showrunner told the outlet. “Every showrunner I know is against this. It doesn’t make sense to anybody.”
“All the showrunners that want a staff should be given a staff. I don’t think it’s important to force those few that don’t want a staff to have a staff,” a writer agreed.
“I don’t need that many writers,” another showrunner said. “I don’t want some people coming in who have been mandated … If I’m forced to hire two or three more people, they will be seen as a burden by other people in the room.”
Some dissenters said the minimums would likely result in “featherbedding,” which involves hiring employees who don’t work to fulfill labor quotas.
One writer said something similar happened to him in the past. “It’s an awful thing to go to work every day and know you’re being paid to sit around and do nothing. It doesn’t actually help your career long-term,” he said. “I think that people think they want these guaranteed jobs. But from my experience, they really don’t. It’s a poisoned chalice.”
Most creators haven’t spoken out publicly about their thoughts on writer minimums. But “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan, who writes all the episodes by himself, did address the concept during a June interview with The Hollywood Reporter.
“The freedom of the artist to create must be unfettered,” the showrunner said. “If they tell me, ‘You’re going to have to write a check for $540,000 to four people to sit in a room that you never have to meet,’ then that’s between the studio and the guild. But if I have to check in creatively with others for a story I’ve wholly built in my brain, that would probably be the end of me telling TV stories.”
Another anonymous showrunner who spoke to Variety said having a mandated number of writers led to a “too many cooks” situation.
“When you think of some of the most creatively daring shows on TV, many of them have been written by a single writer,” the showrunner said. “The more distinct the voice is, the better the show becomes.”
Ultimately, the union members think support for that particular stipulation comes from a fear of losing work. “When all is said and done, the estimates are that the number of working TV writers is probably going to shrink by 30-40%,” the writer who referred to a “poisoned chalice” said.
“People are scared. People who staffed once in 2020 or 2019 and not since are really scared that they’re not going to work again. They’re right to be scared, because it’s a game of musical chairs and people are taking the chairs away. This is being promoted as solution to that. I don’t think it’s viable.”