Mandy Patinkin and Lin-Manuel Miranda Want Fair Wages for Writers
Hollywood is a multi-billion dollar industry and, over the past few weeks, the people who write everything that ultimately makes it run (from feature films and TV episodes to broadcast news scripts) are striking for a fair contract and better pay.
On May 2nd, The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) failed to reach an agreement on massive industry issues like streaming residuals, the creation of “mini” writer’s rooms that hire less writers for less money, and the use of AI to write complete scripts. Since the start of the strike, late shows have gone dark and the list of productions that have halted is growing daily. For context, the last such strike was in 2007 and lasted 100 days before a deal was made.
Notoriously, Hollywood is an impossible industry to break into, and the unfair and antiquated systems therein make it even more so. Being part of the WGA (Go Unions! Go healthcare!), I schlepped up to the HBO/Amazon offices with my picket sign. If you’ve ever wanted to see Mandy Patinkin, the entirety of the SNL writer’s room, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the cast of Severance, and an army of MFA graduates walk in a circle for four hours, this was the picket line to be at.
“We’re fighting for fair wages for writers. They’re the ones who make up all the stuff you watch, all the stuff you watched during the pandemic, all the stuff you watch on TV and movies. They don’t get paid like the bosses do, [so] they’re fighting for fair wages.”
“My name is Katie and I’m at the beginning of my career. And I guess when I first started I was kind of like, ‘I’ll accept any deal because I’m just happy to be in the room and I’m just excited to be doing the thing that I want to do the most.’ But being a part of the Guild and being around the writers made me realize that I have to want more, and I need more. And it’s kind of scary to admit that you need more, but it’s the truth, and I’m afraid, but excited by the community that we’re out here supporting.”
“Hey guys, we’re out here striking for fair wages. Ain’t that some shit? It’s 2023.”
“I did standup for 13 years and then I switched to writing when the pandemic hit and it’s really amazing. I haven’t written since high school and I managed to get a series on an indie wrestling streaming service. But you know, if they don’t fix this, my future in this industry almost doesn’t exist. So that’s why I’m here. Woo!”
“Well, we’re all MFA Dramatic Writing students at NYU. Woo! So, as future writers, we wanted to come out and support the union because, I mean, we need fair contracts for the writers now, for the writers in the future, and we just needed to show our support any way that we can because it’s fair contracts!”
“We are actually standing here in solidarity with IATSE [The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees]. We are members of Local 600. I think it’s really important that everyone deserves the pay that they’re asking for. We wouldn’t be working if we didn’t have written shows to work on. And it’s all built with one step at a time. We go into negotiations next year. And everything that happens here will directly impact what we bring to the table.”
“So, back in the day, let’s say you wrote a movie, the movie would have an afterlife. So you’d make a certain amount of money on a movie and then you’d make more in residuals, [if] the movie would go play on network television, which is advertiser-supported, and it would make a lot of money. You would get some money for that. It would then go into a syndication situation and you would make money off syndication. Now, the studio that owns the movie will dump it onto the streaming service that they own. It’ll sit there, and we will get just about nothing for it. I, in fact, had a movie on one of the streamers last year that I had written that ran for, I think, two or three months. And my residuals actually went down, which were already slow to begin with. So the streaming services have taken away what would help us to survive.”
“I’m an actor. And a socialist.”
(President of the New York City Central Labor Council)
“We have over a million unionized workers in this city. They come from construction trade unions, from private sector unions, from public sector unions. You’ve seen the entertainment unions that are out here today. It’s great to see our sisters and brothers from them, staying in solidarity with you. But our promise to you is this, when they think we’re getting weak, when they think that somehow we might back down, we’re here to tell you we’re not. Whether it’s the unions that have been out here already, you hear the teamsters who are coming by in their trucks, we’re going to stand with you every day. This fight is that important. We’re going to do what we have to do to get you a fair contract.”
“What are your thoughts on the writer’s strike?”