If you’re in the entertainment industry, you know the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) went on strike last week. This week, the DGA, or the Director’s Guild of America, is set to start their negotiations for a new contract.
So, let’s take a look first at what the writers want.
Well, money, of course, for starters.
That’s how all negotiations start, right?
The WGA says that although there are more jobs for writers these days, with so many streaming platforms popping up every day, accounting for inflation, writer pay has gone down in the last five years. Also, 10 years ago 33% of TV writers were paid the minimum rate, while today, 49% are, which means that many writers are complaining that they aren’t even making a living wage and it’s affecting their pension plans and health funds.
Residuals have always been how writers make ends meet in-between shows, and for some hit shows, it can also mean huge paydays. But streaming platforms don’t share viewership data and also don’t sell their show elsewhere. So residuals have been far and few in-between. In fact, I was listening to the “Happier in Hollywood” podcast, and where the two hosts, Sarah Fain and Liz Craft, talked about staying on broadcast or network shows, for this very reason. So, in order to get around the fact that streaming services don’t pay residuals afterwards, the WGA is asking for more money upfront.
In these last 10 years, maybe more, I believe every industry has seen more work and less pay. Many times when companies lay off staff, they collapse roles, in order to save money, which means that one person is working twice, three times or even sometimes 10x as hard as they were before.
This has definitely been true for TV writer rooms. In recent years, writers have seen a rising practice of “mini rooms,” where a smaller group of writers are staffed for development, before a show is greenlight, which means that these writers are not getting the WGA protections. They’re often overworked and understaffed. Also, after the show gets greenlit, then sometimes those same writers don’t get to continue to work on the main show, cutting their WGA benefits, as well as their pay, of course.
TV shows in the past, like “Friends,” a “season” can be 22 to 25 episodes, and so writers signing exclusivity contracts makes sense. These days, a show may get picked up for 6-8 episodes, until it proves itself to be popular and sustainable. So, a writer signing a long-term exclusivity contract, really limits their ability to work and make a living.
CHAT GPT AND OTHER AI TOOLS FOR WRITING
The last main point of the WGA contract looks at whether producers will use AI to write scripts or try to complete unfinished screenplays.
AS A FINANCIAL COACH AND NEGOTIATION EXPERT…
Although I’m not a writer in the WGA, I stand behind them and support them, as a negotiation expert, and as a financial wellness coach. These negotiations are about setting themselves up for a financially free future, and that’s what I want for these writers, and really, for everyone.
It’s important that we protect our livelihood, our creativity, and our ability to earn money, as artists, especially in an industry where work and pay may be more inconsistent than in a more corporate type of environment.
However, just know that even in a more corporate type of environment, nothing is ever guaranteed, and it’s up to you to negotiate for yourself, hold your boundaries, and really know that you are the only one there who has your best interest at heart because only you know what you need and want.
I also want to bring up that even with a contract in place at the WGA, it doesn’t mean that you don’t still need to protect yourself. I heard from several members of the Financial Freedom for Creatives Club last week about bad managers who gaslit them in various ways. And that’s the kind of stuff that these negotiations can’t protect you from. They don’t want to lose their jobs or they don’t want to be perceived as being a “problem,” so they just put up with it. And you know what? This is the reason we are building towards having financial freedom, so that you can walk away from a bad situation.
On my social media last week when the strike started, that’s worth repeating…
So, how do you navigate your finances during a strike and when you're out of work?
Well, it may seem counterintuitive, but I want you to expand rather than contract!
Let me explain.
Our instinct when we are not bringing in money, is to cut back on everything.
However, cutting back too much leads to feelings of scarcity, and being in survival mode actually doesn't help our nervous system or body to feel safe enough to get out there, to picket, to be creative, or even to get out of bed.
So, I want you to start thinking about ways you can have a bigger life, even without spending a lot of money.
What puts you into the flow? What's fun and playful, something you love to do that doesn't have a "purpose?"
For me, it's music. That morning, I put on Harry Styles' latest album and listened and danced around to "As It Was," and "Daylight."
I feel like I've already won the day.
Before I decided I wanted to be a financial coach, I had interviewed about 20 of my friends, and something that came up over and over again was…
"You’re good with your money and when you’re not working, you don’t seem worried about it. How do you do it?"
Well, it’s what I’ve done these last couple of weekends – I’ve immersed myself in art and culture.
I experienced the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibit, “King Pleasure L.A.,” and I attended my friend Karole Foreman’s Broadway musical, “1776,” at the Ahmanson Theater, and saw my friend’s partner, Eternal Mind’s one-man show, “Nobody Knows My Name” at Solo Fest.
Each cost under $40. I remember whenever I didn’t work, as a TV producer, I would go to happy hours with my friends, where we could eat and drink cheaply. I would take long walks, explore the L.A. neighborhoods I lived in, hiked Runyon or down to Sturtevant Falls, and still enjoy my life.
For more ways to thrive after a job loss, I'm co-hosting a retreat with filmmaker, television producer, Executive Coach and Grief Recovery Specialist Laverne McKinnon over Memorial Day weekend (the last weekend of May).
We are going to help you to feel more expansive after a job loss by grieving, releasing, embodying and celebrating. By the end of the 3 days, you'll feel like you've found peace and purpose! For more details and to sign up, click below.
With Love & Gratitude,