Early one morning in March, I was at the Holloway House in West Hollywood meeting a writer friend for breakfast. When I arrived the place was empty, but 90 minutes later, it was positively vibrating with anxious energy. Walking to the door on my way out I could hear them, at table after table: my fellow writers. Pitching ideas for TV shows and arcs for feature films to junior executives and studio executives and independent producers. To anyone who might listen and possibly have the power to buy a script. The writers were leaving it all on the dance floor, as if their life—or at least their livelihood—depended on it.
If you’ve ever watched an American feature film or scripted television show or laughed at a late-night comic’s jokes, you’ve encountered work from members of the Writers Guild of America, the collective that represents entertainment writers’ interests. On Monday, the guild’s contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers—the association that represents streaming platforms and television networks—is set to expire. Writers, who have watched their income erode during the “streaming wars,” are prepared to strike if they don’t get some of what they want at the bargaining table.