BU Film & TV Professors and Student react to the end of WGA’s Strike
October 11, 2023
Ninety-nine percent of members who cast ballots in the Writers Guild of America (WGA) voted to ratify WGA’s deal on Monday, October 9, officially ending one of Hollywood’s longest strikes. Faculty and students in Boston University’s Film & TV department reacted with both celebration and fearful anticipation.
WGA settled on the contract with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the union for major streaming services like Netflix and Disney.
“I think they could’ve been settled months earlier. I think that the AMPTP was dragging their feet, trying to hold writers,” Don Daniel, a lecturer in Film & TV said.
Daniel, a longtime producer and production manager, protested outside of the Nickerson Field during BU’s graduation last May. During Warner Bros. CEO David Zaslav’s commencement speech, students booed while crowds picketed outside the ceremony. After discussing the protest in an online faculty forum, Daniel was surprised to see how few faculty members showed up to protest.
Screenwriter-turned-professor Adam Lapidus said that he decided not to picket because he didn’t want to overshadow the graduation of students and family, but he was still proud of those who did picket. Lapidus was a writer for a multitude of sitcoms, including “Full House,” “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” and “Jessie.”
Instead, Lapidus picketed with his daughter in L.A. in August — this recent strike was Lapidus’ third. Lapidus described how he was surprised by the energy and camaraderie between the actors and writers and was proud to see his daughter leading while they picketed.
“It was very strange picketing with my daughter. I wasn’t even married in my second strike. She was probably in middle school, and suddenly, she’s out there and she’s a strike captain,” Lapidus said. “That gave it a whole new meaning too.”
As a current member of the Director’s Guild of America (DGA), Daniel was motivated to protest after hearing a statement from one of the members of the AMPTP.
“One of the higher-ups said, ‘We’ll wait the writers out until they start losing their homes, and then they’ll settle over this.’ Pretty nasty thing to say. When that was said, I had no choice but to picket,” Daniel said.
Now, the WGA has negotiated a three-year deal with AMPTP with promises of raising writer salaries and agreeing to only use writers for screenplay and teleplay. No artificial intelligence would be used to generate scripts. Additionally, streaming services now must disclose viewership data. Writers will be rewarded with bonuses accordingly.
Both the actors’ and writers’ strike have left a long lasting impact on workers in the industry financially. For example, Professor of Screen Language Ernest Pouttu explains that two of his projects were postponed due to the WGA and actors strike, and these projects may not be continued further.
Pouttu stated that film projects and regular commercial gigs were halted, affecting thousands of people with jobs in tech, camera work, boom operating and more.
“A lot of people depend on those gigs being there all the time, because they’re not going to their nine to five job. So, you take that away, and people are struggling. Luckily, I teach, and I’ve saved money over the years, and I can take time off and be selective on my projects, but a lot of people don’t have that luxury,” Pouttu said.
While the strike has finally ended, Pouttu still believes that the film industry is in a state of “crisis.”
“The problem is the rate at which [workers] are getting paid. And, I have a feeling that costs are going to continue to be cut as much as possible,” Pouttu said.
Second-year Film & TV student Fadekemi Ademola has also expressed her concerns about the future of the film industry.
“A worry for almost every film or art major, or any person doing anything like a performance or creative arts field, is that they’re not going to be compensated enough for their work, because art is something that’s generally not valued enough in society,” Ademola said. “So, I’m very concerned for the future of writing, especially with the advent of AI.”
With A.I. at the forefront of many concerns, many have seen WGA’s contract as a ‘blueprint’ for saving jobs from A.I., while others argue that the advancement of AI will inevitably kill off more jobs in the film industry.
Lapidus believes that A.I. was never a huge issue during the negotiations. Rather, Lapidus was more concerned with the basic needs for writers, including pension and healthcare.
Lapidus also stated how this year’s strike had a greater resonance with the public due to the actor’s strike coinciding with the writer’s strike.
“When you have famous writers in line, no one cares. But when you suddenly see the cast… people say, ‘Oh I love that actor. I love that person,’ and they have a personal connection with them,” Lapidus said. “I think it humanized what we were going on strike for.”
Overall, the BU professors agreed that the film industry has shifted, making it harder to earn a living due to streaming.
“Just know that we will always go on strike. I’m very proud of the guild. I think it was done for a good cause, and I think it turned out well,” Lapidus said. “I just feel the studios are unfortunately getting more and more greedy. I think my overall take is this is the first time I’ve been on strike where I felt the companies devalued what we did.”