AI technology is at the forefront of the latest WGA strike.
Editors note: Jairin Ervin hits us with an opinion piece on the WGA strike.
Hollywood is on strike! At least the writers are, and possibly more to come. As some of you have seen, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been vocal since their contract expired May 1st. It’s been fifteen years since the last WGA strike regarding the “new media” contract and once again they are striking over the same aspect. This time they have another concern they want to address as well; AI. Yes, the fear of artificial intelligence has finally come to Babylon. I remember the days of old when they would make movies about AI taking over the world, but now AI is set on taking over Hollywood. A lot has happened since May so let’s discuss what has and what could happen.
In the old days of writing movies and television, there used to be residuals. So let’s say you wrote an episode of Friends. The writers would script an episode, get paid and then receive additional pay every time that episode aired. It occurred with TV as well as movies. So, when streaming came in the form of “new media” in the strike of 2008, they made a contract that offered more upfront compensation. Which is how the strike was settled then. Now that they know what streaming is, and now that old network TV is dying, writers are needing to be able to establish a better form of income. Because the way of work is changing just like the economy has changed as well.
Writers to go the way of the dodo bird?
With the change of times comes the change in technology which is why AI is such a big topic for writers as well. They want to guarantee their jobs as we all would. We know that capitalism is working on trying to force out the worker with new technology and now writers are facing that same fear. It’s like if you were to go to a restaurant and they have a robot taking your order, a server at that restaurant has lost their job.
Studios are wanting to use AI to generate generic entertainment that they can peddle to the masses. Yes, Hollywood writes procedurals like cop shows, and doctor shows, but at least those are people creating a show. With the new forms of AI, they can use previous shows and material to recycle and reformat them via AI generation into something that will be “watchable”. The possibility is there to hire one or two writers to humanize the material. This practice could essentially kill the entire industry.
Since this is a concern for writers you best believe it’s a concern for all creatives. If the studios can generate a fake story, they can generate fake actors (which they do already in big blockbuster films). Give studios a few years and entire movies could be generated via AI.
What’s at stake?
In addition to the WGA strike, the DGA and SAG contracts expire at the end of June 30th. If both organizations agree to strike as well, it could mean Hollywood would shut down for the first time ever in history! And that would be a truly sad thing for all the hard workers—and consumers—as it would put in jeopardy amazing original content like Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City!
Editor’s note: As of June 26th The Directors Guild of America has ratified a new labor contract. In addition, Deadline reported that SAG-AFTRA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are considering extending negotiations until next week (July 7) or later.
As an old union member myself, I will always be on the side of the worker. The WGA has my full support! We hope to see contracts that will benefit the workers that dedicate their time to our entertainment! We will try to keep you updated if Hollywood does shut down.