Studios such as Disney and Warner Bros. Studios are starting to demand that writers must perform non-writing duties and may have to act against their guild’s own mandates during the writers strike.
Writers Guild of America Writers Strike
This week, Disney and Warner Bros. Studios sent out a letter to showrunners employed by its various studios. The purpose of the letter was to remind the writers and producers on strike that they are still contractually obligated to perform their non-writing services.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the letter from the legal department of ABC Signature — owned by Disney — says:
“We want to specifically reiterate to you as a showrunner or other writer-producer that you are not excused from performing your duties as a showrunner and/or producer on your series as a result of the WGA strike. Your personal services agreement with [the] Studio requires that you perform your showrunner and/or producing duties even if the WGA attempt to fine you for performing such services during this strike…Your duties as a showrunner and/or producer are not excused, suspended, or terminated until and unless you are so notified in writing by the Studio.”
The letter was written by the assistant chief counsel for the Disney-owned ABC Signature, Bob McPhail. We also noticed that the date on the letter was May 3 , which was the second day of the Writer’s Guild of America’s strike.
Writers have been on strike in Los Angeles and New York since May 2 and are seeking increased wage floors, viewership transparency from streamers, and protections against the use of artificial intelligence, among other issues.
They spent six weeks negotiating with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount, and Sony under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP).
In a statement provided to Deadline, the AMPTP said they “presented a comprehensive package proposal to the Guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.”
The letter from Disney also features a Q&A that informs show runners that they are required to perform duties that are not in line with the guidance provided by the WGA to its near 11,500 striking members.
The letter specifically states that showrunner and/or writer-producers, “may, along with other non-writing services, be required to perform services commonly referred to as ‘a. through h.’ services as a producer.”
According to the Q&A part of the document, the “a. through h.” services include: cutting for time, assignment of lines to other existing characters occasioned by cast changes, instructions, directions, or suggestions, whether oral or written, made to writer regarding story or screenplay, and more.
The WGA Strike rules strongly forbid union members from performing the aforementioned duties during the strike. “The Rules prohibit hyphenates (members who are employed in dual capacities) from performing any writing services, including the ‘(a) through (h)’ functions.” This puts showrunners and writer-producers in a very difficult position.
The second season of the Disney + series “Star Wars: Andor” is expected to resume despite the writers’ strike. According to Variety:
“Similarly, while “Andor” executive producer Tony Gilroy is not on set and no longer writing — scripts were locked in before the strike — sources say he is still working as a producer on specific, non-writing elements like casting and scoring for the Disney + show.”
“Andor” began production back in November 2022, so there’s a good chance that much of the filming has already been completed.
Below, is a copy of the letter, including the Q&A section from ABC Signature:
What do you think of the recent developments in the Writers Strike? Let us know in the comments.