Strikes for fair pay could lead to a rut or unoriginal media
Opinion by Frankie Spiller
Writer’s strikes are nothing new. In 1959, the organization known as the Writers Guild of America (WGA), went on a six-month strike in order to gain health and pension plans and the right to residuals (money for shows and films that have already been released). In 1988, the WGA went on strike once more in order to gain monetary rights from newer technological advances in home entertainment at the time, like VHS tapes.
Most recently, according to The Hollywood Reporter, in 2007 and 2008, there was a 100-day strike for writers to earn money from their shows and films being bought and sold online and through streaming services, ultimately losing Hollywood billions. Now, in the year 2020, the WGA is gearing up for another round of protests for better pay and healthcare.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are the people in charge of Hollywood. They have the money, power, and, most importantly, the lawyers. The WGA is attempting to cope with the changing entertainment landscape by debating whether writers should earn more money per episode when modern day television seasons are becoming shorter each year. Without writers, there would be no show or movie. Writers are losing money in the film and television industry because they are getting paid less each season, and when residuals concerning streaming services, like Netflix, are so complicated.
While it may not seem as though the protests of writers in Hollywood may affect consumers directly now, the effects will soon start to ripple throughout the whole entertainment industry. Nightly shows such as Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will be affected almost immediately, as the writers for these shows, who create content each day for nightly sketches, will be out of the studio.
Additionally, network television would be safe, until the new seasons need to be filmed.
As a result, reality television shows, sports, newscasts, and reruns will flood the airways in an attempt to fill the deficit created by the lack of writers.
According to the Courier-Journal, sites such as Hulu and Netflix will be safe at first because they produce shows in advance and their scripts have “likely already been completed.” However, they will soon run out of new content to introduce as there will be no one writing it.
While television and daily entertainment will feel the brunt of the writers strikes, film in Hollywood will not escape without feeling their absence. For example, in 2007 films such as Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Quantum of Solace were released with generally negative reviews. These films had good actors and great action but no writing to back it up.
The impending writers’ strikes are necessary for the writers of Hollywood to get their fair share of the profits, but viewers must be warned about the consequences. Lackluster movies, sequels, and reboots in both film and television are on the rise, and this protest will only contribute to this trend.
Familiarity could land Hollywood in a safety net
Opinion by Tommy Clift
FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer Walt Hickey explains that “you want to maximize the reasons people go to your movie.” So, what are the reasons behind all these reboots and sequels?
In addition to the strikes, quite simply, it’s already known. The film studio producers can feel familiar with what they’re investing in, and in that familiarity, there is safety. It’s an era where a big box office movie can make or break a studio, so it’s all about the return. This reliance on the safe bet has fostered the decay of original writing seen at the top of the box office. The head producers are doing what they know will sell, and consumer behavior shows that whether it be a sequel, a remake, or a reboot—it’s going to do just that.
The New York Times recently posted an analysis of the top 10 summer movies from 1982 to 2018, and at a baseline only “16 of the top 100 summer movies of the 1990s were sequels.” As a report given by Vox states, of 1999’s top box office earners, “more than half of which were based on original ideas.” But in 2018, not a single film in the top 10 was based on an original story. It took looking into the 10 runner ups to find any original ideas.
A RadioTimes article also analyzed the number of reboots, remakes, prequels/sequels, and spin-offs charting in the top 20 box office hits from 1983 to 2018 and the arch is astonishing. The number hit a low in 1993 with only two out of the 20 (10 percent). But by 2018, the number rose to a staggering 16 (80 percent). Vox’s article on 2018’s record-breaking box office year reported A Quiet Place to be “the only one of 2018’s top 20 films based on an original premise.”
And there are no signs of abating sequels or remakes in the future. Another RadioTimes article made a large list of Disney remakes alone coming to the big screen in the next few years and simply put—The Lion King is just the tip of the iceberg.
Although wildly outnumbered, recent years have yielded some exceptionally original ideas into mainstream release. Original films, like Knives Out and Us, were both charting in the top 30 of 2019 according to The Number’s annual report, and Netflix has had a great year of releasing original content. But these releases don’t often see the big screen—excluding a rare few like Marriage Story and The Irishman.
The Number’s owner, Bruce Nash claimed, “We may be hitting a peak with remakes. And I suspect we may [soon] hit a decline,” in an interview with the Washington Post. Although big franchises like Disney show no plans of stopping their succession of remake-reboot one-two punches, there are sources of hope. But what gets made for the big pictures will be based on the production’s close eye on where consumer interests seem to be, especially if the writers with original ideas are all on strike.