“We’re Mad”: Julie Plec, Zoanne Clack & Others Discuss WGA Strike, A.I. & Mini-Rooms – ATX TV Festival

“We’re Mad”: Julie Plec, Zoanne Clack & Others Discuss WGA Strike, A.I. & Mini-Rooms – ATX TV Festival

A group of high-profile writers including Julie Plec and new Station 19 showrunner Zoanne Clack opened up about the WGA strike and the main issues surrounding the walkout at the ATX Television Festival.

“We’re mad,” said the The Vampire Diaries co-creator, who was speaking at the panel session alongside Clack, Greg Iwinski, who has written on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and moderator Beau Willimon, who developed Netflix’s House of Cards. Damon Lindelof was originally intended to be on the panel but was a no-show.

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“The lack of care for the artists and content creators has reached a breaking point. Before we didn’t have the support of other unions but now everyone is as mad as we are. We have this community of raw anger, there’s an enemy in this and it’s not us. The second thing is god bless them, millennials and Gen Z, a community of folks who have seen the shit hit them… everything in this generation is about taking the fight to the streets. There’s an energy of activism, this is how they’re wired and how they breathe,” Plec added. “We have the spirit of grassroots revolution.”

Plec, who has Girls on the Bus coming to Max and We Were Liars at Amazon, said she was lucky to reap the benefits in her career but is striking to protect those who come next. “I have friends who have worked 15 years straight who don’t have jobs today and those that do are taking the jobs at 30%, 40%, 50% and 60% less pay,” she added.

Iwinski, who is also on the WGA East’s Negotiating Committee highlighted the fact that many writers have to live in LA and New York to do their jobs, which “are not cheap”. “Having to do that in a situation where now you can be someone who writes on a hit television show and makes $80,000 a year and has to be on food stamps, even though your show is being nominated for awards that the studio is happy to take credit for,” he said.

Clack, who was recently named showrunner of Station 19, told Deadline after the panel that the upcoming season 7 of the ABC drama would be shortened as a result of the strike.

She also addressed one of the main issues for writers – being on set during production. “You have to be on set. You have to learn these things, you have to learn to edit. You have to learn all of it, in order to get to the next stage and to be a showrunner that can do the job,” she said. “There’s also this culture of very young people coming in and not being in the writers room and not being on shows and being made showrunners. Sometimes that works out fine, but sometimes they need a lot of help. It’s also just degrading to yourself if you have now been handed this million dollar industry to manage… and you don’t have the skills.”

It was also pointed out that negotiations with the AMPTP and the WGA consisted largely on labor lawyers and business affairs execs rather than the heads of the studios. “I like to think that if Donna Langley or Susan Rovner or Pearlena Igbokwe were all in the room making these decisions, this would be a much easier conversation,” said Plec. “I don’t know who’s at the top.”

Iwinski used an NBA analogy when discussing the issue of mini-rooms. “What if we just had like two all-stars and they did the whole game?”, he said. “They’ll just have the ball they can pass to each other and everyone else is going what is happening. That’s what’s happening with staff size is they’re going well what if these two all-star writers just write all the episodes. If you’re a really important white dude, you can go yeah, whatever or no, I want six writers. If you’re a lower level or mid level writer or a woman or person of color or a woman of color, and you go actually they need six writers, they’ll just say no, because the white guy didn’t need them so you don’t need them. That is why we are fighting to the death for [room sizes].”

Iwinski also talked about AI. He said some execs are “very susceptible to vaporware”. “There is some element of AI that is going to be people promising the moon and delivering a mountain,” he said. “The real issue here is what you’re seeing with the studios is what if it doesn’t matter that it’s good.”

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