I Simply Want Writers To Be Able To Make a Living
Plus, a few thoughts on 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3'
This week, the 11,500 members of the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) voted to strike after failing to come to an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. According to an email from the WGA, the very survival of writing as a profession is at stake:
Over the past decade, while our employers have increased their profits by tens of billions, they have embraced business practices that have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions. We’ve met and talked with thousands of you about our bargaining agenda and heard loud and clear that this negotiation can’t be business as usual. The compensation increases and protections we’re demanding are designed to restore what has been taken away from writers.
I don’t know that I have too much to add on the great coverage that’s been done on this subject (I’ll share some notable links below). What I will say is that from what I’ve seen online, most reasonable folks seem to be on the side of the writers as their battle feels like it represents the simmering resentments many of us have towards late-stage capitalism. Who among us hasn’t been discouraged by the increasing encroachment of AI, the devaluation of creative skills in the arts, and the hollowing out of the middle class?
In the wake of the streaming era, writing jobs have gotten more unstable, lower paying, and with a decreased possibility of big payouts of your show/film becomes a hit. Writers help to make the art we all enjoy. They create culture, they channel the truth, and incidentally, they give us something to talk about. The WGA is using their leverage at a critical moment to try to set the terms of their profession for the future. I support the writers because I think that if you’re making art, you deserve to be compensated appropriately for it.
Check out the below links for some worthwhile coverage on this subject.
The Los Angeles Times notes the six sticking points in the negotiations. Also in the Times: Why showrunners think the strike is important.
- — always a worthwhile read — recently launched a newsletter that covers the strike in detail. Worth checking out if you want a regular and knowledgeable view from the ground. They also got some photos of the most clever signs from the picket line.
In an NYTimes editorial, Zack Stentz explains why “allowing screenwriters to sustain a stable career is absolutely the smartest investment that the industry can make.”
Rolling Stone details how/why AI is a huge factor in the current negotiations.
The New Yorker explains why TV writers are so miserable these days. One of the writers on The Bear, Alex O’Keefe, describes his recent challenges making ends meet: “During his nine weeks working in the writers’ room for “The Bear,” over Zoom, he was living in a tiny Brooklyn apartment with no heat; sometimes his space heater would blow the power out, and he’d bring his laptop to a public library. (He was never flown to set.) He thought that he was making a lot of money, but, after reps’ fees and taxes, it didn’t add up to much.”
On “The Town” podcast, Matt Belloni has been doing great coverage of the strike. In a recent episode, he chatted with Adam Conover about what negotiations have been like.
Also: What shows will be affected? The Los Angeles Times has a good rundown.
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‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Is a Worthy Send-Off
The first Guardians of the Galaxy debuted in 2014 and became a surprise massive hit. Starring a misfit group of relatively obscure characters, the film represented the MCU at its finest, taking the offbeat sensibilities of director James Gunn and merging them with Marvel’s IP in a way that felt invigorating and humorous (all with a soundtrack full of bangers). It felt as if Marvel could do no wrong.
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (henceforth Guardians 3) emerges in a different world. Touted as the conclusion of the Guardians trilogy, it is the 32nd Marvel film and it comes on the back of a disappointing and scattered Phase 4, not to mention an almost catastrophic Phase 5 debut. Despite being commercially successful, the MCU feels artistically listless and in decline these days. Can Guardians help restore the franchise to its former glory?
Mostly. Guardians 3 mines the backstory of one of the Guardians to find a new conflict in their world. It’s mostly a self-contained story, and is stronger for it because it draws out drama from relationships we’re already familiar with. In doing so, it feels like it capitalizes on what writer/director James Gunn does best, which is irreverent, character-driven storytelling. Gunn knows how to deftly pull on your heartstrings at all the right moments and Guardians 3 is no different, featuring a generous helping of emotional devastation that will make it very dusty in your theater.
Guardians 3 is also a rip-roaring sci-fi space adventure full of wonder. The film will take you to fascinating new worlds and features some of the best action I’ve seen in a Marvel film to date. Gunn understands that great action is not just about comprehensible choreography, but grand iconic moments. This movie delivers on both.
I do think Guardians 3 suffers from a bit of Marvel-itis, by which I mean it feels stuffed to the gills and has a handful of characters/beats that feel short-changed, as though they’re here to serve as setups for other movies. It has maybe too many big ideas in it for one film and oddly relies a lot on your knowledge of the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. But it’s a worthy conclusion to this gang’s adventures and reminds us of what can happen when you give a skilled director like Gunn a massive budget and a fun universe to play around in. It’s my favorite Marvel film since Spider-Man: No Way Home. As Bilge Ebiri put it, it’s nice to see a good Marvel film again.
[I do want to note: There is some traumatizing stuff in this movie that really puts it on the borderline between hard PG-13 and R. I wouldn’t take a young child to see this but if you are interested to learn more about the plot and what you might see, check out this piece from Slashfilm.]
I wrote about this movie on Letterboxd, portions of which appear in the above.
Other Stuff David Chen Has Made
Over on the Filmcast, we reviewed Sisu, which makes killing Nazis fun again.
On Decoding TV’s YouTube channel, Kim Renfro and I discussed the real-life analogues of Waystar Royce’s Living+
Also on Decoding TV YouTube: Siddhant Adlakha and I discussed Danny’s arc in Netflix’s Beef.
On This Week In Streaming (a podcast on the Decoding TV feed), Siddhant Adlakha and I tried to make sense of Peacock’s Mrs. Davis.
Thank you Dave! The writers strike would be a great in depth topic for this week in streaming or a filmcast afterdark.. would love to hear you debate about it. Or even a culturally relevant reboot 😏