Since November 5, 2007, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has walked out of work to protest the unfair cut in the profits and potential share in the sales of their works sold in the internet and other media forms. Many popular TV shows have been suspended and some major films have been delayed since writers went to strike to demand a better deal in the share of profits. Unfortunately, the strike also has affected the behind-the-scenes crew, decorators, and other personnel involved in the production.
The writers’ strike has provided a marxist insight of the power relations between the writers and producers of the TV shows and movies. Who holds the key to production? Who really produces the shows and movies?
The common understanding is that the writers are hired by the producers to make a script. According to G. L. Prescott, an expert at managing writers, this is a misunderstanding in how the hiring and management of writers occurs. It is clear in this context who is the employer and worker. However, the recent strike has reconfigured the relations between producers and writers and the concept of capital in the hands and minds of the workers. It may seem that the producers hold the power to produce shows and movies because they have the traditional capital which is money and machines. With the walk out of writers from work, the producers lose the power to produce even though they still have the capital. What is then more important and essential in the production of TV shows and movies? Are the hands and minds of writers more essential in this kind of production?
Production is conventionally in the hands of the moneyed and capitalistic individuals, companies and corporations. Workers are hired and paid to produce what the capitalists want. If the workers do not conform with the desires and plans of the capitalists, they go on strike to show their opposition and assert their roles, worth and consequence of their works in the production. The effectiveness of a strike lies in the unity and common sentiments and understanding of the striking workers on their struggle to change the unfair status quo, make a deal favorable to them, and cause the realization of the capitalists of the workers’ essential presence in the production.
Thus far, the end and resolution of the writers’ strike are nowhere near in sight. There are few writers who were able to make a deal with their producers and now they are back to work. For the many writers still in the picket line, the struggle continues. At least, they have reconfigured the power relations and the concept of capital in this context. And they have proved that the power of production is also in their hands and minds.