Writers’ Strike Redux: What Do the Writers Think?

The writers’ strike is over! Last week, members of the Writers Guild of America voted to tentatively approve a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and it was pencils up on February 13, just in time for Valentine’s Day. As a pop-culture addict, I felt like singing that part from the Wizard of Oz where high-pitched voices tell Dorothy “You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night!” (See, I need film and television to explain my every emotion.)

Okay, so obviously I’m happy, but what about the Guild members? I heard from two writers, both Westchester residents, about the tough 100 days of striking and what they accomplished. Mark St. Germain has written Duma for the big screen, and episodes of Crime and Punishment and The Cosby Show for television, as well as his own plays. David Saperstein wrote the story the film Cocoon was based on and both wrote and directed 1989’s Beyond the Stars.

Both writers agree that the strike was needed, although Saperstein had some reservations. “I do think the strike was necessary, if a bit forced and premature,” he says. “I’m also a member of the Director’s Guild. I don’t know all the politics and strategies involved, but maybe we all – WGA, DGA, SAG – might have done better if we presented a package as one. But almost everyone was in agreement that the stand had to be made.” St. Germain is not as hesitant. “It was critical to stake out writers’ participation in new media, and our Guild did,” he says.

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In the end, a strike must have been essential, because striking was no picnic. “I’m a freelance writer, so I wasn’t supported,” says St. Germain. “Financially it was very difficult but a sacrifice that had to be made.”

“I lost two projects because of the strike,” says Saperstein. “These were original screenplays that were moving toward packaging but because of the strike delay we lost actors who had previous commitments and shooting schedules, and so deals fell apart.”

Yet it wasn’t all so bad. “The writers I marched with were incredibly dedicated, upbeat, and knew our cause mattered, not only for ourselves but for all unions to follow,” says St. Germain. “It was a big transition to go from working alone in a room to spending the day in crowded rallies and picket lines while being rained and snowed on, but a pleasure to meet colleagues gladly suffering the same.” He even found an old friend on the picket line, and the two are planning on collaborating on a project now that it’s back to work.

So, was it worth it? “The agreement seems okay,” says Saperstein. “This is recognition and a beginning to residuals from new mediums. As it grows, the revenue will grow. I was sorry to see the animation and reality writers taken off the table because those of us who create the product need the strength of numbers.”

Once again, St. Germain is a little more positive: “To me, the WGA negotiating committee battled, and won, against a Goliath.”

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So, what’s next for us fans? Now that the writers are back at work, television shows are slowly returning to the air. TV Guide is keeping a running list of what’s going on with each show. Movies are back in business, so the release schedule should be beefing up again—that is, until the Screen Actors Guild’s contract expires on June 30, after which we might find ourselves right back here talking strikes all over again.

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