The voice of the WGA was represented loudly in Austin at the ATX TV Festival with various panels informing attendees about the issues of most importance to writers in the stalled negotiations with studios, like AI and staffing minimums—a set minimum number of writers that a series has to employ—as well as why production shutdowns during the ongoing strike are an important part of their fight for a fair deal.
On Saturday, Deadline spoke with WGA negotiating committee member Greg Iwinski following his discussion of the writers strike alongside Julie Plec and Zoanne Clack on a panel hosted at Stateside at the Paramount. Iwinski has been a writer on Last Week Tonight With John Oliver and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert.
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DEADLINE: There have been questions regarding the need for production shutdowns. Can you share why this is important?
GREG IWINSKI: Nobody is happy or enjoys that productions are shut down because we want to be back at work and making stuff. There’s been an incredible amount of solidarity and support from the Teamsters and IATSE and them saying, ‘We will honor your lines.’ We want this to be done as soon as possible so that all 11,500 writers and the Guild are back to work, and so we can get back to full production as an industry.
We believe the fastest way to do that is to close the pipeline of production so that— although it is painful and we acknowledge that it’s awful— the hope is that it’s a sharp, quick, fast pain now so that we do not have a prolonged thing later. We want the strike to be over tomorrow and so this is hopefully moving that forward faster.
DEADLINE: There are below-the-line workers who are vocal about losing out on jobs and not being able to support their families by choosing not to cross those lines. What do you say to them?
IWINSKI: The experience that I’ve had out on the line is an incredible amount of solidarity, but also an ability and a willingness to work with those people who are honoring our picket lines, to try to find the ways to inflict the most damage to the studio pipeline while also inflicting the least amount of damage to the crew. If there’s a way to get everybody paid but also stop production, we will always aim for that because those people are not the people we’re trying to hurt.”
DEADLINE: Staffing minimums is one of the WGA’s asks that has triggered a lot of discussions. Some believe that if someone like Taylor Sheridan can write TV shows on their own, others should have the right to do so too. What is your opinion on this?
IWINSKI: I mean, there are like 10 of those shows so it’s very interesting to try to set the new standard for 11k writers for 10 shows run by 10 single people. I don’t think that that’s a representative or fair way to negotiate our contracts based on what like .001 percent of our members are doing. I think it’s important to say that writing is a collaborative form, especially television writing as opposed to screenwriting which leads to a collective voice.
In late-night writing, I’ve been in many rooms where the collective voice of the room is the voice of the show and that’s incredibly important. So we not only want to protect writers who won’t be powerful enough to demand a staff when they’re told there’s nobody there. We want to maintain the integrity of a writers’ room that has led to all the television that people have known and loved previously.
DEADLINE: Would the WGA be willing to negotiate on minimums?
IWINSKI: We haven’t even begun negotiating because they have not responded. So my position and I think the Guild’s position would be that there’s nothing to talk about in terms of negotiating numbers because they haven’t ever responded to our initial thing. So we’re not disagreeing over what it should be. They don’t want to talk about the concept at all.
DEADLINE: There have been many themed pickets, and photos shared on social media have received some negative attention because members and supporters are having fun. How do you feel about that?
IWINSKI: I think that to be critiquing people trying to find joy in a hard situation is an incredibly privileged position to stand in. As somebody who was out marching in 2020 and had marched many times before that to ask the police to stop murdering Black men like myself, I think the idea that you cannot find joy in the solidarity of fighting for your own dignity is a position that’s out of touch with reality.
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