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Why I’m Nervous As Heck Over the Potential Hollywood Writers Strike

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There’s been rumors bouncing around for months, that the Writer’s Guild of America was considering a strike when their contract is up April 30, 2023. The chance of a strike in the film industry typically runs every couple years, with contracts typically up every three years. Negotiations for new contracts can be tenuous, but rarely amount to much of anything and deals are struck in the 10th or 11th hour. This has been routine since I started in the industry in 2010 so I’ve never really been scared about a work stoppage.

Until now. Let me say up front that I do understand where the WGA is coming from. The crux of their argument is residuals – the amount of money made when shows and movies are rebroadcast. The previous writer’s strike, which lasted 100 days, was over residuals stemming from DVD sales. With streaming now replacing DVDs, the same issue has arisen. With residuals, it’s a tiered system: Network broadcast pulls in the largest residuals, followed by cable television and finally streaming services. An episode of Law & Order starts on NBC, generates residuals, get aired in reruns on cable via ION & Sundance, residuals again and can be streamed on Peacock for a third set of residuals. Conversely, the Peacock/Netflix series Girls 5 Eva will likely never extend beyond streaming, so no residuals beyond streaming. With so much more being online programming, residuals are far lower for writers.

So why am I sh-tting myself? Because I work in the film industry for health insurance. Every time I stand in, bring my car to set or freeze my ass off shooting summer scenes in the dead of winter, I’m working towards my SAG requirements for health insurance for my wife and I. My wife is a veterinarian (a surprisingly VERY high stress occupation, how do you feel when an animal dies in a movie? Imagine being the one that tried reviving it 4 times then having to tell the family you couldn’t save it? That’s a Tuesday for her). In her case she earns more money working per-diem than as a regular 9-5. The catch is I get the health insurance that allows her to do that. It’s been our system for years and has worked perfectly. Getting union health insurance is 99% of why I get up at 3am and haul myself to Brooklyn from NJ.

But now with this looming strike, I may not qualify if this lingers on. Right now I need just under 350 hours between now and the end of September to re-qualify. Overtime always helps, so a 12.5 hour work day counts as 16 for example so under normal circumstances I’m well ahead of the game. But if this stoppage happens and I don’t hit my numbers, we go on Cobra until I do. That’s $1,000 a month. Obamacare came back double that. That’s the situation we’re in, that’s what this writer’s strike could do to us if it continues.

If you’re asking if SAG will adjust the numbers in light of the strike, fat chance. They didn’t change a thing when the industry was shut down for 6 months due to Covid, they won’t now. Back then they were quiet for months before sending us a pdf file with a bunch of stock image happy people telling us we were screwed. That was six months of Cobra and that’s what I’m afraid we’re going to have to endure again.

Nothing we can do but wait this out and see. It might amount to nothing and a deal will be struck before the May 1 deadline, but this next 7 weeks of waiting are going to SUCK.

About the author – Scott Churchson has been an actor in every way for the past 13 years, from BG to stand in to stunts and principal, a sports writer for the past 4 and is one of the people that created Stream Punk Entertainment. He’s married to a veterinarian, has a cat with three working legs and is just a simple man trying to make his way in the universe.

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