The Writers Guild of America strike highlights key issues important to ensuring a future for writers, Succession creator Jesse Armstrong and colleagues told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday in central London, where they took part in a show of support for the WGA strike on a “Global Day of Solidarity” using the name and hashtag Screenwriters Everywhere.
Armstrong discussed key hot-button issues in the labor dispute as pay, writers’ rooms, and AI.
“Writers’ rooms need a lot of different perspectives,” he said THR. And if you can’t make a living as a writer, we won’t get young people in the industry.”
AI is impacting every area of life today. “Everyone working now is thinking about how they can be replaced by AI,” Armstrong explains. “For writers, there’s a particular concern that work that previous writers have done, or (we’ve done) ourselves, could be used to train AIs that then make a certain type of writing unpaid.”
His conclusion: “There has to be compensation for where that work comes from, because computers don’t invent it, they take it from things that other people once wrote. So there must be a money chain that goes back to keep the people alive for the hard work that happened at some point.
Despite a heat wave in London, Armstrong and Succession writers Jamie Carragher and Francesca Girardi joined an estimated over 200 members of writers and other guilds, including big names like Russell T Davies (Doctor who, It’s a sin, A very English scandal, Strange as Folk), Jack Thorne (Are dark materials), charlie brooker (Black mirror), Dennis Kelly (Utopia, Spooky) and Alice Nutter and Simon Beaufoy (The full Monty), for a protest against a statue of William Shakespeare in London’s Leicester Square.
Among the signs brought by the protesters: “Try filming blank pages”, “Pay now fair”, “AI can’t write the big picture”, “The UK ONLY has mini rooms. It sucks. WGA, don’t give in”, “We are the TV you love,” “No one can do their job until the writers do theirs,” “Solidarity,” “In the beginning was the word,” and “Leave AI to sci-fi.” Among the chants that filled the square were “pay fair now,” “solidarity,” and “writers be strong!”
The event was organized by the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) with the aim of “supporting the 11,500 Writers Guild of America West and Writers Guild of America East members” who have been on strike since May 2. chairman Lisa Holdsworth said in a speech that the WGA strike “is our fight”.
Requested by THR in Leicester Square if AI could create some of the “holy hell” moments in a show like SuccessionArmstrong said those “often[come up]in the writers’ room, that AI can’t replicate now.”
Added Carragher: “I also just love the idea of looking at art that’s made by people, like a community you get from watching a great TV show or a movie. It feels good to know that the people who made it are real people. Art is meant to reflect on life. And if it’s made by some weird algorithm washing machine, I’m not that interested.”