Black Writers Talk WGA Strike’s ‘Trickle-Down’ Effect

Black Writers held an HBCU reunion on the WGA picket line in Culver City, CA on Aug. 3, 2023. (Credit: Urban Hollywood 411)

As the Writers Guild of America strike nears its 100th day, some writers are feeling the financial pinch after not working for several weeks.

Businesses that rely on film and TV productions to meet their bottom lines have also been suffering since late-night shows, scripted TV programs and film shoots halted production.

“This is a battle for everybody because if the writers don’t work, the actors don’t work, the restaurants don’t make money, the small businesses suffer,” writer-director Dallas Jackson told Urban Hollywood 411 on Thursday.

Related StorySAG-AFTRA Strike Rally Takes Over Times Square: ‘We Are Laborers!’

Jackson was on the picket line at an HBCU reunion day outside Amazon in Culver City, Calif. He said the strike’s economic impact is being felt in cities around the country, adding that big studios and streamers are to blame for not giving the WGA a fair contract.

“The result of the local economy suffering is not only here, but in Atlanta, New Orleans, New Mexico, where a lot of film production goes,” Jackson explained.

“[The strike] is a byproduct of the greed of the studios, because it’s a trickle-down theory. And so it trickled down from the biggest corporate entity down to the mom and pop stores, down to the restaurants, down to the people who clean costumes, down to the hair and makeup people,” he said.

Jackson was one of several dozen Black writers and actors outside Amazon. The Howard University alum credited the HBCU with helping him develop the skills to write and direct the 2020 action film Welcome to Sudden Death, and the 2022 drama The System, starring Terrence Howard and Tyrese Gibson.

“My screenwriting class at Howard gave me confidence,” he said. “I was going to be a stand-up comedian, which I’m probably glad I didn’t go down that route. Howard made me think bigger, dream bigger.”

Black Writers held an HBCU reunion on the Writers Strike picket line in Culver City, CA on Aug. 3, 2023. (Credit: Urban Hollywood 411)
WGA writers held an HBCU reunion on the  picket line in Culver City, CA on Aug. 3, 2023. (Credit: Urban Hollywood 411)

Howard alum Angela Allen, a writer and producer whose credits include the CBS drama series S.W.A.T. and The CW’s Kung Fu, organized Thursday’s HBCU-themed strike event.

“As a member of the Writers Guild of America West, I know how my income and career have been impacted by the strike. And so, I felt that if other people also are feeling that impact, it’d be better for us to get together and show some solidarity,” Allen said.

She noted that there were people at the gathering who attended Spelman and Clark Atlanta University as well, although most went to Howard.

Related StoryPolice Move to Stop ‘Incessant’ Horn-Honking by Writers Strike Supporters

Kasaun Wilson, a stand-up comedian and staff writer on the Apple TV+ series The Problem with Jon Stewart, also attended Howard.

“It’s the small things that develop you as an individual as well as an artist, not just the responsibility you have as a Black artist, but the greatness you have inside you to fulfill that responsibility,” Wilson explained. “I feel like all of those things were at Howard University in abundance.”

Kristina Thomas, another Howard alum, said she was impressed by the turnout at the gathering.

“There are so many Black people. I’m always looking for the Black people,” she quipped.

Thomas, who’s a writer on the CBS drama series FBI: International, said diversity makes a difference with audiences.

“Black stories are very important because of lot of the time we get left out unless we speak about it,” she said. “You can’t really write only white stories anymore; you have to write diverse stories because it shows in the numbers. A lot of people love seeing leads [actors] of color.”

The writers strike began on May 2, and actors represented by SAG-AFTRA began picketing on July 14.

WGA strike captains have themed events planned across the Los Angeles region on Aug. 9, to mark 100 days on the picket line.

The guild is calling for higher residual pay for streaming programs. The union is also pushing for industry standards on the number of writers assigned to each show, and rules limiting the use of artificial intelligence technology to write or rewrite scripts.

The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents studios and streamers, has said it made a “generous” offer, which was rejected by the WGA.

“The AMPTP member companies remain united in their desire to reach a deal that is mutually beneficial to writers and the health and longevity of the industry,” the group previously said.

SAG-AFTRA is also calling for increased streaming residuals and protections against the use of actor images through artificial intelligence.

WGA negotiators plan to meet with studio representatives on Friday, Aug. 4, in the first talks since the strike began.

However, there was some skepticism among WGA members on the picket line.

Asked if she thought Friday’s meeting would make a significant difference, Thomas chuckled then said, “No comment.”

Wilson was a little more optimistic.

“This is something that could end tomorrow if we come to a fair contract, and we give writers and actors what they deserve,” Wilson said.

“Hopefully we’ll come to a contract soon. Do I think it will happen Friday before close of business? I’m not so sure about that,” he added. “But I’m still hopeful that this will get done. I think it’s something that needs to happen and something that will protect the future of our business for years and years, and decades to come.”