With the Writers Guild of America now on strike for the second week over payment disputes relating to streaming content, as well as the potential for AI technology to create content based on the analysis of existing scripts, we surveyed production and post professional as to how their businesses are being disrupted.
Photo: The above image is from the WGA's social media toolkit
“At MTI Film, we will hunker down and try to maintain staff to the best of our ability by utilizing our talent across business lines — a difficult task at best,” explains Larry Chernoff (pictured, right), CEO of MTI Film in Hollywood. The company provides full service post production, and is also known for its digital film restoration services, as well as its restoration products.
“Our objective is to minimize the effects of the strike on the families of our employees so the anxieties produced by being in the helpless position we find ourselves in are mitigated by the full potential of help the company can provide,” Chernoff adds.
Alkemy X is a creative studio with locations in the US (Philadelphia, New York City, Los Angeles), as well as in Vancouver and Amsterdam. Their work spans entertainment and advertising, and according to president & CEO Justin Wineburgh, they don’t anticipate any major impact to the studio’s business for the next 90 to 120 days.
“We expect to continue working on the projects already in our pipeline, without interruption,” states Wineburgh (pictured, left). “The immediate impact that we are seeing from the WGA strike is something that most of our company is navigating and, for certain, our visual effects department is working through in realtime as it relates to our episodic projects. While initially concerned that there could be a breakdown in the approval process (i.e., given that some showrunners are also writers), that has not materialized thus far and the creative process to get shots approved and finalized has not been impacted. As we continue to work through this strike, I am cautiously optimistic that the inherent uncertainty around related issues will remain irrelevant and of no moment.”
The impact to Alkemy X’s commercial division remains to be seen.
“Those projects have a larger timeline and, if the strike is not resolved in reasonably short order, there will not be new broadcast content,” Wineburgh continues. “As a result, advertisers may pull back on broadcast advertising media buys and look towards alternative digital distribution channels, which would certainly impact our commercial division.”
At this time, Wineburgh says the company is closely reviewing its own library of developed, still as-of-yet unproduced, unscripted content, and evaluating the viability of further development and potential distribution options for those projects.
“The strike in 1998 spurred the boon of unscripted programming, with the wild success Cops, and the 2007 strike saw a significant uptick in reality fare as well, launching such enduring franchises as The Amazing Race, Big Brother and countless others.”
As both a CEO and lawyer, Wineburgh says he is extremely sympathetic to fair wages and working conditions, while also understanding the prerogatives of corporations as businesses for profit.
“Right now, it’s essential for all parties to look at how to establish appropriate working conditions for these extremely-talented individuals, while still adjusting to the business landscape spurred by the streaming boom and the pandemic.”
Dan Goman (pictured, right) is the CEO & founder of Ateliere, which offers media supply chain solutions that help users deliver creative content — from concept to consumer — to screens everywhere.
Goman’s sees this situation as an opportunity for the entertainment industry to both reflect on how technology has changed streaming, and to have an important dialogue on how emerging technologies, such as AI, should be deployed to help enhance the creative process and improve efficiency throughout the streaming and broadcast landscape.
“There is no doubt that this is a critical turning point in television and film,” says Goman. Moving forward, Goman believes there are three issues that should be addressed. First, he says, technology should be adapted to work for writers.
“Integrating AI and tech solutions can complement the skills and workflow of writers, providing them with the tools they need to optimize their creative potential and bring their stories to life in new and compelling ways.”
Second, he suggests using technology to streamline repetitive tasks.
“Technology can handle mundane, time-consuming tasks, freeing up writers to focus on the sophisticated, creative aspects of their work. This collaborative approach allows humans to excel in what they do best while benefiting from the efficiency and speed of technology.”
Lastly, Goman says that harmony needs to be found between writers and technology.
“A sustainable and productive entertainment industry relies on a balanced partnership between the unique strengths of writers and the capabilities of technology. By fostering this collaboration, we can create an environment where both human creativity and technological innovation thrive.”
By embracing emerging technology, Goman believes that stakeholders across the entertainment industry “can become more efficient, agile and innovative, ensuring that the broader streaming landscape, which is the bedrock of the industry today, remains competitive in a tight attention economy.”
OneDoor Studios is a content producer that “tests” the market through crowd funding. Money is pledged, and once critical mass is reached, a project is green-lit, with OneDoor developing, producing and distributing the media to screens globally.
John J. Lee, Jr. (pictured, left) is the executive chairman of OneDoor Studios and says the WGA strike is paralyzing in fundamental ways, though he is hopeful that screenwriter Ann Peacock, with whom they are working on a new franchise, titled Calculated, will soon be back writing.
“Calculated is our largest project and adapted from a novel franchise, so we have access to the stories in the books and Ann’s early script drafts,” Lee explains. “It’s doubtful if the strike or AI’s threat will have a negative impact on genius writers like Ann Peacock and Aaron Sorkin, or the newer generation of cutting-edge story originators, like Taylor Sheridan and John Krasinski. Still, technology will surely continue to speed improvements in this and most every other industry.”
OneDoor Studios is currently having novelist Nova McBee help with Calculated’s promotion.
“We are also busy developing this franchise’s production and costume concept design, and its promotion, distributor pitch preparation and so forth,” Lee explains.
As to AI’s effect on the industry, Lee says, “We early dove into this crazy-deep and powerfully-rich creative pool, and are amazed with its originality, diversity of ‘what-ifs’ and speed in delivering very polished work. We are just scratching the surface, yet are finding keen-edged creative talent who thrive in directing AI, and their output is nothing short of jaw-dropping on every front.”