On paper, theatre writers abide by a very different set of professional guidelines from film and television writers. When you write a play, musical, or opera for the stage, you own your copyright. When you write a tv show or a movie, you are an employee of the studios. But despite these differences, a spirit of solitary was in the air at the Playwrights Picket on Wednesday, August 16, 2023.
Members of both the Dramatists Guild and the Writers Guild of America East (WGA), as well as members of SAG-AFTRA, came out to show their support in the basic fundamental belief that all creative professionals deserve fair wages and equitable compensation for their work.
As Dramatists Guild member and WGA member Kristoffer Diaz noted, a lot of theatre writers also work in film and television. “The Dramatists Guild and WGA are different sides of the same coin fighting a similar struggle,” he said. “The crossover between writing for film, writing for television, and writing for the stage is massive. We all write. We all want to be fairly compensated for the work that we do.”
That work—and the process of how writers are compensated—can sometimes seem opaque to those who are not in the entertainment industry. “Writers go from the blank page to creating the content that you love to watch, but we don’t really get paid a lot to do that,” explained DG member Christine Toy Johnson, who is also a performer and a member of SAG-AFTRA. “We really make our living after the product is out there, and there are residuals, and royalties. And so, it’s so important that we fight to get our fair share. That’s all we’re asking for.”
“I’m very proud to be a member of both organizations [DG and WGA],” said Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, “Which are of course very different things, but ultimately working for the same cause, which is acknowledging and celebrating and supporting and propagating and increasing the value of the act of writing. Writing is a profession. Writing is a skill. It is a thing that requires training, experience. It is not a thing that a robot can do.”
Amanda Green added, “Writers are job creators. Without the words on the page, there are no jobs.”
The Dramatists Guild continues to support WGA members and all writers who are fighting for equitable compensation and working conditions.