NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Just days into the writer’s strike, both sides seem to be at a stalemate. While the immediate effects of the strike may not be dire for New Mexico filmmakers, that may change if this strike is anything like 2007.
In 2007, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) went on a 100-day strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). That strike cost the city of Los Angeles approximately $2.5 billion.
However, here in New Mexico, film professionals like Matthew McDuffie say it is not just compensation that is at stake in the current negotiation but “the future of writing itself.”
McDuffie, Professor of Practice with UNM Film and Digital Arts, has been a member of the Writers Guild of America for over 30 years. He teaches screenwriting at the University of New Mexico and has written films such as “A Cool Dry Place” and “Burning Bodhi.”
“It’s not an executive that created ‘Breaking Bad,’ it’s a writer named Vince Gilligan that created ‘Breaking Bad,’ so the notion that those people shouldn’t be compensated is absurd,” says McDuffie.
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McDuffie says writers are earning around 20% less than they were just a few years ago. That, coupled with the explosion of streaming content, encroaching artificial intelligence, and a reduction in the writing staff on many projects, results in severe consequences for many shows. “Do you understand how that is going to affect the quality of the show? If you don’t have a room full of people saying, ‘What if this were to happen?’ or ‘What if that were to happen?” says McDuffie.
The writers guild has spent weeks negotiating with streaming giants like Netflix, Amazon, Apple, and Disney and received about half of what they were asking for. “With streaming, these young writers aren’t getting the kind of pay they need to be middle-class citizens of the United States,” says McDuffie.
McDuffie stresses the strike isn’t for the upper echelon of writers, like Vince Gilligan; it is for the thousands of anonymous writers who are trying to make a living in the entertainment business.
The New Mexico Film Office says there are currently three TV shows filming in New Mexico – employing close to 6,000 New Mexicans. McDuffie says writer’s rooms are supposed to start working within a month for fall TV, and unless a deal is reached, production could come to a halt.