solidarity forever

So, How’s Your Strike Going?

In the heat of summer in L.A., Kirk A. Moore has been picketing regularly alongside his fellow WGA members. The writer (American Crime, Runaways13 Reasons Why) and producer (Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, For Life, and Looking for Alaska) has been outspoken about the demands of writers and why they very much matter to the shows and films we enjoy. Having worked on shows on streaming and cable networks, Moore has a keen perspective on the ways writers’ rooms have changed since he first got into the game in 2016. His Twitter has been a kind of repository, explaining the nuances of the WGA’s demands, describing the challenges facing younger writers who are uniquely vulnerable in the industry, and demystifying the whack-ass claims of the suits spinning stories against his fellow workers. Not to mention, his timeline is just funny as hell.

As the writers strike grinds on and the actors strike begins today, we called up Moore to chop it up with us about what’s going on in the WGA, the excitement of SAG joining the picket lines, and the inevitable clash between tech companies and studios in the AMPTP.

It’s crazy to talk to you right now because Emmy noms just happened, but also, and more importantly, the beginning of the actors strike.
Their strike makes good business sense. Like, we don’t know what they’ve gotten or agreed to or not, but if they aren’t getting real protections for these actors — especially in regard to AI, their credits, and the roles that they play, whether it’s a day player or whether it’s a recurring — if they don’t get that stuff straightened out, then it is not gonna matter. I can’t imagine them taking the deal that doesn’t actually address that.

With SAG going on strike, it feels like the studios are completely fucked at this point. 
Haha, yeah, it’s not a good look. No writers and now you have no actors. What are you doing? It doesn’t make any sense for SAG to take a deal that doesn’t really propel them because they literally have all the leverage. I mean, outside of greed, I don’t understand the endgame for studios in regard to this. So now y’all are willing to lose money and time because no one is working.

Typically during this time of the year, for the most part, people would be in development or they would be in a writers’ room. Upfronts would’ve been in May, so people would’ve been in rooms or people would be pitching right now. And so now there are no shows being written for next year and definitely not for next fall.

For broadcast, their schedule kind of changes every year because they get new shows; things get canceled. Cable is a more cyclical thing. So if you think about it, like right now for broadcast, we would be writing the shows that would be getting ready to go into production for next year. That’s not happening. Everybody’s already three months behind. It’s only gonna be a matter of time before broadcast networks are gonna be at odds with studios.

ABC is like, we got a slate that’s gonna get us through the spring and then what we supposed to do? Meanwhile, Netflix will have a show that will come out in 2024, but the writers’ room was over in 2022. They have different needs, and at some point, I feel like they’re gonna clash if this doesn’t end. They are just digging themselves a bigger and bigger hole that’s gonna take a little while to get out of. And then that’s gonna fall on us. When the rooms do open back up, they’ll be on us like, “Hey, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry.” This is not our fault. Like, y’all could have settled this in May.

So we’re in for TV that’s weirdly delayed and also rushed at the same time. 
Some of those shows continue to shoot because the scripts were done. Typically, we are on set to make sure that everything is going. But we weren’t on set for a lot of those episodes being shot or we’re not there when a lot of those episodes have to be edited, which is, sometimes, the bulk of the work. Even now when these new shows are coming out, depending on what stage of development they were in, whether they’re in production or postproduction, a lot of times the showrunners didn’t have any say so in the final product was because we were not in the room.

People are gonna get mad at us because they’re like, “Oh, this didn’t work,” or, “Why did they do this thing so stupid?” And it’s like, well, we weren’t there. That’s part of what we’re striking about is the fact that our writers’ room time is getting shorter and shorter. It used to be an average of 20 weeks. Now you might only be in the room for like ten weeks to write six episodes. And that’s like all you have. That’s ridiculous! And so it’s becoming practice. And if it’s becoming practice, it’ll become the norm soon if people don’t get in the way of it.

AMPTP’s lead negotiator, Carol Lombardini, said they wanted to shrink crews in 2009. They’ve been moving toward this for a while! So, obviously, a couple showrunners are definitely still working. We know this. We’ve literally seen showrunners cross the picket line. I know that the guild put out a statement where they were like, we’re not gonna be fighting with each other on this, but how do you as a writer take that in?
A lot of showrunners are multi-hyphenate. Some of them are writers, and they’re also the stars of their show. Some of them also direct. Some of them are also in the Directors Guild, so they can technically work if they’re directing because they’re not writing. Listen, there are a lot of TV shows out there, and the majority of those showrunners are not working. So, that’s my political answer. But my thing is, I don’t have a mega-mega $4, $5, $600-whatever billion-dollar deal. So I don’t know all the intricacies of those things, but at the same time …

It’s not a good look!!
It’s not a good look. That’s the best way to say it. It’s not good for optics. And again, we’re not on set, so we don’t actually know what is being done. So they actually just could just be there, staying in the lines, and the person is just supervising, which they are allowed to do. So it just really, really depends because it’s like you just can’t do any writer duties. But, anybody knows that when you’re in post, you’re probably still writing.

Speaking of solidarity: Obviously, the DGA agreed to a deal with the studios. What was that day like for folks in the WGA? Was that like a big moment for y’all? 
I don’t think anyone was shocked that the DGA agreed to a deal. I think we were more shocked that they agreed to a deal before SAG. They didn’t have to. I didn’t understand the tactics there. I just didn’t understand the logic of saying, “Yeah, let’s take a deal, and we don’t know what the other guild is gonna do,” which could have actually given them more power and leverage for their own negotiations. And listen, we don’t want to be fighting with any other guild. We don’t wanna be fighting with the DGA or SAG; we all have similar things that we want and to have changed. At the same time, you’re like, that just didn’t seem wise.

How was the feeling within the guild around Emmy nominations? I saw that there was this little note written by someone who worked on a show who maybe was like, “Well, I’m still broke, and I don’t want to campaign for this fucking show right now because we’re literally fighting the studios.” Is there a bittersweetness goin’ on right now? 
I mean, listen, I don’t have a show nominated, so like, it’s sort of like, okay, whatever. But if you are a writer and your episode got nominated I feel like of course you are really excited because it is a big deal. We can criticize the major awards all we want to, but it’s a big deal. So people are gonna be happy, regardless. But a lot of actors and writers, in particular, are like, yeah, this is cute, these awards are great, but we have bigger shit to do. Let’s keep the focus on that. I don’t really think it’s necessarily bittersweet. If anything, I would be sort of pissed off at the studio. If this shit was done, then I could go and enjoy my little validation and get ready. I can get on these red carpets. Now, I can’t do any of those things because you all won’t actually give us the money and agree to something that can get us back to doing the thing that gets us to win the awards in the first damn place!

I never want to speak for the whole guild, but people want to get back to work. I’ve been very fortunate in this business. When I started working, I pretty much never stopped. For a lot of Black writers, particularly Black gay writers, that’s not everybody’s story. It’s really hard to get your first job, and then it is hard as fuck to get job No. 2. The younger writers are in such a fragile position. We wanna make sure that when they get to my level, whether it’s EP or co-EP, that they have certain protections so that the things that we saw all these upper-level writers tweeting about how they weren’t getting paid, like they don’t have to go through that shit. Somebody’s already gone through it. That’s what I hope that we really get out of this, that people ten years from now, five years from now, aren’t like, “Oh, I was working on a show, and at the same time I was waiting tables.” That to me is crazy. Or, “I sold the show, but then, like, my money took nine months to get to me.” Nobody should be going through that kind of stuff.

This is why I feel like journalists and screenplay writers are always gonna have that connection. This is a creative work, it’s real labor. And we pace around our houses trying to figure out how shit is gonna sound — for me, in my own voice, but for you in somebody else’s voice completely. That shit is different. So we gotta respect that.
It’s like, yes, I get this is a business. I never forget that. When I talk to a lot of my colleagues and friends of mine, I haven’t had to go through a lot of the stuff, and more people should have my experience in this business. More people that look like me should have that same experience and not have to be, like, struggling and waiting two years in between jobs. It’s really, really difficult for us. It shouldn’t be, because it’s not like that for everybody.

Streaming really changed the game for television and movies. It happened so quickly. Tech companies being involved makes things a whole lot more complicated.
Right, Apple was selling computers and Beats. And now this company is making, like, 300 TV shows. Amazon was selling everything. But the other side to that is that that’s still their bread and butter. Like their bread and butter is still laptops. Amazon’s money is from Prime. I’m not saying that TV and film aren’t a big thing for them, but it’s not where they make the bulk of their money.

They gon’ eat regardless.
They know that. They’re like, “I don’t have to make money, and I don’t have to negotiate with these TV people because I also have another stream of income.” But the one who does not have that also has the most power in streaming: Netflix. Netflix has no other source. So at some point, they’re gonna start to clash.

The SAG strike is gonna be huge.
It’s clear, even after that weird video that Fran put out, like, the next day you saw all those actors wrote that letter. When I started looking at the names, I was like, “Oh, Meryl Streep says we might need to walk?!”

Jennifer Lawrence said, “We need to walk. Girl, I’m walking!” The solidarity has been very inspiring.
Can you imagine coming tonight and you seeing, like, Viola Davis, Angelina Jolie, these people walking down the street in front of a studio and the news cameras are gonna be out there covering this? People ain’t thinking about us, the writers. But you let some of these stars get out here, you know they’re already talking to their publicist. So the media is gonna be outside.

Double Your Strike