Television has changed – and that’s bad news for writers, says ‘The Wire’ creator : NPR
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It’s been more than three weeks since Hollywood writers went on strike, sending late-night comedy shows and soap operas to reruns, while scripted shows with longer runtimes are primed to feel the effects. walkouts.
David Simon, who created shows like Thread And Tremesays many of the fundamental issues that led to the 2007 writers’ strike are at play here, such as how technology is reshaping the profession.
“They’re telling us now, ‘We don’t know what AI is; we don’t know how good it’s going to be; don’t dispute what AI can and can’t do,'” he. “They did the same thing in 2007 when it was streaming.”
Simon is a member of the Writers Guild of America’s negotiating committee, which until the start of the strike this month was negotiating with the studios for a new contract.
In a statement, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – which negotiates on behalf of the studios – says it has offered “generous compensation increases” to screenwriters. He calls some of their proposals “inconsistent with the creative nature” of the industry.
But Simon argues that the nature of the industry has changed. He says studios are hiring screenwriters for shorter contracts. “You can’t live on three weeks’ salary. That’s what’s happening now,” he says.
“When I arrived Homicide, a network show that had 22 episodes, I had 30 weeks of employment. I can live off this. I can have a career. I can seriously consider writing for television for a living.”
“I’m now offering writers what’s available on these shows at short notice – I can’t support them.”
And in an interview with NPR’s Ari Shapiro, Simon says that’s a far cry from his experience when he started writing for television.
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This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
On the power of writers’ rooms
I grew up with a mentor. Tom Fontana hired me to write for the show Homicide, based on a book I wrote in Baltimore. He thought there was a threshold of creativity that… resulted from you having a group of writers in a room to talk and discuss material and improve scripts.
So I walked into a writer’s room. And not only did I have the benefit of writers who had more experience than me… but Tom did other things. He sent me on set and to protect the script on set. He sent me to the casting. He sent me, when I was ready, he sent me to the edit. These things made me realize what you need to do to write competently and even, you know, write advanced for television.
Why a “Term Job” Would Lead to Better TV
It’s saying, look, hire people for a while to do the work, then have them there on set and then in the edit, when the writing is in progress. Some of the most basic writing decisions involve editing or re-conceptualizing a scene because you’ve lost a location or an actor is struggling with a line. It’s the writer’s job, and we do it on set. And that is why television has been able to reach the level of sophistication that it has reached.
On AI’s failure to mimic human storytelling
I don’t think AI can remotely challenge what writers do on a fundamentally creative level… If that’s where this industry is going, it’s going to infantilize itself. We’re all going to be watching things we’ve seen before, only to be worse.
I mean, if a writer wants to play around with AI as a writer and see if it helps them, I mean, I consider that to be no different than having a thesaurus or a dictionary on his desk or a quote book. Play with it. If that’s starting to lead the way in the sense that a studio exec comes up to you and says, “AI gave us this story we want,” that’s not why I got into the narration. And that’s not where I’ll stay if that’s the story.