It’s not every day you get to watch thousands of workers fight for their rights and shut down some of the biggest television and movie sets of our time. So when I got the green light to cover the strike, I jumped on it. This is how I ended-up on an old subway car in the middle of the day, armed with nothing but an absurdly large notepad, a severely cracked cellphone, and a rough game plan.
As I arrived, the sound of cowbells and chants of “No Netflix, No Chill. It’s Time to Pay Your Bills” echoed through the thick Manhattan air. Dozens of WGA writers marched up and down the sidewalk outside of Netflix’s Manhattan Office, with a few people spilling out onto the street.
My assignment was simple enough, find Black writers willing to talk about the strike. And it turns out (luckily for me) there were people eager to share their thoughts. Most of the people I spoke with had never been involved in a strike. (The last time Hollywood writers went on strike was back in 2007). But the enthusiasm was palpable. This was something everyone there believed in deeply enough to risk it all in the hopes of a better future.
These were the people behind shows that made me laugh hysterically on my couch, and movies that brought me to tears. And they all wanted the same thing, for everyone to be paid enough to live and, better yet, to thrive.
Perhaps, what struck me the most from these conversations was the growing resentment over the shallowness of Hollywood’s commitment to diverse storytelling. As one Black WGA writer, Franchesca Ramsey later told me, “If you are hiring marginalized writers, Black writers, queer writers, but you’re not giving them the financial support to keep a roof over their head, then it’s meaningless to say we’re supporting diverse stories.”
She was hardly the only person I spoke to over the last couple of days who made that point. There’s something deeply off-putting about the idea of studios profiting off Black stories while paying a pittance to Black creators. And let’s not forget that studio executives are racking in millions.
Television and movies don’t just offer us a brief respite in a messed up world. They help shape the world and the culture we live in. And if you’re asking me, the people who do that work deserve to be paid for it.