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Writers with disabilities expect to lose career prospects and momentum, as well as a potential $2 million in earnings, according to a survey by Inevitable Foundation.
The Disabled Writers Strike Impact Report, which is not affiliated with the guild but surveyed 33 professional disabled screenwriters (82 percent of whom are WGA members), offers insight into how one group of historically underrepresented creatives is grappling with the direct impact of the work stoppage, a result of the WGA and AMPTP negotiations ending without a deal on Monday night. Loss of work, income and earnings, and career prospects, are all on the table, but several scribes reinforce the necessity of supporting the strike even as they collectively face “mini-rooms” and shortened seasons that make it difficult to get staffed full-time.
According to the report, 57 percent of those surveyed stated they’d lose work or income and 53 percent face the loss of career prospects or momentum. Additionally, 46 percent of survey respondents shared that up to 100 percent of their potential earnings tied to their “strong” job prospects — defined as multiple conversations with a single network or streamer about a specific project — will be lost amid the work stoppage. Between them, more than $2 million in contractually committed earnings — not including prospective job opportunities — will be lost.
Despite that, in response to the survey, one writer shared that they are “emotionally preparing to bite the bullet for a few months” to do what they “love for a few more years,” while another stated that “people like me who are at the bottom would be hurt the most” from taking to the picket lines, “but those setbacks are a small price to pay for the fair treatment of all writers.”
“I have nothing to lose and everything to gain from a WGA strike,” another respondent said. “I have been actively trying to get staffed for eight years, and I still haven’t been able to grab that final brass ring.”
Multiple respondents pointed to a loss of health care as soon as the end of summer in the event of an ongoing strike. “I will have to face exorbitant costs for insurance or go without and face exorbitant out-of-pocket costs,” a different, anonymized writer said. “Either way, I cannot afford to go more than a few months without insurance.”
A respondent shared that their current show’s “production timetable [may] be squeezed and we could receive a shortened episode order,” resulting in a probable loss of $50,000 to $100,000. Meanwhile, an early-career writer expressed that the strike could prevent them from forming the connections and representation necessary to pursue their next position, delaying “opportunities to secure employment in the future.”
If the current stoppage shapes up like the last WGA strike in 2007, which lasted over three months, 47 percent of the Writers Strike Survey participants said they would have to find alternative employment outside the entertainment industry. That’s due in part to how much savings they currently have, with 43 percent of working disabled screenwriters who responded to the survey saying they have less than three months of savings, while 67 percent have six months or less.
“Beyond the loss of income, the loss of momentum would be challenging. All the meetings and relationships would be much harder to rebuild after a prolonged strike. But I also feel that a strike might ultimately have an extremely positive impact,” another writer said in response to the Inevitable Foundation survey. “Average writer income is down and career instability is way up. The industry is changing and if writers don’t fight for what they’re worth, it won’t be a viable career for much longer. I’m not sure the specific proposals the guild is making are the perfect solution, but writers have to do something.”
Less than 1 percent of all employed TV writers are disabled, and according to the foundation, less than 0.5 percent of WGA West members identify as having a disability. (WGA East data was not provided by the nonprofit.) Moreover, just 0.5 percent of screenwriting jobs in 2020 went to writers with disabilities. Already facing a disparity in job opportunities, the strike serves to produce protections and gains for writers but also threatens what ground disabled TV writers have gained in rooms, where historically 92 percent have been the only disabled person on staff, according to data on the disability representation gap provided by Inevitable.
“Disabled writers face significant financial challenges due to their higher cost-of-living expenses (28 percent higher on average) and the fact that disabled people are twice as likely to live in poverty compared to non-disabled people,” Inevitable Foundation co-founder Richie Siegel tells The Hollywood Reporter. “Boosting their earnings and providing them with greater workplace equity is crucial to help them succeed. During a strike, it’s essential that these writers are adequately and equitably supported, including accessible picket lines and measures to minimize the financial impact that a prolonged work stoppage might have on their careers.”
May 3, 4:40 p.m. Updated to include that survey is not affiliated with WGA and updated the state on the percentage of disabled writers in WGA West.
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