It will be 11 days today, since the Writers Guild of America went on a strike demanding higher pay and a stable pay structure. Some more demands include fairer deals and being safeguarded from artificial intelligence. As a result of the strike, which has been supported by big filmmakers such as Christopher Nolan, production on several projects has come to a halt.
But the effect can be felt in this part of the world as well, where writers have for long been talking about exactly the same set of problems. The only difference is that they have got a voice for the first time, and that negotiations will begin with producers to resolve the issues.
Anjum Rajabali, who has written films such as Ghulam, and co-written the screenplay for Raajneeti, says, “While their strike doesn’t have a direct bearing on the Indian situation, it has brought into public focus the unfair treatment that writers receive. Here too screenwriters face serious problems professionally. Writing fees in India are nowhere near the value that the script brings to the film. New and young writers are distressed as they feel exploited. The contracts that producers, studios, and platforms offer are grossly one-sided with the company demanding all the rights and protection leaving the writer vulnerable. And the most important right is to be credited for your work. However, the contract insists that credit will be given at the discretion of the producer!”
Support from successful actors and directors for a writers is needed for a strike to work, feels Apurva Asrani, who wrote the acclaimed film Aligarh and the web show Criminal Justice: Behind Closed Doors. “In the US you have Christopher Nolan and Game of Thrones creator George R.R. Martin, performers Jennifer Coolidge and Jimmy Fallon offer passionate support to writers through blogs, social media and by even standing in picket lines. In India, where actors and directors are paid disproportionately to writers, no one really wants to change the status quo,” says the 45-year-old.
Zeishan Quadri, who wrote the film Gangs of Wasseypur, says the unity is missing here in India, between writers. “We all should be called for a meeting, there is no organised way here. There is no one to guide writers. If something wrong is happening, it continues,” he rues.
Mitesh Shah, co-writer for Helicopter Eela and Tummbad, tell us, “SWA has been talking about all this for a long time now. But I haven’t received as many calls as I am now, after the US strike. Barring a few industry people, there has been very little support. I have known a few writers selling their scripts for as less as ₹50,000- a lakh, when the minimum wage should be atleast 12 lakhs. A writer doesn’t write many stories in a lifetime, you don’t want them to die poor. The piece of paper is where it all begins.”
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(With Inputs from hindustantimes)