Hallmark screenwriters are speaking out about the Hollywood writers’ strike and how it will affect their industry. Here’s a look at why they’re supporting the strike, and how the strike might impact work down the line.
The TV and film writers’ strike began on Tuesday, May 2, marking the first strike since 2007-2008, CBS News reported. While late-night shows will be affected almost immediately, as they are typically written daily, the strike will trickle down to affect other shows the longer it lasts.
Scripted shows and movies that are written further in advance will take longer to be affected, CBS News noted. Any projects already written, like some Hallmark Christmas movies, can still be filmed. In fact, Hallmark has already been filming quite a few of its 2023 Christmas movies. Back in January, for example, the network already shot “A Biltmore Christmas” starring Bethany Joy Lenz and Kristoffer Polaha.
“When Calls the Heart” season 10 will not be affected, since it has already been filmed. The series will still premiere in late July as planned. However, if writing hasn’t been finished on a movie or TV series, that might be delayed depending on how long the strike lasts, CBS News noted.
The writers’ strike began after negotiations broke down with companies like Discovery-Warner, Netflix, Amazon, and Disney, CBS News reported. According to the WGA (Writers Guild of America), their requests include better compensation and residuals for streaming movies, better terms for paying out the second half of writing contracts, a minimum of six writers in a writers’ room, and the like.
In a statement, the WGA noted: “From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a ‘day rate’ in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership,” CBS News shared.
‘Mystery 101’ Screenwriter Said They Just Want to be Paid Fairly So They Can Be ‘Solidly Middle Class’
In an interview with the Hallmark Mysteries & More podcast, writer John Christian Plummer shared details about the writers strike and exactly why this is so important for screenwriters’ future careers. Hallmark Mysteries & More is co-hosted by Eric Rutin and Sydney Rowland.
“Right now our contract that we have with all the studios (Amazon, Apple, Paramount, NBC Universal…) needs to be reevaluated…” Plummer explained. “It’s up to the studios if they are going to meet our incredibly reasonable terms to be paid fairly, to be compensated fairly mostly in the streaming world… The business has changed a lot since we last negotiated a contract and we just want to make sure that we’re compensated fairly…”
Plummer explained that they’re not trying to get rich, they just want to be able to have a middle-class level lifestyle.
“None of us want to be paid $20 million a year like the co-CEOs of Netflix…” he said. “What we’re after is honestly just to be solidly middle class hard-working employees. People who work hard … to do what we love.”
He added that they’re trying to negotiate a “fair and equitable contract that we can all agree will keep things going… but it’s not really up to us.”
He and Rutin talked about how writers just want simple things like basic healthcare, residuals from streaming, and the like.
“That’s what’s so mind-blowing about the fact that we don’t have a deal yet,” Plummer continued. “We’re not asking for anything other than normal inflation, the normal rate of growth compensation… We’re the first wave, if you will, of artists who are going to be negotiating with these committees. We’re the tip of the spear. That’s why SAG-AFTRA, the DGA, and IATSE… All of these unions have all lined up behind us and said we will not be crossing the picket line.”
The Main Issue Revolves Around Compensation for Streaming
Topher Payne, a WGA member who has written Hallmark movies, told AJC that a big part of the negotiations revolves around the shift to streaming. Writers’ compensation is much lower when a movie or show is released on a streaming service.
“Most streaming services try to bypass the WGA residual set up by paying a larger amount upfront,” Payne told AJC. “….You feel the burn later when the series has millions of viewers all over the world and you receive no bonus for that.”
Payne said he’s not even told when his Hallmark movies are licensed to a streaming service. Sometimes he’ll just accidentally find one of his movies on Peacock by accident. He shared that his compensation for Amazon Prime streaming is low.
In an interview with NPR, Joy Gregory, who writes for a Hallmark series, said she stands fully in support of the strike. She’s been picketing actively.
“We’re standing out here and taking the hits that we’re going to take to protect the rights for the next generation of writers,” Gregory explained.
‘Hanukkah on Rye’ Screenwriter Said It Will Be ‘Impossible to Make a Living’ Without This
Julie Sherman Wolfe, a screenwriter for Hallmark films like “Hanukkah on Rye,” “Always Amore,” “The Perfect Pairing,” and more, stands fully in support of the strike.
She tweeted, “25 years in the WGA and I have never felt so strongly that this is the hill to die on, especially for younger writers. If we don’t get this… It’ll be impossible to make a living in the very near future.”
Many Hallmark stars have shared social media posts in support of the strike, including Lacey Chabert, Tyler Hynes, and Kyana Teresa.