The Writers Guild of America is exactly what it says on the tin: a United States-based union in contract with United States-based production companies (or at least it was, before that contract expired and the union went on strike). But in this day and age, we import our television from all over the world. So what does a writers’ strike mean for writers internationally?
The most important thing for any writer outside the WGA to know is Strike Rule 13, which states: “The Guild [WGA] does not have the authority to discipline non-members for strikebreaking or scab writing. However, the Guild [WGA] can and will bar that writer from future Guild membership.” That means that any writer, international or domestic, who picks up work (pitching, developing, writing) within WGA jurisdiction will be blacklisted by the union and effectively prevented from pursuing a long-term career as a screenwriter in the U.S.
But there is a large number of co-productions between the U.S. and abroad (think U.K.-based shows like The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power or The Acolyte). In that case, which shows fall under WGA jurisdiction? Those would be productions that are represented under the umbrella of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the bargaining collective with which the WGA negotiates. AMPTP represents “hundreds of motion picture and television producers” in America. That includes studios, networks, and streamers like Disney (The Acolyte), Paramount (Picard), Warner-Discovery (House Of The Dragon), Netflix (The Crown), Apple (The Essex Serpent), Amazon (Rings Of Power), and more.
Writers abroad have their own unions and their own agreements with studios and networks in their own countries. The Writers Guild of Great Britain, for instance, has a contract with the BBC, ITV, TAC (the independent TV production sector in Wales), and the Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT). So while the WGGB has issued a statement in solidarity with the WGA, its members are still free to do work under its own jurisdiction. “I know that my fellow WGGB members will share my message of solidarity to our colleagues overseas, and I know many will also have understandable concerns about the impact on their work here, at a time when the traditional boundaries around genre and jurisdiction fall away, and when writers here face their own challenges,” WGGB chair Lisa Holdsworth said in a statement.
The Writers Guild of Canada has issued similar guidance for its own members, meaning WGC members can continue to work on projects under its own Independent Production Agreement but are discouraged from doing “struck work” (anything that falls under WGA jurisdiction). In its statement, the WGC pledged to “support the WGA during its strike to the fullest extent possible,” adding, “The compensation issues raised by WGA writers are the same concerns affecting writers around the world.”
This sentiment has been expressed by many international writers’ guilds, as Deadline previously reported: France’s La Guilde, the Writers’ Guild of Sweden, The Writers’ Guild of Ireland, the Screenwriters Guild of Israel, the Writers Guild of Italy, and the Australian Writers’ Guild are all among those who have expressed support for the WGA and discouraged their members from crossing U.S. picket lines. The international solidarity should only serve to strengthen the WGA’s collective power.