The Writers Guild of America strike and Warner Bros. Discovery collided during David Zaslav’s commencement speech at Boston University, where the WBD CEO was met with protests. The divide widens amid Hollywood Studios now using the rise of streaming and growing speculation of AI to edge writers out of a legitimate career deserving of fair compensation and job security.

This point of contention hit an all-time high on May 2nd with the WGA strikes, which saw protests at Hollywood studios in Los Angeles and New York City. The writers’ strike is only heating up, with major Hollywood productions down temporarily. Zaslav assures writers that their “number one focus is, let’s try and get this resolved. Let’s do it in a way that the writers feel that they’re valued — which they are — and they’re compensated fairly.” However, writers like Adam Conover suggest otherwise. On CNN, Conover argued that Zaslav’s $250 million Warner Bros. salary was “about the same level as what 10,000 writers are asking him to pay” all of them “collectively.”

Protests drowned out Zaslav’s recent commencement speech at Boston University, where he was invited to attend and receive an honorary degree. The Writers Guild denounced this by stating, “Boston University should not give voice to someone who wants to destroy their students’ ability to build a career in the film and television industry.” The student body reflected this attitude, as chants expressing “pay your writers,” “we don’t want you here,” and “Shut up, Zaslav” could be heard from the crowd during the 20-minute speech. An airplane banner stating, “David Zaslav Pay Your Writers,” was also seen. New Warner Bros. Discovery management under Zaslav has seen massive layoffs despite the company not being for sale and has only gotten worse within the context of the WGA since the Discovery merger in April 2022.

WGA East released a statement to The Hollywood Reporter stating: “The message from students, writers, members of other unions and of the community is very clear: Zaslav and all of the company chiefs have to negotiate an agreement that addresses the very real challenges WGA members face, that make it possible for writers — and aspiring writers — to build and sustain careers creating the content that the companies rely on for revenue and profit.“ After the commencement speech, Zaslav reiterated that he is “immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value.” However, this also comes from the same CEO who admits that “streaming is going to be very profitable for us [WBD],” which is at the expense of those same writers. The writing strikes have Hollywood on edge, as Jenna Ortega received WGA backlash for arguably tone-deaf statements about rewrites she made on the hit Netflix series Wednesday.

Diplomatic rhetoric will only take the Warner Bros. Discovery CEO so far. Zaslav will have to eventually put his money where his mouth is if an agreement is made among both parties that will bring writers and Hollywood together again, especially after canceling Batgirl in its post-production stages. Bullish moves like this only fuel the flames between creatives and executives, which Brandan Fraser predicted following the events of that film’s cancelation.

Despite this, Zaslav’s main goal is to bridge the gap, at least based on his own words. However, with the industry heading in a direction that edges out writing as a profession, with the CEO’s business strategy that may support this initiative to cut costs, actual headway will have to be made before, as Zaslav expressed with THR, “a love for the business and a love for working” will bring Hollywood and the WGA together again.

Source: Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter [2]

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