The idea of showrunners such as The White Lotus’ Mike White and Yellowstone’s Taylor Sheridan show write entire series of television by themselves was a much-debated topic of conversation during the WGA’s long summer strike.
After the WGA scored minimum staffing requirements in its deal with the AMPTP, it emerged that these solo scribes will be able to keep ploughing on, alone.
As the 2023 WGA – AMPTP MBA puts it, “This Paragraph M. does not apply when a single writer or team of writers is employed to write all episodes.”
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It comes as the deal requires for shows with six or fewer episodes, studios must hire at least three writers and three writer/producers. For shows with between seven and 12 episodes, the minimum is now five writers and three writer/producers and for shows with more than 13 episodes, there must be at least six writers and three writer/producers.
Andra Whipple, a writer on Adam Ruins Everything and co-chair of the WGA West’s Committee of Women Writers, noted on social media, “I just wanna say a special and hearty “you were wrong” to the man who yelled at me, to tears, at someone’s wedding, that minimum room size was impossible. He was fucking wrong. And we were fucking right.”
There was some confusion immediately after the deal was unveiled that the likes of Sheridan, who co-created Yellowstone and writes all episodes himself, and White, creator and showrunner of HBO’s The White Lotus, would be impacted by these rules. But they won’t.
Sheridan caused some controversy earlier this summer when he said the “freedom of the artist to create must be unfettered”. “If they tell me, ‘You’re going to have to write a check for $540,000 to four people to sit in a room that you never have to meet,’ then that’s between the studio and the guild. But if I have to check in creatively with others for a story I’ve wholly built in my brain, that would probably be the end of me telling TV stories.”
The move also protects other writers that prefer to toil alone including David E. Kelley, who wrote all the episodes of the first season of Big Little Lies and Craig Mazin, who wrote all episodes of HBO/Sky co-production Chernobyl.
Sandra Chwialkowska, a co-exec producer on ABC’s Hilary Swank drama Alaska Daily, called it the “Mike White You’re Alright rule.”
Seth Harrington, who has written on game shows such as Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? as well as the Catfish Killer short, said that he was worried that “we’re going to see more series written by only the showrunner”.
Fledgling writer Ari Donnelly said that this provision got him in a “mild panic” and that it was “good news for Taylor Sheridan but not anyone else”.
Given what the WGA won in this area, it likely won’t be too much of a bone of contention as the deal heads towards ratification.
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