'This fight is worth it': South Florida writer on the frontlines of Hollywood strike speaks out
A TV writer and actor from West Palm Beach has been on the frontlines of a Hollywood writer's strike, fighting for better pay and protections from AI and other issues.
West Palm Beach native Franchesca Ramsey is a seasoned TV writer and actor who's written for Hollywood productions that include the iCarly revival series, the Oscars ceremony, and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore.
She’s also one of about 11,500 film and TV screenwriters — members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) — who began striking May 2 after talks with Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) broke off.
The strike has already darkened late-night TV shows like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert "and “Saturday Night Live” and delayed the making of scripted TV shows.
The WGA is seeking better pay, new contracts for the streaming era and safeguards against the use of AI-scripted work-arounds.
In an interview with WLRN, Ramsey said she's especially "worried about the potential use of AI."
"We brought to the table the position that we don't want AI actually being involved in the writing or rewriting of scripts and we don't want AI to be trained to write scripts using our intellectual property,” Ramsey said.
“And the AMPTP rejected that proposal outright and instead offered to have a yearly meeting with us about technology, which is very broad,” she said.
Ramsey is concerned that writers "already struggling to make ends meet could make less income" if AI is implemented in the writing process.
“At some point the technology becomes so advanced that no writers are needed at all," Ramsey added. “And I don't believe that that will make a quality product. But I also believe that will hurt writers in the long term.”
The AMPTP released a four−page response that pushed back against many of WGA's proposals and claims, saying AI usage, for example, “requires a lot more discussion” because “writers want to be able to use this technology as part of their creative process, without changing how credits are determined, which is complicated given AI material can't be copyrighted.”
AMPTP added that “the current WGA Agreement already defines a “writer” to exclude any “corporate or impersonal purveyor” of literary material, meaning that only a “person” can be considered a writer and enjoy the terms and conditions of the Basic Agreement.”
Even famed actor Sean Penn has criticized Hollywood producers on the AI issue.
“There’s a lot of new concepts being tossed about including the use of AI It strikes me as a human obscenity for there to be pushback on that from the producers,” said Penn, speaking Friday at the Cannes Film Festival in France.
The AMPTP, in the days after the strike began, said in a statement that it presented an offer with “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals” and was prepared to improve its offer “but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the guild continues to insist upon.”
Ramsey argues the AMPTP doesn’t understand the writer’s key role in creating films and TV programs.
“They're just thinking about the bottom line. And what we're asking for is to be part of the process in an authentic way and in a financially compensated way as well.”
The last Hollywood strike, from the same union in 2007 and 2008, took three months to resolve. With no talks or even plans to talk pending between the two sides, there is no telling how long writers will have to go without pay, or how many major productions will be delayed, shortened or scrapped.
Said Ramsey: “We are willing to fight for as long as needed because we know this fight is worth it and we believe that we will win.”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Copyright 2023 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.