Hollywood writers’ strike: How Nollywood writers feel

Nollywood writers and showrunners weigh in on the ongoing Hollywood writers’ strike.

On May 2, 2023, Hollywood television and movie writers went on strike, effectively halting several projects.

The strike came after negotiations with studios and streamers over pay and other conditions ended without an agreement.

“Acting upon the authority granted to them by their memberships, they have voted unanimously to call a strike,” the Writers Guild of America board members tweeted.

The Hollywood writers’ strike has entered its sixth week and is showing no signs of ending soon with some actors threatening to join.

We reached out to a few Nollywood writers to weigh in on the growing labour movement. Here is what they had to say:

Bunmi Ajakaiye

I support the writers’ strike in the US because as time passes, the distribution of film and TV content evolves and with that comes more avenues for returns. However, when the terms under which contracts were executed, these new distribution outlets didn’t exist therefore, the writer had no real grounds to claim any residuals from the windfall that producers can claim, years down the line.

The writers’ strike in 1985 came about due to VHS film releases which writers had no residual claims over. Same in 2007 when DVD and the new media, aka the internet came around; terms had to be renegotiated to include writers being able to claim residuals.

And now in 2023, the big streamers are the new player in the industry and once again, writers have to go on strike just to be included in the profit they contributed to create.

Unfortunately, this keeps happening but not surprising as writers are often the most forgotten party in the filmmaking process. Systems are what make any society work. When we build similar systems then one day, Nollywood too can get to a point where everyone is accounted for when it comes to reaping the benefits of our creativity.

Xavier Ighorodje

The writers’ strike is a result of a change in the business model of film and TV distribution in America. Before, film was limited to mostly cinemas, your HD or DVD and then you rent it on cable TV. TV series would air on TV and they had advert slots. What this meant for writers was that they would always get their back ends from the number of DVD sales or when TV shows are syndicated or re-aired.

But now, TV shows are no longer going on TV they are going on streaming platforms like Netflix, HBO, Peacock, and Hulu and the TV shows are also no longer being syndicated again after the first time it shows.

When they go on these streaming platforms because of the former contracts that have been signed with these big studios, these writers don’t get any back end from their hit TV shows being aired on streaming platforms. They are asking for less than 2% of the back ends that the studios are going to get from subscriber fees but these studios are saying no.

With the writers on strike, nothing is being written literally and it just shows you what deliberate creative action can cause in a country where laws matter. Now if we bring that to Nigeria we realise that we are basically in a rat race and it’s a shitstorm. We don’t even have laws guiding our guild, we don’t even have a guild that has any form of power to defend us.

We are not organised in any way, so where do we even start if you want to strike? That’s one of the reasons why Netflix can come and they will pay us the barest minimum required and because it’s foreign currency, we jump at it thinking we are eating good when it’s nothing compared to shows they do in other organised places like South Africa. It just shows you how much work we need to do.

Anthony Kehinde Joseph

I support the writers’ strike because studios have made infinitely more revenue from shows streamed online and not just in America but to a global audience with record numbers for shows like Money Heist, and Squid Game.

Ironically, writers, have made much less because episodes have become fewer, the pay has become less and therefore it makes no sense that the creators who are developing the story and creating the material that actors, producers and everybody bring to life that wow the world are the ones being getting less.

More importantly, the U.S. is the standard for what writers on television and in film should earn. If the U.S. creates a new standard where writers are the most underserved in the creative process, it becomes very disheartening for the rest of the world. It becomes troubling when people around the world begin to point at the new flawed American model to say, “If it happens in America, this is a model we should adopt here.”

Hollywood has a system that makes it possible to fight for these sorts of rights, therefore this gives us a template to localise for our use.

Rita C Onwurah

They’re fighting for their rights. Crafting a good story is not easy and the writers deserve compensation for the work they put in. Screenwriters barely get any recognition globally whether it’s Nollywood or Hollywood. Writing the story is the foundation of the building, if you don’t have a good story you will not have a good series or movie.

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