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The filmmaker also detailed the ‘existential problem’ facing writers: ‘No one will be able to survive doing this’
Judd Apatow thinks studios and streamers already have an idea of when the writers’ strike will end.
“I think they probably already know what they’re going to be looking at,” Apatow said. Variety Saturday at Rock4EB Benefit in Malibu. “I guess they already know when it’s going to end. They’ve probably been planning this for years.
The writer-director reflected comments heard on picket lines in Los Angeles and New York after talks broke out between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers and the writers union began to strike on Tuesday. Apatow explained that he sees the strike as a calculated business move by Hollywood’s biggest employers.
“I always think that whatever happened, they could have figured it out already. When these things end, you never say to yourself, “I understand why this took so long.” It’s never something as inventive and revolutionary as you think, “Oh, people had to go to war for months for this.” It’s still a very obvious position,” Apatow said. “So what’s scary is that there is a solution, but I’m not sure all business interests are interested in getting there quickly.”
Although Apatow doesn’t currently have any projects in production directly impacted by the strike, he shares that the shutdown “affects everything because we’re in development on a lot of things so just stop… Then as soon as the strike comes ends, everyone says, ‘Oh, now we have a backlog, we don’t need anything.’
“That aspect complicates everything we’re trying to do,” Apatow continued. “We’re not in the middle of anything other than writing.”
Apatow says that studios and streamers don’t treat writers as essential for their final games. “We’re like Twitter employees, that if they want to save money, they get rid of 80% of the workforce,” he said. “That’s why it’s an existential problem. If the ecosystem of writers doesn’t exist, no one will learn how to do it. No one will be able to survive doing this. And then everyone will be like, “Well, maybe I’ll write video games, maybe I’ll do TikToks at home and become an influencer.” That’s a lot of creative people who can do other things. So you don’t want the whole system to collapse.
He said the increased slice of the financial pie the WGA is asking for is not about greed and trying to get rich.
“We now have a system that doesn’t reward the success of a lot of these projects,” Apatow said. “If you do something and a billion people watch it, you don’t make any more money than if it was a disaster, do you? It’s not good for creativity because it takes away a lot of motivation from creative people because people work very hard to create some kind of cushion for their lives. All of our work is an ebb and flow. Successes pay for the time when things are not going well. Sometimes they do well and sometimes they don’t, but you can live off the time you wrote something that had a lot of residual (fees paid). It has always been a fragile career. But if you take out most of the pivots, it’s a career that the majority of people can’t survive.