WGA Strike Aftermath: Spelman Alumnae’s Journey of Adaptation

Rhyan Lewis (Class of 2021)
Rhyan Lewis (Class of 2021)
Provided by Lewis

The Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) ended their 4 ½ month strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) on Wednesday, September 27, 2023. The strike was caused by the introduction of AI, pay cuts for writers, and a lack of suitable writing spaces.

The strike had a significant impact on the careers of those involved, including Spelman alumnae who work in the entertainment industry, both in front of and behind the camera. The resolution of the strike marks a turning point for the industry, which must navigate the ever-evolving landscape of technology and creativity while striving to ensure fair compensation and conducive working environments for those who craft the stories we love.

The agreement secured by the writers includes a contract extending until May 2026, with an immediate 5% minimum wage increase upon contract ratification. The agreement also specifies that AI is not allowed to create or modify literary content, and any AI-generated materials are categorically excluded from consideration as source material. Furthermore, the guild has achieved a groundbreaking arrangement in the realm of streaming based on residuals tied to viewership, ensuring writers receive a fair share of the profits from the content they create.

Many Spelman alumnae were affected financially during the strike, forcing them to find jobs outside of their careers or explore different areas within the industry. Bria Henderson (Class of 2015) and Rhyan Lewis (Class of 2021) were able to work through the pressures, even if unsure of the outcome.

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You have to make your career what you want it to be … I created Virginality in a short film because I needed the industry and the world to be able to see what I had,” explained Henderson.

“Thankfully, by the grace of God, I was able to still get in production in a different realm that wasn’t affected by the strike,” stated Lewis.

As both alumnae are on different paths, they are at the forefront of the industry. For Lewis, starting off in entertainment law as a fellow in the inaugural class of the MPA-EICOP Entertainment Law & Policy Fellowship brought her to a realization about her path. She expanded her skillset in other areas of the industry to make ends meet and expose herself to the creative side of entertainment.

“I ended up doing event and experimental production as just a means to get me started,” said Lewis.

Meanwhile, Henderson, best known for her roles as Dr. Jordan Allen in the ABC TV series The Good Doctor and Margaret Sloan in Mrs. America, accompanied fellow writers and producers during the SAG – AFTRA strike (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists). This move showcased unity across the film industry.

“WGA went on strike first, and they really set the tone. SAG and actors wanted to also stand in solidarity with the writers, so it made sense for us to go on strike as well. Not just because of the writers but for our own problems that we’re facing in the industry,” stated Henderson.

The strikes orchestrated by the WGA and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) proved to be a collective wake-up call for the entertainment industry. As Spelman alumnae continue to make their mark in the world of entertainment, their unique blend of talent and adaptability remains a source of pride and inspiration for the Spelman community. These shifts are propelling the entertainment world towards a more dynamic and representative future, one that recognizes the rich diversity of voices, experiences, and talents that have long been underrepresented on screen and behind the scenes.

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