George R.R. Martin wrote another impassioned blog post about the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, doubling down on his support for the Guild while honing in on what he believes is the strike’s most pressing issue: mini rooms.
Writers in Hollywood are fighting for a number of key issues, among them the dissolution of the mini-room model, which enables studios to hire fewer writers, make them as disposable as possible and divorce them from the production process, which is pivotal for compensation and career growth.
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As Martin puts it on his Not a Blog website, getting rid of mini rooms “is the most important of the things that the Guild is fighting for. The right to have that kind of career path. To enable new writers, young writers, and yes, prose writers, to climb the same ladder… Streamers and shortened seasons have blown the ladder to splinters.”
Martin, best known for penning the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels and serving as a writer and co-executive producer on HBO’s hit adaptation “Game of Thrones,” first entered Hollywood as a writer on “The Twilight Zone” and the 1987 “Beauty and the Beast” television series. He argues that the mentorship and experience he gained while working on the production of “The Twilight Zone” was invaluable, and he is worried that today’s up-and-coming writers are not allowed the same access.
“There is no film school in the world that could have taught me as much about television production as I learned on ‘Twilight Zone’ during that season and a half,” Martin writes.
Martin then goes into more depth, explaining: “The way it works now, a show gets put in development, the showrunner assembles a ‘mini room,’ made up of a couple of senior writers and a couple newcomers, they meet for a month or two, beat out the season, break down the episodes, go off and write scripts, reassemble, get notes, give notes, rewrite, rinse and repeat… and finally turn [in] the scripts. [The] show is greenlit (or not, some shows never get past the room) and sent into production. The showrunner and his second, maybe his second and his third, take it from there.”
He adds, “The junior writers? They’re not there. Once they delivered their scripts and did a revision of two, they were paid, sent home, their salary ended. They are off looking for another gig. If the series gets another season, maybe they will be brought back. Maybe they won’t. Maybe they can’t, since they are off in another mini room for another show. If they do get brought back, they may get a promotion… but that’s not guaranteed.”
Martin mentions that while, in negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) offered the WGA the chance for some writers to be brought onto sets to “shadow” showrunners and producers, “Even that will not be an absolute right. Maybe they will be let in, maybe not. These are the people who wrote the stories being filmed, who created the characters, who wrote the words the actors are saying.”
Wrapping up his thoughts, Martin writes, “Mini rooms are abominations, and the refusal of the AMPTP to pay writers to stay with their shows through production — as part of the JOB, for which they need to be paid, not as a tourist — is not only wrong, it is incredibly short-sighted. If the story editors of 2023 are not allowed to get any production experience, where do the studios think the showrunners of 2033 are going to come from? If nothing else, the WGA needs to win on that issue. No matter how long it may take.”
In a blog post earlier this week, Martin announced that the “Game of Thrones” spinoff “The Hedge Knight” has paused its writers room in acknowledgment of the strike, as the author offered his “unequivocal support” for the WGA.
“I want to go on the record with my full and complete and unequivocal support of my Guild,” Martin wrote. “Maybe the AMPTP members will come to their senses tomorrow and offer some meaningful concessions, and the whole thing can be wrapped up next week. I would not bet the ranch on that, however… The issues are more important, and I have never seen the Guild so united as it is now.”
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