Renowned author and writer George R.R. Martin recently published a blog post on his Not a Blog website, sharing his support for the ongoing Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike in Hollywood. In particular, Martin emphasized the importance of dissolving the mini-room model, which he believes is the most critical issue that the Guild is fighting for. This article delves into Martin’s take on mini-rooms and their impact on writers’ career paths.
For the uninitiated, mini-rooms are a model that studios use to hire a small team of writers to work on a TV show or movie. These teams usually consist of a few senior writers and a couple of newcomers, who meet for a month or two to plan the season’s beats, break down the episodes, and write scripts. They then get notes, rewrite, and repeat the process until they turn in the final scripts. However, the crucial issue is what happens next.
The Plight of Junior Writers
According to Martin, the junior writers, or newcomers, are not involved in the production process beyond writing their scripts and doing a revision or two. They are then paid and sent home, with no guarantee of returning for the next season. In some cases, they are off looking for another gig, while in others, they are in another mini-room working on a different show. Even if they do come back, there’s no assurance of a promotion or any form of career growth. This model, Martin argues, makes writers as disposable as possible and divorces them from the production process, which is critical for compensation and career growth.
As a writer and co-executive producer on HBO’s hit adaptation “Game of Thrones,” Martin’s experience in Hollywood spans several decades. He argues that the mentorship and experience he gained while working on “The Twilight Zone” were invaluable, and he is worried that today’s up-and-coming writers are not allowed the same access. For Martin, dissolving mini-rooms is vital in enabling new writers, young writers, and even prose writers to climb the same ladder. He laments that streamers and shortened seasons have blown the ladder to splinters.
Martin also notes that in negotiations, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) offered the WGA the chance for some writers to shadow showrunners and producers on set. However, even that is not an absolute right, and it’s up to the discretion of the showrunner or producer to let them in. Martin argues that these are the people who wrote the stories being filmed, created the characters, and wrote the words the actors are saying. They should not be treated as tourists, but as an essential part of the job, for which they need to be paid.
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