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Oscar-winning KU professor offers insight on writers' strike

David Rabinowitz, Charlie Wachtel, Kevin Willmott
Posted at 5:00 AM, May 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-03 13:52:29-04

LAWRENCE, KS — Early Tuesday morning, the Writers Guild of America announced that its members are now on strike, bringing much of the American film and television industry to a halt.

The strike pits guild members against The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, with compensation for writers as the sticking point.

KSHB 41 reached out to Professor Kevin Willmott, who teaches in the Film and Media Studies department at the University of Kansas. Willmott also won an Academy Award in 2019 for Best Adapted Screenplay on the film "BlacKkKlansman."

Wilmott worked on the movie alongside Hollywood mega-director Spike Lee and the cast included John David Washington, Adam Driver, Alec Baldwin and Ryan Eggold.

"It has to happen, because you know, the industry has changed a lot in the last few years," Willmott said. "And unfortunately, salaries, and especially residuals, have not changed."

Willmott is currently working on four projects, both feature films and television series.

But due to the strike, work on those active projects have been put on a hard stall. Willmott can still begin a new work on his own, but he cannot work on any of those projects that are already in progress.

"It's an odd kind of thing in a way," Willmott said. "Because you're used to talking to these people every day, and now you really can't."

According to NBC News, union proposals would require companies to staff television shows with a certain number of writers for a specific period of time, “whether needed or not.”

Willmott said writers' residual payments are also causing arguments between the two sides.

"Every time it's shown or someone purchases it, you're supposed to get a little, you know, relatively small piece of that." Willmott said. "In the end it all originates from a writer, and residuals is a large part of what writers kind of live on."

There's currently no timetable for how long the strike will last, but Willmott says he's hoping it will be over by June or July.

"I've been through a couple of these, and it's always a painful experience," Willmott said. "Because they always take a lot longer than you hope they would."