‘Nobody wants to not be writing:’ Local TV, movie writer reacts to first WGA strike in 15 years

PITTSBURGH — Point Park University Professor Matt Pelfrey became a member of the Writers Guild of America 11 years ago.

His love for writing started years prior, writing for theater.

He’s worked on shows like MTV’s “Skins,” and a show on Facebook Watch. He also writes his own stories.

“I sold a screenplay, a thriller, to a company in China,” Pelfrey said.

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Since his time on “Skins” ended after one season in 2011, Pelfrey said the television industry changed a lot.

“In terms of writers and work, in the glory days of the networks, you would get an order for 24 episodes for a show, which is a lot more than what you’re seeing all the streamers,” Pelfrey said. “It can be eight, it can be 12, it can be 10. that’s a drastic reduction of opportunity to make a living,” Pelfrey said.

Pelfrey said streaming shows also don’t have the luxury of having re-runs on a different network. That cuts into what’s called residual pay and is one thing the Writers Guild wants studios to address.

“It’s not like things are going to change back to the way they were, but the compensation structure needs to be modernized to take all of these things into account,” Pelfrey said.

For now, you’ll notice shows like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Saturday Night Live running repeats.

Shows that are already written, like sitcoms and dramas, will run until the new content dries up.

Summer shows and new shows for the fall? Those could be delayed.

“Those are all put into jeopardy now,” Pelfrey said.

Channel 11′s Andrew Havranek asked the Pittsburgh Film Office how this strike could affect shows being filmed here.

In a statement, the Film Office said, “This strike does not affect us right now as we do not currently have anything filming. If the strike is prolonged it could affect the work we have scheduled for the summer. We hope this summer brings news of increased Film Tax Program incentives of $300MM, currently, we rest at $100M, which is oversubscribed and underfunded. "

“Writers love to write,” Pelfrey said. “Nobody wants to not be writing, not be working on a show.”

In 2007, the last time the Writers Guild went on strike, networks filled spots with unscripted reality shows. Pelfrey said that could happen again depending on how long this strike lasts.

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