Candidate for Council, Film/TV/Streaming Sector
Hi, I’m Sarah Montana. At some point during Hot Strike Summer, I probably burst your eardrums as I led chants through a bullhorn in my role as picket captain. Or maybe I talked you into joining me at a 5 AM production shutdown picket, where we bonded over our despair that only Dunkin Donuts is open that early (which in no way deterred me from eating one more donut). I may have even talked you into coming all the way to New Jersey, where I helped coordinate countless shutdown pickets on productions to slow the pipeline and force the AMPTP back to the table. Maybe you’re a member of my team as a Guild captain. Or maybe, in a life before strike (if that ever existed), you saw one of my movies as a feature writer (primarily for Hallmark) or some of my work as a public speaker and activist for victims of gun violence and sexual assault.
I initially became a captain because I was concerned, especially as a feature writer, by the proliferation of free work and the lack of opportunity created by the Silicon Valley economic model that’s “disrupted” our industry without a vision for sustainable growth. Now that we’re this deep into strike, I have no doubt that our negotiation committee, powered by our unprecedented solidarity and will, is going to win us a strong contract.
But we’re also in a rare position to capitalize on the momentum we’ve built during this strike, to be proactive in anticipating ways the studios might take advantage of us in the future, and to patch up the wounds of several years of untenable working conditions. Here’s how I see us doing that:
Solidarity. This is a pivotal moment for labor in the United States. The Silicon Valley model is exploiting workers everywhere. If we want to stop the destruction its inflicting upon our industry, It is in our own self-interest to join with other unions across industries nationwide. It’s affecting all of us, and it will take all of us to stop it. We need to organize and push the federal government to take meaningful anti-trust action. We need to partner with other unions to ensure that the gig economy becomes a relic of the 2010’s.
Also, as a captain leading production shutdowns, I was blown away by the solidarity we received from our sister unions (Teamsters and IATSE), who refused to cross our picket lines at great personal cost. Some of our most effective actions have only been possible because of their solidarity. We must be able to express the same when their contracts come due, or we will all be weaker for it.
Technology. I have a close family member who works in developing A.I. They’ve made one thing very clear: Not only is A.I. going to drastically change the fabric of culture as we know it, but this will also be a more drastic change than anything any of us have experienced.
We cannot afford to be reactionary when it comes to technology. The negotiating committee was wise to consult with experts in tech and make sure language about A.I. is worked into our pattern of demands. But if we rely on only the language of the MBA to protect us every three years, it will be too late. If we thought streaming wrought havoc quickly, we need to learn those lessons and be doubly proactive about technology now. This means consulting with experts regularly, constantly assessing how studios are implementing tech, and keeping up with the changing landscape of social media (Peacock just loaded full episodes of shows to TikTok, which feels like an echo of the 2007-2008 strike).
I have no doubt we’re going to win a fair contract with vital language that sets new standards for protecting human workers’ rights. Let’s not stop there, let’s get as far ahead of it as we can.
Community. The conversations we’ve all had on the picket lines with writers outside of our mediums, genres, and experiences aren’t just a lovely way to pass the time: They’re our best battering ram against industry gatekeeping. An informed writer is an empowered writer. We’ve already learned so much from each other, here’s how I propose we keep that going:
- Expand training. We can’t wait for the industry to provide opportunities for growth, equity, diversity, and inclusion, or we’ll be waiting forever. We’ve seen how helpful the Showrunner and Staff writer training programs have been—I’d love to keep expanding our offerings in ways that ensure the power to develop our craft lies firmly in writers’ hands. During the strike, some fellow captains (hello Celine! Don! Lisa!) and I started “Wednesday Workshops,” a series led by members for members, to share skills, inside knowledge, and to bridge the gaps in career progress created by the squeeze of the last few years. I’d love to keep expanding this, training programs, salons, and possibly a network of self-sustaining writers’ groups that allow us to not only skillshare, but also to create the kinds of bosses and coworkers we hope to work with for decades to come.
- Beyond NYC. Writers Guild of America East is a whole half of the country! I’ve heard from many of you how isolated you feel living outside of NYC and got to know so many of you who were helping us shutdown productions in Jersey. You should never feel like your guild is far away and should always have access to a sense of community within your industry wherever you choose to do this work. Most importantly, anywhere states have tax credits for production, we should be fighting for tax credits for writers’ rooms and development. Anywhere in the east that has become a production hub should also be a place where writers can build a life.
Public Will. As a feature writer, this summer’s box office has offered a sliver of hope: Audiences want original stories! By the power of Barbenheimer, there are lessons to be learned and leveraged to tell the stories we want to tell—and to convince studios to take creative risks again. Let’s partner with audiences to demand more of the creativity that drew us into this career in the first place.
Most importantly, I’m also eager to hear what matters to YOU. Please reach out to me at email@example.com and let me know how you feel you’d best be represented on council. Thank you for your consideration!
I am grateful to be endorsed by: Adam Wiesen, Alex Johnson, Becky Mode, Benjamin August, Bonnie Datt, Brooke Berman, Bryan Donaldson, C Quintana, Celine Robinson, Chris Gethard, Dominic Colon, Don P. Hooper, Geri Cole, Glenn Eichler, Hillary Jordan, Jasmine Swift, Jill Twiss, Jonathan Bines, Kate Fodor, Kate Villa, L.E. Correia, Larry Cohen, Laura Canty-Samuel, Lisa Takeuchi Cullen, Liz Hara, Liz Hynes, Marjorie Sweeney, Mia Katherine Iverson, Micharne Cloughley, Monet Hurst-Mendoza, Moujan Zolfaghari, Nick Bernardone, Nicole Conlan, Patrick Coker, Sasha Stewart, Serena da Conceicao, Sheri Holman, Starlee Kine, Suzanne Weber, Tess Morris, Tom Kemnitz Jr., Victoria Pollack, and Warren Leight.