BOSTON (AP) — Dozens of Boston University students turned their backs on the head of one of Hollywood’s largest studios, and some chanted “pay your writers,” as he delivered the school’s commencement speech Sunday at a stadium where protesters were supporting the writers’ strike in Hollywood picked up outside.
About 100 protesters chanted “No pay, no pages”, waved signs and were joined by an inflatable rat outside Nickerson Field as David Zaslav, president and CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery, gave his speech at the stadium. Thousands of graduating students, family members and teachers attending the graduation ceremony had to walk past the protesters to enter the stadium.
A small plane flew above the stadium with a banner that read: “David Zaslav – pay your writers.”
Kim Caramele, a writer and producer from North Stonington, Connecticut, said she hoped the protesters’ presence at the graduation ceremony would give students a different perspective on what they should value in life.
“The writers here today can show the students that wealth is something other than good,” said Caramele, an Emmy and Peabody Award winner for her work on her sister’s show, “Inside Amy Schumer.”
At the stadium, dozens of students in red graduation gowns stood up during Zaslav’s speech and turned their backs on him. Other students jeered during his speech, shouting in support of the striking writers.
A graduate of the university’s law school in the mid-1980s, Zaslav was a contentious choice, with many alumni expressing their objections on social media.
Saying the rise of streaming has hurt their earning power, about 11,500 members of the Writers Guild for America left their jobs in early May, after talks over a new contract fell through, and they haven’t returned to the negotiating table since. It’s the first writers’ strike — and the first Hollywood strike of any kind — in 15 years.
The association is looking for higher minimum wages, more writers per show, and shorter exclusive contracts, among other demands — all the terms it says have been reduced in the streaming-powered content boom.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers has said it had offered “generous increases in writers’ compensation and improvements in streaming residuals,” including the highest first-year wage increase in a WGA contract in more than 25 years, and the creation of a new rate category that would mean a new, higher minimum for mid-range writers.