Seven years ago, a drunken Javier Grillo-Marxuach, writer-producer, and his colleague, Jose Molina, made a shocking list that sent ripples through the industry. In their inebriated state, they listed all the sociopathic abusers they had worked for, and it was a doozy. However, that’s not all they did. They also made a second list of the good ones, but unfortunately, it was disappointingly shorter. Grillo-Marxuach spoke about the list at the ATX Festival’s Beyond the Page panel, where he shared how the industry’s shift to a streaming model led to dwindling resources and mentorship for younger writers.
Grillo-Marxuach, who worked on “Lost” in the past, hinted that the toxic culture of TV writers’ rooms was part of the reason for the exhaustive list. In the past, TV writers played a pivotal role in guiding their show’s productions to align with the showrunner’s vision. They helped to make adjustments that retained the integrity of the script and ensured that the show remained true to its brand. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case anymore in the current streaming model, and writers are often left out of the production process entirely.
Grillo-Marxuach said, “On streaming shows, you spend six months in a row writing scripts, and then everybody gets to eff off. The only person leftover is the showrunner and maybe whoever the least expensive writer was on the staff. Then production begins, and you have to figure out what to actually do.” This off-putting trend leaves writers trying to write scripts in a vacuum, which negatively impacts show quality and stifles junior-level writers’ growth.
During a recent Writers Guild of America strike, Grillo-Marxuach discussed on another panel titled Artificial Intelligence and Us, one of the sticking points of the negotiations: using AI to write film and television. He argued that rather than completely sidelining AI, utilizing it should be balanced with hiring writers to help the AI learn. He also emphasized the importance of having writers on set, highlighting their critical role in ensuring the success of the show and giving them the practical experience essential to their advancement. Grillo-Marxuach, in an impassioned plea, said, “The future of television is that Netflix is going to figure out that they have to make television. If we don’t go back to a model where we are doing it because that is the structure of it, then we have to bake it into the contracts, and they have to pony up to have the writers on set. That’s what we’re striking for.”