Former ‘CSI’ Writer Details ‘Unsustainable’ Career Roller Coaster in Nod to WGA Vote: ‘We’re Not a Priority’

Deanna Shumaker says she’s struggled so much to find a job that she hasn’t earned enough to be eligible to vote for strike authorization


With the WGA currently holding a strike authorization vote among its members, former “CSI” writer Deanna Shumaker shared her story about how she has struggled so much to find writing jobs in Hollywood that she is no longer eligible to take part in the vote.

“The studios have the money to pay us, they just don’t want to. We’re not a priority. They’re diminishing the role writers play, even though without us, these characters and shows would not exist,” she wrote.

The WGA strike authorization vote, which runs from Tuesday through Monday (April 11-17), is only open to members who have earned the minimum requirement of $37,953.51 over the past six years or have recorded 15 pension-eligible years, meaning they earned at least $5,000. Shumaker says she has not found enough positions in writers rooms to meet this requirement.

“When the Strike Authorization Vote percentages are announced, I hope everyone realizes that for every YES vote counted, there’s probably another out of work writer like me who whole-heartedly supports this campaign even though we don’t have a voice in it,” Shumaker tweeted.

In a thread, Shumaker recounted how she got her start as a production and writer’s assistant on “CSI” in the wake of the 2007 WGA strike and worked there for eight seasons until the show’s cancellation in 2015, even writing two episodes as a freelancer.

“The entire time I was there, I looked at those writers, who all had money to buy houses and go to concerts and send their children to private school and eat all the f–king avocado toast they wanted to, and I thought, ‘one day, that’ll be me,’” she wrote.

Shumaker got a brief taste of steady writer income when she spent a year in the WB Writers Workshop, but in 2016 was replaced by the next batch of writers from that workshop when the year ended. She said that she wouldn’t get another writing job until 2020 when she applied for a writing contest, and had to rely on income from driving for Postmates to make ends meet.

“I made so much money THAT year. And it was during the pandemic so I was barely spending anything. But it was 27 weeks of income that has now had to last me another two and a half years. This is UNSUSTAINABLE,” Shumaker tweeted. “I have great reps. My agent and my manager are both fucking awesome. Whenever I ask them about a show I’m interested in, 9 times out of 10 they tell me they’re only reading ULs [upper-level writers] or, ‘It’s a mini-room, they’re hiring people they’ve worked with before.’ Every. Single. Time.”

Shumaker’s thread, which has been shared by prominent writers like “Law & Order: SVU” showrunner Warren Leight, reflects what the WGA has argued on its contract negotiations website. In several posts, the WGA has outlined how the rise of streaming in recent years have led to shorter episode orders, the abandonment of the traditional season calendar and smaller writers rooms, leading to fewer job opportunities and writers struggling to work their way up to higher-paid positions or to even earn significant pay beyond contractual minimums.

“Over the past decade, while our employers have increased their profits by tens of billions, they have embraced business practices that have slashed our compensation and residuals and undermined our working conditions,” the WGA said in a memo sent to members this week. “The survival of writing as a profession is at stake in this negotiation.”

The guild’s strike authorization vote is expected to be overwhelmingly approved, with the WGA hoping to use it as leverage as talks resume with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents the studios. The current mutual bargaining agreement between the WGA and AMPTP expires on May 1.

“In this impossible-to-break-into industry, we were once promised that if we did the impossible, if we got ourselves in, then there was a path, a more or less fair path to success,” Shumaker wrote. “That is no longer true. Almost all of my low and mid-level writer friends are out of work right now. Many of them have never been to set. Most of them have side-hustles. NONE of them own houses or send their kids to private school. How could they when every week of employment needs to be stretched to last?”