Paramount TV Studios Suspends Overall Deal With Justin Simien’s Culture Machine Amid Writers’ Strike
Justin Simien’s Culture Machine has launched a fundraising effort after the production company’s overall deal was suspended due to the writers’ strike.
“At 6:30pm on May 7, I sat surrounded by five incredible humans who’d gathered for my 40th birthday dinner, in awe of the fact that 10 years after my first feature I’d finally assembled this ferocious team of employees and moved us into our first office. At about 7:30 p.m., I received an email revealing that we might lose everything,” he wrote on a GoFundMe page, which has raised over $40,000 since launching three days ago.
“If you haven’t yet heard, the film and TV industry is facing sudden and unprecedented turmoil, and my company is in trouble,” he continued. “Culture Machine is the production company I founded to support my work like ‘Dear White People,’ ‘Bad Hair’ and my upcoming feature film ‘Haunted Mansion,’ but also support the work of other marginalized creatives in this city.”
Many of the major tv/film studios are using the writer's strike as grounds to abruptly suspend overall deals, leaving small production companies like Culture Machine and their employees in sudden financial free-fall — and no one’s talking about it
— Culture Machine (@CultureMachine_) May 25, 2023
An overall deal is an agreement between a studio and production company or creative in which the studio offers financial support for ideas the company or creative mind creates while under the deal.
“To my genuine surprise and possibly yours, creating four seasons of a hit show, a podcast and three feature films is still not enough to maintain a small production company without the support of an overall deal. Most companies like ours are only able to exist because of these deals,” he added. “These economics are one of many reasons the current writers’ strike is happening and the reason we are fighting to survive as a company.”
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While acknowledging that the strike is “vital and necessary,” Simien emphasized that many people, including particularly young people of color and queer writers new to Hollywood, are at risk of losing their career due to the financial burdens associated with the effort.
“I don’t want that to include my team. I am doing everything I can at the moment to personally finance this small company, but even with reduced salaries it isn’t enough,” he said. “This isn’t about my paycheck or even my president’s, it’s about making sure our support staff can pay rent and survive in this city at least through the summer. Hopefully through the end of the strike, whenever that will be.”
The funds from the GoFundMe campaign will be used to pay Culture Machine’s support staff and overhead costs, he said.
“With significant reductions in pay, $60k ought to keep us afloat until the end of the summer,” Simien concluded. “If we are fortunate enough to make more than we need to stay afloat during the strike, additional funds raised will go directly toward helping support other writers affected by the work stoppage.”
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Simien, who didn’t specify which studio suspended the overall deal, inked an agreement with Paramount TV Studios in 2021. An individual with knowledge of the matter confirmed that the deal has been suspended by Paramount.
Representatives for Culture Machine didn’t immediately return TheWrap’s request for comment. A spokesperson for Paramount TV Studios declined to comment.
Simien isn’t the only notable writer to have his overall deal suspended. Earlier this month, “The Wire” creator David Simon revealed his overall deal was suspended by HBO after 25 years.
For all of TheWrap’s WGA strike coverage, click here.
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