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George R.R. Martin Explains Why Mini Rooms Are an ‘Abomination’ in Support of WGA Strike

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that A Song of Ice and Fire author George R.R. Martin supports the Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike — insert lazy joke about The Winds of Winter never releasing here — but in a blog post, he actually went so far as to describe “mini rooms” as an “abomination” for developing writers. If you don’t know what a mini room is, that’s perfect, because he spends a good chunk of the post explaining what that is too.

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George R.R. Martin outlined how, after 14 years in writing prose, an executive producer invited him in 1985 to write a freelance script for an episode of a reboot of The Twilight Zone. Since the script was well received, Martin was brought on for six weeks in Los Angeles as a “Staff Writer, at the Guild minimum salary, scripts against,” the lowest rung in the writing business, but he learned a tremendous amount about TV production because he got to sit in on casting sessions and table reads, work with the directors, and even watch a dude accidentally get his nose cut off during a sword fight stunt gone wrong (yikes). As Martin noted, “There is no film school in the world that could have taught me as much about television production as I learned on Twilight Zone during that season and a half.”

He was promoted from staff writer to story editor, and though The Twilight Zone was ultimately canceled, he moved on to Beauty and the Beast (the TV series), where he continued rising through the ranks, eventually becoming co-executive producer. He is adamant that none of this career progression would have ever been possible without his experience working in the trenches on The Twilight Zone as a staff writer, regardless of his prose success.

In the current writing landscape, the existence of mini rooms sidesteps any necessity to involve bottom-rung writers in production, meaning they never develop the production knowledge to receive promotions and advance their careers — and hence George Martin calling them an abomination. The exact definition of a “mini room” varies from person to person because their nature is pretty malleable. However, as Martin describes it, “The way it works now, a show gets put in development, the showrunner assembles a ‘mini-room,’ made up of a couple of senior writers and a couple newcomers, they meet for a month or two, beat out the season, break down the episodes, go off and write scripts, reassemble, get notes, give notes, rewrite, rinse and repeat… and finally turn into the scripts.”

If the show is ultimately greenlit, the showrunner will typically hire their close associates / friends who already have “writer producer” knowledge to help them run the show. Meanwhile, the mini room junior writers will be paid for their initial work at Guild minimum and effectively discarded afterward, unless the showrunner agrees to bring them back for another season. Even then, these writers probably won’t receive any experience in production, because they won’t be there for it (unless a promotion is offered).

“I know writers who have been Staff Writer on half a dozen different series, and others who have been ‘Writer’s Room Assistant’ (which is the new entry level gig, since no one buys freelance scripts any more) three or four times, never getting off the bottom rung of the ladder so matter how talented they are,” said George R.R. Martin.

The WGA effectively wants to abolish mini rooms as they currently exist, to ensure that junior writers get paid a fair amount for their series-defining work and have opportunities to further develop their production skills — and Martin is all about that.

He concluded his blog post with the following:

Mini-rooms are abominations, and the refusal of the AMPTP [Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers] to pay writers to stay with their shows through production — as part of the JOB, for which they need to be paid, not as a tourist — is not only wrong, it is incredibly short sighted. If the Story Editors of 2023 are not allowed to get any production experience, where do the studios think the Showrunners of 2033 are going to come from?

Of course, mini rooms are ultimately only one aspect of the WGA strike, as the writers guild must also contend with inane AMPTP machinations involving AI, among many other things. But this story from George R.R. Martin puts into perspective how much there is to lose if writers aren’t given room to spread their wings.

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John Friscia
Former Managing Editor at The Escapist. I have been writing about video games since 2018 and editing writing on IT, project management, and video games for around a decade. I have an English degree, but Google was a more valuable learning resource. I taught English in South Korea for a year in 2018, and it was exponentially more fun than living in Pennsylvania. My major passions in life are SNES, Japanese RPGs, Berserk, and K-pop. I'm currently developing the game Boss Saga with my brother, which is guaranteed to change your life and you should buy it.