Hollywood braced for a walkout with potentially wide-ranging effects as television and movie writers announced late Monday that they will go on strike for the first time in 15 years over fair pay in the streaming era.
The 11,500 screenwriters who are members of the Writers Guild of America have announced that they will join the picket lines on Tuesday. As of Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. PST, the writers’ current contract, which had been up for negotiation since March, had just passed the stroke of midnight. The guild notified its members that all script writing was to end immediately.
The West and East branches of the WGA’s board of directors unanimously decided to call for a strike, which would begin at the stroke of midnight. They claimed that writers are experiencing a “existential crisis.”
The WGA released a statement in which it said that “the companies’ behaviour has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devalue the profession of writing.” “They have closed the door on their labour force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession, starting with their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a “day rate” in comedy variety, to their obstruction on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers. This membership could never consider such a deal.
The trade group representing studios and production businesses, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, said late on Monday that talks fell short of reaching a deal before the existing contract expired. According to the AMPTP, it made a proposal that included “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals.”
The AMPTP claimed in a statement that while it was willing to strengthen its offer, it was unable to due to the size of other proposals that were still on the table and which the guild insisted upon.
Depending on how long the strike lasts, the labour issue can have a ripple impact on TV and film productions. But given the depth of the disagreement, a shutdown has been widely anticipated for months. Last month, 98% of the writers’ membership voted in favour of authorising a strike.
How writers are paid in an environment where streaming has altered Hollywood economics is at question. Writers complain that they aren’t paid enough, that TV writing rooms have shrunk too much, and that the existing formula for calculating residual payments needs to be revised.
According to the guild, “our profession’s survival is on the line.”
Showrunner and co-creator of “Halt and Catch Fire,” Christopher Cantwell, wrote on Twitter, “Pencils down.”Writing employment have increased as a result of the explosion in the number of series and films produced each year thanks to streaming. However, WGA members claim they are making significantly less money and working in more stressful environments.
According to the WGA, showrunners for streaming programmes only get paid 46% as much as those for broadcast series. Despite a growth in content, remuneration is declining.
The guild wants better payment up front in contracts. The advent of streaming has largely eliminated many of the back-end fees from which authors have previously benefited, such as syndication and international licencing. Over the past ten years, more writers — about half — have received minimum pay, an increase of 16%. The popularity of these “mini-writers rooms” has increased.
The guild is seeking a minimum number of scribes per writer room, according to the AMPTP, which stated on Monday that these mini-rooms and time limits on work were the main sources of contention in negotiations. The guild has stated that more latitude for writers is required when they are hired for programmes that have a history of being more constrained and transient than the once common 20+ episode broadcast season.
Wall Street is putting more pressure on studios to make money with their streaming services at the same time. Spending is being cut by several studios and production businesses. The Walt Disney Company is laying off 7,000 employees. In order to reduce its debt, Warner Bros. Discovery is slashing expenses. The growth of consumer expenditure has been slowed by Netflix.
Hollywood writers’ strikes have typically lasted a long time. A WGA strike in 1988 lasted for 153 days. The most recent WGA strike lasted 100 days, from 2007 to 2008.
The strike’s immediate effects on viewers are most likely to be felt in late-night programming and “Saturday Night Live.” Everyone should instantly turn dark. Late-night hosts eventually resumed airing during the 2007 strike and used improvised content. Jay Leno’s decision to write his own monologues infuriated the union leadership.Seth Meyers, a WGA member who stated he supports the union’s demands, prepped viewers for reruns on Friday’s broadcast of “Late Night” while bemoaning the difficulties a strike brings.