Film and television writers announce an industry-wide strike
TV and film writers in Hollywood have launched an industry-wide strike for the first time in 15 years, seeking fair pay in the era of streaming. The strike was called after negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers failed to reach a new contract before the writers’ current deal expired. All script writing is to cease immediately. The WGA board of directors voted unanimously to launch the strike, claiming that the writers were facing an “existential crisis”. The unions are looking for compensation on the front end of deals, both for streaming and back-end payments like syndication and international licensing.
Many of the back-end payments that writers have historically benefited from have largely been eliminated since the inception of streaming. The use of so-called “mini-writers’ rooms” has shot up, which the guild say is impacting their earnings. The AMPTP said that the guild was seeking restrictions on writers’ employment, in the shape of a minimum number of scribes per writers’ room, and restrictions on how long these rooms would stay in effect. The guild is seeking more flexibility for writers when they are under contract for series that tend to be more limited and short-lived than the standard 20+ episode broadcast season.
According to the WGA, showrunners of streaming series receive just 46% of the pay showrunners of broadcast series receive. Writers are asking for more compensation on the front end of deals, looking for a minimum number of scribes per writers’ room, and seeking more flexibility for writers when they are under contract for series that tend to be more limited and short-lived than the standard 20+ episode broadcast season.
Studios are under increasing pressure from investors to turn a profit on their streaming services. With many studios and production companies cutting back on spending, jobs are being eliminated across the industry. Disney is eliminating 7,000 jobs, and Warner Bros. Discovery is cutting costs to reduce its debt. Netflix has been working to reduce spending growth.
In the short term, the strike will likely have the most significant impact on late-night shows and “Saturday Night Live”. During the 2007 strike, night-time hosts eventually returned to the air, improvising material. Jay Leno wrote his monologues, a move that angered union leadership. The WGA said the companies’ behaviour had created a gig economy in a union workforce and their obdurate position in the negotiation had “betrayed a commitment to further devalue the writing profession”. They warned that “the survival of our profession is at stake”.
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