Hollywood writers are on strike.
Thousands of unionized screenwriters who say they are not paid fairly for their work took to the picket line Tuesday after high-stakes negotiations between a major union and a trade association representing major Hollywood studios failed to avert the first major strike in more than 15 years.
The strike went into effect at 12:01 am PT on Tuesday. The Writers Guild of America said more than three hours earlier that the board of directors voted unanimously to call a strike.
«The WGA Bargaining Committee began this process with the intent of making a fair deal, but the responses from the studios have been wholly inadequate given the existential crisis writers are facing,» the union said in a statement.
The strike means production on some of your favorite streaming shows, series streaming, and potentially some movies will be effectively halted, turning the industry upside down.
In some cases, the impact will be immediately clear: Late-night talk shows are expected to shut down this week, for example, and NBC’s «Saturday Night Live» could cancel this weekend’s episode. In other cases, producers of scripted drama and comedy series may be forced to cut their seasons short or delay filming altogether.
The existing contract between the WGA and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, expired at midnight Tuesday (Pacific Time). Ninety-seven percent of the WGA writers voted to authorize a strike if no agreement could be reached. (Comcast, the corporation that owns NBCUniversal, is one of the companies represented by the AMPTP.)
The AMPTP said late Monday that negotiations between it and the writers’ union on Monday failed to reach an agreement.
“The main sticking points are ‘mandatory staffing’ and ‘length of employment’: Guild proposals that would require a company to integrate a program with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether or not it is necessary. «, said. .
What is at stake and the demands
The work stoppage comes amid intense economic and technological turmoil in the entertainment industry, which is grappling with the growing dominance of streaming services, declining traditional streaming audiences and even the rise of artificial intelligence, that has stoked anxiety about the future of the creative professions. .
WGA members are looking for salary increases and structural changes to a business model that they say has made it increasingly difficult to earn a living. In recent years, amid the explosion of streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+, the median salary for writers and producers has fallen by 4%, or 23% when adjusted for inflation. according to WGA statistics.
«Companies have used the transition to broadcasting to cut writers’ pay and separate writing from production, worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels,» the WGA said in a statement. March 14 newsletter titled «The writers are not up to date».
The guild added that more writers are «working to the bare minimum regardless of experience.» By contrast, the salaries of top entertainment executives have skyrocketed in recent years.
The WGA said Monday that «corporate behavior has created a gig economy within a unionized workforce.»
He said that the companies «opened the door for writing as a completely independent profession», citing things like a daily fee for variety comedy, and that «this membership could never contemplate such an arrangement».
in a video message Posted on April 11, comedy writer-producer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel («The Carmichael Show»), a member of the WGA’s bargaining committee, said that «this is no ordinary bargaining cycle,» adding: » We are fighting for the economy of writers.» survival and stability of our profession.
Union writers are particularly frustrated that broadcast-era shows run fewer episodes than their broadcast counterparts, making it difficult to maintain a steady income. Additionally, residual fees (money paid when a show is syndicated or aired abroad) has all but disappeared as more content is hosted exclusively on streaming platforms.
In an interview with «NBC Nightly News,» Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the creator of Netflix’s animated series «BoJack Horseman,» explained the writers’ demands in strict terms.
“We want more money,” Bob-Waksberg said. “We want enough money to earn a basic living doing what we love.”
“I think we’re getting to the point where the only people who can afford to try and start a career in TV or movies are going to be people who are already independently wealthy, which I don’t think is good for TV or movies. I don’t think we want that,” she said.
In a statement issued two days before the negotiations broke down, the AMPTP said it had been working to «reach a fair and reasonable agreement.»
“AMPTP companies have approached these negotiations with the long-term health and stability of the industry as our priority,” the group said. “We are all partners in charting the future of our business together, and we are fully committed to reaching a mutually beneficial agreement.”
The AMPTP said on Monday that its offer to the union «included generous increases in writers’ compensation, as well as improvements in broadcast residuals.»
The AMPTP represents major movie studios such as Disney, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros.; the main open television networks, such as ABC, CBS and NBC; and major streaming services, including Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon. (Universal Pictures is a unit of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.)
WGA members last went on strike in November 2007 amid an impasse with the AMPTP over writers’ salaries and other issues. The work stoppage clogged Hollywood’s content production pipeline and lasted for 100 days, ending on February 12, 2008.
The union is currently facing problems that might have been unfathomable during the last strike, when Netflix was best known for shipping DVDs in red envelopes and traditional TV channels still generated gigantic viewership ratings.
In a sign of the times, the WGA’s demands for this trading cycle include regulations for the «use of material produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies.»