After six tense weeks of negotiations that reached no deal, Hollywood film and TV writers are now on strike.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA)(opens in a new tab), the organisation that represents screenwriters in the U.S. across its East and West branches, made the announcement(opens in a new tab) on Monday, with the strike effective from a minute past midnight on Tuesday. The guild confirmed that picketing will begin Tuesday afternoon(opens in a new tab) outside major studios in LA, and at the Peacock NewFront on 5th Avenue in New York.”Though our Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing,” the WGA tweeted.
So why exactly are writers striking, and how will it affect your favourite films and TV shows?
Why are writers striking?:
The WGA’s existing three-year deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP)(opens in a new tab) — the organisation that represents studios like NBC Universal, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Paramount, and Sony in guild and union negotiations — came to an end at midnight on May 1. For the past six weeks, the two sides have been trying to negotiate a new deal to replace the existing one.
The problem? There are a number of key points they disagree on, ranging from pay and streaming compensation to TV writers’ room setups and artificial intelligence. The WGA has published a full list(opens in a new tab) of its proposals and the responses/counters from the AMPTP, which shows that the sides are a long way apart on a number of issues.
In mid-April, WGA members voted to approve potential strike action(opens in a new tab). Now that the deadline has been reached and a deal hasn’t been agreed upon, the WGA has initiated the strike.:
“The companies’ behavior has created a gig economy inside a union workforce, and their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devaluing the profession of writing,” reads the WGA Negotiating Committee’s statement(opens in a new tab). “From their refusal to guarantee any level of weekly employment in episodic television, to the creation of a ‘day rate’ in comedy variety, to their stonewalling on free work for screenwriters and on AI for all writers, they have closed the door on their labor force and opened the door to writing as an entirely freelance profession. No such deal could ever be contemplated by this membership.
“Here is what all writers know: the companies have broken this business,” the statement concludes. “They have taken so much from the very people, the writers, who have made them wealthy. But what they cannot take from us is each other, our solidarity, our mutual commitment to save ourselves and this profession that we love. We had hoped to do this through reasonable conversation. Now we will do it through struggle. For the sake of our present and our future, we have been given no other choice.”
The AMPTP, meanwhile, released its own statement(opens in a new tab) saying it was willing to continue engaging in discussions.
“The AMPTP presented a comprehensive package proposal to the Guild last night which included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals,” the statement reads. “The AMPTP also indicated to the WGA that it is prepared to improve that offer, but was unwilling to do so because of the magnitude of other proposals still on the table that the Guild continues to insist upon. The primary sticking points are ‘mandatory staffing,’ and ‘duration of employment’ — Guild proposals that would require a company to staff a show with a certain number of writers for a specified period of time, whether needed or not.”
How will it affect film and TV?:
Until a new deal is reached, the 11,500 writers the guild represents will be following strike rules(opens in a new tab). This means, in a nutshell, that TV and film writers won’t be writing anything new, will stop work on existing projects, and won’t take part in negotiations for new projects until the strike is over.
The most noticeable and immediate effect of this will be on late night TV, with shows like The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon set to go off air(opens in a new tab) during the writers’ strike. Last Week Tonight writer Chrissy Shackelford shared her reasons for striking in a tweet, writing: “I like my job. I like doing it. I am so sad to strike. But whats sadder is an industry where writers are devalued, money curdles at the top & a creative’s worth is tied – not to their labor – but to the company that owns the company that owns the company’s stock price.”Given how long the development process can be for movies and TV shows, viewers may not immediately notice some of the other effects. But it’s worth noting that the last WGA writers’ strike in 2007(opens in a new tab) ended up going for 100 days, which resulted in a number of big shows – including the likes of 30 Rock, Prison Break, and Lost – either being pushed back or airing with shortened seasons(opens in a new tab). A number of large movie productions like Quantum of Solace were also affected
On Tuesday, Yellowjackets co-creator Ashley Lyle tweeted to say they’d had “exactly one day” in the Season 3 writers’ room before the strike began.
Many other writers, meanwhile, from Fleishman is in Trouble‘s Taffy Brodesser-Akner to Succession‘s Lucy Prebble, have taken to Twitter to voice their support.
Last week, speaking on Late Night, Seth Meyers said he feels “very strongly that what the writers are asking for is not unreasonable.”
“As a proud member of the guild I’m very grateful that there’s an organisation that looks out for the best interests of writers,” he added.