Hollywood screenwriters are on strike after failed contract negotiations

Hollywood writers are on strike.

Thousands of unionized screenwriters who say they are not being paid fairly for their work were heading to the picket line on Tuesday after high-stakes negotiations between a major union and a trade union representing leading Hollywood studios failed to avert the first major strike in more than 15 years.

The strike went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday Pacific Time. The Writers Guild of America said more than three hours ago that the board had voted unanimously to call a strike.

“The WGA’s Negotiating Committee initiated this process with the goal of reaching a fair deal, but the studios’ responses have been wholly inadequate given the existential crisis writers face,” the union said in a statement.

The strike means production on some of your favorite broadcast shows, streaming series and potentially some movies will be effectively halted, upending the industry.

In some cases, the impact will be immediately apparent: Late-night talk shows are expected to go dark this week, for example, and NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” could cancel this weekend’s episode. In other cases, producers of scripted dramas and sitcoms may have to cut their seasons or delay filming altogether.

The current 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’s writers voted in favor of authorizing a strike if a deal could not be reached. (Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, is one company represented by AMPTP.)

The association said on Monday evening that negotiations between him and the Writers Syndicate on Monday failed to reach an agreement.

“The main sticking points are ‘mandatory hiring’ and ‘term-of-employment’—union proposals that would require a company to hire a certain number of writers on a show for a specific period of time, whether it is necessary or not.” .

stakes and demands

The work stoppage comes amid severe economic and technological turmoil in the entertainment industry, which is grappling with the growing dominance of streaming services, declining traditional broadcast viewership and even the rise of artificial intelligence, which has raised anxiety about the future of creative professions. .

WGA members are seeking wage increases and structural changes to the business model that they say have made it more difficult to make a living. In recent years, amid the explosion of streaming platforms like Netflix and Disney+, the average writer and producer’s wage has fallen 4%, or 23% when adjusted for inflation, according to WGA statistics.

“Writers aren’t keeping up,” the WGA said in its March 14 publication, “Companies have used the transition to streaming to lower writer pay and separate writing from production, which has worsened working conditions for series writers at all levels.”

The union added that more writers are “at least employed, regardless of experience”. In contrast, the salaries of top entertainment executives have ballooned in recent years.

The WGA said Monday that “corporate behavior has created a gig economy within the unionized workforce.”

She said the companies “opened the door to writing as a completely independent profession,” citing such things as the day’s rate for comedy diversity, and that “this membership could never have considered such a deal.”

In a video message posted April 11, “This is no ordinary negotiating session,” said writer and producer Danielle Sanchez-Weitzel (“The Carmichael Show”), who is a member of the WGA negotiating committee, adding, “We are fighting for the economic survival of writers.” and the stability of our profession.”

Writers in the Syndicate are particularly frustrated that broadcast-era shows run for fewer episodes than their broadcast counterparts, making it difficult to maintain a steady income. Plus, residual fees — the money paid when a show is shown or broadcast abroad — are gone as more content is hosted exclusively on streaming platforms.

In an interview on “NBC Nightly News,” Rafael Bob-Waksberg, creator of the Netflix animated series “BoJack Horseman,” laid out the writers’ demands in stark terms.

“We want more money,” said Bob Waksberg. “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 start a career in TV or movies are going to be people who are already wealthy independently, which I don’t think is good for TV or movies. I don’t think we want that,” he said.

In a statement released two days before the negotiations failed, AMPTP said it was working to “reach a fair and reasonable agreement”.

“The 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 deal.”

AMPTP said Monday that its offer to the union “included generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements to tailings flow.”

AMPTP represents major movie studios such as Disney, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros.; top broadcast television networks, such as ABC, CBS, and NBC; and leading 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 a standoff with the AMPTP over writers’ salaries and other issues. The work stoppage clogged Hollywood’s content production pipeline and lasted 100 days, ending on February 12, 2008.

The union is currently facing issues that may not have been understood during the recent strike, when Netflix notoriously shipped DVDs in red envelopes and the network’s traditional TV channels were still producing massive ratings.

In a sign of the times, the WGA’s demands for this negotiation cycle include regulations for “the use of materials produced using artificial intelligence or similar technologies.”

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