Hollywood strike: Screenwriters will walk out for the first time in 15 years

  • Written by Paul Glenn
  • Entertainment reporter

image source, Getty Images

Thousands of Hollywood film and television writers will strike on Tuesday, after last-minute talks with major studios over pay broke down.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) strike, the first in 15 years, will see more than 9,000 writers — 98% of voting members — walk out in the middle of the night.

This may affect late-night Tuesday showings, while upcoming shows and movies may experience delays.

The union also said the sit-in would begin on Tuesday afternoon.

In 2007, the writers went on a 100-day strike at a cost of about $2 billion.

This time around, the book is clashing with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) — which represents major studios, including Disney and Netflix — to demand higher wages and a bigger share of the profits from the recent streaming boom.

On Monday evening, the WGA said the decision was made after six weeks of negotiations resulted in a “grossly inadequate” response to the “existential crisis faced by the writers.”

The main issues in the talks were how writers would pay writers for shows that often remain on streaming platforms for years, as well as the future impact of AI on writing.

sticking points

The WGA criticized the studios for creating a “gig economy” intended to turn writing into a “totally independent” profession. “For the sake of our present and our future, we were given no other choice,” the union stated in a lengthy document.

It called for a minimum television staff, six to 12 writers per show, as well as a guaranteed minimum number of workweeks per season.

In their own statement on Tuesday, AMPTP called these two “primary sticking points.”

For their part, the collective studios have previously said they must cut costs due to financial pressures, noting that gross ‘hangover’ payments for writers reached an all-time high of $494m (£395m) in 2021.

On Monday, they indicated that they were willing to increase compensation and the flow of tailings, but “because of the size of other proposals that are still on the table and that the union is still insisting on.”

AMPTP also rejected a union request to ban AI bots from writing or rewriting material, instead offering to hold “annual meetings to discuss developments in technology”.

image source, Getty Images

photo caption,

Late night TV might be the first to go if there’s a strike

On Sunday night, the outlet Deadline Hollywood reported that the production is on nightly shows including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and Jimmy Kimmel Live! The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon will be discontinued.

Late Night host Seth Meyers expressed support for the strike in the corrections section of his show on Friday.

“I also feel very strongly that what the book is asking is not unreasonable,” Myers said. “As a proud member of the guild, I am so grateful to have an organization that looks out for writers’ best interests.”

Alex O’Keefe, writer of the comedy-drama series The Bear and a member of that union, told the BBC on Monday that half of the writers get a minimum wage from the studios.

His writing colleagues’ creative output is better than ever, he said, matching the demands of the broadcast era, but writers are being paid less than ever.

And writers like me, especially young writers and black and Indigenous writers and writers of color, have brought a whole new wave of creativity into the process.

“But we find ourselves unable to stay in places like New York City and Los Angeles, where we need to be in writers’ rooms.”

image source, Getty Images

photo caption,

Stars of the Bear TV series, including Jeremy Allen White (front row, second left)

O’Keeffe went on to note that while there are some writers who “do a very good job,” many writers, including showrunners on big shows, have not.

He said, “I wouldn’t classify all writers as poor or penniless, but I can tell myself I have $6 in my bank account.”

He said that when he and his co-stars won Best Comedy Series at the Writers Guild of America Awards, he went to the ceremony wearing a suit his friends and family had bought him.

He explained, “The tie was bought on credit, I had no cash, and I had a negative bank account.”

When he worked on The Bear, he did so from his “small” apartment in Brooklyn.

“My heat turned off, I had a fireplace, my space heater plugged in,[and]sometimes all the lights would go out. I end up in the public library, writing this show that is now a huge hit and is making a lot of money for some people…a few people.

But not for the people who were the creators, who really poured their heart and soul into the characters and into the stories and the moments you remember.

“So there’s a huge underclass right now in Hollywood.”

The actors’ union SAG-AFTRA and the directors’ union DGA expressed their solidarity with the eminent writers.

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