The Hollywood writers strike marked its 100th day on August 9, 2023. The Writers Guild of America (WGA), representing 11,500 screenwriters, went on strike on May 2, 2023, after failing to reach an agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). On July 13, 2023, the SAG-AFTRA, a union representing about 160,000 Hollywood actors, joined the writers on the picket lines in solidarity.
This is the first time both unions have been on strike at the same time since 1960. Here is a list of what the two groups are seeking.
Well-known actors receive millions of dollars to star in movies and television shows. However, many SAG-AFTRA members do not even meet the union's minimum annual earnings requirement of $27,000 to qualify for health coverage.
Screenwriters are in a similar situation. Adjusted for inflation, the median weekly pay for writers and producers has declined by 23 percent in the past ten years. Even worse, about half the television writers are working for minimum rates.
Both unions are seeking higher compensation for their members. They also want increases for their pension plan and health fund.
Residuals are payments that writers and actors receive when movies and TV shows air on television after their initial run. That can include reruns, syndication, and film broadcasts on television. However, with the rise of streaming services, which feature television shows and movies on demand, the residual amounts have been vastly reduced. The writers and actors unions are seeking higher upfront payments to make up for the loss.
Artificial intelligence protection
Writers want assurances that studios will not use their scripts to train AI chatbots like ChatGPT to write new scripts or complete unfinished ones. Actors want similar promises about the use of AI to manipulate an actor's performance in a movie into a new character for another film or video game.
Mini-rooms are similar to a traditional writer's room. The only difference is that it includes a very small group of writers hired to brainstorm ideas for a new show. The sessions typically last just 8-10 weeks. Since the show is not yet approved, the writers are often paid a lot less. The WGA wants mini-room writers to be appropriately paid for the content they create.
Writers hired for a particular series are not allowed to accept other work. This was sustainable when shows were on a 22 to 25-episode season. But lately, the shows produced by streaming networks have been featured just eight to ten episodes per season. This has substantially reduced writers' pay. The WGA wants to get rid of the exclusivity contracts so that writers can work on multiple assignments at the same time.
The impact of the strikes on the various parties involved
Writers and actors are not the only ones financially impacted by the strike. They are also hurting those working behind the scenes. This includes caterers, editors, and truck drivers. Businesses that rely on the Hollywood economy, including restaurants, hotels, and transportation, are losing money as well. The WGA estimates that the ongoing strike costs the California economy $30 million daily!
The strikes are also impacting the members of the AMPTP. They include major motion picture studios like Warner Brothers and Walt Disney, broadcast television networks like CBS, and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. The most immediate effect of the strike could be seen through the stoppage of late-night talk shows. But as the strike enters its fourth month, its impact is extending to new programming and movies. Many, originally scheduled to air in the Fall, have had to be postponed to 2024.
When will the strikes end?
On August 11, 2023, negotiators from both sides held what was described as a productive meeting. Experts hope the ongoing discussions will soon resolve the matters between the AMPTP and the Hollywood unions.
Resources: vulture.com, vox.com, cbsnews.com, fastcompany.com, NPR.com