Hollywood’s 15-year industrial peace was shattered on Tuesday when film and television writers went on strike, bringing many productions to a standstill and dealing a major blow to an industry rocked by the pandemic and sweeping technological changes in recent years.
The unions representing the writers said in one opinion, hours before their three-year contract expired at midnight Pacific time, they said they “voted unanimously to call the strike.” The writers will begin marching pickets Tuesday afternoon.
The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which is negotiating on behalf of Hollywood corporations, said in a statement that its offer included “generous increases in compensation for writers.” The organization added that it remains willing to negotiate further.
The biggest sticking points, according to the studios, are union proposals that would require companies to staff TV shows with a certain number of writers for a certain period of time, “regardless of whether it’s necessary or not.”
The unions representing writers, the Eastern and Western branches of the Writers Guild of America, said: “Corporate behavior has created a gig economy within the unionized workforce, and their steadfast stance in these negotiations has fueled their commitment to another.” Devaluation betray.” Profession of the writer.”
Chris Keyser, co-chair of the WGA negotiating committee, said in an interview that “philosophically and practically we are very far apart.”
The dispute pitted 11,500 screenwriters against the big studios, including veteran entertainment companies like Universal and Paramount, as well as newcomers to the tech industry like Netflix, Amazon and Apple.
The WGA put the dispute in harsh terms, saying the rise of streaming services and the explosion of television production had made their working conditions worse. It has this as “existential‘ Wait, and that “the survival of the writing profession is at stake in this negotiation.”
Entertainment companies, which previously said they would approach the talks with “the long-term health and stability of the industry as our priority,” face a rapidly changing business as network and cable TV viewership falls.
For viewers, the most immediate impact is felt on talk and sketch shows. Late-night shows like Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert are likely to go dark immediately. Reality series and some international shows not covered by the guild are aired in heavy rotation.
It would take a long strike to slow the arrival of new TV shows and films as the production process for these can take months or more than a year.
A prolonged shutdown of production could also prove detrimental to the local economy, particularly for workers supporting production such as drivers, costume cleaners, caterers, carpenters and lumberyard workers. When writers last went on 100-day strikes in 2007, the Los Angeles economy lost an estimated $2.1 billion.
Seth Meyers, the host of NBC’s late-night 12:30 p.m. show, alluded to the devastation of the recent strike in a segment late last week.
“It’s not just about the writers,” said Mr. Meyers in the pure web video. “It’s affecting all the incredible non-writing staff on these shows. And it really would be a terrible thing for people to do, especially considering we have this terrible pandemic on our heels.”
Mr Meyers said he was a proud member of the WGA and firmly believed the authors’ demands were “not unreasonable”.
“If you don’t see me here next week, know that it will not be done lightly and it will break my heart to miss you, too,” he said.
The authors have raised numerous complaints. In a very topical twist, the authors try to set important guidelines the use of artificial intelligence. But the most pressing issue for them is compensation.
In the past decade, a period often referred to as “peak TV,” the number of scripted television programs aired in the United States has increased dramatically. However, authors said their salaries have been stagnant.
In the age of network television, a writer could work on a show with more than 20 episodes per season and make a living for a whole year. However, in the streaming age, episode orders have dropped to 8 or 12, and the average weekly wage for a writer and producer has fallen slightly, according to the WGA.
The authors also want to correct the formula for remaining payments, which has been turned upside down by streaming. Years ago, writers could receive residual payments when a show was licensed – through syndication or through DVD sales. But global streaming services like Netflix and Amazon have cut off those distribution channels and instead pay a fixed balance.
Unions have specifically targeted so-called mini-rooms, which have proliferated over the past decade. There is no uniform definition of a mini room. But in one example, studios call together a small group of writers before a show is officially given the green light to create a script. But writers are often paid less for working in mini-rooms, WGA officials said.
Authors have also said that the sudden growth of minirooms has also messed up the decades-old art of learning how to make a TV show. Mike Schur, creator of “The Good Place” and co-creator of “Parks and Recreation,” said in an interview that as a young writer at “The Office,” he learned to write, rewrite, and edit a screenplay that he worked with Acting and got to know special crafts like stage design and sound mixing.
“It’s not something you can read in a book,” he said. “It’s something you have to experience.”
But because of the mini-rooms, writers are sent home after just 10 weeks and are often not present at all during the production process, he said.
“These companies don’t understand what’s coming,” he said. “And what’s coming our way is a whole generation of showmakers who might be super talented, who might have a lot to say about the world, but functionally don’t know how to do the job that’s being asked of them to do.” “
However, studio executives have said privately that they have their own problems and that this is not the best time for significant pay rises.
For several years, Wall Street rewarded media companies for investing in their streaming services at any cost to grow their subscriber pool. But last year, investors were disappointed by that philosophy, prompting studio execs to find a way to turn their loss-making streaming services into profit engines.
The consequences were brutal. Disney is laying off 7,000 employees. Warner Bros. Discovery laid off thousands and froze titles last year to pay off about $50 billion in debt. Other media companies have taken similar cost-saving measures.
Against this background, executives have also claimed that they could survive a strike. Last month, Warner Bros. Discovery chief executive David Zaslav said, “We’re ready, a lot of content has been produced.” unscripted and foreign series in production is better protected than its competitors. “We could probably serve our members better than most,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that the consequences of a strike would be significant.
“The last time there was a strike, it was devastating for creators,” Mr Sarandos said. “It was really tough in the industry. It was painful for the local economy that supports the production and it was very, very, very bad for the fans.”
Screenwriters have quit six times over the decades. Historically, they have had the courage to go on a prolonged strike. In addition to the 100-day strike in 2007, writers also went on picket line for 153 days in 1988. Writers, too, have shown signs of remarkable unity. By mid-April, 98 percent of the more than 9,000 unionized writers were represented authorize a strike.
The writers will hold demonstrations in New York and Los Angeles, where most entertainment companies are based.
Images of picket signs with slogans such as “Scripts don’t grow on trees!” have already circulated on social media. and “The future of writing is at stake!”