WGA Strike 2023: Unpacking the Key Issues and Far-Reaching Consequences for Hollywood

Current WGA Strike Situation

Hollywood, a long-standing union stronghold, faces another strike as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) contract with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expired.

The WGA represents most working writers in Hollywood and is supported by other powerful guilds and unions, including SAG-AFTRA and the Directors Guild of America (DGA).

Hollywood is still recovering from the effects of Covid and production slowdowns, with a strike-related work stoppage potentially further impacting the industry.

The Core Issues

The WGA argues that the survival of writing as a profession is at stake due to the devaluation of writers’ work across the industry.

The shift to streaming has led to companies cutting writer pay and separating writing from production, worsening conditions for series writers at all levels.

The WGA also warns of the potential impact of AI in generating scripts.

Demands and Goals

The WGA seeks improvements in compensation and residuals, restrictions on “mini-rooms” where writers work in advance of a television series’ production, and the establishment of a policy on AI and authorship, particularly if a writer’s ideas are used as the basis for AI-generated work.

Studios, networks, and streamers aim to maintain profitability, arguing that streaming is still an emerging business with uncertain profit margins.

However, the WGA counters that major companies have posted high profits in recent years and can afford to compensate writers more fairly.

Negotiation Sticking Points

Key disagreements include getting more writers on set, mandatory staffing vs. preserving the writers’ room, and residuals.

The AMPTP has been vague about its goals, stating the desire to see production continue.

Potential Impact on Television and Film

A strike could delay network television seasons and reduce new programming for the 2023-2024 season.

This may accelerate the decline of scripted programming on linear television and further shift focus to live programming, sports, and unscripted content.

In the worst-case scenario, the theatrical release calendar may also be affected, potentially causing another post-production logjam.

Economic Impact and Broader Implications

The 2007-08 strike resulted in significant wage losses for WGA writers and IATSE union members, as well as a $2.1 billion hit to the Los Angeles economy.

The current strike could have similar consequences, particularly considering the ongoing recovery from the pandemic’s effects on the industry.

The longest WGA strike on record was in 1988, lasting 153 days. Support for a strike appears strong, with nearly 98% of eligible voting members approving the strike authorization.

Other unions, including DGA and SAG-AFTRA, have contracts with the AMPTP expiring soon, which could further complicate negotiations.

Late Night Shows Go Dark

Nightly talk shows, including The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, are set to go dark as writers agreed to strike.

Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Daily Show will also be affected, while the impact on weekly shows like Saturday Night Live, Real Time with Bill Maher, and Last Week Tonight with John Oliver will be determined later in the week.

The affected shows are expected to pivot to re-runs during the strike.

Hollywood, a long-standing union stronghold, faces another strike as the Writers Guild of America (WGA) contract with the Association of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) expired.

Late Night Showrunners and Stars Respond

Late-night showrunners have expressed their intention to stay in touch with each other as the strike progresses to give a unified approach to the situation, something that didn’t happen in 2007-08.

They emphasize the need to support the writers while also being mindful of the rest of the staff who may be affected by the strike.

Some SNL stars have expressed concerns about the impact on the crew, stating that they fully support the writers but do not want to see their fellow crew members out of work.

They emphasize the importance of working together to create the art that they all love and are dedicated to.

Seth Meyers, speaking on Late Night, stated, “I love writing. I love writing for TV. I love writing this show…

No one is entitled to a job in show business. But for those people who have a job, they are entitled to fair compensation.

They are entitled to make a living. I think it’s a very reasonable demand that’s being set out by the guild. And I support those demands.”

Pete Davidson, whose Peacock comedy series Bupkis starts this week and was set for his SNL return on May 6, joked on The Tonight Show that he was taking the strike personally, saying, “It sucks because it just feeds my weird story I have in my head, like, of course that would happen to me.”

WGA Strike and Social Media Reaction

Minutes after the WGA declared it was on strike, members took to social media to express their resolve and commitment to staying strong during the strike.

Some shared their fears, which were quickly replaced by determination, as fellow writers encouraged each other to ignore any negative spin surrounding the strike.

David Simon, creator of The Wire and Homicide: Life on the Street, tweeted, “Here we go. See you all on the pavement, my brothers and sisters.”

He followed up with the hashtag #WGAstrong, emphasizing solidarity among the writers.

Bill Wolkoff, writer for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, wrote, “We’re on strike. We have the whole town behind us. And we have our work. They don’t. We’ll emerge with a fair deal.”

Thunder Levin, the mastermind behind the Sharknado franchise, chimed in with a more dramatic declaration, proclaiming, “Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war!”

As the strike continues, the Hollywood industry and its workers face uncertainty.

However, the resolve and solidarity among WGA members, as well as the support from other unions and showrunners, signal a strong determination to negotiate a fair deal and protect the future of writing in Hollywood.

WGA Strike: Background and Negotiations

New details have emerged about the negotiations between the WGA and the AMPTP after talks broke down, leading to the strike.

Disagreements on Writers’ Benefits and Mandatory Staffing

The WGA claims that their proposals would have benefited its members by $429 million per year, while the AMPTP’s offer was approximately $86 million per year, 48% of which would come from an increase in minimums.

One of the major issues in the negotiations was the presence of writers on set, which the WGA calls “preserving the writers’ room” and the studios call “mandatory staffing.”

Issues with Comedy/Variety Shows and Residuals

Another area of contention was the issue of comedy/variety shows for streaming coming under the MBA. On the issue of residuals, the WGA requested 6%-5%-5% increases over the course of a new three-year contract for all minimums, including residual bases.

The AMPTP, however, only offered 4%-3%-2% (one-time increase to most residual bases of 2% or 2.5%).

Artificial Intelligence and Negotiation Difficulties

Regarding artificial intelligence (AI), the WGA aimed to regulate its use on MBA-covered projects, while the studios wanted to introduce annual meetings “to discuss advancements in technology.”

WGA West president Meredith Stiehm expressed her surprise at the studios’ lack of engagement on core proposals during the negotiations.

Tentative Agreements and the Ongoing Strike

Although there were some tentative agreements over the last six weeks, they were not enough to prevent the strike.

The WGA strike will undoubtedly have a significant impact on the Hollywood industry and its workers, with many writers and other staff uncertain about the future of their careers in the face of these ongoing disputes.

Craig Miller

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