Picket lines stretched the length of street blocks on Tuesday (May 2) as striking Writers Guild Of America (WGA) members kicked off industrial action in Los Angeles and New York after six weeks of ill-fated contract negotiations with the studios, streamers and networks.
Writers in Hollywood picketed Netflix, Paramount Pictures and CBS Television City complex among others as they waved banners bearing legends like “Succession Without Writers Is Just The Apprentice” and “No Pages Without Fair Wages”. Passing drivers created at times a cacophonous backdrop as they honked horns in support.
Nobody knows how long Hollywood’s first writers strike in 15 years will last – the 2007-08 strike ran for 100 days – but as David Goodman, co-chair of WGA’s negotiating committee, told Screen outside the front gates of Paramount, “The union is united unlike any other time I have ever seen.”
After talks broke down on Monday (May 1) the WGA published a chart highlighting its demands for fair pay and other points and the responses from Alliance Of Motion Picture And Television Producers (AMPTP).
While negotiations yielded tentative agreements on issues like script fees and broadcast re-runs, the gap between the parties remains large. While there were tentative agreements on issues like script fees and broadcast re-runs, the gap between the parties remains large. The Guild’s proposal to create a viewership-based streaming-based residual that rewards shows with more viewers – on top of the existing fixed residuals — would require Hollywood companies be transparent about their data. WGA claimed AMPTP had rejected the proposal, and that they did not offer a counter.
In some cases WGA claimed AMPTP had rejected its proposals and refused counter-offers. The WGA claims that its proposals would result in writers earning approximately $429m per year more, while AMPTP’s proposal would bring about $86m per year more. AMPTP declined comment.
The WGA claims that the proliferation of streaming platforms have changed the game. They claim that the platforms bring huge profits to Hollywood and media conglomerates, but leave members behind when it comes to pay. The Guild’s website stated that “Writers face the most comprehensive assault in the last generation on compensation and working conditions.” As corporate profits grow, writers are not keeping up. Like too many working people across our economy, as corporate profits grow, writers are just not keeping up.”
Justine Bateman, the writer-director of 2021 TIFF and SXSW selection
Violet starring Olivia Munn, stood outside Netflix with dozens of others and said:“This is about the devaluing of human skill, talent and effort.” Source: Screendaily / Jeremy Kay
For their part, Hollywood companies have argued they are in a tight spot financially as they try to make up for the huge costs of building their streaming businesses and are in the midst of painful lay-offs.
Writers who spoke to
Screen were having none of it.“The last time we felt we were all in an ecosystem,” said feature writer Alan Sereboff. “Now I feel it’s the creative community against the tech companies.
“Being in the midst of a project and having to put your pen down is difficult, but this has to happen. This is an existential issue.”
Bateman addressed A.I., a bone of contention among writers who talked of the prospect of having their creative roles greatly diminished.
“A.I. cannot automate art but it can automate content,” she said, referring to “content” as a soulless term used by streamers and big media executives to describe film and television.
Goodman, picketing outside Paramount, said, “In the short term A.I. It’s not a big threat. We cannot have that.” We cannot have that.”
Source: Screendaily / Jeremy Kay
David Goodman, co-chair of WGA’s negotiating committee
said of the breakdown in talks, “It felt like the studios were saying, ‘Fuck you’.”Monday night’s strike call by the WGA spelled an immediate work stoppage for late night television shows, the daily shows which require writers every day.Other shows which have been produced but have not yet aired will be broadcast, although future production cannot go ahead while the strike endures and re-runs will be deployed.
Reality TV, news, and sports are not impacted by the strike and will continue to air.
In film, all projects with locked scripts will proceed to production although it remains to be seen what happens when the filmmakers need to do rewrites. No WGA writers will be on the set. Click here to view the WGA strike rules. SAG-AFTRA members were seen waving banners at Tuesday’s picket line. The Producers Guild of America released a statement on Monday: “The Producers Guild of America supports the Writers Guild in their struggle for fair and equitable compensation. They have taken the difficult decision to go on strike to bring about meaningful change in our industry.” We believe that everyone working in the film and television industry deserves to be fairly compensated for their work and receive essential benefits.”
Writers Guild of Great Britain warns UK writers not to work on American shows during strike