The moment that Hollywood’s biggest studios feared (while doing nothing about it) has finally come again. The Writers Guild of America is preparing to go on strike, unable to reach a new contract agreement that will increase the salaries of thousands of TV and film writers who have been negatively affected by the flow.
WGA’s previous contract expired at 11:59 PM ET on Tuesday, meaning the union could officially declare a strike at any time. This landmark event takes place just one day after International Workers’ Day and hours after the Hollywood elite gather for the liveliest event of the year.
Despite the huge impact a strike would have on the year’s television output and possibly some film screenings, this announcement isn’t particularly shocking. Writers, networks and studios have been waiting for a potential strike since February if they fail to reach a fair deal with the Film and Television Producers Guild. (AMPTP stands for studios, production companies, and streaming services.) And in March, WGA released a report titled “Writers Aren’t Surviving” outlining how writers’ salaries fell after release.
“On the television staff, showrunners are left without a writing staff to complete the season, as more writers work at a minimum, often fewer weeks or mini-rooms, regardless of experience,” the report said. “The average writer-producer salary has fallen over the last decade, while drama budgets have soared.”
Union members point to the growing percentage of entertainers and staff writers working for the Minimum Basic Agreement negotiated by the Guild, among other complaints. Demand lists also include higher leftovers and an address to television’s current “mini-room” problem. (Mini rooms are smaller versions of writers’ rooms intended to streamline the green-lighting process. Predictably, they pay less.)
The union also demanded regulations on the use of artificial intelligence in relation to AI-generated scenarios or reworked material, which threatens to put human writers out of work as they rapidly pervade the industry.
On April 17, union members voted overwhelmingly to allow a strike if necessary. Now that we know the outcome, what will the entertainment landscape look like without its most essential employees in the coming months?
Well, given that Hollywood writers have gone on strike six times before, we can look back at history, although the television landscape has undergone dramatic changes since the last WGA strike in 2007.
Naturally, many of your favorite television shows will cease production. Thousands of actors, directors, and crew members will be out of work, and the worst of the economic fallout will be drawn to below-the-line workers. The scripted shows currently airing will most likely complete their seasons. But this layoff could affect TV’s fall schedule. While the studios are apparently stocking scripts, it may also delay movies with release dates.
Night shows, on the other hand, will immediately feel the effects of the strike. in a note taken by Los Angeles TimesThe WGA said the strike would instantly pause “new episodes of late night shows”. Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Real Time with Bill Maher, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Saturday night live, Last Week Tonight With John Oliverand others.” The guild also suggested there would be a “fake effect” on broadcasters based on new episodes of aired TV shows.
Depending on how long it takes AMPTP to negotiate a fair deal, this strike could cost the Hollywood industry billions of dollars, which has already seen massive cost-cutting and consolidation efforts in recent years. The final strike, from November 5, 2007 to February 12, 2008, lasted 100 days and caused approximately $2 billion ($3 billion today) economic damage.
For now, the world will likely watch writers from across the country take part in mass demonstrations. The strike comes at a particularly opportune time to appeal to Hollywood’s power brokers: TV’s preseason. Likewise, WGA East has its eye on several watchdog sites, including NBCUniversal, which is at the forefront at Radio City Music Hall on May 15, Netflix’s event at the Paris Theater in Manhattan on May 17, and The Theatre on May 17. At the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Warner Bros. .