Beamish Explains Writers’ Strike

By: Bridie Beamish

Culture Editor

On May 2, the Writers Guild of America (WGA), whose members include 11,500 screenwriters, went on strike after talks with Hollywood studios and negotiations with studios and streaming networks to increase wages and change business methods failed. This is the union’s first strike in 15 years, with the last 100-day-long protest beginning in 2007 and ending in 2008. 

The film industry expects the strike to be felt in multiple states, hindering film productions and damaging Southern California’s economy. On May 6, producers of Stranger Things announced a delay in production as “writing does not stop when filming begins.” They followed by declaring, “We hope a fair deal is reached so we can all get back to work.” Late-night shows have also shut down production. Other shows that have halted production include Netflix’s Cobra Kai, Showtime’s Yellowjackets’, Amazon Prime Video’s Good Omens, and HBO Max’s Hacks. However, chief executive of Paramount Global Bob Bakish asserted, “consumers really won’t notice anything for a while.” Reality shows, news programs, and some scripted series produced by foreign companies are unaffected by the strike. Most movies scheduled to release this year are past the writing stage, and streaming services already contain a large amount of stored content. 

With a drastic change in streaming due to technological advancements, strikers claim that residuals are much lower than they used to be and that writers often struggle to make a living in such a competitive industry. The union stated that the median screenwriter pay hasn’t risen since 2018. Additionally, when adjusted for inflation, writers’ pay has fallen 14 percent in the last five years, and median weekly income declined 23 percent over the last decade. WGA demanded a boost in minimum wage levels to higher streaming residuals, with a value of nearly $600 million. WGA members granted the strike authorization by a record-high amount — 98 percent to two percent. 

Writers are also opposing mini-rooms, which are writers’ rooms with fewer writers, who are contracted for shorter periods of time and working for lower pay. The union also proposed regulation of artificial intelligence in writers’ rooms, ensuring that the technology does not change or write material included in the Minimum Basic Agreement, which covers the protections and benefits for WGA members. 

The length of the strike is undetermined, with WGA only planning to end it once they receive fair compensation. Tara Kole, a founding partner of entertainment law firm JSSK, announced, “I hate to say it, but it’s going to be a while.” Chris Keyser, a chair of the WGA negotiating committee, additionally said, “They’re going to stay out until something changes because they can’t afford not to.”

(Sources: NY Times, LA Times, GQ Magazine)

Categories: Culture

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