LOS ANGELES — The ongoing strike by film and television screenwriters in the Writers Guild of America is entering a critical phase as negotiations with major studios and streaming services are set to resume on Friday.
After a meeting last week to explore the possibility of restarting discussions, the guild sent a message to its members expressing hope that the studios would respond to their proposals. Determined to secure a fair deal, the committee representing the writers is returning to the bargaining table, supported by the unified WGA membership and backed by union allies.
The strike, now surpassing 101 days, is longer than the 2007-2008 work stoppage that significantly impacted Hollywood productions. In a show of solidarity, Hollywood actors have joined the screenwriters on picket lines, demanding better compensation and protections for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the industry. Notably, this marks the first time since 1960 that both unions are on strike simultaneously.
The primary concerns for both guilds revolve around the challenges posed by the rise of streaming services, which have revolutionized various aspects of production, ranging from how projects are written to their release schedules. As negotiations resume, all eyes are on the industry to see how these critical issues will be addressed.
The Impact of Staffing Practices on Writers
The traditional way of staffing writers in the entertainment industry has been under scrutiny in recent years. Referred to as “mini rooms,” these small staffs are hired for shorter periods of time, making it difficult for writers to earn a living income. The Writers Guild of America has highlighted this issue, pointing out that the number of writers working at minimum scale has increased from about a third to about a half in the past decade.
On the other side of the negotiation table, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, representing studios and streaming services, argues that the writers’ demands would require them to be kept on staff and paid even when there is no work available for them.
This stalemate has had far-reaching consequences in the entertainment industry. Film and television productions have been delayed, late-night talk shows have had to resort to reruns, and even the prestigious Emmy Awards have been rescheduled to air in January.
Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that actors and studios will be returning to the negotiating table anytime soon. However, the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists stands ready to represent reality show performers. This is in response to Bethenny Frankel, star of “Real Housewives of New York,” who has been advocating for performers to receive residuals and have better working conditions on sets.
It is interesting to note that during the last writers’ strike, reality television became a popular option for networks to fill their schedules.