There is a strike in Hollywood: Screenwriters in the USA have been downing their jobs since Tuesday. It’s not just about higher wages: the authors fear for the future of their profession in the streaming age.
The Hollywood screenwriters’ union has called a strike after unsuccessful negotiations for better working conditions. The labor dispute began Tuesday at 12:01 a.m., the Writers Guild of America (WGA) union said late Monday evening (local time).
The East and West Coast departments based in New York and Los Angeles unanimously made the decision after six weeks of negotiations with US streaming providers such as Netflix and Disney, it said. The strike could now paralyze many film and television projects in Hollywood.
The negotiating committee started the process with the intention of reaching a fair agreement, according to a message on Twitter. However, the studios’ responses were “completely inadequate given the existential crisis our writers are facing.”
Great solidarity from stars and moderators
Numerous actors and presenters expressed their support for the authors on the sidelines of the Met Gala in New York on Monday evening. “Everyone needs to be compensated for their work,” said actress Amanda Seyfried. “Sometimes things have to be done to be heard,” said colleague Penelope Cruz. “I support the writers and I think that affects all of us,” said actress Olivia Wilde. “But we have to stand up for our rights.” Comedian and moderator Jimmy Fallon also backed the authors. “I wouldn’t have a show if it weren’t for the writers and I support them completely.”
For US viewers, the strike will first be felt on talk and comedy shows like Fallon’s, the New York Times said. Late-night shows like “Saturday Night Life” would probably be canceled immediately. Other formats, on the other hand, would be produced with more lead time – to delay them, the strike would have to last a long time.
The strike could last for months
The authors’ union has been negotiating a new contract with the film and television producers (Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers) since mid-March. The writers demand, among other things, salary increases, better working conditions and higher subsidies for health and pensions. In a ballot in mid-April, the members voted with an overwhelming majority of almost 98 percent in favor of a strike if the negotiations by May 1st do not produce a result.
The film and television producers had submitted an offer that included “generous increases in the authors’ remuneration,” it said in a statement available to US media. The organization is ready to increase its offer, quoted the “Los Angeles Times”, but other demands from the WGA stand in the way.
The streaming of films and series has turned the remuneration of screenwriters upside down, wrote the “Los Angeles Times”. Writers would now have to work more for less pay and could no longer rely on steady incomes as they did in the television era, when successful shows were repeated for years.
“The companies have ruined this business,” said a statement on the WGA’s website. The union hoped to use talks to “save the job we love.” Now there is no other option but to go on strike.
The Los Angeles Times wrote that this could last for weeks or even months. It could bring a “majority of television and film production to a standstill across the country” and also affect neighboring industries – for example caterers, florists and property managers. The strike comes at a difficult time for the Los Angeles area, as many companies are still trying to recover from the effects of the corona pandemic.
The authors’ association last threatened to go on strike in 2017. After weeks of negotiations between both parties, an agreement on a new contract was reached at the last moment. In 2007/2008 the writers even went on strike for 100 days. The strike almost paralyzed Hollywood: Filming on more than 60 TV shows was stopped, film projects were postponed and gala shows were cancelled. The financial loss to the entertainment industry was then estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.
I am an author and journalist who has worked in the entertainment industry for over a decade. I currently work as a news editor at a major news website, and my focus is on covering the latest trends in entertainment. I also write occasional pieces for other outlets, and have authored two books about the entertainment industry.