Hollywood Strike Update: Workers in Film and TV Continue Strike Over Wages, What’s Next?
The Hollywood strike, which began in July 2023, has been one of the longest and most disruptive labor disputes in the entertainment industry. The strike involves two major unions: the Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents screenwriters, and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), which represents actors, voice artists, singers, and other performers. The unions are demanding better pay, benefits, and working conditions from the studios and streaming services that produce and distribute movies and TV shows.
The strike has affected thousands of workers and hundreds of projects, from blockbuster films to popular TV series. It has also impacted the viewers, who have seen a shortage of new content and a delay in the release of anticipated titles. The strike has also raised questions about the future of the entertainment industry in the age of streaming, where traditional business models are being challenged by new technologies and consumer habits.
What are the main issues behind the strike?
The main issues behind the strike are related to the changes in the entertainment industry caused by the rise of streaming services. Streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and HBO Max have become major players in producing and distributing movies and TV shows, competing with traditional studios like Warner Bros., Universal, Disney, and Sony. Streaming services have also changed the way people consume entertainment, offering more choices, convenience, and flexibility to viewers.
However, these changes have also created challenges for writers and actors, who claim they are not being fairly compensated or protected by the existing contracts with the studios and streaming services. Some of the key issues include:
- Residuals: Residuals are payments that writers and actors receive when their work is rerun or reused on different platforms or markets. Residuals are an important source of income for many writers and actors, especially when they are between jobs or when their work is not very successful. However, residuals have declined significantly in recent years, as streaming services have reduced or eliminated reruns and syndication deals. Writers and actors are asking for higher residuals for streaming content, as well as more transparency and accountability from the studios and streaming services on how they report viewership data.
- Minimums: Minimums are the minimum rates that writers and actors receive for their work, based on factors such as the length, genre, budget, and platform of the project. Minimums are meant to ensure that writers and actors are paid fairly and consistently across different projects. However, minimums have not kept up with inflation or with the changes in the industry. Writers and actors are asking for higher minimums for streaming content, as well as more flexibility and security in their contracts.
- Artificial intelligence: Artificial intelligence (AI) is a technology that can create or manipulate content using algorithms and data. AI has been used by some studios and streaming services to generate scripts, dialogue, images, voices, music, and other elements of movies and TV shows. AI can also be used to replace or modify the performance of actors using techniques such as deepfakes or de-aging. Writers and actors are concerned about the ethical and legal implications of AI, as well as its impact on their creative rights and income. Writers and actors are asking for more control over how their work is used or altered by AI, as well as more compensation for when their work is replaced or enhanced by AI.
What has been the progress of the negotiations?
The negotiations between the unions and the studios and streaming services have been slow and difficult. The negotiations are conducted by representatives of each side: the WGA negotiates with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which represents most of the major studios and streaming services; while SAG-AFTRA negotiates directly with each studio or streaming service individually.
The WGA was the first to go on strike on July 1st 2023 after failing to reach an agreement with the AMPTP before their previous contract expired on June 30th 2023. The WGA strike lasted for 146 days until September 26th 2023 when a tentative deal was reached after a series of meetings between union leaders
and CEOs of some of the major studios and streaming services. The tentative deal included improvements on residuals, minimums,
and AI issues for writers. The deal was approved by union leaders
and sent to the full WGA membership for ratification, which is expected to be completed by early October 2023.
SAG-AFTRA followed the WGA and went on strike on July 14th 2023 after failing to reach an agreement with the studios and streaming services before their previous contract expired on June 30th 2023. SAG-AFTRA strike is still ongoing as of October 14th 2023, with no sign of a resolution in sight. SAG-AFTRA has been more aggressive and militant than the WGA, planning for a six-month walkout and banning its members from promoting their work on any platform. SAG-AFTRA has also been more divided and controversial than the WGA, with some members criticizing the union leadership for being too radical and unrealistic, while others supporting the union for being strong and principled.
What are the consequences of the strike?
The strike has had significant consequences for the entertainment industry and beyond. Some of the consequences include:
- Economic losses: The strike has cost the Hollywood economy billions of dollars in lost revenue, wages, and taxes. The strike has also affected thousands of workers who depend on the entertainment industry for their livelihood, such as crew members, technicians, caterers, drivers, and others. The strike has also hurt other businesses that rely on the entertainment industry, such as hotels, restaurants, theaters, and tourism.
- Production delays: The strike has disrupted the production of hundreds of movies and TV shows, from big-budget blockbusters to low-budget indie films. The strike has also delayed the release of many anticipated titles, such as Avatar 2, The Batman, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Stranger Things Season 4, The Crown Season 5, and others. The strike has also reduced the supply of new content for viewers, especially for streaming services that need to constantly update their catalogs to attract and retain subscribers.
- Creative challenges: The strike has posed creative challenges for writers and actors who have to work under new conditions and constraints. The strike has also created opportunities for new voices and formats to emerge and fill the gap left by the traditional content. The strike has also sparked debates and discussions about the role and value of writers and actors in the entertainment industry, as well as the impact of technology and innovation on their work.
The strike is not over yet, as SAG-AFTRA is still on strike and has not reached an agreement with the studios and streaming services. The outcome of the WGA ratification vote will also determine whether the writers’ deal will be finalized or not. The future of the entertainment industry depends on how the unions and the studios and streaming services will resolve their differences and adapt to the changes in the industry. The strike may end soon or last longer, but it will certainly have lasting effects on Hollywood and beyond.
- The Hollywood strike involves two major unions: the WGA (writers) and SAG-AFTRA (actors).
- The main issues behind the strike are residuals, minimums, and AI.
- The WGA reached a tentative deal with the studios and streaming services after 146 days of strike.
- SAG-AFTRA is still on strike with no sign of a resolution in sight.
- The strike has caused economic losses, production delays, and creative challenges.
- The future of the entertainment industry depends on how the strike will be resolved.