Impact of Hollywood writers' strike

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) has gone on strike, the first Hollywood strike of any kind in 15 years. The union represents 11,500 writers of film, television and other entertainment forms. The dispute centers around the impact that streaming has had on writer's pay. The guild claims that the use of smaller staffs, known in the industry as “mini rooms,” and the lack of regular seasonal calendars has made sustained income harder to come by. The number of writers working at guild minimums has gone from about a third to about half in the past decade, and writers of comedy-variety shows for streaming have no minimum protections at all, according to the guild. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents Hollywood’s studios, streamers and production companies, have offered “generous increases in compensation for writers as well as improvements in streaming residuals” but are unable to meet the multitude of demands by the writers.

Late-night talk shows, heavily dependent on same-day, current-events-based comedy writing, will be the first to feel the strike's effect. The shows have been the de facto frontline during previous writers strikes. Productions on finished screenplays can proceed as planned without the benefit of last-minute rewrites. Guild strike rules prevent members from striking new deals, making new pitches, or turning in new scripts, but they are allowed to accept payment for any writing that's already been done. The strike's impact on scripted series will take far longer to manifest, and noticeable effects on the movie release calendar could take even longer. Many viewers and moviegoers may not notice the effects of a strike until long after it's over, if at all.

Writers have gone on strike six times, more than any group in Hollywood. The first strike came in 1960, and the longest work stoppage, lasting exactly five months, came in 1988. The 2007-2008 strike was resolved after three months, with fledgling streaming shows having to hire guild writers if their budgets were big enough. It was an early harbinger of nearly every entertainment labor fight in the years that followed. The strike will mean major economic losses for screenwriters, though many say it's worth it to fight the day-to-day dwindling of income.


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