A writers’ strike in Hollywood is underway and it’s disrupting the future of TV and movies as we know it. Earlier this year, negotiations between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) led the WGA to vote yes to authorize a strike on May 1 (by a historic margin of 97.85 percent), which immediately went into effect the following day as an agreement was not reached on their next three-year contract.
According to Variety, the call for a strike is the result of the WGA seeking changes to writer compensation and working conditions in Hollywood — including a “sizable increase in minimums, better formula for residuals on streaming platforms, and a minimum staffing requirement for all TV shows.” Several writers also told POPSUGAR that the “existential fight” of the strike largely revolves around the lucrative streaming boom, which they have yet to reap the benefits of.
“We’re on food stamps. We’re on unemployment, moving back in with our parents. Sh*t is not sweet right now,” said TV writer Kyra Jones, who has credits on Hulu’s “Woke” and ABC’s “Queens.” “[This field] is really, really unsustainable, and the tipping point of that is why we’re striking.”
On May 2, the Writers Guild of America West Twitter account announced that the strike commenced after six weeks of negotiating with Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, NBC Universal, Paramount+, and Sony under AMPTP’s umbrella. “Though our Negotiating Committee began this process intent on making a fair deal, the studios’ responses have been wholly insufficient given the existential crisis writers are facing,” the labor union wrote in another tweet.
TV writer David Slack later tweeted, “The Writers Guild has existed for 90 years. We’ve negotiated contracts with studios roughly every 3 years. With or without a strike, we’ve made a deal every time. If they could do without us, they would. If they could break us, they would. They can’t. They won’t. #WGAStrong.”
What’s been happening during the writers’ strike, you may ask? Well, writers who are members of the WGA — including their agents or anyone acting on their behalf — are prohibited from writing, pitching, or negotiating for work amid the strike. The purpose, according to the labor union, is to ensure the best possible contract for writers going forward. Picketing writers have also been actively shutting down multi-million dollar productions for several TV shows and movies.
Compared to previous strikes, the 2023 writers’ strike is fueled by the entertainment industry’s major shift to streaming content. While TV shows and movies have adjusted to the ever-growing tech era, one thing that hasn’t evolved is how studios pay creators. “The companies have used the transition to streaming to cut writer pay and separate writing from production, worsening working conditions for series writers at all levels,” the WGA shared in a March 14 bulletin. As a result, TV writer Danny Tolli told The New York Times, “Writers at every level and in every genre, whether it’s features or TV, we’re all being devalued and financially taken advantage of by the studios.”
So what does all this mean for the future of entertainment? Ahead, find a guide to the 2023 writers’ strike with all your biggest questions answered — plus, find out how it may be affected by a looming actors’ strike.
What Is a Writers’ Strike?
According to Vox, a writers’ strike occurs when members of the WGA, the labor union that most employed writers in Hollywood belong to, stop working until the organization reaches an agreement with the AMPTP, which negotiates on behalf of all major studios and hundreds of production companies. Meaning, no members are allowed to write or sell new scripts for TV shows or movies until the WGA votes to end the strike. And in most cases, this also means writers go without pay for the duration of the strike.
A writers’ strike doesn’t just affect those who creatively contribute to TV shows or films, it also touches those who work in other sectors of the entertainment industry when production halts — including caterers, set dressers, directors, and background actors, who then have to find other work in the interim. And it also hits those at home, as TV shows are delayed or get shortened seasons abruptly.
When Was the Last Writers’ Strike?
The last time a writers’ strike of this magnitude happened was in late 2007 — which resulted in many scripted shows having their seasons shortened, some late-night programs being forced off the air, and a few reality shows getting longer or new seasons, per Vox. According to The Hollywood Reporter, that strike lasted 100 days, concluding on Feb. 12, 2008, and took a $2.1 billion toll on the Los Angeles economy. A new three-year contract was eventually approved by the WGA at the time, but streaming wasn’t a big part of that conversation. Today, Hollywood studios still haven’t figured out (and allegedly haven’t been willing to figure out) how to factor those residuals into what writers earn today.
Why Is a Writers’ Strike Happening in 2023?
This year’s writers’ strike was up in the air for months, with the Los Angeles Times reporting on its potential to happen back in February. According to The New York Times, writers are fighting for raises while studios argue that a new compensation structure ignores economic realities. At this point, writers and Hollywood companies haven’t been able to settle their differences, which is why the industry is experiencing its first writers’ strike in 15 years.
What Is the Writers Guild of America Demanding?
The main issue that writers are striking over is compensation, which, according to the WGA, has been negatively impacted by the recent streaming takeover. Writers’ demands also revolve around pay equity, residuals for theatrical and streaming features, better preproduction writers’ rooms, increased contributions to the WGA’s pension plan and health fund, and more measures to combat discrimination and harassment. For the full list of demands, visit the WGA’s 2023 contract website.
Which TV Shows Have Been Affected by the 2023 Writers’ Strike?
After the strike went into effect, all shows that produce immediate work were halted. That means late-night talk shows like “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” “Late Night With Seth Meyers,” and “The Daily Show” shut down filming new episodes on May 2, according to Deadline. All except “The Daily Show” are airing reruns until further notice.
“Saturday Night Live” was similarly affected as well, as NBC issued an official statement on May 2 that reads, “The previously announced ‘Saturday Night Live’ hosted by Pete Davidson and musical guest Lil Uzi Vert is cancelled due to the writers’ strike. ‘SNL’ will air repeats until further notice starting Saturday, May 6.”
Next up, broadcast TV shows scheduled to return in the fall are delayed until the strike ends as they typically start writing in the summer. So that means network darlings like “Abbott Elementary” are, unfortunately, likely to have their upcoming seasons pushed back. Sitcom creator Quinta Brunson reacted to the strike at the 2023 Met Gala just hours before it went into effect, telling AP News, “I’m a member of WGA and support WGA, and them getting — we, us — getting what we need.”
Unscripted programming like reality shows, game shows, news, and sports will be largely unaffected for now, with reality television having significantly increased on fall primetime TV lineups for networks like ABC. Some streaming content also seems to be safe for now as its production model runs longer. Meaning, most of those projects are produced far before they’re distributed on platforms. Streamers also have huge libraries of content at their disposal, so viewers still have other means of entertainment amid the strike.
Movie projects will likely avoid any major effects from the strike until next year, but some that are currently in the pipeline may be delayed or unable to start filming since WGA intends to not have their picket lines crossed. But the longer the strike lasts, the more severe issues will arise.
Is a Hollywood Actors Strike Happening?
At this time, the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) has not yet commenced a strike. However, on June 5, the union announced that its members voted 97.91% in favor of a strike authorization ahead of its contract negotiations with the AMPTP, which expire at midnight on June 30. Should the two organizations fail to come to an agreement like the WGA, actors will, in short, cease to work on or promote any productions they’re a part of.
In a statement sent to Deadline, the SAG-AFTRA explained, “There’s no promotion of struck work during a strike. Promotional activities in relation to a signatory production is covered work under the Basic Agreement, and thus, is struck work during a strike.”
According to the outlet, upcoming movies releasing in July won’t be hugely affected if actors strike because millions have already been spent on long-lead marketing campaigns for highly anticipated titles like Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling’s “Barbie,” Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” and Tom Cruise’s “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1.” Deadline also reported, per conversations with studio executives, that Hollywood studios may risk keeping their release date schedules as is should actors decide to strike for a few months, instead relying on trailers and TV spots for promo vs. talent. However, that’s not to say upcoming conventions like San Diego Comic-Con, fall film festivals, award shows, and Christmas releases won’t take a hit.
Only time will tell what’ll occur if an actors’ strike starts on July 1.