It’s almost been 100 days since Hollywood started going through a tumultuous strike which has been dubbed an “existential crisis” for writers. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) who made this comment are an alliance of two unions who represent nearly 11,000 TV, film, news, radio and online writers. After demanding higher pay, a more stable pay structure and equal contracts for writers, the WGA’s proposals were dismissed.
These 100 days have seen writers protest outside of major studios such as Amazon, Netflix, Universal Studios, Warner Bros, and many more influential businesses; and it is the first actors and writers strike since the 1960s. The protesters are all fighting for higher wages in their roles, all brandishing homemade signs to target senior studio executives and bosses of the higher paid. The protest comes after the WGA went through a solid six weeks of negotiations in May to get their writers more salaries, which later failed with the television producers.
Why the strike?
It may come as a shock due to covid times and detrimental issues to blockbusters, but studio profits have actually increased by 39% over the past 10 years; yet the average salary for a writer has dropped by 4%. This has aggravated writers everywhere, as the big bosses are benefitting, yet the writers are not – meaning that there is a stand to be made against their job roles. Though it may be a perceived glamorous job, a screenwriter in Hollywood has had to go through a lot to get their roles and they usually only get paid per episode they write.
As per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS in April 2023, the average income for a Hollywood writer is $69,510 per year, which doesn’t account for the pay-per-episode, and seasons getting cut. This salary is worlds away from the directors, executives and higher-up levels in Hollywood, and an even further stretch away from some of America’s greatest sports stars. Max Scherzer and many other players in the all-star week of 2023, earned around $43 million for the year, so it’s no wonder that some of the greatest writers are striking.
Just like sports, the TV world is constantly moving, meaning there are more shows than ever before. Netflix is creating series like they’re going out of fashion, yet television staff writers have decreased in size, all along with the average employment length being cut short. Many years ago, hit shows were churning out 20-30 shows a season, but seasons today are only 8-10 shows long. This is a huge negative for writers as they get paid less, have less work to do, and are more likely to be swapped out for someone more well known.
The traditional TV models gave writers the chance to have jobs for six months, which gave security and financial safety. Now, a writer is lucky to get a gig for four weeks, which creates a huge strain on living costs and affording their general lifestyle.
When will this strike end?
The last strike organized by the WGA was in November 2007 and it lasted up until February 2008, when the union was able to renegotiate a deal. The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers created a deal with the union which meant that the 3-month strike was over, and demands were met. This strike meant that there was disruption of many famous tv shows, including “The Office” and “Breaking Bad”, and in just those 100 days of striking, the entertainment space managed to shift to a huge reality TV boom. New forms of television were created and shows like “The Apprentice” were then born, leading to a spike in these styles today.
Since that strike, the current one has the same issues that they’re facing in pay, but writers are now also concerned with the new topic on the block – artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is being looked into by Disney, Warner Bros and many more executives, which is where writers are starting to worry about an existential crisis in regard to their jobs.
Steven J. Ross, a professor at the University of Southern California said, “When technologies create new revenue streams, workers want a share of that revenue. Period,” Which adds to the fact that the writers in Hollywood are outraged about the big bosses profiting once again.
There are talks that this strike will last up until late October 2023, as the WGA and studio reps have only met up once in three months to discuss a resolution. The only way that this strike will end is if the writers are unable to financially withstand the loss of work for any longer. At the moment they are having to side hustle to make ends meet, which is through many other channels not relating to work. Earning a living during this strike isn’t as easy as applying for any regular jobs; as the writers who are in the middle of projects will have to return once the strike is over.
With the strike hitting its 100-day mark, there is only one positive that has been made, and that is the community. Through picketing, writers are now closer than ever, and are standing up beside each other to fight for what they believe in. Let’s join them in our pursuit and demand fair wages for everyone, everywhere, one step at a time.