Writers from Hollywood are turning off their laptops and making their way to the picket line.

Television production was halted early on Tuesday as a result of the walkout by thousands of unionized scribes who claim they are not paid adequately in the streaming era. It happens after tense talks between a leading guild and a trade group representing the biggest studios in Hollywood fell short of preventing the first walkout in more than 15 years.

The West Coast and East Coast sections of the Writers Guild of America’s board of directors unanimously decided to call for a walkout and declared that writers are experiencing a “existential crisis.”

The union claimed in a statement that “the companies’ behavior has created a gig economy within a union work force” and that “their immovable stance in this negotiation has betrayed a commitment to further devalue the profession of writing.”

According to a statement from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, which represents studios, television networks, and streaming services in negotiations, its proposal contained “generous increases in compensation for writers.”

The key “sticking points,” according to the major players in the entertainment industry, include union proposals that would mandate that firms hire a certain number of writers for television series for a specific amount of time, “whether needed or not.”

The strike effectively halts production of television programs, streaming shows, and possibly certain films, upending the entertainment business. (Comcast, the company that controls NBCUniversal, is one of the entertainment businesses that the trade association represents. The Writers Guild of America is a labor union that represents some of the editorial staff at NBCUniversal’s news division.)

In some circumstances, the effect will be obvious right away. This week, for instance, late-night chat shows are no longer airing. Other times, the creators of drama and comedy scripted series may be forced to slash their seasons short or postpone filming entirely.

Members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) demonstrate in front of Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California, USA, 02 May 2023. EFE/EPA/ETIENNE LAURENT

According to a news release, the strike forced the cancellation of this weekend’s new episode of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which Pete Davidson was scheduled to host with Lil Uzi Vert as the musical guest. It indicated a replay of “SNL” would air every Saturday and until further notice.

The work stoppage occurs at a time of great technological and economic change in Hollywood. The industry is coping with the rise of artificial intelligence, the dominance of streaming services, the decline of traditional broadcast viewership, and other issues.

The stakes and the demands WGA members are calling for salary raises and structural adjustments to a business model that they claim has made it more and more difficult for them to support themselves. According to WGA figures, the median writer-producer income has decreased by 4%, or 23% when adjusted for inflation, in recent years amidst the expansion of streaming services like Netflix and Disney+.

The WGA stated in a bulletin headlined “Writers Are Not Keeping Up” on March 14 that “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.”

According to the guild, more authors are “working at minimum pay regardless of experience.” In contrast, top entertainment executives’ wages have skyrocketed in recent years.

The Carmichael Show comedy writer and producer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, a member of the WGA’s negotiating committee, said in a video message released on April 11 that “this is not an ordinary negotiating cycle” and that “we’re fighting for writers’ economic survival and the stability of our profession.”

The union’s writers are especially miffed that streaming-era shows have fewer episodes than their broadcast-era counterparts, which makes it difficult to maintain a steady salary. Additionally, as more content is hosted exclusively on streaming platforms, residual fees—money paid when a show is put into syndication or aired overseas—have all but vanished.

Raphael Bob-Waksberg, the creator of the animated Netflix series “BoJack Horseman,” gave a direct explanation of the writers’ expectations in an interview with “NBC Nightly News.”

He said, “We need more money. We aspire to having enough money to support ourselves while doing what we enjoy.


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