The Writer’s Guild of America provides representation for thousands of American writers, especially those who work in Hollywood on the sets of shows and movies. Since 1954, the organization has fought for equal wages, acknowledgment, and improved working conditions for writers. In order to maintain these benefits, the WGA meets with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers every three years to discuss issues and solutions. The AMPTP represents major Hollywood companies, such as Disney, Netflix, and Lionsgate.
Since the last WGA strike 15 years ago, all issues have been managed through these meetings. However, this year, the AMPTP refused to accept the demands of the WGA. These included an overall pay increase for writers, more writing staff per project, and guaranteed work time. The most relevant and significant of these demands is regulation on artificial intelligence. With the rise of these technologies like Chat GPT, writers fear that the value of their work will be undermined.
After the negotiations proved unsuccessful, the WGA officially began a strike on May 2. The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) organization, which advocates for Hollywood writers in a similar way, joined the strike in July 2023.
So, why is this important? Well, for starters, many fan-favorite television shows are being postponed, as there is nobody to write the scripts. Most notably, the next seasons of Euphoria and Stranger Things have stopped production for the time being, leaving fans teeming with anticipation. In addition, shows like Saturday Night Live, and late-night shows including The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live have halted filming, as these shows require so much new content from writers each day.
Even the annual Emmy Awards, which were slated to take place on Sept.18 of this year, have been moved until January 2024. The Tony Awards still aired this year, but went in a different direction. Hosted by Ariana DeBose (West Side Story, Hamilton), the awards show was unscripted in solidarity of the writer’s strike. Overall, the event was successful, but without writers, celebrity announcers were left to improvise commentary.
DeBose is not the only celebrity to show her support for the strike. The hosts of five of the major late-night shows–Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmell, Stephen Colbert, Seth Myers, and John Oliver–began a Spotify podcast this summer dedicated to talking about the strike’s progress. Other actors and public figures have stood with the picket lines themselves, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jamie Lee Curtis, America Ferrera, Pete Davidson, Mindy Kaling, and even Bill Nye. President Biden has also announced his support for the writers.
As of September 25th, the WGA has come to a “tentative agreement” with Hollywood, supposedly ending the nearly five-month-long strike. With the strike seemingly behind us, the industry is at a crossroads, facing a reckoning that could redefine the balance of power between creators and producers. While the strike may have caused uncertainty, it is also a testament to the writers’ resilience and determination to reshape the industry they love. This begs the question; what lies ahead for Hollywood?