With both writers and actors on strike, Hollywood productions ground to a halt over the summer. Actors walked off of sets, and writers stopped working for months. Both writers and actors were fighting for contracts that prevent an AI from replacing them at their jobs, whether it’s writing scripts or appearing as a background actor.
The unions representing writers and actors — the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) — went on strike after their contracts expired with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the association that represents media companies like Netflix, Disney, Paramount, Universal, and others. While the WGA began its strike on May 2nd, SAG-AFTRA joined the writers at the picket lines on July 14th, marking the first time since 1960 that both unions have gone on strike at the same time.
Here’s the latest on the strikes.
Aug 14We now know the 12 studio execs meeting weekly to tackle the Hollywood strikes.
Yesterday Bloomberg reported on what might be some of the most fascinating news around the contract negotiations in Hollywood right now: the names of the 12 studio execs meeting weekly to work out the AMPTP’s bargaining positions.
According to Bloomberg these 12 execs are: David Zaslav (Warner Bros. Discovery), Ted Sarandos (Netflix), Jen Salke and Mike Hopkins (Amazon), Zack Van Amburg and Jamie Erlicht (Apple), Donna Langley (NBCUniversal), Tony Vinciquerra (Sony Pictures), Brian Robbins and George Cheeks (Paramount), Dana Walden and Alan Bergman (Disney).
You might have noticed Bob Iger is missing from that list, but Bloomberg says he’s apparently started attending recently.Everyone Has An Idea For How to Fix Disney. Does Bob Iger?
After recently meeting to discuss the possibility of resuming talks about a new labor contract, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) are now set to return to the negotiation table this Friday — more than three months into Hollywood’s writers strike.Read Article >
Variety reports that the AMPTP plans to meet with the WGA this Friday to present a formal response to the guild’s list of proposals for a new labor contract, which includes changes like improved minimum rates, a larger percentage of streaming residuals, and staffing requirements for writers rooms.
The 75th annual Emmy Awards have officially been postponed. Instead of taking place in September, the Television Academy says the ceremony will now air on January 15th, 2024, marking the first time the Emmys have been delayed in over 20 years.Read Article >
While the Television Academy doesn’t mention why the awards have been delayed, it’s because the show would look rather empty without all the Hollywood writers and actors who are currently on strike. The rules of the strike prevent unionized writers and actors from accepting awards for struck work and also bars them from attending events that promote it.
Aug 8Marvel Studios visual effects workers file for a union election.
In a move highlighted by Hollywood’s ongoing strikes and reports of unsustainable working conditions during the production of Across the Spider-Verse, a supermajority of the more than 50 people in Marvel Studios’ visual effects crews signed cards saying they want to be represented by the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
Vulture reports they’re seeking an election as soon as August 21st.
For almost half a century, workers in the visual effects industry have been denied the same protections and benefits their coworkers and crewmates have relied upon since the beginning of the Hollywood film industry. This is a historic first step for VFX workers coming together with a collective voice demanding respect for the work we do.
Aug 7Paramount says it has a plan to weather the Hollywood strikes.
In an earnings call on Monday, Paramount CEO Bob Bakish said the company will rely on its slate of international content, fall sports, and completed productions, such as Killers of the Flower Moon, to get through the double Hollywood strikes:
From a content perspective, we’re in pretty good shape, it all comes down to duration. We’re hopeful that as an industry, we can solve this sooner rather than later because we’d all like to get back into the content production business.
Paramount Plus gained a modest 700,000 subscribers during the past three months following a wave of price hikes and the addition of a new Showtime tier. The company also announced that it agreed to sell Simon and Schuster to the private equity group KKR.
The Writers Guild of America (WGA) met yesterday with representatives of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) to confidentially discuss resuming talks, but the meeting ended without a definite agreement to resume negotiations (via Deadline). After the AMPTP withdrew to “consult with their member studios,” the WGA sent an email to its members disclosing the particulars of the discussion, saying studios had leaked details of the meeting to the press.Read Article >
In the Friday talk, according to WGA’s letter to its members, the AMPTP said it was willing to offer more for “a few writer-specific TV minimums,” and was willing to discuss studio AI use, but wouldn’t consider success-based residuals or preserving writers’ rooms. (Disclosure: Vox Media’s editorial team, which includes The Verge, is also unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.)
- Warner Bros. Discovery wants investors to know the double strike is saving the company money.
While Hollywood’s ongoing double labor strike has exposed the studios’ willingness to see the workers who help create their profits become destitute, Warner Bros. Discovery also wants investors to know that it’s saved more than $100 million in Q2 because of the work stoppage.
Said WBD head David Zaslav:
“We’re in the business of storytelling. We cannot do any of that without the entirety of the creative community, the great creative community.”
So true, David. So true.
Though it won’t necessarily lead to an immediate end to Hollywood’s ongoing writing strike, the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers are scheduled to have a meeting this Friday — their first since the strike began three months ago.Read Article >
Variety reports that WGA chief negotiator Ellen Stutzman has agreed to meet with AMPTP president Carol Lombardini this Friday in response to a direct request from the AMPTP head to discuss next steps that could lead to labor contract negotiations resuming. In a statement shared to its members on Tuesday evening, the WGA confirmed that Lombardini and Stutzman are set to speak and stressed the importance of paying attention to the union’s official channels.
SAG-AFTRA says interim agreements are ‘a vital part’ of its plan to weather Hollywood’s labor strike
When the Screen Actors Guild began giving independently produced projects clearance to continue production during Hollywood’s two ongoing labor strikes earlier this month, there was a sizable amount of confusion about how the process worked and why the union was doing it, given that it had called for an industrywide work stoppage just days earlier. Now, as more people have begun to question the logic behind the interim agreements being granted, SAG-AFTRA says they’re very much a part of its plan to help its members survive a strike that’s already taken some particularly ugly and telling turns.Read Article >
On Sunday evening, SAG-AFTRA posted a lengthy statement to its website explaining what its interim agreements are and how they’re being handed out to over 100 different indie projects, like The Chosen, is not at odds with the strike because those productions aren’t directly associated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. In addition to stressing that it’s still very much striking against the AMPTP, SAG-AFTRA also insisted that the interim agreements aren’t “waivers” but rather legally binding contracts that adhere to the very same labor terms the union is pushing the studios to agree upon.
Jul 29Sony Pictures is the first studio moving upcoming releases around.
With no movement on resolving Hollywood’s strikes by actors and writers, the third animated Spider-Man movie, Beyond the Spider-Verse is going from March 29th, 2024 (a date now filled by the sequel to Ghostbusters: Afterlife) to entirely unscheduled.
Gran Turismo will have a “sneak peek” launch on its previously scheduled August 11th date, but plans for more showings have been pushed back to the 25th.
Kraven the Hunter was set for October 6th and has been pushed back to August 30th, 2024, while Venom 3 now has a release date of July 12th, 2024, and fellow Spider-Man spinoff Madame Web moved up two days to February 16th.
The 75th annual Emmy Awards likely won’t take place on September 18th as planned. According to a report from Variety, vendors, producers, and others involved with the ceremony have been notified that the date has been pushed back amid the Hollywood strikes.Read Article >
While the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences announced its nominees for the 2023 awards on July 12th, this took place just one day before the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) called a strike. Meanwhile, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) has been on strike since May, with both unions looking for higher streaming residuals and protections surrounding the use of AI.
General Hospital, the longest-running American soap opera, is turning to scab writers to keep the show going amidst the Writers Guild of America’s ongoing strike. One of the show’s writers, Shannon Peace, shared the news on her Instagram account, saying, “Starting next week, the show will be penned exclusively by scab writers which is heartbreaking.”Read Article >
According to Peace, the show has run through all the scripts that were written before the strike began and has now employed non-union writers in order to keep the show on the air. Typically, people who cross picket lines to perform struck work are met with derision, but Peace acknowledged that the current situation is unique for soap operas. (Disclosure: The Verge’s editorial staff is also unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.)
For the first time in over 60 years, the unions representing actors and Hollywood writers are staging a strike at the same time, protesting low pay and studios’ proposals for using artificial intelligence tools in production. More than 175,000 union members are out of work until a deal is made.Read Article >
But the ripple effects of the strikes are also reaching another group: influencers and digital content creators who are far from a household name but work in an industry that is, at times, synonymous with fast-track fame. Most of them are non-union influencers, leading to confusion. How can creators keep making money while their peers in Hollywood strike? What rules are they required to follow? What’s their role in all of this?
Jul 21Here’s a breakdown of the Hollywood strikes’ effects on Netflix.
In this video, I talk about how the strikes have increased Netflix’s free cash flow, and what they may mean for new movies and TV shows going forward.
This story first appeared in Hot Pod Insider, The Verge’s newsletter on podcasting and the audio industry. Subscribe here for more.Read Article >
The three co-hosts of the One Tree Hill rewatch podcast Drama Queens were working on their latest episode when they got the news that their union — SAG-AFTRA — was going on strike. As former cast members of the popular CW show that capped off its last season in 2012, Sophia Bush, Hilarie Burton, and Bethany Joy Lenz were suddenly in a bind: fans wanted new episodes of the podcast, but the hosts weren’t sure if they could talk about their old show without breaking strike rules. For now, the hosts plan on just talking about everything but the show One Tree Hill on their One Tree Hill podcast — until hearing otherwise from the union.
Don’t get it twisted: trees are a crucial lifeline during a severe heatwave like the one gripping the US right now. So the tree trimming controversy that unfolded this week during the screenwriters and actors strike is anything but trivial.Read Article >
In case you missed it, union members of the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joined picket lines outside Universal Studios despite temperatures soaring above 90 degrees Fahrenheit this week. In a tweet that went viral, writer Chris Stephens pointed out on Monday that trees that would have shaded the protesters were suddenly quite bald.
- Netflix’s co-CEO says the Hollywood strikes were “not an outcome that we wanted.”
During Netflix’s earnings call on Wednesday, co-CEO Ted Sarandos opened with a statement about the writers’ and actors’ strike:
You should know that nobody here nobody within the AMPTP... took any of this lightly. But we’ve got a lot of work to do. There have a handful of complicated issues. We’re super committed to getting to an agreement as soon as possible — one that’s equitable, and one that enables the the industry and everybody in it to move forward into the future.
- Netflix figures it will have an extra $1.5 billion in free cash flow this year due to the Hollywood strikes.
Netflix says it expects a free cash flow of at least $5 billion in 2023 — $1.5 billion more than its original $3.5 billion estimate, citing the “ongoing WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes,” but noting there could be “lumpiness” moving to 2024.
The strikes have already shut down several Netflix productions, including Stranger Things, Big Mouth, Emily in Paris, and more.
The Chosen is reportedly still shooting during the SAG strike because it’s a ‘truly independent’ production
While the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America’s ongoing labor strikes have brought production on most of Hollywood’s movies and shows to an indefinite stop, filming on the fourth season of The Chosen — Dallas Jenkins’ historical drama series about Jesus Christ — is reportedly continuing because it is not associated with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.Read Article >
Deadline — the entertainment industry trade that recently came under fire and subsequently apologized for aggressively misrepresenting an actor’s thoughts about the strike — reports that SAG-AFTRA has granted The Chosen an exemption allowing it to keep shooting its forthcoming fourth season due to its being a “truly independent” production.
Jul 15More details on striking actors’ demands have emerged.
The Screen Actors Guild went on strike over major studios’ refusal to meet their demands for a two percent cut of streaming revenue and a 230 percent increase in foreign streaming residuals, among others, according to Variety.
On studios’ use of generative AI and actors’ digital likenesses, Variety writes:
The union wants to require that a performer has to consent to any use of their performance to train an AI system. The AMPTP would accept that for AI training used to alter or recreate that performer’s likeness. But according to Crabtree-Ireland, the AMPTP would give studios carte blanche to train AI systems to create “synthetic” performers, or for other purposes.
SAG-AFTRA also wants studios to get union consent on individual uses of AI, which the studios have refused to grant. There is also the dispute over background actors.
Fran Drescher, SAG-AFTRA president and the creator of the iconic Fran Fine, stepped up to the microphone, vibrating with fury. She was there with a small group of SAG-AFTRA members to announce their first strike since 1980. “The eyes of the world and particularly the eyes of labor are upon us,” Drescher said. “The gravity of this move is not lost on me, or our negotiating committee, or our board members who have voted unanimously to proceed with a strike.”Read Article >
This strike is different. It’s far more complicated than just wanting a bigger cut of the hit films and TV shows that actors and writers helped create. A rapid shift toward streaming — coupled with the existential threat posed by AI — has created a canyon between what Hollywood writers and actors want and what the country’s largest media companies are willing to give. As Drescher so bluntly puts it: “You cannot change the business model as much as it has changed and not expect the contract to change too.”
Over the last eight months, disparate segments of the public have clamored to integrate generative AI software like OpenAI’s ChatGPT into their daily lives — and especially into their work.Read Article >
Everyone from doctors and online marketers to students and tennis announcers is experimenting with bringing AI tools into the fold. Aspiring millionaire spammers are using chatbots to speed up their junk generation, while artists are using AI art tools like Midjourney to beat out human competition. At least one lazy lawyer tried — and failed — to cut down on the research they needed to do. The promise of maximizing output and saving time is driving much of the “experimentation.”
Jul 14A real-time reaction to the actors’ strike.
Two out of the big three Hollywood labor unions are on strike, citing streaming and AI as major issues, and actors are starting to picket offices for companies like Warner Bros., Netflix, and Amazon. This screengrab from CNBC captures the initial reaction of Wall Street.
During today’s press conference in which Hollywood actors confirmed that they were going on strike, Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s chief negotiator, revealed a proposal from Hollywood studios that sounds ripped right out of a Black Mirror episode.Read Article >
In a statement about the strike, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) said that its proposal included “a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses for SAG-AFTRA members.”
After weeks of unsuccessful negotiations between the Screen Actors Guild - American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), the union representing about 160,000 of the entertainment industry’s American laborers will begin striking at midnight tonight.Read Article >
This afternoon, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher and chief negotiator Duncan Crabtree-Ireland announced that the union’s national board has unanimously voted to go on strike in direct response to the AMPTP’s refusal “to offer a fair deal on key issues essential to protecting the livelihoods of working actors and performers.”