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Hollywood writers' strike continues: Here's what you need to know

Hollywood writers strike differ in terms of streaming show residuals, AI use, the number of writers required for shows, and employment durations

Hollywood writers’ strike continues

Hollywood writers’ strike continues

Sonika Nitin Nimje New Delhi

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Hollywood writers are refusing to budge from their demands, and continue to sit on strike since May 2. The advent of new ways of entertainment consumption with evolving technologies has changed how Hollywood works and pays its workers. This, in simple terms, is the genesis of the unprecedented mass strike Hollywood writers unions continue to sit on. 

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) continue to spar over some major issues for months now. Then there’s the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists who have to negotiate a separate deal, even if the WGA reaches an agreement with the studios. 

Writer’s Strike: Streaming services

It all started when Netflix released all of the 13 episodes of "House of Cards" at once in 2013, and the audience loved the web streaming service, with huge numbers subscribing to the content. This changed everything about how Hollywood worked and paid its writers. The current strike is also litigating some streaming-related issues.

Depending upon the popularity of the shows, the writers could demand higher residuals, however studios and streaming services have been too opaque about viewership information. 

The AMPTP, which incorporates film studios, Telecom networks and streaming services like Apple, Amazon and Disney proposes to share confidential quarterly reports to the WGA that would empower the organisation to propose another residual regime later on.  

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The WGA accepts that viewership information must be accessible now and is proposing a viewership-based residual framework to reward programs with more prominent viewership on top of a minimum residual.

Hollywood writers strike: Insights

The cycle by which TV programs are composed is an overriding worry for some writers. Classic sitcoms like, "Seinfeld" or "Friends" employed over 12 writers under the showrunner accountable for the program's general activities. 

Writers would exchange ideas and have the chance to interact with actors on the show's set, learning about each stage of the process. The writers were ensured employed for the majority of a year, and they somehow managed their middle-class existence, while being able to provide for their family.

Studios are reducing the size of writers’ rooms, which are now called “mini-rooms," with four or five individuals. In present discussions, the AMPTP is proposing three-part writers' rooms, including the showrunner. The WGA is requesting at least six, with the capacity to recruit up to upwards of six more, depending upon the length of the series. 

Shows, according to writers, suffer when fewer perspectives are presented and a small group is required to quickly turn work around. Minorities have also stated that they fear being left out if writers' rooms are reduced in size.

Writer’s Strike: Employment

For everything except the most notable writers and not many writers truly are notable beyond Hollywood, being a screenwriter or television writer means jumping from one venture then onto the next, pitching shows that never get made or films that get produced.

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It can be difficult to survive in this way. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) is looking for assurance that writers on streaming shows will be employed for at least 13 weeks. The counter on the AMPTP is 10 weeks. 

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First Published: Aug 28 2023 | 11:38 AM IST

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