Hollywood strike: Screenwriters will walk out for first time in 15 years

Thousands of Hollywood TV and movie screenwriters are set to go on strike on Tuesday, after talks with major studios over wages went unresolved.

A Writers Guild of America strike, the first in 15 years, is expected, with more than 9,000 writers – nearly 98% of voting members – set to walk out.

It could see late-night shows come to a halt from midnight, while forthcoming shows and films could face delays.

In 2007, writers went on strike for 100 days, at a cost of about $2bn.

This time around, writers are clashing with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers – which represents the major studios, including Disney and Netflix – in demand of higher pay and a greater share of the profits from the modern streaming boom.

How a Hollywood strike could affect your TV
Key issues in the talks have been how writers get paid for shows which often remain on streaming platforms for years, as well as the future impact of artificial intelligence on writing.

For their part, the studios have collectively said they must cut costs due to financial pressures, while noting how the overall “residuals” payments to writers hit an all-time high of $494m in 2021.

‘Unable to survive’
According to the Hollywood Reporter, the Writers Guild of America told its members they should be ready to picket if a new deal was not reached by Monday’s deadline.

Alex O’Keefe, writer on the comedy-drama series The Bear and a member of that union, told the BBC that half of all writers were paid the minimum by studios.

He says the creative output of his writing colleagues is better than ever, matching the demands of the streaming age, but writers are paid less than ever.

“And writers like me, especially young, black writers, indigenous writers, writers of colour have brought a whole new wave of creativity to the process.

“But we are finding ourselves unable to survive in places like New York City and Los Angeles, where we need to be to be in writers’ rooms.”

Stars of the TV series The Bear, including Jeremy Allen White (front row, second left)

Stars of the TV series The Bear, including Jeremy Allen White (front row, second left)
O’Keefe went on to note how while there are some writers who are “doing very well”, many writers, including showrunners on big shows, are not.

“I wouldn’t classify all writers as being poor or broke, but I can say myself I have $6 in my bank account,” he said.

He said that when he and his colleagues won best comedy series at the Writers Guild of America Awards, he went to the ceremony in a suit bought for him by his friends and family.

“The bowtie was bought on credit, I didn’t have any money, I had a negative bank account,” he explained.

When he worked on The Bear, he did so from his “tiny” Brooklyn apartment.

“My heat was out, I had a space heater, I plugged in the space heater, [and] sometimes all the lights would go out. I’d end up in the public library, writing this show that has now become a huge hit and made lots of money for some people… a couple of people.

“But not for the people who were the creators, who really poured their hearts and their souls into the characters and into the stories and the moments that you remember.

“So there is a huge underclass right now in Hollywood.”

The actors’ union SAG-AFTRA and the directors’ union DGA have voiced solidarity with striking writers.