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The impact of the WGA/SAG strikes in Hollywood

Written by: Mark Aguilar 🇸🇻

Members of SAG-AFTRA and the WGA protesting outside NBC Rockefeller Center in New York. Image via: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

On May 2nd, 2023, the Writers Guild of America (WGA) began their strike against the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP). On July 14th, The Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) joined the writers on their strike against the AMPTP, temporarily suspending most film & television productions across Hollywood.

When the WGA began its strike over 100 days ago, the American labor union that represents over 11,500 writers in the entertainment industry had already gone through six weeks of negotiations with the AMPTP. In these negotiations, their main requests were to increase pay, better residual deals from content on streaming services, and job security against artificial intelligence.

These requests were met with either flat-out rejections or countered with much lower figures from the AMPTP. As a result, all union writers are striking for studios to meet their demands, and haven’t backed down from any of their proposals. This means they can’t work for a studio or company involved with the AMPTP, which includes studios & streaming services like Walt Disney, Warner Bros Discovery, Netflix, Universal, Sony Pictures, & Paramount Pictures.

The WGA strikes were met with universal solidarity from everyone in the industry, except producers. Picket lines were established outside of many production companies in Los Angeles and New York. Joining them a few months later would be the SAG-AFTRA, as they were also unable to strike a deal with the AMPTP.

Even though studios were still able to be in production of many of their already written film & television projects, they would all soon shut down after SAG initiated their strike. Representing over 160,000 actors in the industry, they all stopped working for these major studios in whatever they were filming at the time or were set to film. Any major actors you can think of are all members of SAG, so stopping the complete production of all film/television for these studios has hit them logistically and financially. SAG-AFTRA’s requests included: an increase in wages that includes residuals from streaming services, improved working conditions, and protection against the use of artificial intelligence with the images of actors. The union has reiterated many times that they will not accept counteroffers from the AMPTP, and will not stop striking until their demands are met.

With the production of almost all film and television projects being halted in Hollywood, it has resulted in many delays and even cancellations of certain projects. Some major studio projects that have been delayed as a result of these strikes include Dune: Part Two, The Last of Us Season 2, Euphoria Season 3, Stranger Things Season 5, Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Some projects that were outright canceled due to the strikes include A League of Their Own & The Peripheral on Amazon Prime Video.

Even though some films had already been finished and set for release, a huge impact of the SAG-AFTRA strikes is that actors cannot promote their projects. We saw on the day of the Oppenheimer premiere in London when the strike was initiated, the main A-list cast walking out as they could no longer promote the film. This has resulted in studios delaying their films so that once the strikes are over, they can have their major actors promote them.

Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh at the London premiere of "Oppenheimer" at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on July 13, 2023. Image via Getty Images.

With these major strikes happening with no current end in sight, where does this lead Hollywood? Almost nothing is being produced and it is almost certain that the major production companies are losing millions each passing week as the strikes continue. Negotiations have been attempted, but no one on all sides seems to be budging. The WGA has broken down how much their demands would cost studios, and in terms of the studio’s revenue, it would cost Walt Disney 0.091%, Netflix 0.214%, Warner Bros. Discovery 0.108%, Paramount 0.148%, NBC Universal 0.028%, and Amazon 0.006%. With these figures, the claims from Walt Disney CEO Bob Iger, that their demands are “not realistic”, might be refutable.

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